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[Xmca-l] Re: A Question about Reading and Motivation

A colleague and I just completed a study of the nature and variety of
pleasure adolescents take from their out-of-school reading that draws on
Dewey’s delineation of four kinds of educative interest in *Interest and
Effort in Education.  *One kind of pleasure we identified is what we call
work pleasure in which readers use a text as a tool to accomplish some
other end. That’s the kind of pleasure that Andy seems to be talking about
when he writes about someone’s struggling to read a philosophical text to
get something out of it that could then be usefully employed in some other
context. But there are other kinds of pleasure.  As Dewey explains “There
are cases where action is direct and immediate. It puts itself forth with
no thought of anything beyond. It satisfies in and of itself. The end is
the present activity, and so there is no gap in the mind between means and
end. All play is of this immediate character.”  Readers experience the
pleasure of play when they read narratives to immerse themselves in a story
world.  What matters to them is the pleasure they get from living through
the experiences of characters in the here and now not what they can
accomplish as a consequence of their reading at some future time. Another
kind of pleasure is intellectual pleasure.  Dewey explains that “instead of
thinking things out and discovering them for the sake of the successful
achievement of an activity (work pleasure),” we may institute an activity
for the intellectual pleasure of figuring something out.  An example would
be reading to unravel the complexities of poem as an end in itself.  Finally
there are social pleasures in reading.  People read to affiliate with
others.  That seems to me to be a kind of pleasure people on this listserv
take.  Or people read to mark their place in the world.  They do a kind of
identity work by using their reading to assert their difference from others.
One of the informants in our study avoided reading the books that were most
popular among her friends and instead read what she called dark fiction.
That reading was an important part of how she understood herself.  As she
said “I’m weird in the way that [I don't have] inhibitions like most
people. I can read dark fiction and not be disturbed by it.”  I’d argue
that teachers are most likely to foster motivation to read by creating
contexts in which students can experience all four kinds of pleasure.

On Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 4:43 AM, rjsp2 <r.j.s.parsons@open.ac.uk> wrote:

> The first thing I thought on reading "assistance is given to kids to
> read in order to find out something they want to know about the world"
> was "This is basic Freire".  Adult literacy had the same problem of
> meaningless texts till Freire came along and started teaching them about
> things that mattered to them. It also made me reflect on the idea of
> motive, whihc has for a long time been a question I have been intending
> to examine "when I have time".  When I met the activity triangle, one of
> the most obvious issues about it was that it contains no separate place
> for motive. After a while that seemed logical because the motive was in
> the object, and maybe one of our difficulties is that we separate motive
> out from object in order to understand it better, and then forget to put
> it back in again.
> Children are just like people, they do need a reason to do things. I've
> always been puzzled by the idea of andragogy, the suggestion that adults
> learn differently from children. Proponents usually list several reasons
> which usually make no sense to me. One of the reasons usually given is
> that adults need to know why they are doing something, the unspoken
> contrast being presumably that children happily do what they're told.
> The kind of research you refer to here, Andy, suggests that children do
> need to know why they are doing something, but lack the power to say so.
> Hence, I think, a lot of the problems evident in our UK schooling system
> (lots of great schools, in my opinion, dreadful educational policies
> dictate that children are machined through exams in order to maintain
> the school's place in the league table. So there is a reason why the
> children do what they do, it is just not relevant to the child.)
> Rob
> On 28/08/2013 08:27, Andy Blunden wrote:
>> Re: Peg Griffin -
>> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Mail/**xmcamail.2011_05.dir/msg00530.**html<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<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
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Michael W. Smith
Professor and Chair
Department of Teaching and Learning
Temple University
College of Education
351 Ritter Hall
1301 Cecil B. Moore Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19122