Just when you thought it was complicated enough: Literature discussions meet critical theory
AuthorEvans, Karen S.
Committee ChairAnders, Patricia L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe use of literature discussion groups is enjoying increasing popularity in many language arts classrooms. Most research investigating this instructional practice has focused on the intellectual abilities necessary for students to conduct their own literature discussions (i.e., supporting opinions, asking questions). What has been missing in such research is how social and cultural factors might also influence how students engage in discussions. The purpose of the present study was to investigate what occurs when students conduct peer-led literature discussions and how the particular factor of social status influences the discourse and participation patterns in such discussion groups. Two literature discussion groups in a fifth-grade classroom were videotaped as they participated in their discussions. One group contained all female members and one was a mixed-gender group. Each group discussed their book for six days. All members of the class completed a sociometric measure to obtain student-perceived status of classmates. Constant-comparison and content analyses were used to analyze the descriptive data. The two groups differed in the purposes and the frames of reference they used to guide their discussions. The all-girl group focused on text-related purposes and utilized personal connections to discuss the book. The mixed-gender group's discussion was dominated by social talk and predominately used text-bound references to discuss their book. Social status influenced the participation patterns differently for the two groups and appeared to be related to the distribution of status within the group. The findings suggest that social factors such as gender and status influence how students negotiate participation and discourse patterns when leading themselves in literature discussions. The all-girl group's use of personal connections when discussing the book presents a possible alternative conception of what has traditionally been viewed as "girl-talk." The results also suggest that motivational (i.e., how much the group likes their book) and text (i.e., genre) factors are potentially influential factors in determining how students conduct discussions of literature.
Degree ProgramLanguage, Reading & Culture