AN EVALUATION OF EXTENSIVE AND INTENSIVE TEACHING OF LITERATURE; ANOTHER YEAR’S EXPERIMENT IN THE ELEVENTH GRADE
McConn, Matthew 1974-
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Since the start of the 20th century, educators have continuously debated the two prevailing methods of teaching literature: intensive and extensive. Nancy Coryell’s famous 1927 study titled “An Evaluation of Extensive and Intensive Teaching of Literature; A Year’s Experiment in Eleventh Grade” is considered the first major English education study, and attempts to determine which method is more effective at improving reading comprehension and appreciation of literature. Over the last one-hundred years, while much has been studied and reported on intensive and extensive approaches to reading, nothing since Nancy Coryell’s (1927) study at Columbia University has specifically targeted both approaches to determine which one is more effective in improving both comprehension and appreciation of literature at the upper secondary grade levels. This study was a replication of Coryell’s work, and addressed the following research questions: (1) Is the intensive or extensive method of teaching literature more effective in the improvement of reading comprehension? (2) Is the intensive or extensive method of teaching literature more effective in the improvement of appreciation of literature? For the purposes of this study, the term “extensive reading” is defined as reading more, either by choice or assigned, with less focus on the details and more focus on the amount of reading, while the term “intensive reading” is defined as reading the minimum amount of texts required by the syllabus with a focus on the details. To answer these questions, the study used a quasi-experimental, non-randomized pretest posttest comparison group research design. The independent variable was the method of teaching literature: (a) one group received intensive methods of teaching literature; (b) one group received extensive methods of teaching literature. The dependent variables were reading comprehension of literary works and the appreciation of literature. Both dependent variables of reading comprehension and appreciation of literature were measured with objective tests. The participants were drawn from the population of eleventh grade students in a Division-4A urban high school who were eligible to attend regular language arts classes, which included Special Education and English Language Learners. Analysis of covariance procedures were used to determine whether a statistical significance existed in the difference between the posttest scores of the intensive and extensive groups, as well as the scores of tests implemented throughout the study. Different sets of t-tests were also run to look for differential effect between various levels of groups within the pretest scores. The results of this study support those of Coryell’s. The students in the extensive reading classes did as well as the students in the intensive reading classes in all four tests of the literature studied. Improvement in comprehension remained equal, and students in the extensive reading classes showed statistically significant higher gains in the ability to appreciate literature than the students in the intensive reading classes, with even larger statistically significant gains from the low performing extensive group. Therefore, the results of this study favor the extensive method over the intensive method for the purposes of improving the appreciation of literature with eleventh grade students.