Critical Reading, Metacognition and Relevance in the Humanities

By Simon Ryan.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Obtaining information is no longer a difficulty in the networked world. The problem becomes one of relevance selection as individuals try to make this information their own. Literary analysis depends upon information processing, but in the classroom the finished product is often communicated to the students. The steps the expert reader has taken to arrive at an analysis are often obscure. This paper suggests that one of the skills of expert readers is the ability to relate contextual information about the author or general intellectual or cultural issues to a text. Students often find this very difficult, as their initial approach to a text as a cryptogram with a single answer constructs a limited frame through which to evaluate contextual material. They also rely on topical, superficial connections and thus make poor relevance judgments. Self-reflection, a skill encouraged in other disciplines but not often mentioned in literary approaches is likely to disrupt some of these limited readings.

Keywords: Relevance, Literary Analysis, Contextual Information, Reading

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp.159-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 742.808KB).

Dr. Simon Ryan

Associate Professor, Arts and Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Associate Professor Simon Ryan lectures in Literature at the Australian Catholic University. I am the author of The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers Saw Australia. My interests include the literature of British exploration and colonialism. More recently I have become interested in teaching and learning issues in the Humanities. I have recently completed a Masters degree in Higher Education, in which I examined how students judge the relevance of background or contextual information when interpreting a literary work.

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