All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

James Phd Ernest

Advisory Committee Members

Cora Phd Causey

Lynn Phd Kirkland

Jenna Phd Lachenaye

Jennifer Phd Summerlin

Nadia Phd Taibah

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2021

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education

Abstract

The current study aimed to investigate Saudi preschool teachers' beliefs about emergent literacy skills and practices. To this end, an explanatory, sequential mixed methods research design was adopted. The study involved two phases. The first involved a Q methodology approach to answer the overarching questions, "What are Saudi preschool teachers' beliefs about emergent literacy skills and practices?" and "What are the emergent literacy skills and practices that preschool teachers in Saudi Arabia consider most important for children's literacy development?" Thirty participants ranked forty statements in a quasi-normal distribution that ranged from the most important to most unimportant in relation to their beliefs about emergent literacy skills and practices. Their sorting was then subjected to principal component analysis. The results of the first phase identified four perspectives of preschool teachers regarding emergent literacy skills and practices. Perspective A has been identified as "surface and out-of-context literacy teaching" which supports teaching simple literacy practices in isolation. It recognizes letter knowledge as the most important skill and underestimates early writing and print awareness. Perspective B was identified as "skill-based literacy teaching" which advocates the direct teaching of literacy skills as well as more progressive skills such as advanced phonological awareness. It also recognizes phonological awareness and letter knowledge as the most important emergent literacy skills as they underpin awareness and print motivation. Perspective C supports teaching literacy through "direct teaching, as well as contextual teaching through reading", an approach that was classified as diverse in that focuses on teaching skills and being child-centered. The most important practices identified by this perspective involved print motivation as well as letter and phonological awareness. Perspective D approaches teaching literacy through hands-on experiences which consider the role of the classroom environment. The most important skills acquired by this perspective involve print awareness. In the second phase of the study, a constructivist grounded theory approach was used to further elucidate the results from the first phase, investigating those factors perceived by teachers and their respective contributions to their beliefs about emergent literacy skills and best teaching practices. To this end, ten participants participated within four focus group interviews. Three main themes emerged to explain teachers' perceptions of those factors that contribute to the development of their beliefs. The first was a commonly held belief, retained across all perspectives, representing the pervasive influence of culture and society. The second theme was teachers' respective backgrounds and their need to understand emergent literacy and teaching practices. The third theme represented the influence of educational policy and school administration. An explanation of how each factor contributes to teachers' beliefs was addressed in granular detail.

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