Kay E. Vandergrift


This case study of a distance education course in children’s literature focuses on the creation of an interpretive community and the importance of that community in online learning. It also refines Michael G. Moore’s work on transactional distance to include the concept of a faculty member’s “restrained presence” in an effort to facilitate students’ personal responsibility for their own learning and for community building in an online learning environment.


Learning Effectiveness,Interaction,Electronic Trail,Reader Response Theory,Interpretive Learning Communities,Restrained Presence,Children’s Literature

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Moore, M.G. “Learner Autonomy: The Second Dimension of Independent Learning,” Convergence. Vol. 5, No. 2 (1972): 76-97 and “Independent Study.” In Redefining the Discipline of Adult Education. Boyd, R. and others, Editors. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1980, pp. 16-31 and “Editorial: Distance Education Theory,” The American Journal of Distance Education. Vol. 5, No. 3 (1991)

Dewey, J. Experience and Education. New York: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1938 and Dewey, J. and Bentley, A.A. Knowing and the Known. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1949.

Rosenblatt, L. Literature as Exploration. 5th Edition. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1996 (first published in 1938) and The Reader, The Text, The Poem. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1978.

Fish, S.E. Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

Vandergrift, K.E., Platzner, R., Hannigan, J.A., Dresang, E., Lewis, A., Brizendine, S., Watson, T.T., and Satchell, V. “A Visual Interpretive Analysis Initiative: Looking and Learning Collaboratively” in Knowledge Quest. Volume 28, No. 4 (March/April 2000): 10-16.

Rinaldi, A. My Heart Is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, A Sioux Girl. Dear America Series. New York: Scholastic, 1999 was the focus of this discussion, available at the Childlit Archives. It would also be essential to read the literary and cultural commentary available at:

Since this was one of the first courses in the online certificate program, many of the same students were in The Voice of the Author course with the same faculty member the following year. The experience in this second online course amply demonstrated not only the continuation of the interpretive community but also of students sharing the responsibility for both personal and group learning. It is also important to note that continuing students were very active and attentive in integrating new students into the existing interpretive community, allowing the teacher to participate more fully in the dialogue as a learner in a community of other learners.

Paul Kantor, professor at Rutgers University, developed this macro for analyzing messages and shared it graciously with me for the purposes of this study. The analyses included one segment of 172 messages on Gender and a second segment of 83 messages on The Culture of Deprivation: The Poor, The Dispossessed using a content analytic approach requiring a macro designed to group extracted quotations with parallel taxonomic structures into batches. Professor Paul Kantor of Rutgers University developed this macro and shared it graciously with me for the purposes of this study.


Copyright (c) 2019 Kay E. Vandergrift