27 SES 03 C, Teaching Reading and Literacy
Students develop as readers by reading a variety of texts for multiple purposes.This has long been a highly prioritized area of school development within OECD countries in general and in the curricula in different European countries (e.g OECD 2016). In addition to reading diverse non-fiction texts across school subjects, students need to engage in reading fiction. Reading fiction does not only develop literary text competence, but also a general text competence not only important for reading in itself, but also to enable students to acquire knowledge and express themselves in various subjects and situations (Alsup, 2013, 2015; Ivey & Johnston, 2013; Langer, 1995, 2013). As Langer (2013, p.162) emphasizes, “reading literature involves cognitive dimensions that are critical components of intellectual development”.
Previous studies have indicated the importance of instruction that provides students with opportunities to discuss texts to build a deeper understanding of them (Applebee et.al, 2003; Duke & Pearson, 2008; Duke & Carlisle, 2010; Gambrell, Malloy, & Mazzoni, 2011; Nystrand, 2006; Wilkinson & Son, 2011). How literature is presented through instruction in the LA-subject is crucial, as the literary tradition the students learn within, appears to be an important factor for how students handle literary qualities in the texts they read (Johansson, 2015; Alsup, 2013). There are several ways to approach literary texts in educational settings (e.g Alsup, 2015; Langer 1995; Rosenblatt 1978), but how students actually work with literary texts in language arts lessons, is an understudied area in times where the role of literature in school may be challenged by a strong focus on non-fiction and information literacy.
Literature has always been considered a central part of language arts (L1) curricula, and is still a key component of language arts. Yet, an essential change is taking place across countries: the core central focus of language arts is changing from literature to literacy, stressing more and more the reading of non-fiction (Alsup, 2015; Appleman, 2014; Langer, 2013; Penne, 2013; Stotsky, 2010). With the new national curriculum in Norway from 2006, fiction and nonfiction have, for the first time, been described as having the same status in the subject, and there are less guidelines on how the instruction might be organized and what literature students should read. This shift makes it timely to investigate the roles of literary texts across LA lessons. We know little of what students read, to what degree and how literary texts are used in the instruction of language arts.
Whereas normative research on advocated practices and small-scale studies that illuminates either the merits or shortcomings of particular practices of literature instruction is abundant, larger observational studies of the customary practices of literature in secondary classrooms is still scarce. As for the Nordic countries in particular, there has yet been no larger observational study at all of the instructional practices of literary reading.
Drawing on videotaped LA lessons (n=178) from 46 Norwegian lower-secondary classrooms, we investigate how literary texts are used across LA lessons and to what degree teachers engage students in text-based instruction that supports discourses that deepen students’ understandings of the reading process. The following research questions guided our analyses:
i. What types of texts do students read in LA lessons, and what are the sources of these texts?
ii. What are the prevalent instructional practices related to literary texts, and what is the dominant functions of the texts within these practices?
This study is part of a large-scale video study funded by the Research Council of Norway. Video recordings were collected from 46 eighth-grade LA classrooms (13-14year-old students) across Norway. Four consecutive lessons in each class, totaling 178 lessons. The schools were sampled to include a demographic and geographic spread and various levels of student achievement (based on high and low gains on national reading tests). In our analysis, we draw on video data to systematically investigate the different roles literary texts may have in the classroom. The use of recordings has proven valuable in classroom analysis specifically due to the possibility of systematically investigating complex educational settings (Author 2, 2017; Klette, 2009; Snell, 2011). We identified and analyzed in detail all the situations where students and teachers engaged with authentic literary text across lessons. The video design relied on two cameras simultaneously recording: one capturing the class and one focusing on the teacher. We used two microphones, one on the teacher and one in the middle of the room to capture the class. This provided audio of both whole-class discourse and teacher interactions with one or a few students. Both situations are important when investigating how teachers and students talk about literature. We obtained a systematic overview of the 178 LA lessons using the PLATO-observation instrument developed by Grossman&Colleagues (2013), where one of the sub-categories of the element “text-based instruction” is of particular interest to the present study, as it provides a systematic overview of how texts are used in the lesson. Each lesson was divided into events of 15 minutes events (N=541) and coded by certified PLATO raters. Raters assigned a code to the segment using a four-point scale. Low scores (1 and 2) indicate no or little evidence of instructional practice in which students are using authentic texts. High scores (3 and 4) indicate that segments are characterized by evidence with some weaknesses or strong and consistent evidence, respectively, that the teacher is providing instructional activities or opportunities for discussion that require students to actively use authentic texts for a sustained period of time. In addition to the PLATO coding, we have conducted qualitative video analyses using InterAct software to identify texts and what kind of instructional practices are typical and how these are framed by the teacher. Further, we identified typical examples and transcribed these to provide illustrative examples in our analyses.
Results indicate that a majority of the lessons do not contain instruction that systematically probes students’ active use of literature. In over 60% of the instruction in lessons students read fiction, the texts play a rather narrow role. References to the text often focus on recall of specific details. The variety of texts is rather low. Most texts are from the textbook, strongly emphasizing pre-2000 male writers. Students scarcely read texts by foreign writers and there are no texts by Sami writers. We found three dominant instructional practices related to literary texts: silent individual reading (without contextualization), genre instruction (often related to students own writing) and literary classroom discussions. In these three distinct practices, the texts either has a rather unclear role during silent reading, a very defined role as a model text or example in genre/writing instruction, or is used as grounds for literary conversations and analyses. A key finding is that we find a strong genre discourse across classrooms. It is more common that the teachers frame knowledge about genre as the main purpose for the lesson, than getting to know the specific text students are reading. Thus, in these lessons, there is more emphasis on genre and specific genre features than e.g. on the theme, the characters or the student`s reactions to the texts. Our material also offers detailed insight into how teachers provide instructional activities or opportunity for discussion that require students to actively use texts. Thus, in addition to pointing to some serious challenges concerning the role of literary text in upper secondary school, our study also provides insight into high quality reading instruction - as we have systematically mapped what happens in the lessons where such instruction occurs. Both these findings are highly relevant to the educational field, for researchers and practitioners alike.
Applebee, A. N., Langer, J. A., Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (2003). Discussion-based approaches to developing understanding: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school English. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 685-730. Appleman, D. (2014). Critical encounters in secondary English: Teaching literacy theory to adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press. Alsup, J. (2013). Teaching literature in an age of text complexity. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57(3), 181-18. Alsup, J. (2015). A case for teaching literature in the secondary school: Why reading fiction matters in an age of scientific objectivity and standardization. Routledge. Author 2 (2016). Blinded for peer-review. Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. D. (2008). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. The Journal of Education, 189(1/2), 107-122. Gambrell, L. B., Malloy, J. A., & Mazzoni, S. A. (2011). Evidence-based best practices in comprehensive literacy instruction. Best practices in literacy instruction, 4. Grossman, P., Loeb, S., Cohen, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). Measure for measure: The relationship between measures of instructional practice in middle school English language arts and teachers’ value-added scores. American Journal of Education, 119(3), 445-470. Ivey, G., & Johnston, P. H. (2013). Engagement with young adult literature: Outcomes and processes. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(3), 255-275. Johansson, S., Myrberg, E., & Rosén, M. (2015). Formal teacher competence and its effect on pupil reading achievement. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 59(5), 564-582. Langer, J. A. (1995). Envisioning literature: Literary understanding and literature instruction. New York: Teachers College Press. Langer, J. A. (2013). The role of literature and literary reasoning in English language arts and English classrooms. In: K. Goodman (Ed.) Whose knowledge counts in government literacy policies, New York: Routlegde. 161-166. Nystrand, M. (2006). Research on the role of classroom discourse as it affects reading comprehension. Research in the Teaching of English, 40(4), 392-412. Penne, S. (2013). Skjønnlitteraturen i skolen i et literacy-perspektiv [Fiction in school in a literacy perspective]. Literacy i læringskontekster, 42-54. Rosenblatt, L. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Snell, J. (2011). Interrogating video data: Systematic quantitative analysis versus micro-ethnographic analysis. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 14(3), 253–258. Wilkinson, I. A. G. & Son, E. H. (2012). A dialogic turn in research on learning and teaching to comprehend. In M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. B. Moje, & P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 4, 359–387). London: Routledge.
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