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ERIC Number: ED535842
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 237
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1095-2729-2
Figuring out the Figurative: Understanding and Teaching Symbolism in Literary Texts
Spratley Burtin, Anika
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Northwestern University
Secondary student performance in the domain of reading has been a cause for concern for educators and scholars alike. To understand the demands placed on students we must first understand how reading changes within content areas and across grades. Furthermore, we must have an understanding of teachers' conceptions about the texts they teach. This dissertation considers the domain of literature, and specifically examines symbolism as a complex problem of reading and teaching. The goal of this dissertation is to build on existing work by offering a detailed examination of symbolism as an interpretive problem and specifically to understand the structure of the problem and how it operates in literature for the purposes of pedagogy. Furthermore, this study examines how high school English teachers understand this concept and how their understandings influence their instructional practices. The hypothesis is that teachers attend to some aspects of symbolism, but leave others ignored. Ultimately, their lack of attention to various aspects of symbolism affects the depth of instruction students receive. This study employed a mixed methods approach, relying on both quantitative and qualitative data. Data sources included: short stories, works of literary criticism, a survey, a lesson design task, and semi-structured interviews. Initial analysis was conducted to develop an understanding of symbolism as it operates in literary texts. Additional analysis was done to determine English teachers' conceptions of this interpretive problem and their instructional practices around this problem. The results of this study indicate that there are at least four dimensions of symbolism that operate together in literary texts. While teachers address some of these dimensions in their instruction, there are aspects that they are uncertain about. Generally, teachers tended not to teach those aspects with which they were the most uncomfortable. As well, teachers' instructional practices seemed to be influenced by their beliefs about their students. If teachers felt that students were of low-ability, they placed less emphasis on teaching symbolism. Those teachers who were categorized as more "literary" in their orientation, as defined by the parameters of this study, typically emphasized symbolism in their teaching regardless of their perceptions of study ability. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A