Carrots or Maltesers: Does it Matter? Context and Quality: Perspectives on Reading and Fiction for 11 - 16 Year Olds.
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This research was designed to investigate issues of quality in the reading of fiction of 11 – 16 year olds in school; this included the reading of fiction as part of the curriculum and private reading for pleasure. It is research which found its roots in the surveys of children’s reading habits carried out by Jenkinson (1946), Whitehead, Capey, and Maddren, (1977), Hall and Coles (1999) and Clark, Osborne and Akerman (2008). These surveys, over sixty years, show how attitudes to reading for 11 – 16 year olds, their reading habits and their preferred texts have changed. Judgements of quality in children’s chosen reading are implied in those studies but criteria for these judgments of quality are not defined. The National Curriculum (NC) for England (2008) explicitly refers to texts considered to be of high quality and lists prescribed texts and authors, but does not define what is meant by quality. The study was designed to investigate how teachers and students in secondary schools (11 – 16 year olds) in England conceptualised quality in the fiction used in class and for private reading. Individual teachers and groups of 11 – 16 year olds from four schools in the South-West of England were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. The interview data were analysed using a Cultural and Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) framework. The findings indicate that interpretations of quality are complex and often linked to examination syllabus requirements; the iterations of the NC for English in England; and discrete individual school and departmental needs. This can cause professional tension amongst teachers relating to the imposed rules, to external expectations and to the lack of teacher autonomy. The study offers new insights into how fiction for 11 – 16 year olds is used and conceptualised in school. This is represented theoretically through the framework of CHAT and in terms of the confusion at the intersection of boundary objects. The outcomes of the research will also contribute to clarifying how texts written for young adults may be judged and to the conceptualisation of a pedagogy to support the use of fiction with 11 – 16 year olds in school.
PhD in Education