Texts, Activities and Motivations in Literature Education at the Lower Secondary Level (2016–2019). A binational study by the School of Education at the University of Applied sciences Northwestern Switzerland, the University of Potsdam and the University of Hildesheim; funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the “Niedersächsisches Vorab” programme of the Volkswagen Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Culture of the German state of Lower Saxony.
PISA and other major school performance studies have drawn attention to deficits in reading. Since then, empirical education research and educational policy have focused their attention on safeguarding reading literacy. Concurrently the critical question arises whether this focus is at the expense of literary education. Picking up on this discussion, the TAMoLi study concentrated on lower secondary school classes in German-speaking Switzerland and Lower Saxony, Germany. The question about literary education and its form is particularly interesting at the end of compulsory schooling, in view of the aim of a general education for all.
The TAMoLi study aimed to understand reading and literature teaching and learning from the perspective of the central actors within their shared domains of action. It thus examined teaching and learning as shaped together by teachers and their students.
The study included teachers (58 per country, total 116) and their students (total 2173) from the different school streams distinguished according to capacity: (A) the pre-higher secondary school stream, (B) the general stream or (C) the basic stream. Mixed methods were used to gather data, employing questionnaires, reading tests, lesson documentation, videos and interviews.
The promotion of both reading competence, i.e. reading comprehension, and literary education have an established place in German teaching on the lower secondary level. They are differently weighted in the different school streams. In stream A, literary education combines with the promotion of reading competence; in stream B, the combination is also common; however in stream C, the focus on reading comprehension dominates. These findings can be interpreted as a response to the PISA discussion as well as a confirmation that literature is by no means displaced from lower secondary school (Bertschi-Kaufmann et al. 2018; Böhme et al. 2018).
The significance of literature is reflected in teachers’ text selection. The biggest part (72% of texts used in the classroom) are literary, especially short stories and novels. Students’ presumed interest is the most important criterion for the selection of texts and genres across school streams. From the teachers’ perspective, the curriculum, in contrast, plays a lesser role.
Within this range, teachers prefer texts that are politically and socially critical as well as ones that treat the problems facing young people. However, they thereby only to a limited extent meet the students’ declared interests. For their leisure reading, boys prefer comics among others; girls prefer love stories, among others. Students, do however distinguish between those interests they wish to pursue with leisure reading and those that should be considered in school. The latter correspond much closer to texts presented in the classroom and texts read in school find some acceptance (Siebenhüner et al. 2019).
As reading research has repeatedly confirmed, student reading motivation differs according to school streams and gender: reading motivation is strongest among girls in stream A. Teachers recognisably influence their students’ reading motivation when their objectives are student oriented and students also perceive these aims (Fässler et al. – forthcoming).