Literature discussion groups: An examination of gender roles

Karen S. Evans, Donna Alvermann, Patricia L. Anders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In this article we highlight the experiences of three females who were members of peer-led literature discussion groups to more closely examine the notions of empowerment, student voice, and student silence. The experiences of these three girls revealed that gendered talk exists in literature discussions that often reinforces sexist stereotypes, and that a group’s notion of power may influence whose voices are allowed to be heard and whose voices are silenced. The discussion groups of which the girls were a part appeared to enact different conceptions of power. One group utilized a “power as property” notion of power where power was viewed as a commodity that existed in a limited amount and could be given or taken away. Using such a conception of power, the boys in this group attempted to “take power away” from the girls in their group by silencing them. The second group displayed an understanding of power that allowed different members to exercise their personal power in whatever ways they felt comfortable. Furthermore, several members exercised their power in an effort to help a quiet member of their group exercise power. The girls’ experiences suggest there may be different reasons for why students are silent and provide alternative ways to interpret students’ silence. Implications for instruction and research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalReading Research and Instruction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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