Title page for ETD etd-52198-23399

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Purdy, Martha Leete
Author's Email Address alavarre@tiac.net
URN etd-52198-23399
Title Adult Experience of Learning From Novels
Degree Doctor of Education
Department Adult and Continuing Education
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stubblefield, Harold W. Committee Chair
Belli, Gabriella M. Committee Member
Boucouvalas, Marcie Committee Member
French, J. L. Committee Member
Wiswell, Albert K. Committee Member
  • adult education
  • adult learning
  • novels
  • fiction
Date of Defense 1998-06-16
Availability restricted


The Adult Experience Of Learning From Novels

Novel readers may not necessarily read with the primary

intention of learning from their novels, but it is known

that learning is frequently an outcome. Literature on novels

describe their content as both factual and philosophical

opportunities to learn but do not describe them in terms of

adult learning theory. A study by Radway (1984) found that

readers of formula romance have complex learning outcomes

from their reading but this was related to literature on

novels rather than adult learning theory.

Conversely, although learning is a known outcome of novel

reading, literature on adult learning theories and research

have taken little notice of novel reading as an opportunity

to learn. Yet reading novels is an activity in which

millions engage. The nature of reading as a highly personal,

self-directed activity, suggested a literature review of

theory pertaining to self-directed learning, informal

learning and how adults make meaning.

The purpose of the research was to explore the experience of

learning novels; how reading contributes to knowledge,

understanding of environment, and social and

self-understanding in the context of adult learning theory.

The research problem asked what evidence novel readers

provide for making meaning as a result of their reading and

what they do with that learning outcome. Research was

conducted with individual interviews of five regular novel

readers which served as case studies. Analysis was done by

coding each interview paying particular attention to

relationships to personal history, types of learning

suggested and their effects. Case studies were then cross

coded to discover trends and patterns.

Findings showed that respondents used novels to be

entertained and escape from their daily responsibilities,

but along the way they also experienced a variety of types

of learning. They collected new information they found

personally interesting or added to an existing knowledge

base, challenged their perspectives to think abut themselves

and others in new ways. There was also a variety of uses for

what they had learned. Respondents reported believing they

have a broader knowledge base, could more effective interact

with others, arrive at greater self-awareness, and in a few

instances change behavior.

The experience of learning from novels is a remarkable

combination of self-motivation and self-direction undertaken

for pleasure, yet incidentally can result in a range of

learning outcomes including building a more complex

knowledge base, constructivist organization and

interpretation of information, critical reflection about

self and others, and transformation of understanding to

result in change.

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