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Based on instructional approaches for which empirical support was found, we will identify a set of instructional design principles, which may be used as guidelines for classroom practices and future interventions. Subsequently, we discuss the limitations of the current study and offer suggestions for future research. Based on the analysis of instructional approaches, we formulate the following statement, containing three individual design principles:.

We found that researchers used an array of fictional texts, including young adult novels, short stories, and poetry. These texts were often thematically relevant for the intended outcomes of an intervention, for example, when a minority group was represented by characters e. Two lines of reasoning explain why thematically relevant fiction may foster insight into human nature.

Vividly experiencing a simulation of social life through reading fictional texts may thus help readers better understand their own lives and the lives of others. Creating a safe learning environment to talk about such themes was not addressed in the reviewed intervention studies. Most interventions included writing tasks, either as stand-alone activities or combined with dialogues. Such writing tasks prompted students to activate, notice, and reflect on personal experiences related to a story theme e.

In the interventions with empirical support, writing tasks pointed to an efferent stance toward texts Vezzali et al. This basis of prior knowledge, we argue, may well include previous life experiences. In addition, writing tasks assigned during and directly after reading may help students engage in internal dialogues with the texts.

If it allows students to draw on personal experiences in particular, writing-to-learn is considered a valuable activity in literature classrooms Newell, In most interventions, dialogues followed after students read a particular text and completed individual writing tasks about personal experiences in relation to that text Eva-Wood, ; Malo-Juvera, ; ; Stevahn et al. Most external dialogues appeared to be exploratory in nature.

By verbally sharing their experiences, students can form a connection between the internal dialogue they have with the text to external dialogues with others. These external dialogues may take place in small groups or as whole-class dialogues or in combination, where the latter follows the former Malo-Juvera, ; Such a build-up, from the individual to peer groups to the classroom level, creates multiple layers of sharing responses, interpretations, and perspectives.

External dialogues may imply taking an expressive or a critical—analytical stance toward the text, or combining both. In the context of the literature classroom, this implies that students benefit from responding to texts as authentically as possible, using their own language. Talking to peers about such experiences adds another layer; it offers students the opportunity to verbalize and thus to consider a wider array of thoughts, questions, feelings, ideas, and perspectives.

The design principles are based on the analysis of instructional approaches in interventions with full or partial empirical support. However, when reviewing the interventions without empirical support, we concluded that their instructional approaches were also in line with the design principles. For example, thematically relevant fictional texts were used Darragh, ; Hakemulder, , writing tasks were applied Darragh, ; Hakemulder, ; Henschel et al.

One might argue that all interventions, either with or without empirical support, were rather alike in their instructional approaches. Therefore, it may seem invalid to consider these instructional approaches as being informative for designing future literature classroom interventions. However, numerous methodological or contextual reasons may explain why 4 out of 13 studies found no empirical support for their interventions.

For example, the instruments used may not have been apt for capturing these effects, an intervention may not have been implemented as originally intended, or the contrast between the experimental and comparison condition may not have been large enough. Such reasons cannot be determined with certainty in this review because sufficient information about instruments, coding schemes, implementation fidelity, and comparison conditions was not always provided in the studies without empirical support. These shortcomings repeatedly resulted in rather low scores on methodological quality indicators.

Moreover, the similarities in instructional approaches of interventions with and without empirical support suggest that theoretical underpinnings were rather similar across all 13 studies. Due to methodological and contextual factors, empirical support for interventions based on these theoretical notions cannot be guaranteed, but the overlap in instructional approaches does seem to strengthen the selection of included studies from a theoretical point of view.

In our view, these similarities are no cause for concern; rather, they suggest there were solid theoretical grounds for the design principles inferred from those interventions that did provide full or partial empirical support. Both this review study and the studies included in it are subject to limitations. First, as with all review studies, comprehensiveness may have been at stake. Although we systematically searched databases and used citation tracking, hand searches, and consulted experts, relevant publications may have escaped our attention.

Because we limited our search to peer-reviewed results, our selection may have been subject to publication bias. However, the search results returned several relevant studies with statistically nonsignificant outcomes that were published in peer-reviewed journals. The included intervention studies were not without limitations either.

These came to light via quality assessment procedures, which also informed the admissibleness of empirical support presented in the studies.

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As such, thorough methodological quality appraisal functioned as a gatekeeper for the overall validity of this review study. Implementation fidelity was a major issue in the included intervention studies. In addition, our review remains inconclusive regarding the role of the teacher. All in all, our review yielded too little information to formulate a design principle about teacher—student interactions.

Finally, one might argue that a limitation of our study lies in the fact that nearly half of the included intervention studies were identified in the search expansion phase rather than via database searches. However, we would suggest that this review study demonstrates the importance of conducting a search via a variety of sources: Rather than settling for search results from databases, future researchers are advised to include citation-tracking procedures, hand searches, and expert consultation. In conclusion, reviewing previous intervention studies may be troublesome in various ways.

Nonetheless, it remains an important step in gaining insight into evidence-based educational practices. The search and screening procedures of this review indicate that few studies on gaining insight into human nature in the literature classroom used experimental or quasi-experimental designs.

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This points to a need to expand this type of research in order to shed further light on whether and how literature education may foster insight into human nature. In addition, this review remained inconclusive about the roles of teachers. Such studies may, for example, use available indexes of foregrounding and literariness e.

Analysis suggests that this insight may be developed by reading and responding to fictional texts in the literature classroom. Moreover, our study sheds light on design principles based on empirically supported instructional approaches. We would like to thank Janneke Staaks and Charlotte Huigh for their valuable assistance during the preparation of this article.


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She specializes in domain-specific intervention research in literature classrooms. She specializes in research in literature education and writing instruction, and supervises research of students, PhD candidates, and teachers.

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His focus is on domain-specific research in language, arts, and literature. He specializes in both process studies and intervention studies of teaching and learning in elementary and secondary school classrooms. Skip to main content. Review of Educational Research. Article Menu. Download PDF. Open EPUB. Cite Citation Tools.


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      Tanja Janssen. Olivia Fialho. Gert Rijlaarsdam Gert Rijlaarsdam. Article information. Article Information Volume: 89 issue: 1, page s : Article first published online: November 22, ; Issue published: February 1, Olivia Fialho Utrecht University. Gert Rijlaarsdam University of Amsterdam. Keywords literature education , insight into human nature , instructional approaches , dialogic learning , adolescents.

      Fictional and Literary Texts. Insight Into Human Nature.

      The Role of Fictional and Literary Reading. Instructional Approaches to Literature Teaching. Text Selection. Stance Toward Texts. Aims and Research Questions. Search Terms. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria. Table 1 Inclusion and exclusion criteria.

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