The class novel in first and second year mixed ability classes

Lennon, Francis P (1989). The class novel in first and second year mixed ability classes. MPhil thesis The Open University.



There is conflicting evidence on the extent and value of using the class novel in English classrooms, particularly in the first two years of secondary school. This study looks at the literature on this subject over the last eighty years or so and discovers that it is inconclusive and deficient in certain respects.
A new survey was therefore set up involving teachers of English in one division of Strathclyde - Lanark. The design, piloting and issue of the questionnaire used in the survey is explained in detail.
The questionnaire focused on certain key issues such as the prevalence of the use of the class novel, its relative importance in the English curriculum of first and second years Cas compared with other components of the English curriculum such as poetry and drama), the reasons that teachers gave for using it, the methods of reading they employ and the problems that its use poses for the teacher of a mixed ability class.
A full report of the survey's Findings is given. Some of the key findings are that contrary to the frequently expressed view in 'official' reports over the years, the class novel is considered by large numbers of teachers of English to be the most important component of their courses in both first and second years; that there is a great reliance on reading aloud in class as a method of reading and that there are practical problems associated with its use in the mixed ability class when there are numbers of pupils unable to cope with reading the class novel unaided. Some light is thrown on the types of assignments that teachers set once the novel has been read where the survey discovers that two types of assignment dominate work on the class novel - questions on the novel’s storyline and assignments using the novel as stimulus for personal / creative writing.
The findings are discussed in some detail in relation to literature in the field and also in relation to traditionally held theories about what the nature of English teaching should be.
Unresolved issues are identified such as the effect that type of class might have on the decision to use a class novel and on the method of reading it; the use of the novel in the year(s) immediately prior to the secondary school in primary and its use in the later years of secondary school. In the light of these, suggestions are made for future research and some attempt is made at evaluating the practical implications of this study for current practice.

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