Metacognitive Processing in Text Comprehension (page 2)
Metacognitive abilities are essential for comprehending texts in order to read to learn (Brown, 1982). There are two aspects to metacognition. One aspect involves self-appraisal, or knowledge about cognition and conscious access to one's own cognitive operations and reflection about those of others. The other aspect of metacognition involves self-management, or regulation of cognition, which involves planning, evaluating, and regulating strategies (Brown, 1987; Jacobs & Paris, 1987; Schunk & Ertmer, 2000). Both types of metacognition are critical for reading comprehension. First and foremost, students must be able to monitor their comprehension (self-appraisal): They must know if they are understanding what they are reading, and they must be able to take actions if they are not comprehending (self-management). The self-appraisal component requires three types of knowledge: declarative, procedural, and conditional (Paris, Lipson, & Wixson, 1983; Schunk, 2001). Declarative knowledge is knowledge of what—for example, what a journal entry or summary is. Procedural knowledge is knowledge of how—for example, the steps one takes to write a journal entry or summary. Conditional knowledge is knowledge of when and why—for example, when and why one writes a journal entry or summary. The self-management metacognition component for planning and controlling actions is related to reading comprehension in two ways: Awareness of when and how to plan is critical for understanding characters' goal-directed behavior in narratives, and ability to evaluate one's comprehension and plan are critical for employing comprehension repair strategies. Poor comprehenders show less evidence of metacognitive awareness and strategic behaviors. Compared to good comprehenders, they exhibit less use of spontaneous study strategies, correct fewer errors during reading, detect fewer anomalous phrases, do less self-questioning, and have less of an awareness of the goals of reading (Gardner, 1987; Paris & Myers, 1981; Yuill & Oakhill, 1991).
Not all the information necessary to comprehend texts is available in scripts and schemata. Our ability to comprehend the theme of a story requires that we be able to figure out a character's plans and goals (Black & Bower, 1980; Bruce & Newman, 1978; Schank & Abelson, 1977; Voss & Bisanz, 1985). Bruce (1980) maintained that perception of plans plays a major role in the way we structure our social reality. The research on plans and social actions in a number of fields has concluded that (1) understanding plans is a critical part of understanding actions, (2) the ability to understand plans is a very complex inferential task, and (3) children require many years to develop these skills (Kreider & Kreider, 1987a, 1987b; Miller, Galanter, & Pribram, 1960; Piaget, 1932; Schmidt, 1976; Sedlack, 1974). Bruce noted that in order to interpret actions as being intentional, one needs the ability to plan [italics are Bruce's] and to recognize actions of others in terms of goals. He stated that persons who have difficulty in recognizing plans and social actions in others will have difficulty comprehending texts that report such plans.
Reading to learn requires comprehension, and any attempt to comprehend must involve strategic reading and comprehension monitoring, which are metacognitive behaviors (Paris, Wasik, & Turner, 1991; Dunlosky, Rawson, & Hacker, 2002). Brown (1980) proposed the following metacognitive behaviors as essential for reading comprehension:
- Understanding the purpose of the reading assignment (e.g., for enjoyment, to be able to explain a principle, to compare one story to another, to complete a worksheet)
- Identifying the important aspects and main ideas of a message
- Focusing attention on major content rather than trivia
- Monitoring to determine if comprehension is occurring
- Engaging in self-questioning to determine if one's goals in reading are being achieved
- Taking corrective action when comprehension fails
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