Language Arts Achievement Level, Attitude Survey Format, and Adolescents' Attitudes toward Reading

Article excerpt

Numerous studies have focused on attitudes toward reading and how to measure such attitudes (e.g., Heathington & Alexander, 1978; Noland & Craft, 1976; Reeves & Thames, 1994; Roettger, 1980). In these studies, little attention focused on the differential impact of survey format on attitudes.

The present study examined the joint effects of attitude survey format and language arts achievement level on attitudes toward reading. A total of 82 sixth graders at a middle school in McDuffie County, Georgia, were involved in the study. All of the students had taken the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) in the fifth grade. The ITBS language arts composite scores were used to classify each student as being above average, average, or below average in language arts achievement. State norms concerning the ITBS were used in the classification process, yielding 30 students with above average scores, 30 students with average scores, and 22 students with below average scores.

Two forms of attitude survey were used. One form used a Likert-type scale with four options: 4 = makes you very happy, 3 = makes you slightly smile, 2 = makes you mildly upset, 1 = makes you very upset. For each response item on the attitude survey, the students were asked to write the number of the response that best described their feelings. The second form of attitude survey involved the use of pictures of the cartoon character, Garfield. In this form, the four options were: 4 = very happy Garfield, 3 = slightly smiling Garfield, 2 = mildly upset Garfield, 1 = very upset Garfield. Next to each response option was a corresponding picture of Garfield, with a facial expression concurrent with the respective option. The questionnaire items were exactly the same for both formats. The 20 items used are shown in Table 1. The items are phrased so that higher scores indicate higher attitudes toward reading.

The surveys were randomly distributed to the 30 students in the above average group, with 15 students receiving the Likert-type survey and 15 students receiving the Garfield survey. A similar process was used to distribute the surveys to the average and the below average group. A composite attitude score was obtained for each student by adding the 20 scores for the items, thus yielding a possible low score of 20 and a possible high score of 80. Two of the students did not complete the survey and their scores were not included in the analysis.

RESULTS

A 2(format: Likert, Garfield) x 3(achievement level: above average, average, below average) analysis of variance was performed on the attitude scores. Table 2 shows the group means and standard deviations. Table 3 shows the results of the ANOVA.

There was no significant main effect on attitude scores due to student ability. However, the main effect due to format was significant, with the Likert-type format producing significantly higher scores than did the Garfield format. The interaction between ability level and format also was significant. Tukey's (a) tests indicated that there was no significant difference between attitudes of above average students given the Likert-type scale and above average students given the Garfield format. However, average students and below average students both had significantly higher attitude scores when they were given the Likert-type format than when they were given the Garfield format. For students who were given the Garfield format, above average students and average students had significantly higher attitude scores than did below average students. For students given the Likert-type format, average students and below average students had significantly higher attitude scores than did above average students.

Table 2. …