Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Early Childhood Education

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

L. Kathryn Sharp

Committee Members

Pamela Evanshen, Rosemary Geiken


The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of early childhood preservice teachers in a southeastern university as they worked for mastery of phonemic awareness, phonics, and morphemic awareness. Mastery was set at 90% accuracy in a series of tests, which required them to perform different tasks related to the said concepts. One aim of the study was to investigate the preservice teachers’ description of their experiences as they worked for mastery of phonemic awareness, phonics, and morphemic awareness. Another aim was to examine how working for mastery of said concepts influenced their perceptions of preparedness to carry out literacy instruction.

This research used a multiple case study method involving 8 preservice teachers who were taking their first literacy methods course. Data were gathered through an online survey, analysis of answered test papers, written responses, individual interviews, and a focus group interview.

Qualitative analysis of data revealed the experience brought about awareness of insufficient knowledge, apprehension to teach, and perplexities related to phonemic awareness, phonics, and morphemic awareness among the participants. The most salient perplexities were found to be related to phonemic awareness tasks, application of phonics key terms to real words, and splitting words into morphemes.

Findings also revealed that improved understanding of phonemic awareness, phonics, and morphemic awareness enhanced the participants’ perception of preparedness to teach these concepts. Engaging in reflective thinking while working for mastery of these concepts deepened their awareness of unpreparedness, reconnected them to their goal to be effective teachers, and caused them to deliberately act on their challenges in obtaining content knowledge required for quality literacy instruction.

The results of this study will have relevance for teacher educators, policy makers, school administrators, and researchers as they address issues related to literacy instruction during teacher preparation, especially in terms of acquisition of strong content knowledge.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.