Evaluation of course -specific comprehension instruction designed to facilitate application of reading skill to a content -area textbook

Judith Pokras, Fordham University


This study investigated whether comprehension instruction that incorporates domain knowledge and strategy knowledge in combination facilitates the application of reading skill to content-area textbook reading. The study followed a mixed-method design with a student protocol comprehension score determined by measuring student discussions of ideas in biology text against verbal protocols. Verbal protocols were constructions of top-level content structure adapted from Meyer (1975, 1985) and Christensen (1966). These instruments constituted the quantitative data for the study. Qualitative data consisted of several semistructured and one in-depth interview with each participant. Participants included five college freshmen, nonscience majors, from a large urban university who tested below the mean on the SAT verbal and who intended to take, but had not yet taken, biology as part of their core requirement in the natural sciences. Participants received three sets of two 1-hour instructional lessons of domain-only, strategy-only, and domain-strategy combination instruction. The final set of lessons presented strategies as a meaning construction process. Two categories of qualitative data were explored: those relating to metacognitive awareness and those relating to metacognitive behaviors. Five themes relating to metacognitive awareness emerged including evidence that following strategy-only and domain-strategy combination instructional lessons, participants stopped blaming external reasons for their lack of understanding. Following domain-focused lessons students showed greater specificity of content awareness. Six themes emerged relating to metacognitive behaviors, suggesting that poor comprehenders often take no action when comprehension fails but do attempt to construct meaning following domain-strategy combination instruction when it is taught as a meaning construction process. Four hypotheses were generated indicating that the domain component of comprehension is powerful and needs to be considered in curriculum planning. In addition, it was found that domain-strategy instruction in combination, when taught as a meaning construction process, elicits characteristics of skilled reading in poor comprehenders. Quantitative findings of comprehension scores were not impressive, suggesting that students need time and long-term practice in order to internalize new reading habits. Motivation and interest as additional relevant factors were also discussed briefly since evidence emerged indicating that these factors added to the complexity of the comprehension process and needed to be considered.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Pokras, Judith, "Evaluation of course -specific comprehension instruction designed to facilitate application of reading skill to a content -area textbook" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9960951.