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An investigation into the contribution of inferencing in children’s reading comprehension

Hewett, Kim (2014) An investigation into the contribution of inferencing in children’s reading comprehension. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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To date, little research has investigated the involvement of higher-level cognitive processes in reading comprehension ability in children. This study therefore aimed to help fill this gap in the literature by investigating the contribution of inferencing ability: a higher-level cognitive process which is important for successful reading comprehension. To measure inferencing, 38 children aged eight to 11 years participated in a computer task, which measured reaction time and accuracy. Participants were presented with narratives followed by word or non-word targets, on which they made a lexical decision. Word targets were either inference neutral or inference related, with inference generation measured as the difference between the means of the two. Participants were first categorised into low and high comprehension groups by an innovative higher-level comprehension measure, and again by a standardised, lower-level comprehension measure, and then compared. As the higher-level measure purports to directly measure skills underlying inference generation, a finer distinction in inferencing ability was expected between groups when measured this way, compared to the lower-level measure. Overall, however, the data did not reflect whether inferences were generated or not, nor meaningful categorisation between groups, irrespective of which measure they were categorised by. Interpreting the extent of inference generation between high and low comprehenders was therefore difficult. It is likely that the inferencing measure was unable to identify inference generation and that this, along with some other methodological limitations, accounts for the lack of differences between low and high comprehenders. Nevertheless, this study is an important contribution to the literature, as it provides a foundation on which future investigation can be based by illuminating methodological issues which first need to be addressed.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Gouldthorp, Bethanie
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