Session S40 (Tuesday, 9:30am, Thomas 215)

P381: Using novel methods to investigate how the cognitive processes involved in reading affect undergraduate students’ comprehension of a general chemistry text.

Kelly Neiles (Catholic University of America, USA)

There is concern in the scientific community that students are falling behind in their scientific achievement.  Increasing students’ reading comprehension of scientific text may be one of the components involved in students’ science achievement.  To investigate students’ reading comprehension this study examined the effects of reader characteristics, namely, students’ logical reasoning, factual chemistry knowledge, working memory capacity, and schema of chemistry concepts, on reading comprehension.  Students completed tasks that measured the reader characteristic and reading comprehension variables.  Some variables were measured using novel methods to investigate different cognitive processes.  These included eye tracking to investigate students’ ability to access the meanings of words and a computer program (Pathfinder) to investigate students’ schema of chemistry concepts.  The results suggest that providing students with background information on chemistry concepts prior to having them read the text may result in better understanding and more effective incorporation of the chemistry concepts into their schema.

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