Research on Experts’ and Novices’ Literary Reading Processes. Teachers’ and Students’ Strategies for Dealing with Point of View
A main goal of German L1 teachers is to develop literary competence. One central issue for understanding narrative texts is dealing with point of view. In the special case of literary texts, readers’ mental models depend on the narrators and the characters’ point of view. Therefore, this PhD project, conducted by Christiane Kirmse, asks how readers in school bring together their own perspectives with those of the narrator and characters. The doctoral thesis examines how teachers, as experts of literature in school, and 14- to 16-year-old-students deal with point of view in literary texts with internal focalization.
Andringa (1996) demonstrates that students have issues understanding point of view. Stark’s (2012) think-aloud transcripts also show that ninth-grade-students face difficulties with narrative texts when it is not clear who is speaking.
Teachers should be able to guide the reading processes of their students. However, there is no research on how teachers, as experts of literature in school, deal with point of view. Moreover, existing studies only investigate the reading processes of the students. Thus, this study focuses on both students and teachers.
The concept of “perspective structure”, which is used in English studies, offers a good theoretical grounding for research on point of view (Nünning 2001). Internal focalization refers to when the perception of the fictional world is clearly linked to a narrator, looking and speaking through the eyes of a character (Genette 1988). This feature is typical of short stories that are taught in school. This qualitative study relies on student groups that are approximately equal in age, such as those used in Stark’s studies. Unlike other studies, this study uses not one but two narrative German short stories to provide more in-depth observations on the texts’ characteristics.
The texts were presented to teachers of German language (N=18) and to ninth- and tenth-grade-students (N=12). The students thought aloud while and after reading. The individual interviews (N=30; Duration: 60–90 minutes) were evaluated using qualitative content analysis. The eventual aim of the study is to describe the ways in which teachers and students deal with point of view.