Trodden paths and untrodden lanes: Tongan students' readings across texts

Maka, Lia L. (1996) Trodden paths and untrodden lanes: Tongan students' readings across texts. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Using poststructuralist notions of `texts', `textuality ', `discourse', `subjectivity' and `knowledge, this study explores the kinds of meaning links and the location of these links as made by a group of 14-16 year olds Tongan students when they read a range of literary and informative texts (poems, short stories, advertisements, cartoon).

To construct `reading vignettes' of the students as to the discursive constructedness of their meaning links, I adopted a variety of methods: gaining information from school documents, students/teachers open-response questionnaires, and on-line and ad hoc reading tasks. The data from these sources suggests the need to explore alternative ways of looking at reading practices and the nature of response in Tongan classrooms. I did this using a poststructuralist, pedagogical framework of scaffolding and problematising. This entailed soliciting the cooperation of a co-teacher to demonstrate various ways of poststructuralist scaffolding during reading. A select group of students were chosen to be engaged in these scaffolding sessions.

The study found that meaning links are not only fluid, but paradoxical in nature and that such links are triggered by textual ideas that are of relevance and interest to the reader. Moreover, such links are located variously, either inscribed in texts or constituted from discoursal discursive practices framing response. Personal links are particular to how each has been historically constituted as a reader and vary according to texts, gender, biographical backgrounds, and even in rereadings of the same texts. Most are rooted in alignments to do with minority issues (gender, race), interests, and beliefs. However, at a broader, discoursal level, these meaning links share a commonality in the location of their sources, that of clearly defined Tongan notions of family solidarity, religion and hierarchical social roles. Both the readers' personal and socio-cultural meanings therefore constitute and are constitutive of their interpretation and both impact upon each other.

Texts are constructed with a set of assumed prior knowledge for readers. The study found that if a text's set of knowledge is not in the readers' knowledge repertoire, the reader takes recourse to other meanings to fill in sutures in the texts other than the dominant reading. Despite being scaffolded on ways to problematise textual constructions and ideology, some unwittingly fell prey to textual ideology because of a limited repertoire of other knowledge links to interpret texts alternatively or an inability to perceive textual construction. Some however, knowingly chose to align with textual ideology when it concurs with theirs, whilst those who read against a text's preferred reading, gave a range of readings rooted in alignments constituted by personal, socio-cultural and political ideologies. Such findings imply that if the text's assumed knowledge is not shared by the reader, a poststructuralist reading approach enables the reader to utilise various strategies and knowledge links either to appropriate such knowledge, transform, or resist it. This is potentially useful in Tongan classrooms and particularly with those raised in a culture of hierarchy and textually deferential readings. The findings in general suggests that a poststructuralist reading approach allows students to identify and bring to the fore, often subjugated knowledges; explore and negotiate a range of meaning possibilities; and exercise meaning choices whilst critically cognisant of the range of knowledges at stake. In the process of this negotiation, they refine and develop wide-ranging ideas. The findings have important implications for a poststructuralist, bilingual framework to reading pedagogy and assessment in Tonga either for studies in English, the vernacular, or any other subject area, particularly in terms of giving voices to, and carving out spaces for those whose meanings tend to be marginalised in language classrooms.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Coles, M.
Keywords: Reading, high school students, Tonga
Subjects: L Education > LA History of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 11086
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2010 14:28
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2017 09:42

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