During the last decades, the English classroom instruction evolutionarily encouraged the application of Louise Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory, which advocated the re-recognition of literature as well as aesthetic reading in the language classrooms. In Taiwan, the traditional grammar-translation approach, the teacher and/or text-centered instruction, is still popularly employed in most of the universities, while Transactional Theory is still unknown to many EFL teachers and researchers.
The purpose of this experimental study was to employ Transactional Theory to teach literary works and to compare the teaching efficiency of the transactional reader-response approach with that of the traditional grammar-translation approach used in the EFL reading classrooms. The subjects were students in the researcher’s four literature-based reading classes, two classes at one technological college and two at the other technological university, in southern Taiwan. The intersection disposition was designed. The experimental group comprised 71 students and the control group, 66 students. Materials in this study included teaching materials, two pretests, two posttests and mid-term examination, guided reading journals and semi-structured interview. Teaching materials were eight literary works on love—one poem, one play and six short stories. Two sets of tests were developed: the English Reading Achievement Test and the Attitude Questionnaire. The collected data were analyzed by using ANCOVA (analysis of covariance). In addition, Pearson correlation was conducted to measure relationships between variables. Qualitative tools such as guided reading journals and semi-structured interviews were used to explore students’ meaning-making processes.
In terms of English reading ability, the results showed that students in the experimental group which interact the transactional approach to EFL reading instruction performed better on English Reading Achievement Test than those subjects taught with the traditional approach. The transactional approach to literature instruction changed the students’ attitudes in the experimental group toward literature and the transactional reader-response approach. However, their attitudes toward English did not change. From the guided reading journals entries in the experimental group, five major response patterns were categorized: schema inquiry, correct interpretation, character involvement, plot involvement, and literary criticism.
In conclusion, the study demonstrates that incorporating Transactional Theory into reading classrooms provides a comfortable, respectful and effective environment for college students in terms of their reading English literary works.