The Development of the Early Expository Comprehension Assessment (EECA): A Look at Reliability

Article excerpt

In the present study, the authors investigated the initial development of the Early Expository Comprehension Assessment (EECA) by examining its reliability. The EECA consists of a compare/ contrast passage, manipulatives to represent the information in the paragraph, and three response tasks (Retelling, Mapping, and Comparing). The authors administered two comparable versions of the measure to 37 children between the ages of 4 and 5 years. They then analyzed the data using a mixed-models analysis of variance for repeated measures, a maximum likelihood estimate of variance components, and a post hoc equivalent-forms (Version A and Version B) reliability test. Results indicated that version and order had no significant effect and that both forms were equivalent, suggesting that the EECA is reliable.

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From the time they begin to understand spoken language to the time they leave elementary school, young children are typically exposed to many texts, most of which are narratives in the form of stories or accounts of events. The few expository texts that young children encounter take the form of oral explanations and simple directions. In preschool and kindergarten, expository texts tend to be slowly introduced informally in the classroom. Written exposure to expository texts includes traffic signs, grocery store advertisements, and posted rules, such as "No hitting." Expository texts can also be introduced orally through explanations and directions or during read-aloud sessions, where teachers read and talk about expository texts.

As children enter the primary grades, written expository texts start to appear more often in the classroom. Beginning in the first and second grades, expository text demands increase as children are exposed to content-area texts (i.e., science and math) in the curriculum, informational tradebooks, and children's current events newsletters (Carlisle, 1991; Culatta, Horn, 8: Merritt, 1998). Oral exposure continues during classroom instruction, and children are expected to become increasingly familiar with different ways to organize information and events and to notice relationships among ideas in texts (Carlisle, 1991).

By the time children reach the older elementary school grades, expository texts have become important sources of learning (Alvermann & Moore, 1991). By the third or fourth grades, they encounter expository texts regularly in various classroom experiences and curricular units, and the overall focus of the classroom switches from "learning to read to reading to learn" (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990). The educational system requires children to use and recognize multiple expository text structures, including commonly encountered collections and descriptions (Culatta et al., 1998).

EXPOSITORY TEXT INSTRUCTION

As the descriptions of exposure and expository demands have affirmed, multiple opportunities for exposing children to expository texts exist. At any age level, however, children may not receive sufficient, supported exposure to expository texts for their level of development. In most preschool and early elementary classrooms, children receive minimal instruction with regard to expository texts, but they are still expected to know about them by the third or fourth grades (Alvermann & Moore, 1991; Pearson & Duke, 2002). Many of these children, particularly children with language differences or deficits, will have increasing difficulties in reading and decreasing classroom success because they are ill-prepared for growing demands regarding expository text comprehension.

Educators and researchers are now emphasizing earlier exposure to and instruction with expository texts. One fundamental basis for this emphasis is the concept that earlier attention will help to mitigate the difficulty that children experience with these texts in later grades. Although no research has yet been conducted to support the long-term effects of early instruction, several researchers have found that early exposure to or instruction using expository texts can increase comprehension, memory, and recall of important text information in young children (Duke & Kays, 1998; Moss, 1997; Pappas, 1993). …