Influences of stimulating tasks on reading motivation and comprehension
Influences of stimulating tasks on reading motivation and comprehension
July 4, 2022
Purpose and Research Question:
For this paper, I have chosen an article written by Guthrie, Wigfield, Humenick, Perencevich, & Barbosa (2006). The tile of this article is “ Influences of stimulating tasks on reading motivation and comprehension” which was published in The Journal of Educational Research in 2006. This article deals with stimulating tasks and their influence on reading motivation among the students. The motivation for choosing this article stems from the two important factors; one was the use of quantitative research method and the second was the use of educational research that is directly related to students learning process. In the following sections, I will critically review the article, the use of research method and its advantages and disadvantages.
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Motivation is an important factor for stimulating students to enhance their learning. The expanding body of research has been highlighting the importance of motivation which plays a crucial role in improving students learning across different sets of their studies Aarnoutse & Schellings, 2003; Ainley,2006; Baker & Scher, 2002; Cameron, Pierce, Banko, & Gear,2005). All these researchers have examined the role of motivation in different ways. However, most of the studies have examined the effect of motivation on students’ learning through experimental research using hands-on activities to spark interest among the students under observation.
In order to investigate the impact of motivation on stimulating students’ learning activities, the authors (Guthrie et al (2006) assumed that “students who experience more interest-based reading episodes will have a greater increase in reading comprehension than will students who experience fewer interest-based reading episodes.” (Guthrie et al, 2006, p. 235).
Population and Sample
The article under review is also an attempt in the same way which utilized stimulating tasks, such as hands-on science observations and experiments, to increase situational interest. For this purpose, the Guthrie et al (2006) conducted a researcher in which 98 students in Grade 3 of an elementary school in a mid-Atlantic state participated. The researchers located these students in four classrooms of two Title 1 schools; 53% were boys and 47% were girls. The students’ ethnicity was 53% Caucasian, 24% African American, 6% Asian, 6% Hispanic, and 11% other. Eighteen percent qualified for special education, and 3% were enrolled in English-as-a-second language classes.
Data Collection Procedures
While utilizing the hands-on activities research design, Guthrie et al (2006) engaged two groups of teachers to provide stimulation to the students under investigation. Two teachers from a group provided a high number of stimulating tasks related to reading whereas the other two teachers presented a low number of stimulating tasks related to reading.
The instrument used was the observation of the students in control group as well as the other group under investigation. This study was based on observation and experiment in which the performance of two experiment and control groups of student participants was observed. The teachers in both the groups imparted learning instructions and the researchers observed the outcome of the instructions on both the groups. The results of this study indicate “an indirect effect of number of stimulating tasks on reading comprehension but no direct effect of number of stimulating tasks on students’ reading motivation.” (p. 242).
Reflection on the article
The impact of assessment on motivation for learning has received ample consideration and education scholars have offered diverse opinions about its effectiveness for motivating students to enhance their learning. Proponents of authentic assessment recognize that different audiences need different forms of feedback. The performance testing deals with the knowledge of facts, but ignores other important components of learning. Performance assessment attempts to chronicle level of interest, motivation, effort, learning style, perseverance, and transfer of learning to times and places outside the school setting. Performance testing may or may not be aligned with the curriculum being taught and, once a test has been taken and sent off for scoring, it is “out of sight, out of mind.” Often, results come back too late to inform classroom decisions. Performance assessment is an integral part of the curriculum being taught and involves repeated reflection.
Whether one considers the impact of traditional classroom assessment practices on the students or the ways they have been affected by standardized testing, it becomes readily apparent that there is a growing concern that traditional assessment practices have been detrimental to students. Educators are beginning to realize that they have been caught up in an accountability system which measured what was easy to measure – discrete, low level skills instead of complex intellectual performance (Valencia, 1991; Wiggins, 1991). Ultimately, what was assessed determined in large part what was taught, and both elementary and secondary curricula came to be driven largely by standardized tests. As a result, students and their parents have come to accept an incomplete view of achievement and of what it means to be an educated person (Eisner, 1991; Gardner & Hatch, 1989).
Gardner (1983) pointed out that educators need to be much broader about what they assess and much more flexible about how they assess it. Assessments should recognize the complex, long term, non-linear nature of learning; they should respect the cultural backgrounds, varied learning styles, and individual differences among learners; and they should assess multiple intelligences rather than relying solely on the measuring of linguistic and logico-mathematical capabilities. Assessment and evaluation should be integral parts of instruction, interwoven with it so intimately as to sometimes become unobtrusive (Wiggins, 1991). At its best, assessment should be something that students do for themselves (or in concert with interested others) to improve their own learning.
This view of assessment, however, is a far cry from the kinds of assessments that have often been practiced on students in classrooms.
In 1988, Crooks reviewed the literature on student evaluation and found that evaluation impacted students in numerous ways, both positive and negative. On the positive side, he reported that evaluation can sometimes help students consolidate prior knowledge and focus on important aspects of a subject; it can provide corrective feedback and give students a feeling of accomplishment. However, he also reported that there are many ways in which evaluation can affect students negatively (Crooks, 1988). For example, researchers have investigated both the cognitive levels of questions teachers ask and the influence question level has on student learning. The use of higher-level questions enhances interest, development of learning skills, retention, and transfer (Crooks, 1988); but for the most part, teachers in elementary through university level ask questions at Bloom’s lowest (“knowledge”) level – that is, questions that depend on the memorization of facts (Stiggins, Griswold, Green et al., cited in Crooks, 1988).
Marton and Saljo found that students tend to use either deep or surface approaches to their learning. Deep approaches involve an active search for meaning and underlying principles and the connecting of ideas; surface level approaches involve memorizing facts as if they have no relation to each other (1976a). Many students study primarily to do well on examinations; if they perceive that the teacher expects them to memorize facts in order to do well, they are willing to memorize, even when they recognize that this approach interferes with understanding the subject (1976b).
Crooks (1988) stated that several researchers in the studies he reviewed differentiated between task goals and ego goals. The definition of a task goal is that it has clear criteria for success; students working toward task goals believe that they are responsible for their own success and that the result is not preordained. Ego goals, on the other hand, depend on doing better than someone else. Crooks (1988) concluded that if all students are to be encouraged to learn, conditions that favor task goals over ego goals are desirable. Norm-referencing discourages weaker students and discourages students from helping each other.
Several studies have shown that students with high test anxiety do much better on the same cognitive tasks under less stressful conditions (Hill, 1984; Hill & Wigfield, 1984). Hill and Wigfield recommend that students be given very generous time limits, that tasks are given that allow for success by all students, and that letter grades not be given in elementary school. Schunk (1984, 1985) recommends that evaluation emphasize performance rather than task engagement; that credit be given for quality of work, not merely for handing it in; and that feedback involve informing students of their progress toward mastery, not comparison with other students.
Too often, students in classrooms are teacher-, grade-, and test regulated rather than self-regulated; they graduate as a ritual rather than because they are motivated to learn; and they work independently instead of in cooperative groups. Too often, a subject is “covered” and teacher and class move on instead of ·students having repeated opportunities for attaining standards; time limits are neither flexible nor generous; and requirements for success and test content are kept secret rather than being given to students at the outset. If the discrepancy between optimal evaluation conditions and what actually occurs in many classrooms is as wide as it appears, it is not difficult to see how classroom evaluation practices may be harming students. How performance assessment impacts students learning has contributed to our educational problems as well.
According to Stiggins, even those who have been trained in assessment are ill-prepared with respect to assessment concepts and procedures needed to address the ongoing assessment demands of the classroom. He also says that traditionally, assessment training has been based on a very narrow definition of assessment that has failed historically to meet the needs of teachers.
It has been only comparatively recently that the concept of testing as a means to evaluate student progress has been called into question. Concurrently, there is an increasing call for educational research that is more qualitative in nature and that is done by educational practitioners taking into consideration the complexity of the classroom situation (Gibboney, 1989; Maier, 1991). A third, rather anomalous recent development has been the concurrent rise of two seemingly contradictory thrusts: the increase in standardized testing and the alternative assessment movement.
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There are basically two categories of research methods: qualitative and quantitative. Denzin and Lincoln (2000) described qualitative research as an interpretive or naturalistic approach that cross-cuts other disciplines and subject matter. Qualitative research includes several forms of inquiry for explaining and understanding phenomena (Merriam, 1998). Further exploration of this mode of inquiry led van Maanen (1979) to define qualitative research as an “interpretive technique which seeks to describe, decode, translate, and otherwise come to terms with the meaning, not the frequency, of certain . . . phenomena” (p. 9). On the other hand, quantitative method is mostly used where there is a large data to be analyzed. However, in educational research, mostly experiment type of research is conducted in which students are grouped into control and experiment groups and an observation is made of both the groups about the learning outcome.
Creswell defines a paradigm as “a basic set of beliefs or assumptions that guide their inquiries” (Creswell, 1998, p. 74). He goes on to state that these assumptions are related to the nature of reality, the relationship of the researcher to that being researched, the role of values in a study, and the process of research. Research in education is a disciplined attempt to address questions or solve problems through the collection and analysis of primary data for the purpose of description, explanation, generalization and prediction (Anderson, 1990). Teacher research must involve disciplined inquiry (Shulman, 1997), which means it is intentional and systematic. The article under review by Gutheir (2006) also fits in this definition as the research conducted by Guthrie et al (2006) was an action research in the sense that the researchers involved their research population to engage in the experiment activity while the researchers keenly observed them. Thus, the research method adopted for this study seems reasonable and effective due to the fact that in education research all researchers have a philosophical or theoretical perspective that they bring to their study. These lenses range from broad perspectives to ideological stance, to more narrowly defined “theories” (Flinders & Mills, 1993).
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