Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Vicki S. Collet

Committee Member

Heather D. Young

Second Committee Member

Victoria J. Risko

Third Committee Member

Kathleen M. T. Collins


COVID-19 Pandemic, Peer Collaboration, Reading Instruction, Struggling Readers, Transcendental Phenomenology, Trauma and Stress, Vygotsky


This study provides a window into the experiences of elementary teachers with their struggling readers during the largest world-wide interruption to education that has ever been seen. This study gives insight to educational leaders and educators as they assist their struggling readers in rebounding from the disruption to school caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and as they work to improve the quality of schooling for struggling readers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there had been a growing body of educational literature in pandemic-related information, practice, and research. Yet, there was a need to bring to light the phenomenon of the collective social interaction experiences existing for elementary teachers with their struggling readers during the social restrictions created by the pandemic rules, restrictions, sickness, and quarantines. This transcendental phenomenological study explored 15 on-site and virtual school elementary teachers’ collective experiences with their struggling readers during the 2020-2021 school year amid the pandemic-induced social restrictions. A conceptual framework that included Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory and Moustakas’ (1994) transcendental phenomenological methodology was used to inform both the design and analysis of this study. The goals of this study were to give a voice to the brave teachers and to find out what emerged as vital for those teachers with their struggling readers. The following components of Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory provided a focus on the social experiences during the social restrictions: (1) emotions are inseparable from thinking, (2) social interaction is important for learning, and (3) collective activity produces learning. These three sociocultural constructs were put into the spotlight as valuable during the pandemic-related social restrictions, and they also served to draw together the major findings from this study. Creswell’s (2013) simplified steps of Moustakas’ (1994) transcendental phenomenological method were used in this study, which included: (a) epoche, (b) significant statements, (c) clusters of meaning, (d) textural descriptions, (e) structural descriptions, and (f) essences of the experiences. A criterion sampling scheme was used to obtain data from survey questions and in-depth interviews with the 15 teachers. The teachers’ experiences revealed that during trauma and stress “education takes a back seat.” The three themes that emerged original to this study were: (a) relationships that include social interaction can mitigate emotional and/or academic difficulties for struggling readers, (b) school absence can cause emotional and/or academic difficulties for struggling readers, and (c) peer collaboration is vital to the learning process for struggling readers. Findings from the study indicated that relationships are the most important aspect of learning for struggling readers and that social interaction, proximity, looking at others’ mouths/faces/lips, and a focus on the emotional health and attendance of struggling readers are vital to building those relationships and ultimately for learning.