An examination of how adult developmental reading students socially construct meaning while engaged in literature circles
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This dissertation reports the results of a study in which adult developmental reading students were involved in discussing books while engaged in literature circles. The researcher maintained a constructivist perspective during interactions with the participants. It was the realities of the participants that were sought by the researcher. Data sources included initial individual interviews, audio and video taped discussion sessions, a focus group session, final reflective essay, journal entries, and a concluding group session. Analysis of these data revealed benefits of literature circles that were cognitive, affective and social in nature. The connections that students made with one another and with text as they constructed meaning while engaged in literature circles allowed them to realize that their personal experiences can be connected to what they read and that reading can be an enjoyable experience. These connections vii suggest the need to examine carefully the need to provide adult development reading students with opportunities to engage in discussion of text. In addition, data analysis revealed patterns of interactions between participants and researcher, and between participants and their group members. These interaction patterns support the need for adult learners to have opportunities to expand their own understanding about text while engaged in “grand conversations,” and to understand themselves better as readers, thinkers, and learners in general. Finally, data analysis revealed participants’ evaluations of the study. Evaluations revealed enjoyment of literature circles as a reading approach, including the opportunities for comprehension and vocabulary enhancement, and opportunities to learn about the thoughts and lives of others. Participants’ evaluations also expressed concerns regarding preparation and attendance among group members. These findings support many who have argued theoretically that literature discussion groups provide benefits to students that are cognitive, affective, and social. These benefits do not only apply to students in grades k-12, but as indicated through data analyses, to adult learners as well. Literature circles allow students to have a voice as they socially construct meaning of text while engaged in literature circles.