Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Valerie Harlow Shinas

Second Advisor

Dr. William T. Stokes

Third Advisor

Dr. Curtis A. Bates


The purpose of this mini-ethnographic case study is to determine the factors that impact the relational engagement of middle-school readers in a student-facilitated book group. This is achieved by considering how students relationally engaged with texts, peers, and a teacher while participating in a student-facilitated book group for three months. As the understanding of academic engagement has broadened to include relational engagement, it is necessary to examine how this theoretical construct impacts reading instruction. While educators have long known learning is social, classroom success is most often measured by independent achievement rather than by social engagement. For these reasons, it is necessary to examine the perceptions of students to best understand what engages them. A qualitative, mini-ethnographic case study was conducted to explore the perceptions of ten sixth-grade readers from a single American school. Data were collected from student surveys, observational notes, and participant interviews and qualitatively analyzed. Data analysis revealed that the relational engagement of these sixth-grade readers increased when they found reading to be relevant and meaningful to their own individual experiences. Moreover, increases in self-efficacy occurred before readers’ self-concepts changed and the level of autonomy they felt increased their level of participation. This study also found that relationships with peers were essential in the relational engagement of these sixth graders and that the role of the teacher was critical to creating a learning environment where relational engagement was supported. These findings contribute to the growing body of research examining how students, texts, and teachers each play a role in fostering relational engagement.

Keywords: relational engagement, relevance, autonomy, choice, social interaction, text, reading transaction, positive peer interaction, teacher role

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.






The author owns the copyright to this work.