The project will compare teenagers web-based reading skills with their reading of literary texts, identify areas of weakness and then devise teaching activities to enable students to read more effectively. The project is led by Prof. Lydia Kokkola and will include two PhD students: Eva Fjällström who began her PhD in October 2013 and a second who will be hired from January 2015.
The last two decades have seen remarkable changes in the kinds of literacies needed to function effectively. The rapid expansion of electronic media has resulted in a greater than ever need for teenagers to be able to vary their reading practices to be able to effectively manage different kinds of texts (inc. film, images, web & literary), and to adjust the way in which they read to suit their reason for reading. Moreover, most internet reading takes place in English, and yet teenagers receive little education in the specific reading strategies required for effective internet use in their English classes. There has been an assumption that teenagers are “digital natives” who do not need to be taught specific strategies for reading digital texts. However, studies have shown that many pre-teens are unable to cope with even simple digital tasks such as feeding search terms into google and scrolling through the outcomes (Leu et al. 2008). We need to teach children how to read these media, more specifically, we need to teach young people how to do this efficiently in a foreign language. A pilot study was completed in the spring of 2014, and a PhD student will be hired from January 2015 to work within this project.
Literature is a compulsory element in the teaching of English in Swedish High Schools, and yet many teachers are uncertain about how to teach literature, an issue which can be broken down into a series of other issues including how to choose a text, what constitutes a good response to a literary text, what strategies do learners need to develop. Eva Fjällström’s PhD focuses on the strategies adolescents need to develop in order to respond to literary texts.
Kokkola’s study will draw on the impressive array of research available within the neurosciences on learning to read as well as literacy education and cognitive literary studies to examine differences between the deep reading of traditional narratives and the reading of digital media. The project is divided into three phases. The first phase is text based. The researchers will examine the features of the text type which position the reader (i.e. textual elements which signal how the text is intended to be read). In the second phase, the researchers will conduct think aloud protocols to identify how Swedish teenagers currently read these text types, and how conscious they are of adapting their reading strategy to suit the different demands of each text type. In the final phase of the project, researchers will develop a teaching programme for reading strategies and test their effectiveness.