Date of Award



© 2020 Kristine Reilly

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Catherine Stieg

Third Advisor

Melissa Orkin


Literacy instruction, or teaching educators how to teach reading, is increasingly important as the effects of illiteracy impact everyone from the individual level to the societal level. The cost of illiteracy to the global economy is estimated at $1.2 trillion U.S. dollars (World Literacy Foundation, 2015). Improving literacy for all becomes a social justice concern as access to literacy opens avenues to further education and to improved physical and mental wellbeing. Over the past forty years, neurocognitive and behavioral science has demonstrated how the human brain learns to read. However, educator training programs and professional development have not kept pace with emergent science, leaving educators ill prepared to teach reading. The problem addressed in this study was the impact of professional development about the science of reading, specifically improving educators’ own understanding phonological awareness, beliefs and perceptions of reading instruction. Three research questions guided this study. Educators were asked to describe their professional development experiences in the areas of literacy and phonological awareness; to describe any changes they made to their pedagogical practices as a result of their learning; to use their observational skills and to indicate if they observed students responding to the changes the educators made to their instructional practices.

Five themes emerged from the data analysis, including a) Change, b) Collaboration, c) Confusion, d) Confidence, and e) Communication. Findings from the case study described educators’ recommendations on how to improve professional development and instructional processes. Recommendations included clear consistent communication, differentiated and tiered professional development, and time for knowledge building, collaboration and application. Providing educators with the knowledge to fill in the gaps in their understanding, the time to process, reflect, and apply the research and strategies as well as the purpose and rationale behind the professional development will aid them in making meaningful pedagogical change.


Ed.D. Dissertation