Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Word Identification, Metacognitive Knowledge, Motivation and Reading Comprehension: An Australian Study of Grade 3 and 4 Pupils

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Word Identification, Metacognitive Knowledge, Motivation and Reading Comprehension: An Australian Study of Grade 3 and 4 Pupils

Article excerpt

Introduction

Reading comprehension is an important literacy competency developed in the early years of schooling. From a self-regulated learning perspective, reading comprehension involves the interaction of cognitive, metacognitive, and motivational variables (e.g., Dignath & Buttner, 2008). Research has suggested that good reading comprehension is the result of the use of a range of these variables including word identification and decoding abilities (Chapman, Tunmer & Prochnow, 2000), knowledge of cognitive and metacognitive strategies, such as planning and self-monitoring (Pressley & Harris, 2006), and motivational aspects of learning, such as self-concept and interest (Miller & Faircloth, 2009). There is also evidence that pupils who apply cognitive and metacognitive strategies are better comprehenders (Paris, Lipson & Wixson, 1994), and that the training of such variables can lead to improved reading comprehension (Pressley, 2006). Gender may also lead to differences in reading comprehension (Logan & Johnston, 2010) The aim of this article is to explore the role that these variables play in the reading comprehension of Australian male and female pupils in Grades 3 and 4.

In the following section, we briefly summarise the major research findings concerning the state-of-the art with respect to the acquisition of reading comprehension by making reference to the role of word identification, metacognitive knowledge and motivation in reading comprehension. With respect to motivation we focus on the intrinsic motivation variables of reading self-concept and interest. We also highlight the research that discusses issues of gender difference in reading comprehension. Thereafter we outline the rationale and main goals of the present study. But we begin by defining reading comprehension, the main outcome variable in our study.

Reading comprehension refers to making meaning at the word, sentence and text level. It involves the dynamic interplay of a range of knowledge, processes and strategies (Oakhill, Cain, & Bryant, 2003). Successful reading comprehension occurs as a result of the interaction between both reader and text factors (Sweet & Snow, 2003). Of interest in this study are some of the reader variables that are brought to the reading comprehension process. One of the main variables that has been extensively studied in relation to reading comprehension is that of word identification.

A pupil's ability to read words accurately influences their reading comprehension (Jenkins, Fuchs, van den Broek, Espin, & Deno, 2003) and is a strong predictor of reading comprehension (Vellutino, Scanlon, & Tanzman, 1994). Successful word identification skills depend upon the effective utilisation of the alphabetic code and identifying words easily and rapidly. When word identification is fluent and decoding becomes accurate and automatic, cognitive resources are freed up so that the meaning of what is being read can be derived. In this way accurate word identification and decoding at a level of automaticity allow pupils to place their efforts into comprehension (Samuels, 2006). Thus successful reading comprehension occurs when readers are able to accurately and rapidly identify words and to use non-visual information such as grammatical and semantic knowledge to work out what the text says. In turn these contribute to establishing what the text means.

Metacognitive knowledge, an aspect of metacognition, is also important for successful reading comprehension. Metacognitive knowledge refers to the declarative, procedural and conditional knowledge associated with learning, for example learning to read (Pressley, 2002). Several studies have emphasised the importance of declarative and procedural metacognitive knowledge for the development of reading comprehension (see reviews Schneider & Pressley, 1997). Measures of declarative metacognitive knowledge seem particularly well-suited to predicting reading comprehension in children. …

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