Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Carole Cox


The primary purpose of this study was to explore the effects of the use of the aesthetic and efferent stances in response to literature. Subjects included 43 fourth graders, 47 sixth graders, and 40 eighth graders who were reading on-grade level or above. All subjects read the same three short stories, completed written free responses to each, and rated the stories. Responses were analyzed for reader stance, level of understanding reached, and the elements of the responses in terms of content categories. Two-way analysis of variances revealed significant main effects for stance and grade on the dependent variable, level of understanding for all three short stories. The use of an aesthetic stance, where readers focused on the lived-through experience of the work, was associated with significantly higher levels of personal understanding. Level of understanding was also found to increase with grade level. No interaction effects were found between grade and stance, indicating the influence of stance on subjects' ability to reach higher levels of personal understanding is not related to the grade of the subject. Story rating was found to be primarily text specific, but fourth graders did tend to rate stories higher and sixth graders lower than eighth graders. In terms of the elements of their responses, fourth graders spent more time recalling story events than did sixth or eighth graders. Sixth graders were more likely to make connections between the story and previous literary or life experiences. The tendency to include interpretive responses increased with grade level. The results of this study offered empirical support for the use of reader-response based teaching at the elementary and middle school levels.