Adult Experience of Learning From Novels
Purdy, Martha Leete
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M. L. PURDY ABSTRACT The Adult Experience Of Learning From Novels Novel readers may not necessarily read with the primary intention of learning from their novels, but it is known that learning is frequently an outcome. Literature on novels describe their content as both factual and philosophical opportunities to learn but do not describe them in terms of adult learning theory. A study by Radway (1984) found that readers of formula romance have complex learning outcomes from their reading but this was related to literature on novels rather than adult learning theory. Conversely, although learning is a known outcome of novel reading, literature on adult learning theories and research have taken little notice of novel reading as an opportunity to learn. Yet reading novels is an activity in which millions engage. The nature of reading as a highly personal, self-directed activity, suggested a literature review of theory pertaining to self-directed learning, informal learning and how adults make meaning. The purpose of the research was to explore the experience of learning novels; how reading contributes to knowledge, understanding of environment, and social and self-understanding in the context of adult learning theory. The research problem asked what evidence novel readers provide for making meaning as a result of their reading and what they do with that learning outcome. Research was conducted with individual interviews of five regular novel readers which served as case studies. Analysis was done by coding each interview paying particular attention to relationships to personal history, types of learning suggested and their effects. Case studies were then cross coded to discover trends and patterns. Findings showed that respondents used novels to be entertained and escape from their daily responsibilities, but along the way they also experienced a variety of types of learning. They collected new information they found personally interesting or added to an existing knowledge base, challenged their perspectives to think abut themselves and others in new ways. There was also a variety of uses for what they had learned. Respondents reported believing they have a broader knowledge base, could more effective interact with others, arrive at greater self-awareness, and in a few instances change behavior. The experience of learning from novels is a remarkable combination of self-motivation and self-direction undertaken for pleasure, yet incidentally can result in a range of learning outcomes including building a more complex knowledge base, constructivist organization and interpretation of information, critical reflection about self and others, and transformation of understanding to result in change.
- Doctoral Dissertations