The Effects of Literature Circles on the Reading Achievement of College Reading Students

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Thomas, Davonna
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Middle Tennessee State University
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of literature circles on the reading achievement of college reading students using a mixed method approach. A literature circle is defined in this study as students who form a group, read a novel, and meet on a regular basis to discuss what they have read. The researcher-developed intervention included three activities: collaborative oral re-tell, short written response to a prompt, and open discussion. The study employed an experimental design in order to examine the effectiveness of the intervention (literature circles); in addition, the sociocultural context of the college reading classes (and students) is described in detail. Grounded theory was employed to analyze reading attitude, reading motivation, response to participation in a literature circle, and textual engagement. Thirty-eight college students in required reading courses participated in the five-week study. Students were randomly assigned to either the treatment (participation in literature circle) or control (independent reading) condition. Students were able to choose from four pre-selected high-interest young adult novels. At the conclusion of the series of literature circle meetings (or upon completion of reading the novel independently, for control group participants), comprehension was measured using three measures: an oral re-tell of the novel, a twenty question researcher-developed open-ended book-specific assessment, and a twenty question assessment on a two-part high school level passage from the Qualitative Reading Inventory (Leslie & Caldwell, 2011). Textual engagement was measured by coding and counting responses to a semi-structured interview. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed a significant main effect for group assignment, meaning that--when all four measures were combined into a linear function--the students assigned to literature circles outperformed the control group students. Given the significance of the overall test, the univariate main effects were examined. Significant univariate main effects were obtained for the researcher developed test and textual engagement. Qualitative analysis revealed that literature circles improve reading comprehension, depth of textual engagement, and provides an opportunity for discourse, collaboration, and social interaction for its participants. These findings suggest that literature circles lead to both improved comprehension and deeper textual engagement for college reading students.
College reading instruction, Intervention study, Literature circles, Literature discussion, Mixed method, Text comprehension