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New English GCSE teaching methods 'does not encourage interest in reading'

01/09/2017 Joanna

New research has suggested that current methods of studying texts as part of new-look GCSE English and English literature courses may not be the most effective way of encouraging long-term interest in reading for pleasure.

The University of East Anglia study indicated that reading a text with an overt focus on passing an exam can actually put pupils off reading in their own time, and that more focus needs to be placed on encouraging students to engage with stories on their own terms.

A survey of 165 people, including members of the public, current students and teachers, was conducted as part of the study to gain insights into how their experiences of reading literature for the purpose of exams differed from reading for pleasure.

Some said that analysis of a novel distracted them from engaging with the story and its characters and put them off books they came to enjoy later in life, while the lack of choice in selecting the set text can also limit enthusiasm. Additionally, it was indicated that an excessive focus on "literary features" can prevent students from enjoying them for their own sake.

Concerns were raised by the researchers that the new system of GCSE exams - which has scrapped coursework in favour of a focus on closed-book examinations and an ability to memorise key details and quotations from the study texts - may exacerbate this problem.

Dr John Gordon, a senior lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong Learning, said: "The results suggest there is an important place for reading together for its own sake, aside from reading for the purpose of exams, especially continuing late into secondary school.

"This could be especially important for encouraging lifelong reading for pleasure, potentially with more long-term impact on reading habits than an immediate goal of exam success."

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