Exploring first-year undergraduates’ perceptions of poetry and their acquisition of skills in reading poetry for study at university
There is significant evidence drawn from student evaluations that students embarking on undergraduate English degrees feel uneasy about studying poetry and that this anxiety has an effect on the course choices they make as they progress through the three years of their programme. This study aims to investigate the causes of students’ responses to poetry and to make a beginning in looking at the implications that this has for teaching and learning. It explores students’ acquisition of skills and attitudes that make poetry-reading a rewarding activity. Data has been gathered from focus groups with first-year undergraduate students in an English department at a UK university to discover what perceptions of poetry are held by students and what factors in teaching contribute to the development and/or perpetuation of these perceptions. In brief, the study finds that for effective teaching the cultivation of enthusiasm for poetry is just as important as building technical vocabulary and learning techniques of formal analysis. There is some evidence that the latter flows out of the former. It also finds that students feel the former is often overlooked in the classroom.
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