Graphic organisers
: applicability and use for special education teachers in primary withdrawal classrooms in Cyprus

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study explores the dual potential of using graphic organisers for special education teachers and for their students with reading difficulties, within primaryschool withdrawal classrooms in Cyprus. The first intention was to explore how special education teachers used graphic organisers; their impact on teaching and learning as well as what encouraged these teachers to add to their teaching repertoire in this way. Graphic organisers are used to convert text into two-dimensional structured maps. They can be used as a supplement to or as a substitute for text in order to provide a visual representation of what is being studied. The second intention was to explore their efficacy in promoting children’s literacy development while simultaneously posing questions about teacher development. The methodology adopted is collaborative action research, which was applied to provide five teachers with the opportunity to co-research their teaching practices, engage in self-reflection and discuss their experiences of using graphic organisers and the impact their use had for both themselves and their students. Data collection consisted of three cycles. Each cycle included one audio-recorded classroom observation during individualised one-to-one instruction within the withdrawal classroom, followed by an audio recorded semi-structured interview, with each teacher. The study contains illustrations of the graphic organisers constructed and used by the teachers in their work. Some data were also retrieved from the diary entries made by the teachers during the one year project. The participants’ experimentation with graphic organisers evolved over the period of the field work, with participants showing increased willingness and eagerness to experiment with alternative types of graphic organisers over time. One notable impact of using graphic organisers for both the teachers and students that emerged was a growth in confidence and motivation. The students demonstrated increased reading comprehension and retelling capacity as well as being able to study independently and were able to adopt the use of graphic organisers as an acquired learning strategy for themselves. The findings suggest that the development of innovative practices by the teachers and the implementation of change were influenced by two major factors: their pre-dispositional attitudes and how these were realised within their situated classroom reality and the impact of practical contextual factors, such as time constraints, resource limits, pressure from stakeholders and difficulty in deviating from established teaching methods. This Cyprus-based study shows that working with in-service teachers using collaborative action research can yield positive outcomes for the participating teachers as it encourages them to study their own teaching within their situated reality in order to enrich their teaching repertoire. This allows for slow but steady innovation to penetrate schools, promoting sustainable change with teachers becoming confident and empowered pioneers through experimentation. Moreover, acknowledging the obstacles that special education teachers face within the withdrawal classroom, offers an opportunity for the Ministry of Education and Culture to consider how best to support these services. Special education teachers are willing to experiment with innovation in their classrooms and this can be facilitated by their participation in research that offers sustained support, guidance and interaction with researchers.
Date of Award1 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMeg Maguire (Supervisor) & Jane Jones (Supervisor)

Cite this