The effects of participation in literature circles on reading comprehension

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

William Blanton - Committee Chair


Research supports that comprehension is a vital component of reading and life-long literacy, and there are many instructional approaches for teaching reading comprehension. Literature circles are a popular approach which are widely used but have not yet been studied empirically. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of participation in literature circles on the reading comprehension of middle school students. More specifically, the study examined whether there was a difference in the reading comprehension scores of students after participating in literature circles versus after participating in directed reading activity, and whether there were interactions of type of instruction and students' overall reading achievement levels. A mixed design using split-plot ANOVA was used to examine the within-subject variable of treatment, and the between-subject variables of class period, assessments (or passages used), and overall reading achievement levels, as well as determine interactions among the variables. Eighty six eighth-grade students (65% male, 35% female) in a suburban public middle school in the southeastern United States participated in the eight-week study. By class period, students were randomly placed in literature circle groups for four weeks and also participated in whole-class directed reading activity for four weeks. Students read one short story each week and comprehension was assessed with corresponding doze passages. The reading scores indicated there were no significant differences between the two types of instruction. However, results were statistically significant for all interactions (treatment and passages, treatment and class period, and treatment and overall reading achievement). In addition, when the data were analyzed by overall reading ability it can be argued that the findings have practical significance. Evidence suggests that students with low overall reading achievement levels may not respond to literature circles as positively as other students, and that students with high overall reading achievement may respond more favorably. Overall, literature circles appear to have promise as an instructional approach to reading, especially for non-struggling readers. The discussion expands on the limitations of this study as well as focuses on the need for further scientifically-based research on this popular reading approach.


Education, Reading

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