Fourth graders' literal and inferential reading comprehension: effects of readability and answer format

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Fourth graders' literal and inferential reading comprehension: effects of readability and answer format

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Title: Fourth graders' literal and inferential reading comprehension: effects of readability and answer format
Author: Green, Laura Brueggeman
Abstract: The goal of reading is to gain meaning from text. Subsequently, reading comprehension skills become a much greater focus in third or fourth grade as children begin reading text to learn. A text's meaning is a combination of the explicit, literal meanings of the sentences themselves, as well as the inferential meanings that can be uniquely generated by the reader. Inferential comprehension is critical to reading success. Assessment of inferential reading comprehension in the classroom is often completed in the context of passage-reading tasks (i.e. read a passage and answer questions that follow). Many variables can influence and potentially confound this type of assessment. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of two such variables, text readability level and the use of different answer formats, on fourth-grade readers' ability to gain literal and inferential meaning during reading.Sixty normally-achieving fourth graders participated in the study. Tasks were comprised of passages and items that varied as to readability level (below-grade-level vs. grade-appropriate), and items that varied as to answer format (multiple-choice vs. short-answer), and question type (literal vs. inferential). Once the participants completed all three tasks, the items were scored and reorganized into eight separate subscales used for comparison in this study.A 3-factor repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to examine effects of readability and answer format on literal and inferential comprehension performance. Participants performed consistently better at below-grade-level readability levels on both literal and inferential comprehension and in both answer formats. Moreover, there were differential effects of answer format on literal comprehension performance at different readability levels. On below-grade-level literal subscales, participant performance on literal questions was significantly better in the multiple-choice format; however, at a grade-appropriate readability level , participant performance on literal questions was significantly better in the short-answer format. Answer format did not significantly affect performance on inferential questions.These results indicate that both readability and answer format influence assessment of literal and inferential comprehension performance, and should be taken into account if accurate evaluation is to take place.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2000
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/8212

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