Summer 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Trish Harvey

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Stephanie Reid

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Kelley Ungerecht


The research question addressed in this study was: how does teaching high school students to analyze text through literary lenses impact the quality of students’ arguments? Topics explored in the review of the literature include the context of struggling readers, literary theory and literary lenses, teaching literary theory to secondary students, and argument writing. A cohort of 18 struggling readers in a co-taught high school English class were instructed to shift their reading focus from finding meaning to constructing meaning. To accomplish this, students were familiarized with the tenets of three literary lenses (social-class, gender/feminist, and psychological) and guided through the process of collecting evidence, analyzing said evidence for patterns, and using those patterns to inform an argumentative assertion about the text. In the first unit, students generated concrete arguments about a character; in the second unit, students generated abstract arguments using a literary lens. A mixed methods approach was used to track growth. Both quantitative and qualitative data collection tools were used, including student selfassessment rubrics, teacher rubrics, student self-concept and reflection surveys, and teacher and co-teacher observation journals. Data revealed minimal change in the quality of students’ written arguments, possibly due to an increase in difficulty from the first task to the second; however, students reported substantial improvement in their attitude toward reading, a greater value of their learning, and higher confidence in their reading and writing ability. Ultimately, the results of this study suggest that struggling high school readers are capable of using literary lenses. Limitations, implications, and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Research Methodology

Action Research


At-risk Students, Literacy, Reading, Writing

Included in

Education Commons