Date of Award


Degree Type

Certificate of Advanced Study


Connecticut Literacy Specialist


Dr. Karen C. Waters


Numerous studies have identified a symbiotic relationship between student engagement and academic achievement. However, over the last three years, nearly half of Connecticut’s students have failed to meet the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts. Social constructivism and metacognitive theories frame this study, which aimed to examine instructional techniques that positively impacted student engagement. Specifically, we used engagement inventories to record student behaviors before, during, and after a six-week instructional period, throughout which we implemented several different engagement techniques. We coded student behaviors in order to analyze the effects that heightened student choice, structured peer discourse tools, and collaborative tasks had on literacy activities, including independent reading, group activities, and written responses to text. In a sample of 20 fourth grade students, we found that allowing students more choice in their literacy work, implementing direct instruction in conversational sentence stems, and including regular opportunities for collaboration around text significantly improved student engagement. Using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, we also found that the combination of direct instruction in discourse strategies and frequent, scaffolded opportunities for peer collaboration produced the greatest impact on engagement. These results are discussed in relation to prior findings as well as possibilities for future engagement research.


Prepared for EDR 692 Applied Reading and Language Arts Research. A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the coursework required for the post-masters' Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Literacy.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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