PhD Oral Exam - Aviva Segal, Education
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The role played by children’s social relationships in their development is unequivocal (e.g., Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Vygotsky, 1978). Often, parents take on the role of children’s first literacy teachers (Hiebert & Adams, 1987) and literacy competence is critical for academic success and beyond. Research supports the significant association between parents’ underlying knowledge of English language (reading-related knowledge [RRK]; e.g., Ladd, Martin-Chang, Levesque, 2011) and children’s reading. However, the means through which this knowledge is conveyed (i.e., parental practices), has yet to be discussed. Moreover, whether the same association holds between parental RRK and children’s writing is unknown. Thus, the primary goal of the present research was to fill these important gaps in the literature. To this end, the three manuscripts that comprise the dissertation focus on the relations between (a) parental RRK, parental feedback, and children’s reading; (b) parental RRK and parental feedback on a writing sample; and (c) parental RRK, parental feedback, and children’s writing. The sample consisted of 75 parents. All parents completed Study 2 tasks and their feedback was coded based on pre- established criteria. Seventy of their children participated in the parent-child studies. Therefore, Studies 1 and 3 consisted of 70 parent-child dyads. Dyadic exchanges were videotaped; all verbal and non-verbal exchanges were transcribed and coded for the presence of pre-established criteria specific to each study. Parental RRK was measured by parents’ performances on a series of activities and children’s literacy skills were assessed using reading and spelling subtests of the Wide Range Achievement Test-Fourth Edition (Wilkinson & Robertson, 2006). Results are presented within the framework of the extant teacher and parent RRK literature, with a focus on the novel findings of each investigation. Overall, this corpus of research allows for an understanding of the relations between parental RRK and practice across three different contexts; the data indicate similarities in evaluative feedback and differences in miscue feedback across the three studies. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of future research employing different methodologies to gain further insight into parental RRK and literacy practices that can enhance children’s learning.