The Impact of Metamemory on Reading Performance. (Language Teaching & Learning)

Article excerpt


The purpose of this research was to determine 1) if a metamemory approach to reading instruction would lead to significantly different results from those of a skill-oriented approach, and 2) whether short-term memory (STM) span is an independent determining factor or it is modified by the reader's metamemory knowledge. Seventy-six college students were randomly selected and assigned to the two experimental and control groups. One group was taught through a metamemory approach and the other through a skill-oriented one. The treatment took about four months and a half, and a twelve-branch memory maze and The Nelson's Reading Comprehension Test were used as the STM span and the reading comprehension tests respectively. The findings of the ANOVA used lend support to the notion that a metamemory approach is superior to a skill-oriented one. They also indicate that STM span is not an independent predictor of reading comprehension performance. Moreover, the statistical evidence provided through the application of the Point Biserial Correlation to the pre-tests of reading comprehension and STM span indicate that there is no significant go-togetherness between STM span and performance on reading comprehension tests.


The majority of the studies conducted on reading focus on the product of reading, that is, the decoding of words or the comprehension of texts rather than its process. However, a number of researchers have more recently focused their attention on the underlying aspect of reading, namely its process (e.g., Carpenter, 1987; Hasselhorn, 1991; Whitney, 1991). Metamemory, as one of the consequences of this shift, has gained a particular, and at the same time, controversial status. Originally, Flavell (1971) used the term metamemory to denote knowledge of memory. Following this, researchers started to conduct various studies on metamemory: Moynahan (1973) asked Ss about the relative difficulty of different tasks.

Brown (1978) studied how Ss monitored their own memory attempts. Brown & Smiley (1978) investigated students' use of strategies and found that active strategy users have superior recall to those students who simply re-read the text. Murphy and Schmitt (1987) found that strategies such as self-testing can be easily taught, and they hold promise of being useful in different situations. Gearg, Adrales & Klosterman (1990) found consistent correlation between metamemory and academic achievement. The variety of the areas where metamemory has been applied has been well manifested in Klatzky's (1984) classification of three general types of metamemory or awareness of memory: Conscious awareness of the mental processes in which one is engaged (e.g., rehearsal and organization); awareness of the contents that are stored in memory (the material one decides to encode); and awareness about memory as a human capacity. According to Klatzky (1984), a successful metamemory knowledge comprises all the three mentioned forms.

Hasselhorn (1992) maintains that metamemory establishes a substantive positive relationship between memory monitoring and memory performance. What this indicates is that memory performance is the focus of attention in metamemory studies. In other words, studies in this area aim at improving memory performance by resorting to certain types of intervention.

Now, if we assume, as other studies have done so, that metamemory influences memory performance, the question is what is meant by "memory". The first answer (model) to this apparently simple question was presented by Atkinson & Shiffrin (1971), who theorized that there are three memory stores -- a sensory register, a short-term and a long-term store, and who hypothesized that these memory stores are considered to be the permanent, built-in components of the information processing system. The idea of having fixed built-in memory stores gave rise to the public opinion that the individual's memory performance is not influenced by circumstances but by the individual's static memory span. …


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