EFFECTS OF TRAINING IN METACOGNITIVE STRATEGIES ON STUDENTS ACHIEVEMENT AND INTEREST IN READING COMPREHENSION

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ABSTRACT

This study determined the efficacy of training in metacognitive strategies in reading comprehension. It also examined the differential effect of metacognitive strategies on the achievement and interest of male and female students in reading comprehension. Four research questions and six null hypotheses guided the study. The design of the study was a pretest posttest control group design. The sample consisted 297 SSS II students in four schools in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State. Data for the study were collected with two instruments, reading comprehension achievement test and reading comprehension interest scale. The instruments were validated by experts in Educational Psychology and Measurement and Evaluation.   The research questions were answered using mean and standard deviation, while the hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance using a 2 –way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). Results from the study revealed that students exposed to training in metacognitive strategies achieved higher and showed greater interest in reading comprehension than those not exposed. Also that gender has no significant influence in reading comprehension achievement and interest of students. However, the study revealed no significant interaction effect of gender and training in reading comprehension achievement and interest of students. Based on the findings of the study, the researcher recommend a need to expose both teachers and students to training in metacognitive strategies through workshop and seminars. Curriculum planners need to restructure the school curriculum to reflect experiential learning model to enable teachers use strategies in the classroom, to help students become independent learners.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

          The ability to read is very crucial in the life of every learner because it provides the foundation for successful academic achievement. Early in life, children spend time learning to read in order to obtain information from printed materials. The need to read permeates all the school subjects in Sciences, Arts and Technology. For students, therefore, reading is done not only for leisure but to be able to understand information for proper adjustment in the society. In spite of this important position of reading, many students do not possess the necessary skills to read and comprehend (Amao, 2005).

The primary goal of all reading tasks is to have a clear understanding of the theme and meaning of a text or passage. Comprehension may be seen as the ability to understand a speech, task, text or passage. (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of current English: 230). Chinweze (1995) advocated four levels of comprehension – literal level, this involves getting information that is directly stated in the text. The interpretative level deals with getting information that is not directly stated in the text. The third level, which he called the critical level, involves getting judgment of both the value and the validity of the context of the text. Lastly, the creative level involves finding new ways of viewing the ideas, incidents and characters in order to stimulate new thinking.

The success or failure of any learning lies on clear understanding of texts. It is the ability to understand the unique message by the reader that is called comprehension. Thus comprehension is the centre of all learning. If learners are equipped with the basic skills and knowledge for proper comprehension, the much needed scientific and technological advancement of Nigeria will be achieved. But if learners are deficient in the task of comprehension, the much needed scientific and technological advancement of Nigeria will be negatively affected. Thus the need to assist learners acquire reading comprehension skills to improve school achievement. Such comprehension skills include – summarization, self questioning, elaborative rehearsal and concept mapping etc.

 Poor achievement of students in both internal and external examinations in recent times has been a source of worry to both parents, teachers and stakeholders in education. Many reasons have been advanced for the poor performances of our students in examinations (WAEC examiners report 2004) There are also indications that the lecture/expository and rote memorization methods of instruction is predominantly used in teaching students most of the school subjects. (Achor, 2001, Akinsola and Popoola, 2004). This has resulted to lack of understanding or poor comprehension of the facts associated with learning. The researcher’s experience with students in secondary schools indicates that most of the teachers use expository and lecture methods of teaching. These strategies have been observed not to be effective in learning, especially when difficult tasks are involved. (Okoli, 1995). Lecture and  expository methods do not make students active participants in the learning process and do not give the learners opportunities of using their cognitive structures in the process of learning. There is need to expose students to the use of experiential and collaborative methods of learning.       

The desire to improve school achievement through more effective learning strategies has led to the increasing awareness in recent years of the important roles of learners in the process of learning. Research in the area of learning has attempted to provide evidence for understanding how learners learn. Thus, there is a shift from the perception of what the teacher does in the learning process, to what the learner does. Instead of being viewed as passive recipients of information supplied by teachers, learners are perceived as active participants in the knowledge acquisition process (Winnie, 1997).  

Some cognitive psychologists believe that students should be seen as active participatants in the learning process. They see learners:

 “as active regulators of their behaviours in the pursuit of learning in an independent, active and deliberate manner, such students are seen as effective in management of their learning experience, they are self–motivated, independent and meta-cognitively active in the process of learning” (Zimmerman, 1990:10).

The concept of training in metacognitive strategies can be properly viewed in relation to the term metacognition. Metacognition is a term associated with (Flavell, 1979). Ormord,(2006) defined metacognition as one’s  knowledge and beliefs about one’s own cognitive processes and one’s resulting attempts to regulate those cognitive processes to maximize learning and memory. It is generally seen as the activity of monitoring and controlling one’s cognition. Some others describe it as what we know about our cognitive processes and how we use these processes in order to learn and remember (Schraw and Dennis 1994).

Schraw and Moshman (1998) conceptualized metacognition into two major components: metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to knowledge of cognition such as knowledge of skills and strategies that work best for the learner, and how and when to use such skills and strategies in this work metacognition is the ability of students to learn on their own while learning. They will also develop the ability of understanding text and passages they read with least difficulty. Metacognitive regulation refers to activities that control one’s thinking and learning such as planning, monitoring comprehension and evaluation. Metacognition has been found to be important in learning and is a strong predictor of academic success (Dunning, Johnson, Herlinger and krunger 2003) Also students with good metacognition demonstrate good academic performance compared to students with poor metacognition. The effective use of metacognition has been shown to predict learning performance (Pintrich and DeGroot, 1990). This creates the need to expose students to training in metacognitive strategy. The choice of training in metacognitive strategy is laudable because the training appears comprehensive enough to meet the need of a wide range of learning tasks of students. Pavio (1980) has asserted that “Metacognition often takes the form of strategies”.  For example, learners attempting to master a complex topic might choose to use a strategies such as drawing pictures to help them understand the complex inter-relationships of the various components of the topic. Also strategic readers might stop and mentally summarize what they have just read in order to ensure comprehension. They may also use self-questioning to ensure comprehension. Orey (2001) listed some metacognitive strategies to include-use of advance organizers, self-planning, self-monitoring, self- evaluation, self–questioning, concept mapping, elaborative rehearsal and summarization etc.

Self-questioning is a learning strategy that requires learners to generate questions to guide their thinking while reading. Learners generate questions that help them to really think about what they are reading and connect with the authors’ line of thought. In this study the teacher first models to the students how questions are generated to guide thinking, the students will practice self-questioning themselves. Self-questioning places the responsibility for learning on the learners and helps them become independent learners as they take initiative by asking the questions themselves. Mclaughkin and Allen(2002) defined self-questioning strategy as a set of steps that a student follows to generate thinking, predict, investigate and answer questions that satisfy curiosity about what is being read. Research has shown that when students experience explicit instruction in self-questioning, it improves their comprehension of new texts and topics (Hiebert 1998).

Summarization is a learning strategy that requires learners to reduce texts without losing its meaning using clues from the texts. Stotesbury, (1990) defined summarization as the reduction of text to its essential constituents. This means that students must be able to grasp the overall structure of a text before they are able to summarize. During training the teacher model and practice summarization of texts by the use of self-questioning skills that will generate thinking. The students are guided to predict answers to the questions they have generated. These answers serve as summaries to the texts: Research has shown that learners with good summarization skills demonstrate good academic performace (Ehrlinger, 2003). Therefore, if students are trained to sum up texts and condense information, their comprehension competence will be enhanced.

In a related manner self-questioning involves generating questions to guide thinking while reading. Mclaughkin and Alllen (2002) defined self-questioning strategy as a set of steps that a student follows to generate thinking, predict, investigate, and answer questions that satisfy curiosity about what is being read”. Current studies demonstrate that when students experience explicit instruction in comprehension strategies, it improves their comprehension of new texts and topics. (Hiebert1998). Self-questioning is more than just asking question, students must learn to pay attention to textual clues they typically pass by. Self-questioning requires a reader to look for text clues that make them wonder, think about possible meanings, ask questions about the meaning, make predictions, about the answers, read to find the answers, evaluate the answers and their predictions, and reconcile differences between their questions, their predictions about answers, and the information actually provided by the author in the text. (Hillsdale, Hacker, Horgan and Rankow 2000).

Reports from literature revealed that there are lots of benefits derivable from instruction in learning strategies. (Benjamin and Bjork, 2000) The study conducted by Eze, (1999) revealed a positive effect of instruction in self-questioning strategies in Biology achievement of Senior Secondary Students. For this study self-questioning and summarization strategies have been chosen from other metacognitive strategies because they have been found to be effective metacognition strategies. Studies conducted in the use of these strategies in developed countries yielded positive effects (Harris and Quall, 2000, Miciano2000)