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Examining How Students Develop Comprehension While Reading Graphic Text

Sat, April 6, 8:00 to 10:00am, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 200 Level, Room 203A


Learning to read proficiently is an integral part of literacy and a fundamental goal of
education. Over the past two decades, students have moved through formal education
within a world increasingly populated by diverse digital technologies (e.g., platforms,
applications, etc.) (Bennett et al., 2008; Cross et al., 2016; Prensky, 2001). Everyday
routines, from engaging with social media to ordering from a restaurant menu, commonly
involve both visual (e.g., images) and verbal (e.g., written words) information. Youth
who have grown up with accessible and prevalent computer technology have been
referred to as digital natives—a generation that has the skills to extract meaningful
knowledge from media and technology information sources (Veen & Vrakking, 2006).
There is, however, an absence of evidence that growing up in a digital world fosters
critical thinking within digital media including text that contains both visual and verbal information (Kirschner & van Merrienboer, 2013).
All individuals rely on cognitive functioning resources and actions in order to employ
reading strategies when building comprehension. There are over 150 reading strategies, both cognitive and metacognitive, identified by Pressley and Afflerbach (1995) that individuals use to build comprehension, though research about reading strategy use and cognitive functioning is limited to narrative and expository text, leaving us to hypothesize about graphic text. Building on an initial study of reading strategy use focused on typically-achieving students and students with severe challenges in reading comprehension, the researchers will present findings on how the comprehension building process is unique for graphic text that contains both verbal and visual information, unlike narrative text and expository text. This study was conducted using a combination of tasks designed to measure aspects of cognitive functioning, reading strategy use, and reading comprehension by text type. Think-aloud reporting was used to gain insight into students’ reading strategy use with graphic text.
Findings from this study contribute in a number of ways to the literature on
how students build comprehension, specifically with text that contains both visual and verbal information. These novel findings underscore a need to teach reading comprehension specifically by text type, and to further examine social cognitive variables (e.g., motivation) and their influence on the ways that students engage with different types of text. Identifying specific strategies that correlate with successful comprehension of graphic text will inform intervention focused on helping students better understand graphic text that they read.


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