Improving Student Performance and Teacher Confidence English 600 – Spring 2008
1. Does teaching literary theory in secondary education increase a student's reading and composition skills and better prepare the student for an undergraduate education?
2. Are Kentucky literature and language arts teachers adequately prepared to introduce a broad spectrum of literary theory into the literature/language arts classroom? 3. Should colleges develop a course in literary theory which is tailored for English educators, as opposed to courses for B.A./M.A. English students? This former would introduce educators to literary theory; however, the primary focus would be on pedagogy and connecting reading and writing strategies to literary theory.
Does teaching literary theory in secondary education increase a student's reading and composition skills and better prepare the student for an undergraduate education?
Review Literature “ Literary theory in secondary English classes will better prepare adolescent readers to respond reflectively and analytically to literary texts, both “canonical” and multicultural.” Appleman, Deborah. Critical Encounter in High School English. Urbana:NCTE Press, 2000. “ When students think critically, they interact with the text by skillfully analyzing the message, comparing that message with their previous knowledge, considering alternate positions, and synthesizing the information gained into a richer knowledge base.” Pescatore, Christine. “Current events as empowering literacy: For English and social studies teachers.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 5 1 : 4 December 2007 / January 2008. Q.1
“ Since literary criticism is “a predisposition for making certain uses of certain classes of [textual] evidence, it appears to be a natural tool for helping students to practice meaning making in reading and writing.
Literary criticism as a discipline continues to accumulate fascinating means of guiding students’ reading and writing. Its positive impact on the development of students’ ability to engage in writing about literature is evident in the increased level of students’ participation in classroom discussions and in their increased enthusiasm about writing.”
Smolova, Alona A. "Using Literary Criticism as a Strategy of Rhetorical Invention: A Practical Guide to Writing about Literature." Online Submission (01 Jan. 2004). ERIC . EBSCO . Camden-Carroll, Morehead, KY. 23 Apr. 2008
“ AP Literature seniors matched or surpassed the national statistics on all counts (percentage passing as well as achievement of the top scores of 4 or 5). I attribute their success in interpreting the "close readings" of Part One, as well as in writing critical essays responding to the poetry and prose readings of Part Two, in large part to these short research exercises, which encouraged attention to the text itself and creative/divergent thinking.”
Sagan, Catherine. “Sing a New Song: A Fresh Look at Literary Criticism.” The English Journal , 92.6, (2003): 40-46
“ This study's findings suggest that introducing students to literary criticism in introductory literature courses will make for more enthusiastic students and more exciting learning environments. If students are more confident in their interpretive skills, they are more apt to take an active role in the classroom and to spend their energy making literature meaningful.
Such enthusiasm may encourage more students to pursue literature as a major, or even to consider teaching literature as a career. At the very least, the findings indicate that instruction about literary criticism begins to repair the "strained relationships" students have with literature (Dillon 9) by strengthening their appreciation for literary works.”
Remler, Nancy L. "Using "The Giving Tree’ To Teach Literary Criticism." Teaching English in the Two-Year College 28.1(2000): 60-64.
Students will be able to understand why and how texts have been constructed.
Students will be able to think more widely about the texts they encounter, rather than to be locked into one interpretation.
Students will be able to use their own prior knowledge to make meaning from the texts they read.
Students will be able to justify why they have constructed texts the way they have constructed them.
Students will be able to appreciate others' points of view about texts.
Students will become more independent learners and thinkers, and hopefully, this independence will be transferred to other subject areas.
Jones, Gary. “Literary theory in the middle years classroom: Challenges for students and teachers. “ Primary & Middle Years Educator . 3:1 (2005)
Are Kentucky literature and language arts teachers adequately prepared to introduce a broad spectrum of literary theory to the literature/language arts classroom?
Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that many of Kentucky’s teachers are not prepared to do this, so further research is needed. To conduct such research, I will email a survey to secondary educators over the summer.
After gathering textbook information from the survey, I will then review the most commonly used textbooks to determine each textbook’s orientation toward literary theory.
Third, I will create a survey for students enrolling in first year English and composition classes to determine their familiarity with literary theory.
I then hope to teach a three-to-four-class unit in literary theory in these same classes. At the conclusion of this unit, I will conduct an exit survey to ascertain if the students are more confident in their interpretive skills and more willing to participate in literary discussions.
Face-to-face interviews with students will yield other important information.
Should colleges develop a course in literary theory tailored for English educators, as opposed to MA English students. A course that is weighted more toward pedagogy than theory?
Q.3 This question is best answered by college educators from the departments of Humanities and Education. Over the summer, I hope determine if there are any institutions who have such a model for teaching literary theory in place and I will be asking for comments and syllabi from these institutions as well.