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Public defence of PhD thesis on Namibian students’ reading motivation

Public defence of PhD thesis on Namibian students’ reading motivation

Kirchner's thesis contributes to the development of knowledge about young Namibian teenagers’ preferences, activities, motivation, and commitment to reading (photo: Colourbox)

PhD candidate Emmarentia Kirchner will defend her doctoral thesis in literature and reading instruction at the Hamar campus of INN University on 27 September 2018

The thesis is titled “Motivating and Engaging Readers: A study of pre-adolescent Namibian primary school readers”.

The main purpose of the PhD thesis is to contribute to the development of knowledge about young Namibian teenagers' reading preferences, activities, motivation and engagement.

The thesis uses a mixed research design in order to explore the overarching research question: what distinguishes the reading preferences, reading motivation and reading engagement of young teenagers in Namibian elementary schools?

The theoretical framework of the study includes an approach to reading comprehension (developed by The RAND study group) based on the importance of interaction between reading, text and activity, and on the interaction taking place within a particular social and cultural context.

The study on reading motivation and engagement is also illuminated using the Engagement Model of Reading developed by Guthrie, Wigfield, Klauda and You, and using the Theories of Self-Determination (Ryan and Deci) and Expectancy Value (Wigfield and Eccles).

The findings of the study are reported in three papers:

Few read for their own enjoyment

In the first phase of the study, a broad perspective on text and readers was explored in seven regions that represent both rural and urban areas in Namibia.

Based on the socioeconomic situation and the schools’ resource situation in the regions investigated in the first phase, the first paper paints a picture of deprivation.

The results indicate that only 22.4% of respondents could be characterized as readers who read for their own enjoyment. This small group of students had a positive opinion of reading and explained their own reading not as instrumental or in terms of utility considerations, for the most part.

Read more on paper than digitally

The focus of phase two had been reading activities, reading motivation and reading skills for young, Namibian teenagers in one urban region.

In the paper, Kirchner reports moderate reading activity, and at the same time high motivation among the teenagers who participated.

The pupils reported that they read more on paper than digitally, and that they read more for their own interests than for school assignments. Motivation was found to be a multi-faceted term.

The study showed positive correlation between motivation and reading activity and between reading motivation and reading skills.

The possibility of building a reading culture

In the third phase, the study concluded with a small-scale innovation project revolving reading for enjoyment at one school in the urban region. In this final phase, the students’ views on selected changes in classroom practices and the impact of these changes on the students’ reading motivation and reading engagement were explored.

The results here indicate that the implementation of a set of principles, such as choice and interaction, which were used to facilitate reading in an action research-inspired project, strengthened participants in rediscovering reading and focusing on reading for their own enjoyment, and is important for the development of reading motivation.

The study’s contribution lies in the students' views on the development of this type of programme and by illuminating a set of strategies that can build reading culture in schools.

Must ensure access to books and other reading materials

Across all three phases, the study shows that young teenagers were aware of the importance of reading.

The study also shows that they were motivated to read, despite the fact that the environment often did not provide many reading opportunities and despite the difficult resource situation that met the majority of readers – as noted in the first phase.

Kirchner concludes that alternative ways of ensuring access to books and other reading materials to youth in Namibia requires continuous attention.

Another significant contribution by the study is that it has given students the opportunity to influence teaching and learning, both by documenting their own views, and by taking these into account in the implementation of the reading project through the action research-based design.


The main supervisor has been  professor Lise Iversen Kulbrandstad, and the co-supervisors have been  associate professor Maria Louise Mostert and  professor Jørgen Klein.