Findings for Literature Circles in EFL

When the first half of the school year was over, a survey was conducted which consisted of four sections. The criterion for the choice of the questionnaires was Bales’ Interaction Process Analysis system. For this purpose the “Literature Circles in Action - Lesson Plans” questionnaires were found the most appropriate. The four sections of the survey each focus on a different area of the study. These include questionnaires related to: self assessment of the participants; assessment of discussion groups; evaluation of the literature circles; and an evaluation guide for the discussion group with two open-ended questions. While evaluating the results, the averages were calculated over 40 participants’ responses.

The first questionnaire was the “Self assessment of the Participants in Discussion Groups” which included ten statements. The participants preferred one of the three choices (very good, satisfactory, needs improving) to assess their performances in their discussions. The statements given are as follows:

    I shared my ideas and offered my suggestions
    I spoke clearly and slowly enough
    I answered others questions
    I remained on topic and helped the group stay focused
    I encouraged others to participate
    I disagreed without hurting others feelings
    I summarized or repeated my ideas when necessary
    I gave reasons for opinions
    I listened courteously and effectively
    I tried to understand and extend the suggestions of others

The results of this questionnaire gave us an overview of the self-confidence level of the participants in discussion groups. It is apparent from these results that participants feel quite self confident especially about answering others’ questions, disagreeing kindly and listening courteously and effectively. They also feel safe about keeping focused on topic, summarizing their ideas when necessary, and extending the suggestions of others. But on the other hand, it is also significant that they need to improve their skills of encouraging others to participate, giving reasons for their opinions, offering their suggestion and speaking clearly enough.

The second questionnaire was about the “Assessment of the Discussion Groups” which included five statements. The participants were asked to share their opinions (yes, no, sometimes) on these statements to assess the specific discussion group environment. The statements are as follows:

    Everyone participates and shares in the discussion process. Communication is interactive.
    The group is supportive of its individual members. Group climate promotes friendliness.
    Group members often ask questions for clarification or elaboration.
    The group discussion stays on topic, or on directly related issues.
    The group is energetic and enthusiastic.

The results of this questionnaire gave an understanding of the effectiveness of literature circles as discussion groups. Data from this questionnaire reveals that participants believe that the group members often ask questions for clarification and the group discussion stays on topic. There is also a shared idea that the members should participate more and that they should be supportive of each other by encouraging their friends in need. What is interesting about these results is that nearly one fourth of the participants believe that the groups are not energetic and enthusiastic.

The third questionnaire was the “Literature Circles Evaluation” which gives a specific insight of the general values in literature circles. The participants chose one of the three responses (need to improve, do it, do it well) to assess the specific characteristics of the literature circles. The statements are as follows:

    preparation work done in notebook
    literature book at school, not at home
    reading completed
    ask questions to others
    offer my own ideas
    encourage and respect others' opinions
    make eye contact with others
    keep my voice at arm’s length (not to disturb other participants)

The results of the third questionnaire make the participant’s performance qualities clear in literature circles. From this data it is apparent that most participants are careful about the literature circle materials like the books or the journals. We also see here that, nearly all participants read their parts completely and keep eye contact with others during the discussions. In contrast, it is clear that there is an urgent need to improve students’ question asking skills. Similarly the participants do not feel at ease encouraging and respecting their group members’ ideas and they also agree that they should lower their voices.

The fourth questionnaire was the “Discussion Group Evaluation Form” which has two major open-ended writing tasks to find out what skills do participants believe that they are good at and most importantly, what skills do they think that are most crucial for literature circle discussions. The two open-ended writing tasks included are as follows:

    My overall rating of myself is as follows:
    I think the person who worked the hardest in my group is … because:

The results of this questionnaire shows us firstly, the areas or skills that students feel most confident about and secondly what skills do they most value during the literature circle discussions.