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IES Grant

Title: Exploring the Mediators and Moderators of Metacomprehension Accuracy
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Wiley, Jennifer Awardee: University of Illinois, Chicago
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (9/1/2016-8/31/2020) Award Amount: $ 1,394,684
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A160008

Co-Principal Investigator: Thomas Griffin

Purpose: This project will explore postsecondary students' ability to self-monitor reading comprehension and learning processes. This ability, known as metacomprehension, helps learners estimate how well they understood texts and determine when they need to restudy them. Many students, however, do not estimate their comprehension accurately and may not be studying effectively, putting them at greater risk for failing. Previous research has found that metacomprehension skills can be taught, but it is not clear whether all students benefit equally. Those who may struggle academically or with reading, in particular, may not benefit as much as those who have stronger skills. Thus, this study will explore postsecondary students' metacomprehension skills and the malleability of these skills, paying particular attention to students who fall below college-readiness standards (e.g., developmental education students) and other at-risk groups.

Project Activities: Researchers will conduct a series of exploratory studies using first-year students enrolled in psychology classes. These studies use small experimental designs to vary the type and amount of instruction students receive to see if these manipulations correlate with different levels of performance and whether subgroups of students respond differently.

Products: Products include both peer-reviewed publications and a revised theory of change on the role of metacomprehension for postsecondary achievement, which may lead to the development of interventions (e.g., curricula) or metacomprehension assessments.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research site is a large, urban Illinois university with a high rate of at-risk students (e.g., low-income, non-native English speaking, first-generation, and under-prepared students).

Sample: Approximately 960 first-year undergraduate students will participate in this study.

Intervention: When studying, postsecondary students need to monitor whether they understood what they have read and determine when they need to restudy materials. This ability to monitor and regulate one's study (i.e., self-regulation) depends on metacomprehension skills (i.e., the ability to reflect on one's comprehension and understanding). Many factors influence students' metacomprehension and self-regulation skills including their general skills (e.g., reading ability) and knowledge, their knowledge of different study strategies, and their beliefs about their comprehension. Various instructional practices may build students' metacognition and self-regulation skill. For example, if students use causal maps (i.e., drawings that depict the causal connections across elements in a text), they may have a better sense of whether they understood the conceptual information in a text. Similarly, when students attempt to explain a text after reading it, they can more accurately determine how well they comprehended it. Both of these practices are generative activities, meaning the students must actively engage to produce meaning, and such activities may help students reflect better on their cognitive and comprehension experiences than less active approaches. However, these practices may not work as well for some students, especially those who struggle to read or have less experience reading for conceptual knowledge rather than reading to remember specific facts or details.

Research Design and Methods: In a 2-phase design, the researchers will determine whether student metacogntive and self-regulatory performance are affected by specific manipulations and whether these manipulations correlate with better performance. In both phases, students complete baseline measures (reading and metacomprehension assessments and study-skill inventories) during the first 2 weeks of classes, followed by the manipulations and a post-test. Phase 1 has two studies over two semesters: causal mapping (study 1) and explanation (study 2). In each study, students complete four 1-hour instructional units. In unit one, all students receive basic instruction in the study's focus area (i.e., causal mapping or explanation). In units 2 and 3, treatment students receive additional instructions on reading for comprehension in science and the importance of metacognitive monitoring during reading respectively. In Unit 4, all students predict their test performance and take tests on the texts used during the instructional sessions. Phase 2 has one study that focuses on self-regulation. The research team will use whichever manipulation proved most beneficial in Phase 1 and will further vary whether students make explicit judgements about their comprehension prior to restudying (i.e., the self-regulation manipulation).

Control Condition: In Phase 1 and in the Phase 2 instruction control group, students in the control group receive only the basic instruction in the focus of the study (i.e., causal mapping or explanation). In the Phase 2 judgment control group, students will not be asked to explicitly judge how well they understood what they read prior to restudying materials.

Key Measures: The researchers will use multiple-choice inference-based questions about the target text to determine students' comprehension and will use the Metacognitive Awareness Inventory to collect data on students' metacognition skills. For potential mediators, the research team will use open-ended responses to questions about students' cue use during judgments, comprehension monitoring strategies and study beliefs, and beliefs about the nature of comprehension. The researchers will also collect student characteristic data, including measures of working memory capacity, basic reading comprehension (e.g., Nelson Denny and the Index of Science Reading Awareness) and demographics (e.g., age, gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, English learner status) and academic history (e.g., ACT, high school attended and grades, community college attendance, and previous instruction in study skills).

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use factor analysis (e.g., ordinal variable) to identify patterns and relevant subgroups as well as potential mediators. The research team will also use bias-corrected bootstrapping techniques for evaluating models of mediation and moderation.


Books and Book Chapters

Griffin, T. D., Mielicki, M. K., & Wiley, J. (2019). Improving students' metacomprehension accuracy. In J. Dunlosky & K. Rawson (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Cognition and Education (pp. 619-646). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Wiley, J., Jaeger, A. J., & Griffin, T. D. (2018). Effects of instructional conditions on comprehension from multiple sources in history and science. In J. L. G. Braasch, I. Bråten, & M. T. McCrudden (Eds.) Handbook of Multiple Source Use (pp. 341-361). Routledge. Full text

Wiley, J. & Guerrero, T. (2018). Prose comprehension beyond the page. In K. Millis, J. Magliano, D. Long, and K. Wiemer, (Eds.) Deep Comprehension: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Understanding, Enhancing, and Measuring Comprehension (pp. 3-15). New York, NY, Routledge.

Wolfe, M. & Griffin, T.D. (2017). Beliefs and discourse processing. In M. F. Schober, D. N. Rapp, and M. A. Britt (Eds.), Handbook of Discourse Processes, 2nd ed. (pp. 295-314). Taylor & Francis –Routledge. Full text

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Griffin, T. D., Wiley, J., & Thiede, K. W. (2019). The effects of comprehension-test expectancies on metacomprehension accuracy. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45 (6), 1066-1092.

Wiley, J., Jaeger, A. J., Taylor, A. R., & Griffin, T. D. (2018). When analogies harm: The effects of analogies on metacomprehension. Learning and Instruction, 55, 113-123.


Guerrero, T. A. & Wiley, J. (2018). Effects of text availability and reasoning processes on test performance. In Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1745-1750). Madison, WI: Cognitive Science Society.

Guerrero, T.A. & Wiley, J. (2019). Using "idealized peers" for automated evaluation of student understanding in an introductory psychology course. Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIED), Chicago, IL.