SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: How is Word-Level and Sentence-Level Comprehension Monitoring Different in Children? (Poster)
Session: Language, Communication
Authors: Elham Zargar, Ashley Adams, Carol Connor
Abstract: A metacognitive activity, comprehension monitoring is the process of (1) evaluating comprehension and identifying inconsistencies and (2) regulating comprehension by repairing misunderstandings to facilitate reading (Connor et al., 2015). Poor reading comprehension may be due to having ineffective comprehension monitoring skills (e.g., Rapp & van den Broek, 2005). Comprehension monitoring is not a unitary skill, such that a student may be capable of evaluating his/her comprehension, but may be poor at regulating it (Baker, 1984). Because inconsistencies in text that challenge students may be caused by different types of obstacles, comprehension monitoring may occur at different levels of linguistic structure, such as the word- or sentence-level (Cain et al., 2004; Nagy, 2007). Comprehension monitoring at the word-level is provoked when the reader becomes aware of a breakdown in comprehension after encountering an unfamiliar word, and at the sentence-level when confronted with implausibility in the global context of the text. Different criteria are used for comprehension monitoring at different levels of text processing, which demand different cognitive processes and are likely different in their ease of application (Baker, 1985). Therefore, it is important to not overgeneralize failure to use one as having ineffective comprehension monitoring.
This study examines how children in third through fifth grade (n = 123) differ in their comprehension monitoring skills when confronted with word- and sentence-level inconsistencies, and how this skill may be associated with individual differences in age, reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge. Children’s comprehension monitoring was assessed using two eye-movement tasks, by measuring the amount of time they read (gaze duration) and reread target inconsistent words, which were either non-words (causing word-level inconsistencies) or implausible words (causing sentence-level inconsistencies), embedded in simple sentences. A longer gaze duration and rereading time for target inconsistent words compared to control words are suggested to be diagnostic of the two aspects of comprehension monitoring (e.g., Connor et al., 2015). A longer gaze duration for the target word indicates that the reader detects an error and slows down, whereas a greater rereading time suggests an attempt to resolve the inconsistency and regulate comprehension (e.g., by using repair strategies), which is beyond simply detecting them. The results of our study revealed that generally all children detected the word-level inconsistencies, as indicated by longer gaze durations, whereas gaze duration for sentence-level inconsistencies were not significantly longer than control words. However, children attempted to regulate their comprehension after detecting both word- and sentence-level inconsistencies, as indicated by time spent rereading. Children with stronger reading comprehension (when controlling for their vocabulary), and stronger vocabulary knowledge (when controlling for their reading comprehension) were more likely to attempt regulating their comprehension. When the inconsistency was at the sentence-level, fourth graders engaged in more comprehension regulation than third graders. With eye-tracking technology becoming more accessible, these tasks may be useful in assessing children’s reading processes to better understand at which level of comprehension monitoring they may be struggling, which in return will allow us to develop more individualized instruction for all readers.