Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Computer System of Referential Resolution to Assess Students' Reading Comprehension

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Computer System of Referential Resolution to Assess Students' Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt

Introduction

College students who learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Taiwan were found to experience great difficulty in resolving references (Chen, 2001; Yu, 1993; Chen & Dai, 2003). Results of Bensoussan and Laufer's study (1984) indicated that the major reading difficulty that ESL or EFL college students encountered was their failure to recognize the interrelationship between sentences in a text. In addition, Chu, Swaffar, and Charney (2002) mentioned that most Taiwanese EFL students were found to be less aware of how to use cohesive devices to integrate textual information. Wang and Ding (1998) further claimed that Taiwanese students' lack of skills in cohesive ties was sure to hinder them from comprehending texts.

Five cohesive ties were proposed by Halliday and Hasan (1976) and these ties were considered the keys to help readers integrate the meanings of the sentences in a text; they were reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion. Among these five cohesive ties, reference accounted for 59% of variance in L1 readers' comprehension (Demel, 1990) and 75% of EFL students' statistical text comprehension (Huang, 2005). Three types of references, personal, demonstrative, and locative pronouns were considered in this study since they appeared more frequently in texts (e.g., Fortane, 2004; Kennison, 2003). Personal references refer to individuals or objects by specifying their functions or roles in the speech situation (Halliday & Hasan, 1976), such as "I", "me", and "you." Demonstrative references substitute nouns when the nouns can be understood from the context. They also indicate whether they are replacing singular or plural words. Examples include "this," "these," "that," "more," "neither," etc. Locative references are used to indicate locations. Examples include "here" and "there."

Once a reader received trainings in cohesive ties, he was supposed to identify the critical links in integrating successive sentences and forming a coherent discourse representation (Tea & Lee, 2004; Potelle & Rouet, 2003). This representation illustrated the reader's cognitive process of understanding a text. The reader might later use the mental representation to summarize, analyze, discuss, and evaluate the information in a text (Guerrero, 2003). In Sharp's review (2003), different kinds of mental maps were built by the reader to organize knowledge and represent his/her cognitive structure, such as semantic networks, roundhouse diagrams, compare/contrast matrix, continuum/scale, and concept maps. According to Gardner (2004), mental maps provided students with alternative paths leading to the comprehension of a text. Reading the linear structure of a text was no longer the only way to comprehend a specific content. Instead, students were allowed to understand the content through the radial structure of diagrams represented in their mental maps. These mental maps not only displayed specific relationships among ideas but also enabled the reader to generate elaborative inferences about the text (Cuevas, Fiore, Bowers, & Salas, 2004).

The mental map could be viewed as the mental product of text comprehension for it helped the reader remove lexical or syntactic ambiguities, determine anaphoric antecedents or improve subsequent recall of information in long texts (Payne & Reader, 2006). In presenting students' mental maps, Greene and Azevedo (2007) suggested that self-regulated learning (SRL) processes accounted for qualitative shifts in students' mental maps from pretest to posttest in hypermedia learning environments (HLEs). In their study, the results indicated that students who exhibited a qualitative shift employed different processes, including metacognitive monitoring activities and learning strategies. They further claimed that "future research should focus on the best means of inculcating effective SRL behaviors through on-line methods, so that HLEs can teach both content and the actual process of learning" (p. …

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