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Reading and Learning The vital role played by the written word in our society is a strong reminder of the fact that the ability to read cannot be adequately considered as a mere technical skill denoting the ability to decipher 71 72 the experience of learning strings of letters on a page (cf. A core feature of much of the reading that is carried out in academic contexts is that individuals are required to see something in the outside world — be it the structure of physical objects, an historical development resulting in major social changes, or evolution — in a perspective which is not a familiar part of everyday thinking. Consequently in the kind of reading that we do as students in order to learn, our present understanding of the world around us is often challenged, and this, we suggest, causes problems that have considerable pedagogical significance. Viewed in this perspective the written document, so much a part of university and college life today, is really a quite specific form of communication placing a particular set of demands on the reader in terms of the attitudes and intentions with which it is approached. As a preliminary to studying the phenomenon of learning through reading, it is necessary to recognize that the kind of reading undertaken in universities and many other educational contexts is in certain important respects different from the kind of reading (of a novel, for example, or a daily newspaper) which typifies other contexts.

A very obvious difference is that in the latter case we select what and when to read, while in the educational context freedom of choice is constrained. Students normally have live essay help to read the literature specified in course requirements, and they generally do so at a time and in an order specified in the curriculum. This means that while reading in the everyday context of the novel or newspaper reflects a choice to engage in that particular kind of activity at that particular point in time, the reading that we do to fulfil the demands of the educational system is often carried out with a different set of initial commitments on the part of the reader. Expressed differently, what varies between contexts in which reading is done are the premisses for communication (Rommetveit, 1974) that guide our way of making sense of what we read.

At the very least great caution must be exercised in making this an initial assumption if the concern of the research lies in revealing what the act of learning through reading is like to the individual reader. In one sense it might appear unnecessarily thorough to delve into problems of reading in a book which has the explicit aim of dealing with teaching and learning at university.

Surely we can assume that students at this advanced level of the educational live essay help system can read in a sufficiently skilled way as to be able to cope with their textbooks? However, we do not merely expect students to read, we also expect them to gain something from their reading, i. This demand for learning through reading can be seen as adding live essay help yet another layer of difficulty to the process of reading, and it imposes criteria and restrictions which are different from those that apply to other kinds of reading that we do. In summary, then, when reading to learn students are expected to develop cognitive activities which enable them to accomplish Something more complex than is generally assumed. Reading, as considered here, is a strategy for taking part in ways of conceptualizing the world that are frequently abstract and unrelated to everyday experiences in any obvious way. This poses a central problem for contemporary education.

Many of the insights and statements encountered in text-books, even those encapsulated in a brief passage or two, may be the product of centuries of discussion and reflection.

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This should alert us to the enormous intellectual investment which underpins our present conceptualizations of the world. In investigating how students learn from reading, we are thus not merely studying the mastery of a particular technique of communication.

Outline of the Empirical Study The empirical study from which the findings to be reported here derive (see Saljo, 1982), was designed to continue the inquiries into the processes and outcomes of learning described in previous chapters. Each session was run individually with each participant. All communica- tion during phases (i), (iii) and (iv) was tape-recorded. The tapes were later transcribed and the transcripts then served as the data-base for the analysis. No time-limits were imposed during any of the various phases, with the exception of the vocabulary test. They were recruited by telephone, and the names of prospective candidates were taken at random from the registers of various educational institutions.

The 90 participants represented a much wider variation in terms of age and level of formal education than in earlier Gothenburg studies. Their level of formal education fell into one of three broad groups: short (6-9 years), intermediate (12 years), and high (at least 14 years of education, i.

The youngest participant was 15 and the oldest 73 years of age. Common to all participants was that, at the time when the study was carried out, they were taking part in some kind of education or were just about to start doing so.

In view of the complexity of the empirical material and of our specific concern with understanding how people make sense of what they read, the present discussion will make use of six participants as exemplars , demonstrating the major patterns which emerged from the analysis.

The criteria which are valid in judging the merits of this task of discovery differ from those that apply to the (equally important) task of verifying the existence of the patterns and relationships described (cf.

LEARNING FROM READING 75 The six exemplars were also chosen so as to represent the variation in age and level of formal education characteristic of the entire group of participants, as can be seen from the following summary: — Suzy was 43 years old and just about to start her studies at a college of adult education after having been a housewife for the past 12 years. The subjects she had chosen were Swedish, English, History and Civics. Her previous educational experience consisted of 8 years of first-level education, which she had finished at the age of 15, and occasional evening courses run by a voluntary educational association. He had almost completed his degree in Swedish (Literature and English), and he held a diploma of the Institute of Printing. She had trained initially as a laboratory assistant, but for more than 10 years she had been a housewife.

His studies included Russian, Economics and Political Science. Since the age of seven, Dave had spent only one year outside the educational system, working in a bank.

The text which the participants were asked to read is 3,750 words in length, and is divided into three sections, without sub-headings. The first section (850 words) deals with the phenomenon of classical conditioning and starts with an example of how, as a result of being tortured, a prisoner has been conditioned to respond with convulsions at the mere sight of the pair of electrodes which have been used to torture him.

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