So, while I still don’t know exactly why it happened, the reality for our department (Humanities) is that we have a whole new set of prerequisites for our classes, and given those, I’ve been thinking all summer about how to better support the students coming in who are not as far along, preparation-wise, as the students I’ve had over the past few years.
Text Comprehension Instruction
Comprehension is defined as “intentional thinking during which meaning is constructed through interactions between text and reader” (Harris & Hodges, 1995). Thus, readers derive meaning from text when they engage in intentional, problem solving thinking processes. The data suggest that text comprehension is enhanced when readers actively relate the ideas represented in print to their own knowledge and experiences and construct mental representations in memory.
The rationale for the explicit teaching of comprehension skills is that comprehension can be improved by teaching students to use specific cognitive strategies or to reason strategically when they encounter barriers to understanding what they are reading. Readers acquire these strategies informally to some extent, but explicit or formal instruction in the application of comprehension strategies has been shown to be highly effective in enhancing understanding. The teacher generally demonstrates such strategies for students until the students are able to carry them out independently.
The literature search identified 453 studies that addressed issues and topics relevant to text comprehension since 1980. Studies published between 1970 and 1979 were added if they were of particular relevance, resulting in 481 studies that were initially reviewed. Of these, 205 studies met the general NRP methodological criteria and were then classified into instructional categories based on the kind of instruction used. Application of the more specific review criteria precluded formal meta-analyses because of the large variation in methodologies and implementations used. The Panel found few research studies that met all NRP research methodology criteria. Nevertheless, the Panel employed the NRP criteria to the maximum extent possible in its examination of this body of literature. (See the Comprehension section of the Report of the National Reading Panel: Reports of the Subgroups.)
In its review, the Panel identified 16 categories of text comprehension instruction of which 7 appear to have a solid scientific basis for concluding that these types of instruction improve comprehension in non-impaired readers. Some of these types of instruction are helpful when used alone, but many are more effective when used as part of a multiple-strategy method. The types of instruction are:
- Comprehension monitoring, where readers learn how to be aware of their understanding of the material;
- Cooperative learning, where students learn reading strategies together;
- Use of graphic and semantic organizers (including story maps), where readers make graphic representations of the material to assist comprehension;
- Question answering, where readers answer questions posed by the teacher and receive immediate feedback;
- Question generation, where readers ask themselves questions about various aspects of the story;
- Story structure, where students are taught to use the structure of the story as a means of helping them recall story content in order to answer questions about what they have read; and
- Summarization, where readers are taught to integrate ideas and generalize from the text information.
Definitely good stuff, worth reading and adapting to your classroom, if you don’t do all of this already, that is.