Literature education as a school for thinking: Students' learning experiences in secondary literature education.

Martijn Koek, Tanja Janssen, Frank Hakemulder, Gert Rijlaarsdam

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Critical thinking and cognitive well-being are commonly associated to tendencies that do not come naturally to humans: inhibition of automatized cognitive processing (de-automatization) and thoughtful (re)construction of meaning. A previous study showed that students' growth in literary interpretation skills can be partly explained by skills and dispositions related to de-automatization and (re)construction. The present study aims to identify students' learning experiences of automatization and (re)construction during lessons in literary fiction. We selected 21 students (grade 10-12, mean age 17,2) of whom 15 students had shown growth in literary understanding (growth group) and 6 had not (no-growth group). We conducted stimulated recall interviews focused on learning experiences during four months of a specific literature course, using students' literature portfolio as stimulus. All interviews were fully transcribed. First, segments containing learning experiences with de-automatization and/or (re)construction were selected. To chart the nature of de-automatization and (re)construction experiences each segment was then coded bottom-up, iteratively and axially. Findings indicate three types of de-automatization (questioning, interpretation awareness and delay), and three types of (re)construction (reasoning, considering alternatives and concluding), with participants in the no-growth group recalling significantly less experiences of questioning, delay and reasoning than students in the growth-group. Thus, the specific literature education under study potentially offered students experiences that might stimulate their tendency to engage in de-automatized (re)construction of meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1–33
Number of pages33
JournalL1 Educational Studies in Language and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2019


  • (re)construction
  • de-automatization of automatized cognitive processes
  • dual process theory
  • literature education
  • student experiences


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