Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Analogical Processes and College Developmental Reading

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Analogical Processes and College Developmental Reading

Article excerpt

Developmental reading courses are typically designed to increase the reading proficiency of college students who are underprepared for collegelevel reading. Existing at U.S. higher education institutions since the beginning of the 20th century (Kingston, 2003), developmental reading has historically been a core part of developmental education offerings in two- and four-year colleges (Stahl & King, 2009). Reading difficulties have been judged to be "the most serious" developmental proficiency issue (Adelman, 2004, p. 87) for college students. With recent analyses of ACT college entrance test scores indicating that fewer than half of incoming college students nation-wide were prepared for the reading requirements of a typical first-year college course (ACT, 2013), developmental reading support at the postsecondary level is prevalent and an important part of a college education for a significant number of students. Research that allows for a fuller understanding of developmental readingprocesses, with implications for instruction, is important. This study investigates the role of analogical processing during the reading process for students who place into developmental reading courses.

Analogical Processes

In a general educational sense, one key process by which people make sense of new information is analogical. An analogical process involves the identification of partial similarities between different objects or situations to support further inferences and is used to explain new concepts, solve problems, and understand new areas and ideas (Gentner, 8cColhoun, 2010; Gentner 8c Smith, 2012). For example, when a biology teacher relates the functions of a cell to the activities in a factory in order to introduce and explain the cell to students, this is an analogical process designed to use what is already familiar to illuminate and explain a new concept. A process of mapping similarities between a source (what is known) and a target (what is needed to be known) in order to better understand the target (Holyoak 8c Thagard, 1997), analogies are commonly used to make sense of new information in general. Scholars in cognitive psychology have argued that many aspects of thinking are analogical in nature, with some concluding that analogical processes form a core aspect of human cognition (e.g., Hofstader, 2001; Kurtz, Miao, 8c Gentner, 2001). Supporting this view of the integral nature of analogy to cognition is its use by even very young children. Holyoak and Thagard (1995) report that infants are able to use basic analogical processes, and by the time children are 5 or 6 years old, they are able to use complex analogies for many purposes. In short, analogy appears to be a key element of human thinking.

Reading is a sociocognitive process of making sense of information presented through text, and difficulties in reading can be intensified when the text involves unfamiliar content and new words. Because of the core nature of analogy in human learning, its role in a sociocognitive process like reading warrants exploration. This article investigates analogical processes in reading, at a basic word decoding level and at a higher, whole-text comprehension level.

Research on Analogical Processes and Reading

From a theoretical standpoint, analogy use in reading can be directly related to schema-theoretic explanations forreadingcomprehension. Hofstader (2001, p. 504) described any "triggering of prior mental categories by some kind of input-whether sensory or more abstract" as a process of analogy construction. Schemata are those "mental categories"-as well as concepts and structures-that help us make sense of the world. Schema theory notes that new information is processed through interaction with old information, resulting in what is known as comprehension (Anderson & Pearson, 1984). Specific to reading, this means that a reader's ability to comprehend a text is directly related to the reader having the appropriate schemata (see Anderson, 2013; Faris 8c Smeltzer, 1997). …

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