Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Developmental Progression of Referential Resolution in Comprehending Online Texts

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Developmental Progression of Referential Resolution in Comprehending Online Texts

Article excerpt


Whether a reader is able to construct a comprehensible and coherent mental representation of textual information in memory is central to comprehension (van den Broek & Kremer, 1998; Walsh & John-Laird, 2004). According to Payne and Reader (2006), the construction of mental representation is a necessary step for comprehension. It aids the reader to encode textual information in a clustered way so that the textual information is more likely to be stored into the reader's long-term memory (Potelle and Rouet, 2003). Tea and Lee (2004) also state that the reader's mental map presents his text processing and helps him solve reading difficulties, such as referential resolution.

Referential resolution is the process of searching for events, people, or objects appearing in different parts of a text referring to the same entity (Paterson, Sanford, Moxey, and Dawydiak, 1998). This is essentially difficult for college students who learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Taiwan for they very often fail to recognize the connections among sentences in texts due to the lack of instruction in referential resolution (Bensoussan and Laufer, 1984; Chu, Swaffar, and Charney, 2002). For instance, in a short text "I have a brother. His name is Tom. He is a senior high school student." The mental map of this short text in referential resolution is shown in Figure 1.


Referential resolution in this study is defined as a reading strategy applied by the reader to interpret the references that have the same meanings as other elements in a text, such as "his name", "Tom", and "he" refer to "a brother." While resolving the references, the reader is engaged in comprehension monitoring which he monitors, regulates, and evaluates his own reading process (Hartman, 2001). The management and regulation of one's own reading process is helpful for meaning construction of text (Paris and Winograd, 1990).

Comprehension monitoring is the awareness that a reader has about the linguistic forms and their relationships with other elements in a text (Potelle and Rouet, 2003). More-proficient readers are found to plan, predict outcomes, and monitor their reading process (Brown, 1987). Particularly, they are able to detect inconsistencies in reading and commonly look back at and recall the text inconsistencies (Zabruck and Ratner, 1989). The results of Yang's study (2002) also reveal that the more-proficient readers actively engage in monitoring their ongoing reading process as they try to compensate for words that have not been previously decoded. They also employ higher levels of comprehension monitoring in reading such as examining text coherence by internal and external consistency (Baker, 1996).

In contrast, less-proficient readers are indicated to have a lower level of comprehension monitoring (Oakhill & Yuill, 1988). Their lower comprehension monitoring may result from inadequate knowledge and skills in reading comprehension. They commonly have a limited vocabulary and they often fail to comprehend the individual words in a text. As a result, they spend much time and efforts on decoding each word in a sentence rather than comprehending and integrating textual information. Focusing on the decoding process, most less-proficient readers are unaware of connections in linking sentences together (Bensoussan & Laufer, 1984).

Less-proficient readers will not engage in comprehension monitoring unless they are asked to think about their reading process through activities or instruction (Hartley, 2001). The computer assisted learning environment is found to greatly support readers' engagement of comprehension monitoring as it provides explicit modeling and individualized scaffolding (Potelle and Rouet, 2003). The modeling and scaffolding may help readers build the mental map to show their cognitive structure and the meaningful content of the text. This is fundamentally important for EFL college readers in Taiwan as there are about 45 or more students of varying language proficiency levels involved in one class. …

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