Variations in Approach to Literary Reasoning Among High School Students
Hall, Allison H
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The current study investigated student learning across time in the context of instruction designed to build knowledge, skills, and practices around literary reasoning in an 11th grade English class across an academic year. The case study reported in this document was conducted as part of a larger, design-based research project (Project READI) that took up the challenge of creating learning environments that would provide adolescents with opportunities to learn to engage in evidence-based argumentation in literature, history, and science. The literature design team of this larger project developed an overarching set of learning goals and a design architecture based on consideration of prior theoretical and empirical work on literary reasoning, instructional approaches to engaging adolescents in it in formal educational contexts, and synergistic work in science and history inquiry by the larger project. The current case study focuses on individual student learning in one 11th grade literature classroom. Five students were selected as embedded cases to illustrate differences in literary reasoning over the course of the year. Data sources for these embedded cases included class discussions, interviews, and written work. Analyses of the five embedded cases across the year revealed that each demonstrated learning consistent with the increasing demands of the curriculum. However, the five illustrate different approaches and ways of making sense of literary text. Differences were reflected in the kinds of knowledge, experiences, and affect that students drew on in their reasoning about the texts, as well as in what aspects of the text they focused on in their sensemaking. Importantly, each interpretive approach reflected an acceptable way of “doing” literary reading and was valued and accepted in the classroom context; none of the approaches were questioned or rejected by other students or the teacher. The embedded cases reflect varied aspects of the complexity and multidimensionality of the interpretive reading of literature. That such varied approaches to sensemaking occurred is in no small measure due to classroom norms and instructional supports that empowered and enabled students to transact with text in ways that honored the intersection of established literary reasoning practices and individual personal, social, and cultural perspectives.
literary reading and reasoning
case study methodology