Adult inferencing in making meaning of written text

Sharon Denise Bell-Parker, Fordham University


This study examined and described the products and processes that college readers used as they interacted with text. Ten subjects were selected and their scores on the Descriptive Tests of Language Skills were used to distinguish them as high scorers and low scorers. Subjects were observed as they read a passage from a college-level textbook and discussed what they understood. All verbal reports were audiotaped and transcribed.^ Analysis of the data resulted in the formation of three major hypotheses, namely: (1) It is hypothesized that students' reading of college text passages involves two concerns: conceptual content and procedural strategies. (2) It is hypothesized that high scorers' reading of text is distinguished by the high frequency of abstractions and their utilization of skimming and evaluating. (3) It is hypothesized that low scorers' reading of text is distinguished by the high frequency of literal interpretations.^ Conceptual content of readers' responses was categorized as representations and evaluations. Representations consisted of explanations, instantiations, and abstractions. Procedural strategies were categorized as comprehension, evaluation, and prediction. Comprehension consisted of paraphrasing, summarizing, supplementing, abstracting, skimming, and noting text organization. Evaluation was identified as evaluating text credibility and clarity, evaluating text significance, and evaluating appropriateness of subject's inferences. Prediction was realized as revision and confusion. Comprehension strategies were used by both high scorers and low scorers more frequently than other strategies. High scorers produced more abstractions than low scorers. Only high scorers skimmed over the text material and evaluated text clarity. In addition, it was found that high scorers are more likely to change their evaluations of the text. The majority of low scorers' responses consisted of literal interpretations.^ The study suggests that high scorers use different kinds of information to make sense of text. It is recommended that low scorers practice abstracting. Establishing criteria to evaluate text is a strategy that may help readers. It is also suggested that think aloud procedures can be a useful teaching and testing tool that brings reading processes to the surface and allows teachers to give readers immediate feedback. ^

Subject Area

Educational tests & measurements|Teacher education|Reading instruction|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Bell-Parker, Sharon Denise, "Adult inferencing in making meaning of written text" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9226417.