A Study of Teacher Cognition and Literature Teaching at the Upper Secondary Level
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- Master's theses (HF-IKS) 
This thesis has aimed at exploring teacher cognition (attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and practices) in relation to literature teaching in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms at the upper-secondary level in Norway. The data for the research has been obtained through the use of qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews and classroom observations with five EFL teachers who teach in the first year of upper secondary (vg1). The study addressed three research questions: what approaches and methods the teachers employ in their EFL literature teaching, how they select reading material and what learning objectives they consider most important, and lastly, how their stated beliefs compare with their actual practices. Although there is a strong focus on literacy in the Norwegian curriculum (the Knowledge Promotion from 2006), there is no explicit information about how literature teaching at this level should be conducted, nor a specific list of what literary texts to employ in the EFL classroom. Hence, since the teachers are challenged to set their own aims, choose reading material and different methods, the choice of topic for the present thesis grew out from an attempt to study teachers´ rationale for literature teaching. In order to investigate the teachers´ cognition, their practices have been studied in relation to their attitudes, beliefs and knowledge. The study showed that the teachers are influenced to different degrees by their own experiences as language learners and their teacher education programmes. Most significantly, the results have indicated that their experiences as language learners have spurred their interest for literature. In addition, there is reason to believe that they incorporate certain elements of their previous experiences, whereas others have been avoided. Seemingly, the methods and literary texts employed are highly influenced by curricular aims, since three of the teachers claimed to use literature primarily to enlighten these objectives. They are, however, free to select what reading material to employ since there does not appear to be formal restrictions in this regard. Nevertheless, certain factors seem to affect their choices, such as other colleagues, the textbook and previous teaching experiences. Seemingly, the textbook is the most predominant reading material since it is used by all five teachers on a general basis. Their stated beliefs are that its content is well-structured and educational, that it correlates with curricular aims, and that it is preferred by students. Although the teachers evidently use similar methods in their teaching, the study showed that they have a varied focus. However, they all emphasized the importance of variation in EFL teaching, which seems to be a belief that corresponds with their actual practices since various methods such as class discussion, teacher presentation and group work were employed in the observed lessons. In addition, their teaching can be linked to the language-, cultural- and personal growth models for teaching literature, and evidently, they also employ aspects of critical literacy to various extents. Each teacher apparently uses several approaches to literature teaching, as elements from the historical-biographical method, New Criticism and reader response theory seem to be integral in their teaching. For this reason, it may be argued that they have an eclectic approach to literature teaching. The study showed that the teachers focus on different learning aims, but the ones that were most frequently mentioned are reading for pleasure, intercultural competence, vocabulary, and aims connected to language- and literacy skills, such as accuracy, reading, writing and general language abilities. Four of the teachers consider reading for pleasure as an overall objective, and the importance of extensive and free voluntary reading was explicitly stressed. Nonetheless, doubts were proposed as to whether this aim is realistic to achieve in school settings where students may feel disempowered and unengaged, and where text analysis and tasks deprive them of experiencing a joy for reading. Among the reasons provided by the teachers as to why extensive and free voluntary reading is difficult to conduct, were that this requires a large amount of class time and a wide variety of reading materials, which suggests that contextual factors influence the extent to which teachers are able to make teaching-related decisions according to their beliefs. Moreover, the findings have indicated that teachers’ cognitions are shaped and mediated by dynamic interactions among context, experiences from schooling, university education and classroom practices (cf. Borg 2015:259). Hopefully, this thesis has contributed to research on the relationship between teacher cognition and literature teaching in particular, as well as to that of literacy teaching and foreign language (FL) teaching. It has also aimed to provide an insight into the current situation of literature teaching at the Norwegian upper secondary level.
Master's thesis in Literacy Studies