Factors affecting reading comprehension in primary pupils

MacMartin, Morag I. (1993). Factors affecting reading comprehension in primary pupils. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e033


This thesis addresses the problem of 8-11 year old pupils who, although appearing to read text fluently, frequently misunderstand it. This problem was studied through Scottish school-based research using classroom materials and subjects from natural class groups. Data were collected from language assignments in daily work programmes, with response material in either written or illustrated form. Nine feasibility studies and a main study involving eighty subjects were carried out.

The effects of five variables, text, presentation mode, age, ability and geographic location, on the totals and types of miscomprehensions displayed by the subjects in directed and free-recall comprehension tasks were calculated. 'Errors' are considered to be divergences from the author's supposed meaning. It is found that the collected errors are not random but may be classified into groups. Ten types of error were identified as regularly occurring and the category system developed was validated by teachers and others involved in the field of education.

The effects of the five variables on the numbers and categories of error collected and the interactions between these variables were subjected to statistical analysis. Text and presentation mode are found to be the factors having most effect on the quantity and type of error produced. This finding is at variance with the generally accepted assumption that age, ability and possibly environment are determinants of potential pupil achievement. Miscomprehensions are discovered to be widely distributed across the ability range but they may be concealed by pupils in their pursuit of acceptable responses. The progress expected with increasing age is not always evident.

The value of the category system as a teaching tool in comprehension development across the curriculum and pupil age range is assessed and suggestions given for its use. Implications of the findings for pupil assessment procedures and classroom practice are also discussed.

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