The reception of Czesław Miłosz s poetry by students of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools. Angelika Matuszek - PDF

Edukacja An interdisciplinary approach 2013, 1 ISSN pp The reception of Czesław Miłosz s poetry by students of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools Angelika Matuszek Faculty

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Edukacja An interdisciplinary approach 2013, 1 ISSN pp The reception of Czesław Miłosz s poetry by students of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools Angelika Matuszek Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Bielsko-Biała* The works of Czesław Miłosz are usually regarded as especially difficult literature. It is therefore important to examine how young people analyse and interpret selected works of the poet. The article presents the results of a study evaluating the quality of reception of Miłosz s poetry by students at all levels of compulsory education prior to the Czesław Miłosz Year in The study enabled the assessment of students knowledge of the life and work of Miłosz and the reading competencies required by a modern student to analyse and interpret his literary work. Keywords: linguistic accuracy, linguistic error, assessment, essay, Polish language, lower secondary school exam. The year 2011 was announced as the Czesław Miłosz Year which marked the hundredth anniversary of the poet s birth. A so called miłoszology (the study of Miłosz s poetry) had already developed in academic circles. Both teachers and students at lower levels of education felt bored and discouraged by the writings of the Nobel Prize winner. Kryda described difficulties in the reception of his poetry in schools. In April 1981 she conducted a study evaluating teachers and students ability to read Miłosz s poetry in upper secondary schools (Kryda, 1987). Twenty years later this was readdressed by Kołodziejczyk and Zięba (2002). In 2001, a competition for students of secondary schools was organised by researchers. Its main purpose was to assess the quality of the reception of the Nobel Prize winner s poetry. The conclusions were similar to those reached in the 1980s. These were that Students still regard Miłosz as a bard, a prophet and an apocalyptic poet (Kołodziejczyk and Zięba, 2002, pp ). The paper was written on the basis of the doctoral thesis The Reception of the Czesław Miłosz s Poetry by Students and Teachers (on the basis of the Research Conducted in Primary, Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Schools) prepared under supervision of Prof. Ewa Jaskółowa, Ph.D., Department of Polish Studies, Faculty of Philology, University of Silesia in Katowice. This article was published primarily in Polish language in Edukacja, 118(2) * Mail address: Angelika Matuszek, Katedra Literatury i Kultury Polskiej, Wydział Humanistyczno-Społeczny, Akademia Techniczno-Humanistyczna, ul. Willowa 2, Bielsko-Biała. The reception of Czesław Miłosz s poetry by students brought a revival of miłoszology. The Minister of Culture announced the programme Czesław Miłosz 2011 the Promise, financing the celebration of the year of the poet s centenary. As part of the Czesław Miłosz Year academic seminars, workshops, meetings with scholars specialising in his work as well as exhibitions, happenings, film screenings and poetry readings were organised. Among the events mainly for the adult reading public, an educational programme Czesław Miłosz odnowa (Czesław Miłosz anew), organised by the Centre for Citizenship Education and the publisher Wydawnictwo Szkolne PWN held a special place. The aim of the programme was to acquaint students of lower and upper secondary schools with Miłosz s works and biography to address the issue of memory and identity in Miłosz s works. The project attracted much interest from students and the teachers of Polish. Teachers confirmed that students had become real Miłoszomaniacs (CCE, 2011). However, such optimistic conclusions required an assessment. This article presents the results of the research aimed to evaluate the quality of the reception of the Nobel Prize winner s poetry by students prior to the Czesław Miłosz Year. To create a broad picture of the reception of the selected poems by Miłosz, research was conducted in selected primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools in the Cieszyn Silesia region. In primary schools the sixth-graders were the subject of the research (schools in: Cieszyn, Skoczów and Ustroń, in total: 142 assignments), in lower secondary schools: the third-graders (two schools from Ustroń and one from Skoczów 115 assignments), in upper secondary schools: the third and some fourth-graders (Bielsko-Biała, Cieszyn, Żory 74 assignments). In total 331 written assignments were collected and assessed. On the reception of poetry the state of the research While comparing the bibliography on reception of Miłosz s poetry (Kołodziejczyk and Zięba, 2002; Kryda, 1987) with the theoretical and critical works devoted to the poet (including Biedrzycki, 2008; Błoński, 1998; Fiut, 1998, 2003; Kwiatkowski, 1985; Olejniczak, 1992, 1997; Zach, 2002; Zaleski, 2005), it can be stated that of the former there is a dearth. A similar situation can be observed in the case of the bibliography on evaluation of the students ability to respond to contemporary poetry at school. The poetic text, how it functions in a school environment, its analysis and interpretation have been a focus for scholars since the middle of the 20 th century 1. New works were added successively to those which played a vital part in forming models to approach the text in the teaching of Polish. Dissertations by Pilch (2003), Janus- -Sitarz (2009) and Myrdzik (1999) seem to be especially relevant. However, none of these scholars conducted an empirical study on the reception of poetry as part of their research. Although scholars have shown interest in the reception of literary work for a long time, the bibliography relating to this is quite limited. The first works were written in the 1970s and 80s (Dynak, 1977; Inglot, 1977; Polakowski and Uryga, 1978; Polakowski, 1980). At that time Chrząstowska (1979), Uryga (1982) and Baluch (1984) conducted research on ability to respond to contemporary poetry at a particular level of education. Students at upper secondary schools were studied by Chrząstowska and Uryga, while Baluch examined primary schools. Uryga and Chrząstowska can be singled out as pioneers of research on the reception of poetry. Until now their works have 1 Among the authors of works were: Chrząstowska and Wysłouch (1987, 1974), Kostkiewiczowa and Sławiński (1961), Kram (1968), and: Lausz (1970), Pasterniak (1982), Słodkowski (1972), Szyszkowski (1964). 100 Matuszek Figure 1. The concept of the research conducted among the students and teachers of Polish (P primary schools, G lower secondary schools gimnazja, L general upper secondary schools licea). been the main references for dissertations on analysis and interpretation of lyrical texts. Although the methodology and the statistical analysis were different, the present study was also inspired by these works. The study A questionnaire survey of students and teachers of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools was carried out to initiate the study of the poetry s reception (Figure 1 shows the results of the study). Quoting Sułkowski, Uryga emphasised that external determinants influence the effect of reception. It is essential to refer to the field of a recipient s experience which covers all factors influencing the process of reception, or decoding the literary message (Uryga, 1982, p. 14). To capture the determinants of the reception of lyrical texts, questions were posed in the survey about factors generating the motivation to learn and involvement of young readers in cultural activities, as well as social circumstances leading to contact with a poem. Questions were therefore directed at psychological and sociological aspects of the poem s reception. The aim of the survey conducted among Polish language teachers was to provide information on their attitudes towards Miłosz as a person and his poetry and to point to factors affecting the reception of contemporary poetry during Polish classes. Further analysis covered the answers provided on the analysis and interpretation sheets. The research material evaluating ability to respond to poetry includes records of attempts to interpret selected works of Miłosz. The reception of Czesław Miłosz s poetry by students 101 The analysis was both qualitative and quantitative. The sample, means and their standard deviations were determined. It was assessed whether any original interpretations of the text appeared and whether the students demonstrated knowledge of basic literary terms and whether this knowledge was functional. The structure of the analysis and interpretation sheet for the poems chosen The analysis and interpretation sheets were designed to evaluate the quality of the poem s reception. They consisted of two pages. The first presented selected works, which depending on educational level comprised the following poems: for primary school: The Porch 2 (Ganek), Love (Miłość), Fear (Trwoga), By the Peonies (Przy piwoniach); for lower secondary school, Report (Sprawozdanie), A Song about the End of the World (Piosenka o końcu świata), Meaning (Sens), Gift (Dar), To a Hazel Tree (Do leszczyny); for upper secondary school: Undressing Justine (Rozbieranie Justyny), Eyes (Oczy) and a long poem Orpheus and Eurydice (Orfeusz i Eurydyka). The second page was designed for recording the interpretation conclusions, i.e. there was the space for the analysis and interpretation. Justification of the choice of poems Most of the works selected for analysis and interpretation appear in the majority of school textbooks. The works of the poet which were published before 1980 prevail in school textbooks. Sometimes, at upper secondary level there are poems from volumes published in 2 All titles and quotations in English are provided by Miłosz, Czesław New and Collected Poems translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Haas, Harper Collins Publishers, New York: 2003 [translator s footnote]. the 1990s. Therefore, while selecting the poems for the research, it was established that there should be at least one work published after This choice was not accidental. The study was aimed at answering the following question. Which of Miłosz s works do students choose for interpretation most willingly, those that they know from school textbooks or those not in the school canon? The method used to discuss a text was also of interest. Were the tools used by the students for reception of a text read for the first time identical to those applied to a text already known, or were there any significant differences? The rules for assessment of responses The issue of the analysis and interpretation of lyrical texts in Polish classes, particularly in upper secondary school, continues to be addressed by many scholars such as Chrząstowska (1979), Uryga (1982), Kostkiewiczowa (Chrząstowska and Kostkiewiczowa, 1988), Bortnowski (1991), Jaskółowa and Opacka (1997). Not many scholars evaluate the reception of poetry as it causes a lot of problems. We usually first think how to measure something which theoretically cannot be measured, how not to yield to the temptation of subjective assessment, how to maintain researcher distance and objectivity and finally, how, without exposure to criticism, to include the claim which can be heard increasingly from students: but I understand the text exactly in this way, I have a right to my own interpretation! As far back as 1938 Skwarczyńska wrote about the right of students to their own interpretation. She very carefully formulated her views on the own opinion of young people who articulate their rash judgements which are not based on solid knowledge. The independent thinking of young people should represent itself in the ability to analyse and interpret a work which is unfamiliar 102 Matuszek to them or in the ability to make choices, understand and interpret different literary trends and movements. [ ] How I feel it is the main argument that hinders the need for intellectual search and thorough analysis of the text. Constructing far-reaching interpretation hypotheses based on intuitive feelings, expressed beyond the text, is a consequence of the distorted idea of my own opinion. The independent thinking of young people in the area of Polish literature should result from the analytical skills, the ability to associate and understand the literary trends and movements (Chrząstowska and Wysłouch, 1974, p. 25). This issue was also raised by Okopień- -Sławińska: The argument about the lack of objective interpretation (as it is sometimes called) that discourages teaching should be accepted with reservations: the indeterminacy of interpretation should not be equalled with freedom of reading and a lack of rules in this regard. [ ] Any kind of teaching cannot guarantee production of excellent examples of the art of interpretation, however by introducing the rules, the language of the text analysis and the models of certain interpretation solutions it can and it should ensure that clear standards are established, depending on level of education (Okopień-Sławińska, 1988, pp ). Since the ministerial document sets out the standards for analytical and interpretation skills, the works of Miłosz presented in the analysis and interpretation sheets were assessed according to the criteria based on education policy the curriculum (MEN, 2007a) and binding standards for educational requirements (MEN, 2007b). The criteria for the assessment of interpretation and the number of corresponding points were defined by a group of experts consisting of five teachers from the primary, lower and upper secondary schools. The four teachers in each group of experts were teachers of Polish with more than five years experience and whose classes took part in the survey and the study on the analysis and interpretation of the selected work of Miłosz. The fifth expert was a teacher of Polish and an educationalist, whose school did not participate in the research. The idea behind such selection of experts was to find a reliable and objective way of assessing the students work. One of the main educational goals that should be achieved at the 4 6 th grades of primary school is stimulating the motivation to read and develop the ability to respond to literature and other texts of merit, and in this way bringing students closer to the understanding of people and the world; introducing them to the traditions of national and European culture (MEN, 2007a). This goal is achieved by employing different means, for example the educational programme contains such terms as: the world presented, writer, recipient, persona, metaphor, rhythm, epithet, comparison, onomatopoeia, rhyme, stanza, refrain, poetry, all of which were taken into account by the experts in choice of assessment criteria. According to the curriculum, students at this level should attempt to respond to texts, discovering their literal, metaphorical and symbolic meaning. Assessment criteria for works at subsequent levels of education Considering the assumptions of the curriculum, the teachers forming the expert group for primary schools specified nine assessment criteria for student assignments: the ability to recognise the subject and poetic devices with their functions, the meaning of structural elements with the ability to describe the world presented in the work, attempting to read contextually and endeavouring to discover literal and metaphorical meanings of a text. According to Jaskółowa, to teach how to interpret is to teach how to meet another person who has something meaningful to say (Jaskółowa, 2004). A student has to learn how The reception of Czesław Miłosz s poetry by students 103 Table 1 Stages of determining the range of points for the assessment of particular criteria for the analysis and interpretation of the poem on the basis of the primary school experts opinion * Criteria for awarding points for interpretation of the selected poem [A student]: The importance of the criterion as assessed by the experts (range 0 10) Expert I II III IV V The average importance of the criterion The range of points established for the assessment of works 1. Recognises the persona in the work Names poetic devices and indicates their functions. 3. Pays attention to the functions of structural elements in the work Lists elements of the world presented Shows the historical context Reads the work literally describes the world presented. 7. Assignment contains personal reflection Shows attempts to interpret similes Originality of interpretation * Each of the experts assessed each criterion giving it from 0 to 10 points. On the basis of the proposed value of assessment by each expert (for each criterion), the average was established and it was approximated to a whole number. This number was considered the highest point that could be awarded for each criterion. Similarly, the ranges of points for lower and upper secondary schools were established. to interact with a text, therefore personal reflection is very important in the process of interpretation, and the experts highlighted it by making it one of the assessment criteria. Being aware that there is no single final interpretation, and respecting students right to their own individuality and freedom of speech, the originality of interpretation openness towards a text was considered the final and most important assessment criterion (criterion 9). The assessment criteria for assignments and number of points awarded at primary school level are shown in Table 1. The lower secondary school experts established similar criteria to those presented above (Table 2). At this level of education students should make more complex statements than primary school pupils. They should already know basic literary concepts and terms. In principle, students of lower secondary schools should define and actively use the following terms: the main idea, the symbolic and metaphorical meaning of the work, symbol, apostrophe, contrast, syllabic and free poem, caesura, enjambment, metaphor, poetic image, literary kind and genre. Therefore, the important elements of assessment for the teachers of Polish at this level were: skills related to recognising the persona, the intended audience and the type of poetry, making the functional analysis of poetic devices and structural elements, the ability to describe the world presented, assigning the work to the appropriate kind of literature, constructing an interpretation 104 Matuszek Table 2 Stages of determining the range of points for the assessment of particular criteria for the analysis and interpretation of the poem on the basis of the lower secondary school experts opinion Criteria for awarding points for the interpretation of the selected poem [A student] The importance of the criterion as assessed by the experts (range 0 10) Expert I II III IV V The average importance of the criterion Range of points established for the assessment of works 1. Recognises the persona in the work Names the intended audience of the work Determines the kind of poetry Presents own reading of the work and justifies it 5. Indicates employed means of the artistic expression and describes their functions 6. Assigns the work to the right kind of literature 7. Discusses the functions of the structural elements of the work Ability to describe the world presented Student s assignment shows the attempts to read contextually Refers to other texts Interpretation with personal reflection Originality of interpretation hypothesis for the text and an attempt to justify it. Furthermore, based on the curriculum and examination standards, experts decided to assess ability to refer to other texts, attempt at contextual reading, personal reflection and originality of assignments. According to many educationalists, teaching the ability to interpret the text is an important task as it serves one essential purpose i.e. passing the matriculation examination (the final exam in upper secondary school). In a se
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