[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] A Question about Reading and Motivation

Re: Peg Griffin - http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Mail/xmcamail.2011_05.dir/msg00530.html
and Peg and Mike et al: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/NEWTECHN.pdf

The first article sets up a scenario in 5thD where kids "sneak" a look at piece of writing in order to find an answer to a current affairs question. As opposed to telling the kids to read a text and then (for example) testing them on it. The second talks about "reading for meaning" where assistance is given to kids to read in order to find out something they want to know about the world. As opposed to decoding "Jack and Jill" stories containing nothing of interest to them at all (and actually humiliating).

I am trying to get my head around the issue of the motivation which the teachers are trying to engender in the child which facilitates learning to read.

Following A N Leontyev, Peg talks about the "merely understood" motive for the child "to be a productive, informed, literate citizen" which is what the education system is supposed to be doing. Peg says this motive was "in the social interactions and ready to replace the 'really effective' motives that got the kid to come to/put up with our reading group." ... *in the social interactions*!

Generally speaking I think there is no doubt that the distinction between "really effective" and "merely understood" motives is valid, and that in general children who have difficulty in reading, read only for "effective" but "external" motives which do not succeed in them learning to read effectively. Further, the task of the teacher may be or may be supposed to be to get the child to learn to read so as "to be a productive, informed, literate citizen." This objective is somewhere in the complex of motives underlying a teacher's motives, certainly in 5thD, but I suspect often a "merely understood" motive for many teachers, alongside earning a wage for their own family, having a quiet day and the kids getting good test scores, etc.

But I question whether it is *ever* the child's motive "to be a productive, informed, literate citizen." This may be an "internal reward" for learning to read, but not for learning to read any particular text or even a particular type of text.

Would this explanation make sense: Learning to read is like happiness. It does not generally arise through being the motivation of the activity which produces it. People learn to read as a byproduct of struggling to get something they want out of particular texts. And this applies to adults as much as children. I think people can only learn to read philosophy if they are struggling to get something out of a book on philosophy (other than pass the exam or acquire an air of erudition). In Peg's email message we learn that the kids jumped on the newspaper article to extract information they wanted in (what they took to be) /another/ task. In the QAR story, adults mediate kids' relation to a text which is in turn mediating their real and meaningful relation to the world. (I think if a kid is strongly enough motivated to pass a reading test, and assisted, they will usually manage to learn to read, but it is for those for whom this doesn't work that the issue arises, isn't it?)

But in general I think it is neither necessary nor likely that a child has their eye on becoming a literate citizen when they struggle with a text and learn to read in the process. Isn't it always more proximate motives? The "internal" reward in reading a particular text is the particular content of that text, not actually anything to do with books, or texts, or reading or citizenship.

I know there are dozens of experts in literacy education out there, so please help me.


*Andy Blunden*