Relations Between Text Structures and Diverse Learners
Many comprehension difficulties of diverse learners have been attributed to their deficits in text-structure awareness (Englert & Thomas, 1987). Zabrucky and Ratner (1992) found that poor readers did not differ in the number of times they monitored their comprehension by looking back at sentences for narrative and expository texts. Because narrative is easier to comprehend than expository text, Zabrucky and Ratner (1992) concluded that poor readers did not regulate their understanding when reading difficult text. In addition, there was no difference in poor readers' and good readers' detection of inconsistencies during reading. However, poor readers were less able than good readers to comment accurately on passage consistency after reading. Poor readers were no different from good readers in reading problematic or inconsistent text. However, poor readers demonstrated significantly less recall than good readers (Zabrucky & Ratner, 1992).
One hypothesis for why students with LD appear to recall less narrative text than normally achieving students (Montague, Maddux, & Dereshiwsky, 1990) is that they have an incomplete "schema" or awareness of narrative prose. In a primary study of narrative-text structure and students with LD, Montague and coworkers (1990) concluded that the incomplete development of a story grammar by students with LD, as demonstrated in their significantly shorter story recalls, may be because of these students' lack of expertise in interpreting or expressing the affective information about the characters in the story (e.g., human intentions, social interactions, problem solving). Students with LD may also be deficient in their discrimination of various levels of meaning in stories, and less aware of subtle differences in the importance of story propositions compared to students without learning disabilities. Additionally, students with LD had difficulty recalling fine details, using connective words that signal temporal and causal relations, and identifying text-based inferences in stories.
Englert and Thomas (1987) concluded that the deficit in text-structure awareness in students with LD affected their ability to use the interrelationships in text to predict forthcoming relevant details based on the text structure, to extract essential from nonessential information, and to be sensitive to their own comprehension failures. This study also indicated that similarly to normally achieving students, students with learning disabilities and low-achievers appeared to acquire text structure knowledge developmentally (Englert & Thomas, 1987).
Another area affected by poor readers' lack of sensitivity to text structure is summarization. Seidenberg (1989) reported that eighth-grade poor readers did not appear to use text-structure awareness to summarize text. Although they appeared aware of the need to include important ideas in a summary, they had difficulty identifying important ideas in a reading passage and constructing an internal topic structure representation of the text information. Rather than use the strategic skills required to produce an adequate summary or the meaning of the whole text, they made sentence-by-sentence decisions determined by the position of information and by what was important to them (Winograd, cited in Seidenberg, 1989).
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