Analysis of a Theoretical Framework

The comparison of the effects of three prereading advance organizers on the literal comprehension of fifth-grade social studies materials.

Theoretical Framework Identified and Explained The theoretical framework is founded on the pretense that much has been written concerning the problems that many students have with the comprehension of reading materials, especially content texts–science, math, and social studies.Alexander (1988) suggested that these children may be those who have little trouble with their basal readers or trade books, yet are unable to derive meaning from what they read in content area textbooks. This difficulty is a result of a combination of factors, both within the reader and within the printed material (Vacca & Vacca,1986). One explanation for the problem that the reader has with content texts is that these materials are written on reading levels beyond the capacity of the intended reader.Textbook writers have attempted to solve this problem by simplifying terminology and shortening sentences. This “dumbing down” of material does not necessarily make it more comprehensible.

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When long sentences are artificially broken into series of shorter sentences, inferential relationships are often neglected. This may “complicate the reader’s ability to comprehend” (Vacca & Vacca, 1986, 18). Accord- ing to Hittleman “word frequency and sentence length do not stand in simple relationship to reading disability” (1978, 118).Many other factors affect reading comprehension which readability formulas do not consider. These would include such text variables as concept load, format of material, organization of ideas (Hittleman, 1978), typography, literary form and style, and cohesiveness (Harris &Hodges, 1981).

Also not taken into consideration are factors inherent within the reader, such as “motivation, reading ability, and interest” (Harris &Hodges, 1981, 268).Perhaps the human factor which most influences comprehension is the schemata which the reader brings to the reading selection (Vacca & Vacca, 1986). Text is interpreted as the reader activates the schemata related to that reading material. Comprehension of that material is determined, not by the text itself, but by what the reader brings to the selection (Vacca & Vacca, 1986). The reader interacts with the new information as it enters the cognitive field.

One’s understanding and comprehension of that information depends on the reader’s schemata (Swaby, 1984). The more schemata one has for that topic, the more will be understood of what is read about it (Turner, 1988). Comprehension then “involves taking meaning to text in order to obtain meaning from text” (Turner, 1988, 159). Since content materials, especially social studies, usually seek to develop many concepts, students often do not have the related cognitive framework upon which to attach this new knowledge.These concepts must be thoroughly under- stood if the reader is to comprehend the reading material (Alexander, 1988).

The answer is not to discard the difficult text, but to give stronger emphasis to building background knowledge. “Comprehension can be helped if the teacher pays special attention to building bridges between the reading material and the student’s experiences” (Turner, 1988, 164). The teacher can guide comprehension through varied forms of direct instructional activity (Vacca & Vacca, 1986).This instruction can take one of several forms, but it must provide a conceptual framework for the reader upon which to build the new information. It must include activity and discussion before reading in order to prepare the reader to link what is known to the new material (Vacca &Vacca, 1986).

This prereading activity is generally known as an advance organizer or structured overview (Alexander, 1988). Through the use of advance organizers, the reader may be able to build relationships between existing schemata and the text (Spache &Spache, 1986).The depth of one’s com- prehension will be related to how these advance organizers help to make adequate associations. Theoretical Framework and the Problem Statement The Problem Statement. After comparing three prereading advance organizers (a visual, a graphic, and a problematic situation approach), determine whether any one of these organizers might produce significant results as compared with a control lesson using no advance organizer, or when compared with each other, when used in regular classrooms.

The Research Question of the Study. 1.Were the post-reading comprehension test scores following a lesson using any one of the given prereading approaches significantly different at the . 05 level from the lesson introduced by the control organizer? 2. Were the post-reading comprehension test scores following a lesson using any one of the given prereading approaches significantly different at the .

05 level from the other two? Theoretical Framework and the Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to determine if the prereading approach affected the comprehension of a given reading selection.Specifically, an attempt was made to determine if one of three prereading advance organizer approaches was significantly different from a control approach or the other two approaches, in terms of its effect on reading comprehension. The three approaches were (1) a verbal concept organizer, designed to be presented orally; (2) a graphic organizer, designed as a visual stimulus; and (3) a problematic situation, designed as a study problem leading to the application of the reading material. Theoretical Framework and the Research MethodsThe Variables of the Study. The subjects involved in the study, fifth-grade children in three Hamilton County, Tennessee, schools, were not significantly different from each other in Intellect and achievement levels.

The intellectual levels, teaching abilities, and teaching strategies of the eight student teachers were not significantly different. The measurements of comprehension used for this study were not significantly different from set to set. The ten experienced, tenured, in-service teachers who were sked to select comprehension questions for the post-tests had the ability and expertise to identify valid and reliable questions for determining the comprehension of the material. There was no conceptual load difference among the four selected lessons in the chapter, “Divided States”, in the unit, “The United States Changes”, in the fifth-grade textbook, United States, published by McGraw-Hill (1983). The teaching of the lessons was delimited to eight senior elementary education majors in their last semester of college.

These students were chosen by the researcher based upon availability during the allotted time. The experiment was delimited to the fifth-grade population in the Hamilton County, Tennessee, school system, who were using the McGraw-Hill (1983) social studies textbook, United States. The experiment was delimited to the use of one chapter, “The United States Changes”, from the McGraw-Hill fifth-grade textbook, United States. The experiment was delimited to the use of only three prereading approaches to reading comprehension. The experiment was delimited to lessons designed by the researcher.The experiment was delimited to the post-tests written by the researcher.

The experiment was delimited to the measurement of only literal comprehension. In order to achieve the purpose of the study, the following procedures were used: (1) Sixteen lesson plans were designed by the researcher, four each for four consecutive lessons from the McGraw-Hill social studies series. Each lesson consisted of one of the three advance organizers or control, the reading of the related social studies selection, and a post-reading comprehension test.Lessons were designed so that every lesson was introduced with every organizer method and no lessons were taught using the same advance organizer. (2) For each lesson, a post- reading comprehension test was designed by the researcher. In order to determine the validity of the post-reading comprehension tests, thirty questions were submitted for each lesson to ten tenured teachers who used the given text.

They were asked to select ten questions for each test that could best determine the comprehension of that material.The ten chosen questions were then used for each lesson. (3) The sample consisted of children from eight fifth-grade classrooms in Hamilton County, Tennessee. (4) Eight elementary student teachers from Tennessee Temple University volunteered to teach the lessons. These were students under the researcher’s supervision who were available during the allotted time for the study.

These eight student teachers were instructed by the researcher in the use of each of the three experimental approaches and the procedure for teaching the control lesson.The investigator previously prepared specific, written directions for each approach and for the control lessons. (5) Each of the eight student teachers was assigned to one of the eight previously determined classrooms. (6) On four consecutive days the student teachers taught their sequence of the four organizers. (7) The data was analyzed using a one-way ANOVA and t-test. (A) The post-test results of each organizer were compared with those of the control organizer.

(B) The post-test scores of each of the experimental organizers were compared with each other. C) Because the analysis of the data indicated that other variables than those hypothesized affected the outcome of the project, comparisons were made between lessons and post-reading comprehension test scores and between teacher and those same scores. Theoretical Framework and the Review of the Literature The Background of the Study. There are indications from analysis that advance organizers enhance reading comprehension. Advance organizers appear to be particularly useful for content area reading because of the heavy conceptual load of most of these textbooks.Social studies materials, in particular, usually include many unfamiliar concepts.

Researchers have not addressed the possibility of one organizer being superior when used in the regular classroom. To date, no research was found in the literature that compared a verbal concept organizer, a graphic organizer, and a problematic situation. The Review of the Literature. Reading comprehension, before 1970, was generally viewed as a process solely activated by the text itself, “some degree of ‘approximation’ to the text read” (Pearson, 1985, 726).If the reader should build some mental model of what was being read, that model should be very similar to the text itself (Pearson, 1985). Views, however, have changed.

As reading comprehension has been researched, text has been determined to be only the framework for meaning. Comprehension has been discovered to be a complex, multifaceted process which is affected by a variety of factors, many which relate, not to the text, but to the reader and what he brings cognitively to the reading passage (Heilman, 1986).The process is interactive (Vacca ;Vacca, 1986) involving “taking meaning to text in order to obtain meaning from text” (Turner, 1988). The reader must construct an “internal conceptual representation of what is being read, how it relates to prior concepts and mental structures” (Dehn, 1984, 86). Theoretical Framework and the Conclusions The Conclusions of the Study. Differences in the method of presenting content material previous to its reading did not substantially affect reading comprehension, at least in the short run, for the fifth-graders in this study.

The results of this study indicated that either the subjects’ schemata for the related reading material were already sufficient for its comprehension or that the advance organizers did not contribute enough to the building of schemata for them to significantly affect the results. Graphic, or visual, organizers appeared to have an advantage over non-visual organizers. When subjects not only heard, but saw the relationships among the related concepts in content material they were about to read, they were better able to conceptually organize it for comprehension.This visual method, however, was not significantly better than a verbal organizer or even no organizer at all. Teachers could use these methods interchangeably since one brought much the same results as the others. However, if the objective is the comprehension of the related material, a problematic situation should not be used, as it tended to cloud the comprehension of that material.

As in previous studies, the teacher variable may be a major factor in learning. In this study, the scores in one teacher’s group remained consistently high from day to day, and significantly higher than the other groups scores.The teacher, more than methods, affected the learning outcome. Scores for fifth-graders, in this study, appeared to be higher at the beginning of the week and tended to decline towards the end of the week. The day of the week that material was presented in this study, appeared to affect the learning of that material. Children appeared to be more alert on Monday than any other day of the week.

Teachers need to be aware of this phenomenon because of its overall effect on the learning process. New concepts should be introduced at the beginning of the week when children are more alert.Testing should also take place at the beginning of the week rather than on Friday when children tend to be more distracted. When children were told that they were part of a study and that their responses would not affect their classroom grades, they had a tendency not to perform as well as if they were not told. Their scores declined.

Teachers need to be aware that children may respond more to “grade” motivation than to other factors in the learning processes. We seem to have lost the motivation of learning for the joy of learning. Theoretical Framework and the Implications and Recommendations The Implications of the Study.It was found that the use of one of these advance organizers does not always enhance the comprehension of the related reading selection. In fact, the use of an application advance organizer may inhibit the comprehension of that selection. It could be argued that there is a significant difference between the use of the graphic organizer and the application organizer.

The use of the visual organizer throughout the study tended to have a positive impact.References Purtee Pearson, C. L. (1990). The comparison of the effects of three prereading advance organizers on the literal comprehension of fifth-grade social studies materials.