School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Kenneth R. Tierce


Learning Disability, Literacy, Music, Rhythm, Second-graders, Special Needs


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods


The purpose of this intrinsic, holistic case study was to describe and analyze the impact of a rhythmic intervention designed to support literacy skills in second-grade students at-risk of failure of state mandated reading assessment. The theories used to guide this study were Finkelstein (2001) and Hunt’s (1966) disability theory, and critical realism posited by Bhaskar and Danemark (2006). Critical realism, as applied to disability theory, reflects a unique combination of needs a person with disability faces: socio-economic, physical, biological, psycho-social and emotional, psychological, cultural, and normative. Research suggested musical instruction could be used to teach literacy skills as a by-product. The study sought to answer how second-graders and their teachers felt about the rhythmic intervention, and the students’ feelings as revealed through their personal artwork. The study took place in an urban Midwestern elementary school. Data were collected using open-ended questions during interviews with four teachers and nine students, documentation of reading levels, student artwork, and videos of the rhythmic intervention. The data were analyzed with QSR NVIVO, peer debriefing, member checks, and selected quotations. All of the students showed improvement in reading; however, the perceived success of the program was demonstrated in five themes: attention, confidence, connection, interventionist, and curriculum. Further research could focus on a larger sample over a more extended time period.