Expository Reading In Schools: the Nature of the Reader's Difficulties

Weedon, Charles (1989). Expository Reading In Schools: the Nature of the Reader's Difficulties. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fc37


The research reported in this thesis arose from the researcher's experiences as a Learning Support teacher in Scottish secondary schools. There was evident staff frustration at the apparent inability of pupils to read expository prose in an effective way.
The research was designed to explore this apparent inability, in the hope that the insights so gained might indicate how best to help pupils in such difficulty. A theoretical model of reading and comprehension was established, and this was used to identify ten sources of potential difficulty - ten features of expository text which seemed likely to impede comprehension.
There were two experimental stages. The ten sources of difficulty provided the framework for Stage 1, a sequence of ten experimental studies. In each, sets of matched texts were generated, with the targeted text feature either prominent or not prominent. These were designated ‘high difficulty' and ‘low difficulty* texts. Pupils read one of each, and were assessed on their comprehension immediately after reading. There was no access to the text during assessment, as the concern was with comprehension and retention during normal reading, rather than ability to refer back to text effectively after reading. The experimental populations were 11 - 12 year olds, the experimental population in each study typically being around 50 pupils.
Stage 2 used a single test of similar design. It targeted those text features from Stage 1 that had discriminated most effectively between successful and unsuccessful readers. In addition, it explored reader responses to the targeted text features in texts at two levels of difficulty: simple text and noris.1 text. The experimental population was the entire 81 intake of a large city comprehensive (¥=160).
The results overall indicated that less successful readers made use of the text features in a manner broadly similar to that of successful readers. Their failure, then, could not be attributed to an inability to Bake use of these higher level processing skills. They did use them. The cause of failure lay elsewhere - presumably at lower levels of processing.

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