Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

What Verbal Protocols Reveal about the Reading Strategies of Deaf Students: A Replication Study

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

What Verbal Protocols Reveal about the Reading Strategies of Deaf Students: A Replication Study

Article excerpt

DEAF STUDENTS' READING STRATEGIES were identified by investigating these students' self-reported thinking during reading. In an earlier study (Schirmer, 2003), 10 elementary-level students attending a state school for the deaf had constructed meaning, monitored comprehension and activated strategies to improve comprehension, and evaluated comprehension, but had not demonstrated each of the reading strategies within these three overarching activities, all observed in previous studies of hearing skilled readers. Also, the students used a considerably greater variety of reading strategies for constructing meaning than for the other two activities. The replication study used the same procedure. Six elementary-level students attending a site-based public school classroom for deaf students thought aloud after reading each page of a short story. Analysis of these verbal reports indicated the participants performed similarly to those in the first study, thus supporting the reliability of results regarding reading strategies of readers who are deaf.

The purpose of the present study was to identify the reading strategies used by students who are deaf by investigating their self-reported thinking during reading and to compare the results to those found in a previous study, conducted by the lead author of the present article (see Schirmer, 2003), in order to ascertain the reliability of the results. Research on the literacy abilities of deaf students, and the relationship between cognitive strategies and comprehension in deaf readers, has provided a number of insights but left many unanswered questions. This body of literature can be organized into three categories of investigations: (a) those that explore the influence of the reader's prior knowledge, (b) those that examine the importance of word recognition and sentence-level understanding, and (c) those that investigate the reader's cognitive strategies.

Three Categories of Investigations

Influence of Prior Knowledge

Researchers have investigated three types of prior knowledge in reading. The first, textual schema, is the reader's mental representation of how text is structured. The second, content schema, is the reader's background knowledge of the topics in the text. The third is vocabulary knowledge.

Studies of textual schema have found that (a) story schema can be taught to deaf students explicitly and nonexplicitly; (b) although deaf children use story structure to recall and create stories, their schema are less developed than those of hearing children, though deaf children with deaf parents have been found to perform as well as hearing children; (c) internalization of story structure is related to writing development; and (d) stories with structures that reflect less predictable story lines encourage deeper-level cognitive processing than stories with structures that reflect highly predictable story lines. The most effective techniques for teaching story structure and the relative importance of knowledge of story structure to comprehension are not evident from the research literature (Akamatsu, 1988; Donin, Doehring, & Browns, 1991; Griffith & Ripich, 1988; Schirmer, 1993; Schirmer & Bond, 1990; Schirmer & Winter, 1993).

Studies of content schema have found that (a) general world knowledge, particular information about a topic, and personal experiences related to a topic have a positive influence on reading comprehension; and (b) improvement in comprehension can be obtained by presenting thematic organizers and American Sign Language (ASL) summaries prior to reading. It is not apparent from the research literature whether deaf readers typically have pertinent background knowledge when encountering new text material; also not apparent is the nature of the strategies they employ during reading to tap into their prior knowledge (Andrews, Winograd, & DeVille, 1994; Jackson, Paul, & Smith, 1997; Schirmcr & Winter, 1993). …

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