Reciprocal Questioning and Reading Comprehension of Expository Text

By Stevens, Anise M. | Social Studies Review, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Reciprocal Questioning and Reading Comprehension of Expository Text


Stevens, Anise M., Social Studies Review


As a teacher of English, I often am faced with students who lack the ability to read from an aesthetic stance, which, according to Rosenblatt (1994), is required for higher-level reading comprehension (p. 1372). More than half my students enter the community college where I teach knowing how to read for literal understanding and nothing more because they have rarely if ever been asked questions that focus on anything other than main ideas, supporting points, and vocabulary meaning. Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. "Standardized reading achievement scores show that many students are unprepared for success in college or jobs" (Reis & Fogarty, 2006, p. 32). Considering this along with findings such as those posed by Wise (2009), former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education , that reveal "most students in middle and high schools read below grade level and are unable to comprehend their increasingly complex texts and course materials" (p. 369), it logically follows that a substantial number of freshman find that they are not equipped for the "nature and demands of academic literacy in postsecondary institutions today" (Pugh, Pawan, & Antommarchi,2000,p.25).

Venezia, Kirst, and Antonio (2003) attribute students' inability to read critically to the growing emphasis on high stakes testing (as cited in Williamson, 2008, p. 607) while others suggest that "linguistic or cultural differences" (Falk-Ross, 2001/2002, p. 278) inherent in today's student population play a significant role as do classroom environment, socioeconomic status (SES), and teacher training (Chali & Conard, 1990; Duke, 2000; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998, as cited in Reis, Eckert, McCoach, Jacogs, & Coyne, 2008, p. 299). No matter what the cause, in order for students to obtain merited scholastic achievement, they "need to be taught explicitly a repertoire of strategies and receive instruction in how to apply them" (Pressley, Symons, Snyder, & Cariglia-Bull, 1 989, as cited in Nist & Holschuh, 2000, p. 85). This clearly has implications for high school and even middle and elementary teachers. The road to success begins in the earliest grades as skills develop over time.

Once delegated to those who teach in the language arts content area, the teaching of reading has become a requirement for many who teach in areas such as History-Social Science as well. While the incorporation of such can seem daunting, when we acknowledge that "reading is the platform from which critical thinking, problem solving, and effective expression are launched" (Pugh et al., 2000, p. 25), providing students with effective strategies to read makes sense. Rather, the failure to incorporate effective strategies for reading into one's pedagogy becomes almost futile, given the provision of such tends to foster heightened retention (Vaughan, 1977, p. 202).

One way teachers in History-Social Science can help students develop strategies for comprehension that are expected at the collegiate level is through the teaching of effective questioning. "Questioning is one of the most effective approaches to enhance reading and understanding of a text" (Owens, 1976, as cited in Yang, 2010, p. 1194), and yet it is a strategy with which many students are not familiar and need help in mastering. Specifically designed to facilitate questioning in students, the ReQuest (Reciprocal Questioning) procedure is a method in which "the teacher models answering and questions on a high cognitive and affective level" (Kay, Young, & Mottley, 1986, p. 507) for the purpose of helping students assimilate and analyze information independently. While this "procedure is especially appropriate for students who need guidance in thinking above the literal level" (Spiegel, 1981 , p. 915), its implementation has been shown to benefit those in various settings:

[ReQuest] first was developed for one-on-one teaching. However, it proved equally effective in content classrooms with heterogeneous groups (Manzo, 1973), in programs to promote personal-social adjustment in juvenile delinquents (Kay et al. …

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