Texts that Teach and Readers that Learn: The role of text characteristics and children's reading skills in comprehending and learning from informational texts
07 / 2012 - 06 / 2017
The aims of the proposed project are to investigate the role of text characteristics and children's reading skills in their ability to learn from informational texts, and to develop guidelines for improving learning from such texts in educational settings. Texts are important educational tools and children's ability to read and learn from them is essential to their success in school and beyond. Report after report shows that a large number of elementary school children has difficulty comprehending what they read, especially when it concerns informational texts. Indeed, in grade 4 (groep 6) when instruction switches from using mostly narrative texts to using mostly informational texts, many students experience a dramatic decrease in comprehension scores, the so-called fourth grade slump. In the proposed project, we intend to identify characteristics of informational texts that assist children at grades 2-4 (groepen 4-6) in comprehending and learning from them, determine the role of individual differences in children's higher-order comprehension skills, and investigate possible interactions between text characteristics and children reading skills and strategies. Based on the results we intend to develop and test guidelines for constructing informational texts that can be used by our societal partners as well as by other educational organizations to improve children's learning and, moreover, to foster the development of effective higher-order comprehension skills. The research will be translational -connecting theoretical models to concrete educational practice-, innovative in its use of eye-tracking and other cognitive-science methods, and multi-institutional through collaboration with colleagues from the Netherlands and the United States.