Rutgers University, Livingston
Mentor: Dr. Roger M. Beattie Coordinator, Minority Recruitment & Retention
Theorizing Predictors of Reader Response: Determining High School Students' Responses to Literature through Indicators of Race and Ethnicity
Reader response theory has been widely studied within the past three decades and used in the teaching and learning of literature to engage students more fully in a text. The purpose of this research was to see what factors determined a student's response to a text and how much a similar racial identification amongst high school students played a part in the similarities of their responses, if any. The students responded in writing to the short story "Spilled Salt" by Barbara Neely.
The primary research of this project was done in three phases. Several high school students were given questionnaires to assess demographic information about themselves and their experiences with different types of literature. The second phase involved the students reading a short story and responding to it in nine segments. The students then answered a final questionnaire to gain information regarding their responses to the text.
After this information was gathered, each students' response was outlined and coded to determine if it supported or refuted my hypothesis which states that despite similarities, people will respond differently to literature as determined by their learning experiences and racial experiences, even though these two factors play a role in how one reads a text. For the purposes of this research a racial experience was defined as "an event or happening, positive or negative, that came about due to the person's racial background or identity." I found that the subjects in this research had varying responses according to several factors, not only race.
The findings of this research have possible implications in the future development of high school English curricula, teacher training, and teacher to student interaction, which could eventually lead to a better educational experience within the classroom for students and teachers as well.