Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Effects of Reading Goals on Learning in a Computer Mediated Environment

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Effects of Reading Goals on Learning in a Computer Mediated Environment

Article excerpt


The literature indicates that skilled adult readers rely heavily on reading goals as they apply reading strategies in a purposeful way. They set reading goals, vary reading style depending upon how relevant the text is to those reading goals, read ahead and back in the text to find information relevant to their reading goals, and are aware of their progress toward their reading goals (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995; Pressley, Brown, El-Dinary, & Afflerbach, 1995; Wyatt et al., 1993). Taraban, Rynearson and Kerr (2000) found a consistent relationship between reading goals, reading strategy and grade point average. There is also a substantial body of recent literature on goal orientation as a motivational characteristic of the learner. McWhaw and Abrami (2001) were concerned with the effects of interest in subject matter versus actual rewards (payoffs) for performance on topic recall. While this is an interesting new development in the field, a different sense of the term 'reading goal' is used in the context of this study. The present experiment is focused on task manipulation more than an abiding characteristic (motivation) of the learners. This focus on task manipulation is important because, in an instructional setting, students are often asked to learn material for which they do not have high interest, and most instructional settings do not provide immediate payoffs. In other words, the present study is more concerned with specific goals for a text where interest may be low to moderate and the goals are manipulated by the task assigned to the student.

Surprisingly, there is very little recent research on the manipulation of the task assigned to the student for studying a passage. The literature indicates that reading goals are crucial to successfully learning from text, but there is a lack of research on whether providing a learner with a specific reading goal will improve learning from text. The purpose of this study is to determine if learning in a computer mediated environment can be improved by giving learners explicit reading goals.

Reading Goals and Learning

Learning, for the purpose of this study, is defined as the ability to read text and correctly recall the main topic as well as recall supporting details about the passage. Predictably, some readers recall well-written text better than others. But many readers fail to recognize main topics altogether, and although some readers can verbalize the main idea of the text, very few can verbalize how they know what is important in a passage (Schoeller & Surber, 2003). Students reading traditional text often terminate studying too soon, not even completing the reading assignment. It appears that even "good" adult readers, like college undergraduates, read in a way that is unsophisticated, inefficient, and ineffective from the perspective of information-processing (Pressley, ElDinary, & Brown, 1992; Wood, Motz, & Willoughby, 1998). This problem is exacerbated in electronic text by hypertext, since hypertexts cause an additional processing load, making the reader responsible for navigating the text. Hypertext actually adds a greater amount of interference, making it harder to integrate the information (Folz, 1996).

Anderson and Armbruster (1982) argue that giving students any type of information concerning the nature of the learning goal will facilitate performance. Students were asked to read with a particular goal in mind; they were told that they would be expected to take a test after they have read some text. When one group of students was told to expect a multiple choice test and the other group was told to expect a completion test, the results were not very conclusive. In fact, D'Ydewalle, Swerts and De Corte (1983) noted that the most conspicuous outcome of this research was the "inconclusiveness of the findings" (p. 55). In an attempt to clarify the issue of learning goals on reading, D'Ydewalle et al. …

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