Eighth-grade students' reading performance in print and hypertext social studies environments

Carol Marie Palermo, Fordham University


The purpose of this quantitative/qualitative study was to examine eighth-graders' reading skills in two different forms of media: a print textbook and a hypertext. In order to understand the benefits and limitations of each mode of learning, data were collected from 20 public school students (10 in each treatment group) over a period of four months, in after-school sessions of about two hours each. The study measured the variables of recall, retrieval, and higher order comprehension. The social studies text used for both treatments was Creating America (McDougal Littell, 2002). A unit on the Civil Rights movement was presented in its original form to the textbook group, and reformatted from a CD-ROM version into a linked document for the hypertext group. The assessment instruments for the recall and retrieval tasks were taken from the supplementary materials for Creating America. The recall task consisted of five multiple-choice questions; the retrieval task included five short-answer questions. The assessment for the comprehension task was a writing prompt from the Grade 8 New York State Intermediate Social Studies test. In addition to the quantitative data, qualitative data were collected in the form of video observations, student interviews, and verbal protocols conducted with four of the students. The quantitative results showed no significant difference in scores (both individual task and overall) between the two treatment groups. The qualitative data revealed a variety of responses and preferences, but overall, it was clear that the students, all fluent readers, were able to function with ease in either setting. The video observations showed a tendency for students to approach material in a linear reading style, even in the hypertext group. Student interviews and verbal protocols further revealed an ability to self-monitor and self-regulate reading strategies, as well as a knowledge of which format might be more appropriate for a given task. Thus, the choice of whether to use a particular instructional method must be made with a clear understanding of students' metacognitive and literary skills, rather than on the perceived superiority of one technology over another.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Social studies education|Literacy|Reading instruction|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Palermo, Carol Marie, "Eighth-grade students' reading performance in print and hypertext social studies environments" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3312054.