Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Jorgenson, M.A. (2016). Instructionally dense literacy practice in the middle grades: A qualitative study (Doctoral dissertation).


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning), Under the Supervision of Professor Stephanie Wessels. Lincoln, Nebraska

Copyright (c) 2016 Marissa A. Jorgenson


This qualitative, practitioner inquiry examined how a group of novice and experienced middle-grade reading teachers integrated facets of instructional density (Pressley, Wharton-McDonald, & Mistretta-Hampston, 1997) into their practice. Instructional density is a descriptor of effective teaching whereby practitioners layer their instruction in individual lessons with other elements of the curriculum. This occurs in the planning of instruction as well as during dialogic exchanges with students that are the natural outcrop of instruction. The researcher’s role was to conduct a series of observations and post-observation reflections and provide coaching that helped participants generate understanding of instructional density and how it could be enacted. Through detailed vignettes, this study provides insights into (a) how instructional density is realized in the context of classroom teaching, (b) how differences in content knowledge inform the process of using instructional density, and (c) how practitioners negotiate meaning of instructional density through collaboration. The design of the study regarded professional collaboration as fundamental to improving practice. The descriptions herein are useful in considering how teachers learn to use their curriculum in new ways, ones that are more cohesive and efficient, and that acknowledge its interconnectedness.

Advisor: Stephanie Wessels