Peggy Semingson

Discourse-Analysis (Text-Based Analytics) of Discussion Boards in Elementary Literacy-Focused Online Teacher Education Courses


Peggy Semingson, PhD
Associate Professor of Literacy Studies
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education

Problem: Teachers as a whole are lacking background knowledge about the technical subject of phonics and word study to teach beginning readers and struggling readers at the elementary level. Watchdog organizations have harshly criticized the lack of phonics content in literacy courses for pre-service teachers in university-based teacher certification programs (Walsh, Glaser, & Wilcox, 2006).  Recent research has identified the very weak knowledge base that practicing K-12 teachers have in order to teach beginning and /or struggling readers (Joshi, Binks, Hougen, Dahlgren, Ocker-Dean, & Smith, 2009). The role of teachers’ knowledge of phonics is central to the conversation of the specific knowledge that is required to effectively teach beginning reading and readers (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2004). Implications on instruction and student achievement are significant; the effect on this gap in teacher knowledge is especially severe in its effect for at-risk readers (e.g., those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, or other reading challenge) and beginning readers. Teacher’s knowledge base in literacy impacts the instruction of their students (McCutchen, Abbott, & Green, 2002).

Project Questions: a) Based on text-based analysis a large corpus of data, how do students feel (sentiment analysis) about the subject of phonics and beginning reading? b) How do students discuss the subjects of phonics, word study, and beginning reading (thematic analysis) c) What are key words related to the technical aspects (domain knowledge) of phonics, word study, and beginning reading that are the focus of the discussion boards. How does preservice teacher dialogue about these topics on discussion boards differ from the grad student dialogue?

Applications to Practice: Based on the outcomes of this analysis, I will redevelop my materials and structure of the discussion boards to further student learning in future iterations of the class.

Methodology:  Question 1: Sentiment analysis Data: Discussion boards of graduate and undergraduate elementary literacy courses for weeks that the topic of phonics, word study, and beginning reading was a major subject (weeks 1 and 2) for iterations of the course since 2012.  Analytics tool: LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) * * (Pennebaker, J., Chung, C., Ireland, M., Gonzales, A., & Booth, R., 2007; Tausczik, Y., & Pennebaker, J., 2009) Question 2: Thematic Analysis Data: Discussion board data, as above Analytics tool: NVIVO 10 (qualitative software Question 3: Keyword analysis Analytics tool: NVIVO 10 (qualitative software)


Cunningham, A. E., Perry, K. E., Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. (2004). Disciplinary knowledge of K-3 teachers and their knowledge calibration in the domain of early literacy. Annals of Dyslexia, 51, 139-168.

Joshi, R.M., Binks, E., Hougen, M., Dahlgren, M., Dean,E., & Smith, D. (2009). Why elementary teachers might be inadequately prepared to teach reading, Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 392-402.

Pennebaker, J., Chung, C., Ireland, M., Gonzales, A., & Booth, R. (2007). The development and psychometric properties of LIWC 2007. Retrieved from:

Tausczik, Y., & Pennebaker, J. (2009). The psychological meaning of words: LIWC and computerized text analysis methods. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29(1), 24-54. doi:10.1177/0261927×09351676