Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Earl H. Cheek, Jr


Secondary teachers face the challenge of planning instructional activities that combine their own subject knowledge with information from textbooks and other forms of text to help students learn content material. This study explores preservice teachers' perceptions regarding literacy instruction within the context of teaching and learning content material. The participants are senior secondary education students enrolled in a content area literacy course at a regional university in the southeast. Case studies are constructed for six preservice teachers representing different content areas. Qualitative data collection procedures included a questionnaire, guided journal entries, literacy autobiography, and personal interviews. Cross-case analysis was employed. By contrasting their past literacy experiences with contemporary instructional considerations, a better understanding of how these preservice teachers plan to organize instruction is gained. Vocabulary instruction is most frequently cited as a means to help students learn content. Definitions for various aspects of literacy are similar. There are differences in perceptions regarding the importance of literacy instruction in content area teaching. Instructional decisions are related to preservice teachers' perceptions regarding the source of content knowledge authority. Within their content areas, these teachers perceive themselves as the primary knowledge source, the textbook as a significant resource, and other text materials as supplementary resources to help students learn content. In this situation, literacy instruction is of lesser importance. However, a lack of background knowledge places the teacher in the position of learner, and literacy becomes a significant aspect of teaching. The content area literacy course experience gave these preservice teachers an awareness of how literacy strategies can be used to enhance content instruction and the impact literacy can have in secondary classrooms. Several found it difficult to discuss literacy instruction, because they did not know the proper names for literacy strategies. This study extends the research to allow for a clearer explanation of the subtle yet dynamic effect that literacy perceptions have on secondary classroom instruction. Engaging in reflective activities about literacy instruction facilitated the development of these preservice teachers' understanding of self as teacher.