The relationship between readers' prior knowledge and comprehension of expository text.
Kelly, Erin M.
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SubjectExposition (Rhetoric).; Reading comprehension -- Study and teaching.; Education -- Standards -- United States.
The Common Core Standards (CCSS) (Common, 2012) require students to read complex expository texts. One skill for increasing comprehension is activation of prior knowledge (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007). Having a greater understanding of how important prior knowledge is for readers’ comprehension of expository texts, of how to help students “activate” their own prior knowledge, and of how to help students build prior knowledge when theirs is lacking will add to a teacher’s collection of “tools” for assisting students to develop their skills for reading challenging and complex expository texts. This problem of teacher understanding and the role of prior knowledge has been addressed in this thesis by asking the question, what is the relationship between readers’ prior knowledge and comprehension of expository texts? The most appropriate way to address the question of this relationship has been to conduct an extensive literature review, synthesize the findings, and disseminate the results to teachers through some form of professional development. This research synthesis has determined that prior knowledge appears to have a more significant role in text comprehension than does text complexity. Further results are that prior knowledge appears to have four distinct forms: the most common being content knowledge (also called domain knowledge, domain-specific knowledge and subject knowledge), followed by vocabulary knowledge, reading strategy knowledge, and structural (or text-structure) knowledge. Each form has its specific impact on reader comprehension and an impact when used in combination with other forms. Results also indicate that students’ age and topic interest play a role in use of prior knowledge for comprehension. Overall, results show that for most readers, the combination of readers’ prior knowledge of content knowledge and text structure knowledge positively impacts comprehension of science, animal-topic, social studies, and general topic expository texts.
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