Graduate Program

Elementary Education

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

John H. Bickford III


The push of the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) standards encourages teachers to assist students with overcoming personal obstacles in the classroom. In the middle grades, young adult literature can be an outlet for students by allowing them to connect with characters similar to themselves and their life experiences. Within the middle level classroom, literature circles can address SEL needs and state standards while allowing students to work closely with their peers sharing in a discussion format in response to the same young adult novel. This research analyzed two groups of students and their oral and written responses to the young adult novel, The Outsiders. Students were given the opportunity to choose the book they wanted to read and to select the peers they wanted to make up their group. This study explored how the group dynamic can impact the manner in which students respond within the group setting. The study also examined the ways in which students' ideas varied from the oral group discussion to a personal journal response. Students participated in literature circles for three weeks; their group discussions were recorded using an open coding system based on complexity level and text connections. Personal journal responses were completed and analyzed in comparison to discussion responses. The findings showed that students who worked with peers of their choice were more willing to open up and divulge personal information and connections to text. The research also showed that students' oral and written responses varied based on their group dynamic.