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The Social Psychology of Reading/Language Arts Achievement

Kimberly Hartnett-Edwards

Ph.D. Dissertation, Graduate Faculty of Education, Claremont Graduate University, 2006.

Abstract

There is more to Reading/Language Arts achievement than simply reading and writing well. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of physiological, psychological and social factors in the teaching and learning of reading and writing. The focus of this study was on social relationships and emotional management issues related to Reading/Language Arts achievement. This study demonstrated the importance of the quality of the relationships between teachers and learners, learners and learners, and learners and parents.

By doing a secondary analysis of the data from two Northern California High Schools, this study was able to look at the relationship between Reading/Language Arts achievement and affective mood, social behavior and test anxiety. California Standards Test scaled scores and California High School Exit Exam Scores were compared with student opinion data from the federally funded TENDS project. The results of this study indicate that negative emotions adversely affect student achievement. More specifically, the study shows that when stress goes unmanaged, achievement is negatively affected.

This study also addressed the limitations of a strictly skill-based written language approach which ignores the social interactive nature of language learning. Recommendations for pedagogical and research practice include:

  1. Consideration that the relationship between teachers and learners is important and therefore affective considerations must be included for all learners in Reading/Language Arts instruction;
  2. Emotions affect all aspects of the educational setting, including achievement in Reading/Language Arts. Schools would affect achievement more if they addressed the emotional state of their students in and out of schools;
  3. Achievement is socially, psychologically and physiologically based. Reading/Language Arts instruction and research should consider the physiology of achievement as the cornerstone of a new paradigm for learning. Through implementation and application of the new science of brain, heart, and emotion this new paradigm can begin to mold a new approach to Reading/Language Arts theory, implementation and achievement.