Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Christian Z. Goering

Committee Member

David A. Jolliffe

Second Committee Member

Jason Endacott


Education, Discourse, Education, English, Language


In this study, I examine the use of academic discourse in the school setting and discuss the relation of the primary discourse to academic discourse. I focus on the verbal exchanges between a teacher and her students as these students acquire the academic discourse of the English classroom. The study focuses on the ideas of primary discourse and secondary or academic discourse as presented by Gee (1996) and focuses on his idea of Social languages.

Using a microethnographic study, I develop the idea of how the teacher related to her students and how a single educator felt about the purpose of academic discourse in relation to the students she teaches in an urban junior high school classified as economically disadvantaged by the free and reduced lunch rate. Data sources included ten classroom observations, transcriptions, interviews with the student participants, and interviews with the teacher participant.

The data collected in this study develop an understanding of the student experience in a society that is changing rapidly and demanding them to use academic discourse. I acknowledge the changes the students and teacher experienced throughout the study and the importance of both discourses in the academic setting. I conclude my study with implications suggesting that primary discourse and academic discourse serve a purpose in the school setting and should be used in the instructional methods of educators. My data indicates the frustrations students cope with in the school setting, and they feel they must lose themselves in the school setting. Thus, this dissertation suggests primary discourse be made visible in the school setting and be allowed as vehicle for teaching the academic discourse and Social languages desired in various Social settings.