Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Jane M. Gangi, PhD

Third Advisor

Cindy R. Scope, PhD


This study examined the effects of cognitive learning styles on how middle school students internalize and comprehend graphic novels. Using a qualitative approach the multiple case study examined student survey data, class assignments, interview responses, and focus group transcriptions in an effort to describe students’ perceptions of using graphic novels in a social-studies setting. After obtaining a convenience sample of 109 grade-eight students, an examination of the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) scores took place. A purposeful sample of 11 students was drawn to construct three bounded case study groups representing varying verbal, nonverbal, and balanced learning styles as determined by the OLSAT. Upon the completion of all data collection and analysis a smaller sample of three students was chosen for a focus group. Emerging themes facilitated the generation of protocols for both interviews and focus groups and complemented the themes addressed in the PRGNS.

Within and cross-case pattern analysis of data drawn from case study groups and the focus group yielded both similarities and differences. Verbal, nonverbal, and balanced subgroups believed there is potential depth and challenge to graphic novels, an engaging storyline is essential in maintaining focus while reading, prior knowledge impacts their ability to recognize symbols, and images provide focus and prevent mind wandering while reading. When preferences for reading genre were examined it was found that both the verbal and balanced subgroups had an overwhelming preference for fiction while the nonverbal subgroup preferred nonfiction. Finally, the reading attack strategies used by the subgroups differed based on their use of visuals with the reading. The verbal subgroup indicated reading the text of a textbook assignment first and later looking at visuals such as charts and pictures. Nonverbal participants discussed skimming the images and captions before reading the text, and the balanced group generally used bold headings like titles and subtitles to preview the content before reading text.