Finishing a Thesis

As some of you may know, I went back to university at the end of last year to study a second Masters of Education in Educational Research. I wanted to start a PhD, but discovered that I’d have to do a research Masters first. My first Masters of Education was a coursework Masters, meaning that I had not done any of the research components necessary for me to do a PhD straight away. So, I enrolled at Charles Sturt University and was told that I’d have four courses and one introductory course to complete:

  1. Introduction to online learning
  2. Education as a profession in the 21st Century
  3. Qualitative research methods
  4. Quantitative research methods
  5. Master of Education Project

I have now successfully (hopefully, I mean, I’m still waiting for finalised marks from the last semester) completed the degree. I have thoroughly enjoyed returning to study. I’ve had my ups and downs and the stress has been very real at times, but I’ve discovered that the older I get, the better I am at managing my time and prioritising my ever growing to do list. I have made the decision to go ahead with my PhD next year. Even better news is that the supervisor from my research project has agreed to be my supervisor for my PhD! So, what will I do my PhD on, you might ask…

My current research project (Master of Education Project) is called “Why do students choose to read for pleasure?” It came about because of the current push for TLs to engage in evidence based practice in order to support their roles in schools. Helen and I have been doing this for about a two years now and we’ve even had the opportunity to present our findings at a couple of conferences. The first was earlier this year at the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Conference, held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. The second was earlier this month, where we shared our findings at the Future Libraries Reference Group (FLRG) annual conference at Brisbane Technology Park. At the FLRG conference, we set up a booth and were visited by teacher librarians throughout the day. These TLs were looking for more information and inspiration for doing something similar in their own schools. The conversations that Helen and I had at both conferences highlighted that fact that TLs want to engage in evidence based practice, they are just not sure where to start. This is an area that more research is needed in, and I realised that I could do something about that.

I’d been tossing up the idea of doing a PhD since the end of 2018. I knew I wanted it to be in the area of TLs and their impact, but I hadn’t yet narrowed anything down. Around the same time, Helen and I had started conducting interviews with our students during their library lessons (which we call Campfires) to find out how they were going with their reading. It was during those sessions that I realised that we had some reluctant readers and they couldn’t articulate why. I became fascinated with the research around developing a reading habit and was quite shocked to learn that, according to experts, the reading habit needs to be developed by the time children turn two (Mol & Bus, 2011). My research also proved the value of reading for pleasure and why it’s so important. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that “[o]n average, students who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of schooling better than those who do not.” (OECD, 2012, p.2).

In addition to these statistics, I came across a term that Jennifer and Ponniah (2015) coined: readicide. Readicide is used to explain the nature of the declining reading habits of adolescents and is defined as the “a systematic killing of the love of reading” (2015, p.1). This specifically refers to the focus of education being on the studying of prescribed texts, rather than on the love of reading books for fun. Although I think that studying texts has its time and place, I do see readicide happening for many of our students and I hope to be able to find ways to reignite a love of reading in my students.

I have now completed the data collection and analysis portion of my research project. In fact, I’ve completed my thesis and the findings were very interesting. Here’s the short version of what I learned:

  • The participants of this study identified themselves as good readers (small sample size, issues of randomness… I covered it all in my thesis but I’m mentioning it again here for transparency)
  • Friends, family, teachers, and TLs played a significant role in encouraging participants to read (La Marca, 2008; Merga, 2017)
  • Having the right book was reportedly the most important thing in getting the participants to read (La Marca, 2004)

While these findings are interesting, and certainly support the work that Helen and I do at school, I need to know more. I still don’t have a good grasp on how I can encourage reluctant readers to start reading (or if this is even possible). I want to take my research further and really try to get to the bottom of what makes a reluctant reader. Therefore, on top of continuing to try and answer “why do students choose to read for pleasure,” I will be adding in “what makes a reader reluctant,” and “how can TLs further support students to read for pleasure.”

I am excited to be working towards helping TLs embark in their own evidence based practice. I am looking forward to continuing my research and sharing my findings. I am passionate about lifelong learning, and starting this research degree has only confirmed for me that I need to be actively participating in and contributing to research. I will endeavour to continue sharing my findings from my research as I go along. I would also love to hear from anyone else that’s currently investigating why students choose to read for pleasure!

References

Jennifer J. M, & Ponniah R. J. (2015). Pleasure reading cures readicide and facilitates academic reading. I-manager’s Journal on English Language Teaching, 5(4), https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1097376.pdf.

La Marca, S. (2004). Free voluntary reading and the role of the teacher librarian. In International Association of School Librarianship Annual Conference. p. 171-183. Melbourne.

La Marca, S. (2008). Building knowing readers: Unlocking pleasure. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the Annual Conference, 1-9. Retrieved from https://search-proquestcom.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/236034534?accountid=10344

Merga M. K. (2017). Becoming a reader: Significant social influences on avid book readers. School Library Research: 20 Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1160840.pdf

Mol S. E., & Bus, A. (2011). To read or not to read: A meta-analysis of print exposure from infancy to early adulthood. Psychological Bulletin, 137(2), 267-296.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2011). Do students today read for pleasure? PISA in Focus 8. 18 September Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/48624701.pdf

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