The Impact of Offering Students Choice in Close Reading on Their Attitudes and Achievement
Russell, IV, Glen C.
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Close reading is a practice that is gaining a larger share of instructional time in contemporary classrooms largely due to the Common Core State Standards. Although it finds its roots in the New Criticism movement, only recently has it caught the attention of the primary and secondary education communities. Close reading centers on in-depth analysis of complex texts through text-dependent questioning. Traditional close reading assignments use teacher-selected texts, although a wide range of research supports offering students choice in the texts they read and study in school. This study combined the two practices of close reading and student self-selection of text, in order to examine effects on student attitudes and achievement. The study addressed the following research questions: 1. Will there be a statistically significant difference in achievement of seventh-grade advanced reading students between (a) those who are given a choice of texts in close reading assignments and (b) those who are assigned a single text for close reading assignments? 2. Will there be a statistically significant difference in attitudes of seventh-grade advanced reading students between (a) those who are given a choice of texts in close reading assignments and (b) those who are assigned a single text for close reading assignments. The research questions were examined using a quasi-experimental non-randomized pretest-posttest comparison group research design. The independent variable was the text used in close reading assignments: (1) a single teacher-selected text, where students have no choice; or (2) a text that is student-selected from three choices. The dependent variables were: (1) reading achievement as measured by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) seventh-grade reading test; and (2) student attitude toward close reading as measured in three domains by a researcher-developed attitude survey. The 130 participants for this study were drawn from a population of seventh-grade students enrolled in advanced reading classes at an intermediate school in a suburban school district outside of Houston, Texas. The two groups were taught by the same teacher, the researcher himself. Mixed design analysis of variance procedures were used to compare the two groups’ differences on pretest and posttest scores on the reading achievement tests and the three constructs measured in the attitude survey. There was no statistically significant difference in the reading achievement scores of the two groups. There were statistically significant differences for the Engagement and Educational Value constructs demonstrating that the group that had choice in the texts used for close reading had greater increases in these areas than the group using teacher-selected texts. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in the Empowerment construct on the survey. Overall, the results of this study suggest that for the purposes of teaching close reading to seventh-grade advanced reading students, offering them choice in reading material is preferable to offering only teacher-selected texts.