Strong, Charlotte (1983) A comparison of good and poor readers' ability to utilize contextual information while reading. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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This investigation set out to discover whether good and poor reading comprehenders utilize semantic and syntactic information to facilitate word recognition. Current reading theories range from "bottom-up" models, in which precise word identification is a prerequisite to accurate comprehension, to "top-down" psycholinguistic models, in which identification of each letter or even each word is not only unnecessary for comprehension to take place, but also, act to impede reading fluency. Prediction of upcoming material, grounded in an implicit knowledge of grammatical constraints and the redundancy of the English language is an essential component of psycholinguistic theory. No consensus has yet been reached on the respective importance of visual and contextual information to proficient reading. -- In this investigation, sixty grade four subjects from ten schools were selected on the basis of their grade equivalent scores on the Gates-MacGinitie reading test, so that they were all average in word recognition ability but either high or low in comprehension. The subjects were asked to orally read a set of forty-five sentences selected from the third, fourth, and fifth grade Evaluation Manuals of the Nelson Reading Program. Two forms of each sentence were presented to the subjects: a) as it appeared in the story, and b) altered semantically, or semantically and syntactically simultaneously, the verb having been replaced by another verb which changed the meaning of the sentence only, with an alternate type of verb, or with another part of speech. -- If proficient reading could be characterized by minimal attention to visual information and a strong reliance on contextual cues, good comprehenders could have been expected to overlook the deliberately inserted anomalies, substituting words which would be acceptable semantically and syntactically. However, the results showed that the investigative technique did not differentiate good and poor readers on any measure of dependence on contextual information. Level of difficulty of the material had the effect of reducing the semantic and syntactic acceptability of substitution errors, as expected, but graphemic and phonemic similarity scores did not increase correspondingly. The low comprehenders made slightly fewer unacceptable errors than those which were semantically and syntactically acceptable in the sentence. High comprehenders, however, corrected more than twice as many unacceptable errors as those which were acceptable, even when the correction resulted in an accurate rendering of a violated sentence, which was, by its nature, anomalous. This finding was taken to indicate that good comprehenders were better able to utilize visual information than poor comprehenders, as the contextual information was unsupportive of the correction. -- The failure of the instrument to differentiate good and poor readers raised serious questions concerning the validity and reliability of the error detection paradigm, and of oral reading error analysis. For this reason, case studies were undertaken of four subjects, two scoring at each end of the range of comprehension scores. Observations arising from the case studies showed good readers to be more reliant on contextual information than poor readers. Both reader types displayed an awareness of the contravention of linguistic rules, by making significant pauses before or after a target word, in the case of the good readers, or by saying the altered word more slowly than others in the sentence, in the case of the poor readers. Only the high comprehenders repeated portions of the sentence in order to resolve the anomaly, and the length of their pauses suggested that even when they did not repeat the context aloud, they were reviewing it silently. -- In summary, results of the error analysis showed good readers to be better users of visual information than poor readers, and observations arising from the case studies showed them to be better users of contextual information. Both groups displayed an awareness of the inserted anomalous words, but the unrelated sentences did not provide sufficient context to enable them to demonstrate their ability to utilize contextual information to facilitate word recognition. The findings led to two main suggestions: a) that the "disruptive effect" not be used in further research, and b) that educational programs and. methods should stress the development of both bottom-up and top-down abilities.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Masters)|
|Additional Information:||Bibliography: leaves 116-124.|
|Department(s):||Education, Faculty of|
|Library of Congress Subject Heading:||Reading comprehension; Word recognition|
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