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Background to the Study

Literature studied at the senior secondary school level comprises the three genres (prose, poetry and drama). Success in each of these genres contributes to the overall success of students in the examination. However, there are certain attributes or characteristics of the prose text that make it distinct from the others. According to Williams (2010), prose sharpens students’ awareness of life as they share in the imaginative experience of the author. Secondly, it is believed that prose is simple and easier to read because its linguistic structure is closer to the language of everyday life. Prose makes students aware of the possibilities of language use (Lawal 2010) and provides them a greater opportunity for reading due to its simplicity of language. One implication of this is that some teachers of literature in Nigeria assume that students can read and understand prose even when they are not taught. Based on this assumption, some literature teachers in Nigeria do not employ effective teaching methods (Ogunaike 2012). Such teachers focus on story narration, vocal reading and treatment of past examination questions. Meanwhile, effective instructional procedure is aimed at helping the Nigerian child who has chosen to study literature to achieve desired expertise and independence in the reading of a text; build up a lifelong love for reading as well as achieve improved cognitive and affective skills in literature and reading.

Second language learners lack the basic language skill needed to appreciate literature (Chief Examiners Reports, 2017). Thus, they are predisposed to becoming resistant readers; lacking both literary and linguistic competence to read and understand prose literature texts or texts in other genres. Research has shown that when students encounter texts written in a language that is not familiar to them, they tend to struggle with the linguistic problems associated with such texts and Nigerian students are not an exception (Lawal 2020). Chamot and O‘Malley (2014) also assert that the most critical task facing second language learners is learning to read a text written in a language in which they have limited proficiency. The researchers observe that the second language learners whether learning to read for the first time or trying to transfer reading skills already learnt in the native language encounter an inordinate amount of unfamiliar language even in beginning texts. Lawal (2010) posits that part of the problems that students encounter in reading and understanding written literature in Nigeria are twofold, first is the complex and subtle nature of the English language itself; second is that the English language learners are exposed to is ‗limited in scope and function to specific purposes, which are educational. Emphasis is on linguistic competence to the detriment of literary competence. Therefore, they lack exposure to the creative use of language needed to understand and interpret literature texts in English. These problems can frustrate the actualization of the objectives of teaching literature in schools.

In spite of the objectives and the profound values of literature, its teaching and learning in secondary schools have continued to undergo setbacks, resulting in the recurrent poor performance of students in the subject as indicated in the 2014, 2015 and 2017 May/June SSCE Chief Examiners’ Reports. Most often, these reports reveal that students display absolute lack of knowledge of the texts, understanding of the questions asked and good mastery of the English language needed to respond to the texts. There is also the indication that students do not read the set texts. For instance, the SSCE Chief

Examiners’ Report for May/June 2014 noted that ‘candidates could not adequately interpret the questions due to lack of expected in-depth knowledge of the texts. As a result, when they had points to deliver, they were mostly vague and shallow’ (Pg. 42). To further support this, the Chief Examiners’ Reports for May/June 2015 literature in English papers 2 and 3 respectively states:

The texts were not read by most of the candidates. It was evident in their answers that they relied on notes and other summaries. This resulted in their presentation of inappropriate answers to questions since they lacked full comprehension of the content of the texts (p. 36)

It was very glaring that candidates merely registered for the subject without actually possessing any interest in it. A few candidates who were able to glean a few facts on the content of the texts were not able to do justice to the questions because they did not have the ability to put their points across in concise English (p. 41)

The Chief Examiners’ Reports for May/June 2017 also lends credence to the above observation by equally noting that:

The performance of candidates was poor… but it was obvious from the answers of the candidates that, the texts were not studied for the examination as is expected…. The poor knowledge and usage of the English Language was exhibited by most of the candidates. (p.48)

 It is inferred from the above reports that most literature students in Nigeria have little or no interest in the subject; do not purchase and read the actual texts but depend on ‘study guides and teachers’ notes’. Moreover, poor linguistic background also contributes to students’ unwillingness to read the recommended literature text. Consequently, many learners of literature are not exposed to independent literary reading and personal appreciation of literature texts. This possibly, accounted for the repeated poor students‘ achievement in the SSC examinations over a period of ten years. Although the WAEC results for a period of ten years (2019-2019) reviewed in this study show an improvement in the percentage of candidates who obtained credit passes in literature from 2016-2019 contrary to what obtained between 2019 – 2015, the increase is negligible and unpredictable because the table shows a drop in percentage rise in 2019. Moreover, the percentage in credit passes has remained below 50%, which is not quite encouraging.

 Sometimes teaching prose literature, especially at the senior secondary level, can be a challenging task, not only because teachers are dealing with students whose linguistic background differ from the language of the text, but also because as Lawal (2010) observes, learners at this level have a poor background in reading. Some of them have not been exposed to extensive reading at the junior level and this constitutes a barrier to their reading and understanding of the novel at the senior level. These are in addition to other individual differences which students bring to the learning context. Second language learners of literature need assistance through student-centred and sociocultural instructional strategies to actively engage with the texts they are reading, appreciate and interpret the text, understand the plot, identify with the characters, figure out the theme, appreciate the author‘s style, the social-cultural background of the text and author‘s point of view (Elliot 2010). They also need assistance to make personal connections with the text and understand how the various elements of the prose text and students‘ personal characteristics affect the overall comprehension of the text.

Besides problems associated with the nature of the literary text, methods and instructional strategies have also been identified as being responsible for the recurrent failure of students in literature examination (Uwaifo 2019; Bisong 2016; Okedara 2012; Ogunaike 2012; Anyaniyi 2019). The prevalent conventional strategies used in teaching literature in Nigerian classrooms today emanate from the transmission of knowledge approach to teaching. Beach, Appleman, Hynds and Wilhelm (2016) assert that transmission of knowledge as an approach to teaching literature focuses on how best to impart knowledge to students assumed to be empty vessels, dutifully waiting to be filled up with the knowledge the teacher provides through lectures or presentations.

 Consequently, the teacher is believed to be the custodian of knowledge whose duty it is to impart this knowledge to students who do not question his/her authority. In the context of African culture, this situation becomes more significant because it is considered impertinent for children to question the authority of their elders. Naturally, students accept whatever information the teacher passes across, leaving the former no option than to assume a dependent role in the prose literature discussion while all classroom activities revolve round the teacher as the centre of instruction. The traditional literature classroom is characterized by much of teacher-centered instructional approaches and strategies than student-centred ones. Elliot (2010), Langer (2015), Beach, Appleman, Hynds and Wilhelm (2016), Bagherkazemi and Alemi, (2010) note that traditional text-based  approaches such as linguistic analysis, stylistics, structuralism, critical literary approaches and transmission of knowledge approaches have been criticized for their inability to promote learners‘ active engagement with the texts, independent reading and personal creation of meaning. In these approaches, focus is on knowledge of facts, right answers and pre-determined interpretation, hence meaning of text is imposed on learners. 

   Besides, these approaches emphasize knowledge of formal grammar and the development of linguistic and communicative skills (Elliot, 2010; Stockwell, 2017; Bagherkazemi and Alemi, 2010). For instance, Van (2019), cited in Bagherkazemi and Alemi (2010), notes that the stylistic approach focuses on the relationship between learner‘s linguistic knowledge and literary experience; structuralism emphasizes knowledge of the linguistic code without any regard for meaning and reader‘s response; the critical literary approach centres on the relationship between language use and social power while the new criticism as a traditional approach to literature teaching conceives literature as a self-contained whole, independent of the author‘s intention, the reader‘s response and the social, political and historical background of the text. On the other hand, Van (2019) argues in favour of the reader response and language-based approaches. According Van, the reader response predicates on the transactional relationship between the reader and the text while the language-based approach provides opportunity for students to read literature and at the same time acquire the four language skills. It facilitates students’ responses and experiences with literature through a variety of classroom activities such as cloze procedures, brain storming, summarizing, jigsaw reading which are believed to enhance collaboration, independence, interaction, peer teaching and motivation.

Statement of the Problem

Literature is expected to promote reading for pleasure and encourage the development of reading skills.  However, many students in secondary schools do not possess the necessary cognitive and affective skills needed to read and understand texts in literature. Hence, students‘ performance in WAEC literature in English examination has not been much to reckon with. Several factors affect students‘ performance in literature. They include factors associated with learners‘ home background, low level of interest in reading, poor language proficiency, poor comprehension skills and the instructional strategies used by teachers.  

Purpose of the Study

            The main purpose of this study is to examine the challenges of teaching and learning of prose among senior secondary school students in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State. Other specific objectives of the study include:

  1. To determine the challenges faced by teachers in teaching prose in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos.
  2. To determine the challenges faced by students in learning prose in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos.
  3. To find out the effects of these challenges on the academic performance of students in prose in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos.

Research Questions

            The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What are the challenges faced by teachers in teaching prose in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos?
  2. To determine the challenges faced by students in learning prose in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos?
  3. To find out the effects of these challenges on the academic performance of students in prose in Senior Secondary Schools in Bokkos?

Significance of the Study

The fundamental roles of literature in the making of the enlightened and educated mind and exposing readers to important human values and human condition cannot be fully achieved without qualitative instruction in the teaching of prose literature. Hence, the findings of this study would be useful to students and teachers of literature, curriculum planners, textbook writers, policy makers and other individuals interested in the teaching of literature-in- English. Specifically, it is hoped that the study would improve the way literature is taught and learnt through the recommendations proffered. This would in turn influence students‘ interest in reading and increase achievement in prose. It would also help to foster independent reading skills in students. It would likely make teachers who participated in the study aware of alternative and more effective instructional strategies for teaching prose. 

    Again, the findings would equally be useful to textbook writers who may wish to incorporate these recommendations into their texts so that schools, individuals and interested groups may adopt them for schools and for private study. The result of this study would probably be beneficial to the general public because it would enable learners and teachers to see reading prose as a fun-filled activity. This will also help to improve the low literacy level being experienced among students. The study would serve as basis for further research on the challenges of teaching and learning other genres of literature among senior secondary school students. 

Scope/Delimitation of the Study

This study is based solely on challenges faced by teachers and learners in teaching and learning of literature in English in selected Senior Secondary Schools. The study is restricted to selected secondary schools in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State. Despite the fact that the study is restricted to Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State, its findings will be generic – it can be generalized to other parts of the country as well.

Operational Definition of Terms  

These definitions as used in this project work:

Literature: This is a body of written works (such as poems, plays, and novels)

Teaching: This is the process by which a more knowledgeable person imparts knowledge on a learner or group of learners.

Teacher: It is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

Instructional Strategies: These are the various purposeful activities designed for the purpose of this study to enable students effectively read, comprehend, and interpret the prose literature texts used in this study.

Achievement in prose literature: This is what the student has learnt after undergoing a course of instruction as determined by the score of a test designed to measure what has been learnt. In this study, the achievement would be determined by the pre and posttest scores.

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Bank Name: United Bank of Africa (UBA)
Account Name: chianen kenter
Account Number: 2056899630
Account Type: savings
Amount: ₦3000