THE EFFECT OF SITUATIONAL CONTEXT ON THE READING STRATEGIES OF LEARNING DISABLED AND AVERAGE ACHIEVING STUDENTS.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAn emerging theory of learning disabilities characterized learning disabled students as inactive learners who do not spontaneously employ task-appropriate cognitive strategies. This study addressed the range of tasks to which this characterization applies. It compared learning disabled and average achieving students' spontaneous activation of differential reading strategies as evoked by the situational context of reading tasks. Subjects were 20 learning disabled and 20 average achieving seventh graders. Groups were controlled for age and non-verbal intelligence. Learning disabled students had been diagnosed as such and exhibited serious reading difficulties. Within two experimentally induced situational contexts, students read and retold short, narrative passages which contained interpropositional consistencies. Within a storytelling context, designed to maximize interaction between text and background knowledge, subjects were instructed to think about the appropriateness of the passage for young children and imagine a first-grade audience while accurately retelling the passage. Within a memory context, designed to maximize differentiation of text from background knowledge, the same subjects were to read and retell another story for the sole purpose of maintaining accuracy. Stories were counterbalanced across contexts. Retellings were categorized as either evidencing distortions which resolved text inconsistencies or as accurately maintaining the inconsistencies of the original text. Nonparametric tests were used for data analysis. Results indicated that both groups shifted retell strategy in response to situational context, with no significant differences between groups. Within the storytelling context, retellings tended to resolve passage inconsistencies. Within the memory context, retellings were generally accurate in their maintenance of inconsistencies. The memory context also fostered increased accuracy for both groups on a sentence recognition task. Responses to comprehension monitoring questions suggested on relationship between retell strategy and students' expressed awareness of text inconsistency. Findings indicate that both learning disabled and average students respond to situational contexts of reading tasks. They can activate increased interaction between text and background knowledge or increased differentiation of text from background knowledge. It was concluded that the characterization of learning disabled students as cognitively inactive does not apply to the spontaneous activation of differential reading strategies evoked by the situational context of the reading act.
Degree ProgramSpecial Education