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Background Knowledge

Prepared by Nicole Strangman and Tracey Hall
National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum
Introduction | Definition | Applications Across Curriculum Areas | !idence for ffecti!eness |
Conclusion | "esources on the Internet | "eferences | Citation | Do#nload $ptions
Students are constantly confronted #ith ne# information% particularly once they progress
to the upper elementary grades and transition from &learning to read' to &reading to
learn' (Chall% )*+,-. To read to learn effecti!ely students need to integrate ne# material
into their e/isting 0no#ledge base% construct ne# understanding% and adapt e/isting
conceptions and beliefs as needed. Proficiency at these tas0s is essential to literacy
(Da!is 1 2ine0% )*+*3 S4uire% )*+,3 2eisberg% )*++-. Ho#e!er% students #ho lac0
sufficient bac0ground 0no#ledge or are unable to acti!ate this 0no#ledge may struggle
to access% participate% and progress throughout the general curriculum% #here reading to
learn is a prere4uisite for success.
Teachers can facilitate their students5 literacy success by helping them to build and
acti!ate bac0ground 0no#ledge. The purpose of this article is to introduce the topic of
bac0ground 0no#ledge and identify effecti!e% research6supported instructional
approaches for its de!elopment and acti!ation. After defining the term bac0ground
0no#ledge% #e identify bac0ground 0no#ledge instructional approaches and compare
their reported effecti!eness based on a re!ie# of the 76)8 research literature bet#een
)*+9 and 899,. :or further information% lists of 2eb resources and referenced research
articles are pro!ided at the end of the article.
There is an e/tensi!e terminology to describe different 0inds of 0no#ledge. Consistency
in the use of these terms is a recogni;ed problem3 subtle and dramatic differences e/ist
bet#een different people5s definitions of the same term (Ale/ander% Schallert% 1 Hare%
)**)3 Dochy 1 Ale/ander% )**<-. The terms bac0ground 0no#ledge and prior
0no#ledge are generally used interchangeably. :or e/ample% Ste!ens ()*+9- defines
bac0ground 0no#ledge 4uite simply as &=#hat one already 0no#s about a sub>ect=
(p.)<)-.' ?iemans and Simons5 ()**@- definition of bac0ground 0no#ledge is slightly
more comple/% &=(bac0ground 0no#ledge is- all 0no#ledge learners ha!e #hen
entering a learning en!ironment that is potentially rele!ant for ac4uiring ne# 0no#ledge
(p.@-.' Dochy 1 Ale/ander ()**<- pro!ide a more elaborate definition% describing prior
0no#ledge as the #hole of a person5s 0no#ledge% including e/plicit and tacit 0no#ledge%
metacogniti!e and conceptual 0no#ledge. This definition is 4uite similar to Schallert5s
()*+8- definition. Thus% #hile scholars5 definitions of these t#o terms are often #orded
differently% they typically describe the same basic concept.
Prior 0no#ledge and bac0ground 0no#ledge are themsel!es parent terms for many
more specific 0no#ledge dimensions such as conceptual 0no#ledge and metacogniti!e
0no#ledge. Sub>ect matter 0no#ledge% strategy 0no#ledge% personal 0no#ledge% and
self60no#ledge are all speciali;ed forms of prior 0no#ledgeAbac0ground 0no#ledge. The
research studies selected and re!ie#ed for this article targeted the parent concepts prior
0no#ledgeAbac0ground 0no#ledge for study% and in discussing these studies and
throughout the remainder of this article% these t#o terms are used interchangeably.
Application Across Curriculum Areas
?y far the most fre4uent curriculum application of interest for studies of bac0ground
0no#ledge is content6area reading% #ith reading comprehension and recall being the
most fre4uently e!aluated learning measures. All but one study in our re!ie#
in!estigated the impact of bac0ground 0no#ledge or acti!ation of bac0ground 0no#ledge
on reading comprehension andAor recall3 the e/ception #as a study that loo0ed for an
impact on #riting performance. The o!er#helming ma>ority of studies e/plored outcomes
relating to the reading of e/pository te/t% #ith only a fe# focusing on narrati!e te/t. The
range of curriculum sub>ect areas targeted for in!estigation #as fairly narro#% including
science% social studies% and reading. It is #orth emphasi;ing that in spite of this relati!ely
narro# curriculum area focus% it is li0ely that findings for these curriculum areas
generali;e to other areas of the curriculum #here reading informational te/t is also an
important acti!ity.
Evidence for Effectiveness as a Learning Enhancement
Prior 0no#ledge has a large influence on student performance% e/plaining up to +)B of
the !ariance in posttest scores (Dochy% Segers% 1 ?uehl% )***-. And there is a #ell
established correlation bet#een prior 0no#ledge and reading comprehension (Canger%
)*+D3 Cong% 2inograd% 1 ?ridget% )*+*3 Ste!ens% )*+9-. Irrespecti!e of students5
reading ability% high prior 0no#ledge of a sub>ect area or 0ey !ocabulary for a te/t often
means higher scores on reading comprehension measures (Canger% )*+D3 Cong et al.%
)*+*3 Ste!ens% )*+9-. In addition% high correlations ha!e been found bet#een prior
0no#ledge and speed and accuracy of study beha!ior (re!ie#ed in (Dochy et al.% )***-
as #ell as student interest in a topic (Tobias% )**D-. Thus% prior 0no#ledge is associated
#ith beneficial academic beha!iors and higher academic performance.
It is tempting to conclude from obser!ations such as these that prior 0no#ledge
promotes better learning and higher performance% but different research methods are
needed to establish such a causal relationship. In the sections belo# #e consider
research findings that spea0 directly to the ability of prior 0no#ledge to influence
academic outcomes. In the first section #e discuss research findings from studies that
ha!e in!estigated instructional approaches for building students5 prior 0no#ledge. In the
second section #e discuss findings from research studies that ha!e in!estigated
instructional approaches for helping students acti!ate prior 0no#ledge. In the course of
these discussions #e identify instructional approaches that the research indicates can
effecti!ely support students5 use of bac0ground 0no#ledge and impro!e their academic
Evidence for Effectiveness of Strategies for Building Prior Knowledge
Direct instruction on bac0ground 0no#ledge can significantly impro!e students5
comprehension of rele!ant reading material (Dole% Ealencia% Greer% 1 2ardrop% )**)3
Gra!es% Coo0e% 1 Caberge% )*+,3 Fc7eo#n% ?ec0% Sinatra% 1 Co/terman% )**83
Ste!ens% )*+8-. :or e/ample% in one study% students #ho recei!ed direct instruction on
rele!ant bac0ground 0no#ledge before reading an e/pository te/t demonstrated
significantly greater reading comprehension than peers #ho recei!ed direct instruction
on an irrele!ant topic area (Ste!ens% )*+8-. Dole et al.% ()**)- e/tended these findings%
sho#ing that teaching students important bac0ground ideas for an e/pository or
narrati!e te/t led to significantly greater performance on comprehension 4uestions than
did no prereading bac0ground 0no#ledge instruction. ?y building students5 bac0ground
0no#ledge teachers might also help to counteract the detrimental effects that incoherent
or poorly organi;ed te/ts ha!e on comprehension (Fc7eo#n et al.% )**8-.
Direct instruction on bac0ground 0no#ledge can be embedded into an approach such as
pre!ie#ing% #here students are presented #ith introductory material before they read
specific te/ts. Such introductory material may include important bac0ground information
such as definitions of difficult !ocabulary% translations of foreign phrases% and
e/planations of difficult concepts. :or e/ample% in a study by Gra!es et al.% ()*+,-%
students #ere gi!en pre!ie#s of narrati!e te/ts that included a plot synopsis% descripti!e
list of characters% and definitions of difficult #ords in the story. Thus% students #ere gi!en
both a frame#or0 for understanding the stories and important bac0ground information.
Students not only li0ed the pre!ie#s but made significant impro!ements in both story
comprehension and recall.
As an alternati!e to a direct instruction approach% teachers might consider one more
indirect% such as immersing students in field e/periences through #hich they can absorb
bac0ground 0no#ledge more independently. 7olde#yn ()**+- in!estigated an approach
that combined reading trade boo0s% >ournal 0eeping% fields trips that put students in
authentic e/periences related to their reading% and follo#6up Canguage /perience
acti!ities. Gualitati!e obser!ations in 7olde#yn5s report reflect positi!ely on the
techni4ue. Ho#e!er% the data is too preliminary to clearly establish the effecti!eness of
the approach or clarify #hich of its elements are most !aluable.
?y building students5 bac0ground 0no#ledge% teachers may also be able to indirectly
influence other aspects of academic performance such as #riting. :or e/ample% Da!is 1
2ine0 ()*+*- found that students felt better prepared to #rite a research paper #hen
they too0 part beforehand in an e/tended course of building bac0ground 0no#ledge
through indi!idual research and in6class sharing and discussion. 2hile this study does
not sho# any direct impact on #riting 4uality% it might be e/pected that impro!ing
students5 sense of preparedness might raise their engagement andAor moti!ation%
translating into better performance.
Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Strategies for Building Prior
The studies discussed abo!e pro!ide corroborating support for the effecti!eness of
direct instruction on bac0ground 0no#ledge as a means to build reading comprehension.
The degree of effecti!eness of this approach could presumably be influenced by a
!ariety of factors including student characteristics% duration of instruction% grade le!el%
and ability le!el. None of these factors ha!e been routinely in!estigated% and the studies
#e ha!e re!ie#ed do not identify any of them as notably influential. $n the contrary%
these studies support the effecti!eness of direct instruction on bac0ground 0no#ledge
under a range of conditions. "esearch by Ste!ens ()*+8-% Dole et al.% ()**)- and
Gra!es et al.% ()*+,- demonstrates effecti!eness for grades fi!e% se!en% eight% and ten
and #ith students #ith poor reading ability as #ell as students from &a!erage classes.'
And after controlling for reading ability in the sample% Ste!ens ()*+8- still reported a
significant effect of prior 0no#ledge building on reading comprehension. Thus% this
approach appears to be effecti!e for a range of grade le!els and student populations.
Additional research is needed to e/tend these findings and in!estigate more
comprehensi!ely the factors that might influence the success of direct instruction of
bac0ground 0no#ledge.
Evidence for Effectiveness of Strategies for Activating Prior Knowledge
There is a good amount of research in!estigating the effecti!eness of instructional
strategies for acti!ating prior 0no#ledge as a means to support students5 reading
comprehension. As a #hole% the research base pro!ides good e!idence to support the
use of prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies3 prior 0no#ledge acti!ation is regarded as a
research6!alidated approach for impro!ing children5s memory and comprehension of te/t
(Pressley% Hohnson% Symons% FcGoldric0% 1 7urita% )*+*-. There are a !ariety of
strategies for helping students to acti!ate prior 0no#ledge. 2e ha!e di!ided this re!ie#
into si/ sections% each addressing a different approach.
Prior knowledge activation through reflection and recording.$ne of the simplest methods
for helping students acti!ate bac0ground 0no#ledge is to prompt them to bring to mind
and state% #rite do#n% or other#ise record #hat they 0no#. As0ing students to ans#er a
simple 4uestion such as &2hat do I already 0no# about this topic' orally or on paper is a
straightfor#ard #ay to do this. The reported effecti!eness of this simple strategy is 4uite
good% #ith fi!e studies (Carr 1 Thompson% )**@3 Peec0% !an den ?osch% 1 7reupeling%
)*+83 Smith% "eadence% 1 Al!ermann% )*+,3 Spires 1 Donley% )**+3 2alra!en 1
"eitsma% )**,- in our re!ie# reporting some beneficial impact relati!e to control
treatments% and >ust one study (Al!ermann% Smith% 1 "eadence% )*+<- reporting only no
benefit or a negati!e impact. "eading comprehension #as the most fre4uently measured
outcome in these studies% but some studies also report beneficial effects on te/t recall
(Peec0 et al.% )*+83 Smith et al.% )*+,-.
Acti!ating rele!ant prior 0no#ledge by e/pressing in some form #hat one already 0no#s
about a topic has been demonstrated to be more effecti!e than acti!ating irrele!ant
bac0ground 0no#ledge (Peec0 et al.% )*+8- or not acti!ating any bac0ground 0no#ledge
(Carr et al.% )**@3 Smith et al.% )*+,3 Spires et al.% )**+- at impro!ing te/t recall andAor
comprehension. And Spires 1 Donley ()**+- found that acti!ating bac0ground
0no#ledge through reflection and oral elaboration during te/t reading #as a more
effecti!e strategy than ta0ing notes on main ideas and their corresponding details.
2alra!en 1 "eitsma ()**,- found e4ually good effecti!eness #hen embedding
instruction in prior 0no#ledge acti!ation #ithin a "eciprocal Teaching approach. Strategy
instruction that incorporated direct instruction in prior 0no#ledge acti!ation promoted
student reading comprehension more effecti!ely than the regular program of instruction.
Ho#e!er% "eciprocal Teaching #ithout instruction in prior 0no#ledge acti!ation #as no
less effecti!e.
A #ea0ness in this research base is the failure to characteri;e the duration of the
learning effects% #ith most studies presenting only a minimal delay bet#een instruction
and testing. $nly Spires 1 Donley ()**+- and 2alra!en 1 "eitsma ()**,- loo0ed for
effects at delayed time points% but both found that reading comprehension gains #ere
maintained for roughly D #ee0s after instruction% suggesting that restatement of prior
0no#ledge can produce a lasting impact.
There are important subtleties to some of these findings indicating an influence by
!arious factors on the effecti!eness of this prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategy. Some
studies ha!e sho#n% for e/ample% that this strategy has a different impact on reading
comprehension depending on the te/t features (Carr et al.% )**@3 Peec0 et al.% )*+8-3
familiar !s. unfamiliar te/t% consistent !s. inconsistent #ith prior 0no#ledge-. This issue is
an important one and #ill be discussed in the :actors Influencing ffecti!eness section
Prior knowledge activation through interactive discussion.2ith the general approach
discussed in the pre!ious session% students% once prompted% record prior 0no#ledge #ith
little or no discussion or other stimulation from teacher or peers. An alternati!e to this is
an interacti!e approach% #here student reflection on prior 0no#ledge is supplemented
#ith interacti!e discussion. :or e/ample% Dole et al.% ()**)- designed an inter!ention
#here students reflected on and recorded their prior 0no#ledge on a topic and then
engaged in a group discussion of the topic% during #hich the teacher encouraged them
to contribute 0no#ledge to complete a semantic map. This approach #as determined to
be more effecti!e at promoting reading comprehension than no prereading instruction.
Ho#e!er% it #as less effecti!e than direct instruction on the information needed to
understand the te/t. Thus% it is not clear that an interacti!e approach #ould ha!e any
ad!antage o!er direct instruction.
The robustness of interacti!e approaches is not al#ays !ery impressi!e. :or e/ample%
findings from Schmidt 1 Patel ()*+I- suggest that topic area no!ices may significantly
benefit from this 0ind of approach% #hereas sub>ect area e/perts may not. In this study%
students acti!ated bac0ground 0no#ledge by gathering in small groups to analy;e a
problem and then proposing and discussing solutions. "esults of a study by Canger
()*+D- #ere inconsistent% sho#ing no reliable ad!antage to participating in a prereading
acti!ity called the Pre "eading Plan (P"P-% #here students are trained to free
associate on 0ey !ocabulary #ords% reflect on these associations% discuss their
associations as a group% and then reformulate their 0no#ledge based on the discussion.
Students5 performance on comprehension tests #as not consistently better than that of
peers #ho engaged in general discussion of the topic before reading or too0 part in no
prereading acti!ity.
Thus% consistently solid e!idence to support the use of an interacti!e approach to prior
0no#ledge acti!ation is lac0ing. ?ased on the studies #e re!ie#ed% it is not clear that the
added effort in!ol!ed in such an approach impro!es upon the results of direct instruction
in bac0ground 0no#ledge. Ho#e!er% it is also possible that the apparent ad!antage of
direct instruction in bac0ground 0no#ledge o!er an interacti!e approach deri!es only
from its greater familiarity to students (Dole et al.% )**)-. This is a possibility that merits
in!estigation. :urther research is also needed to better determine the conditions under
#hich an interacti!e approach is beneficial (e.g.% does it differently affect students #ith
different le!els of sub>ect area e/pertise-. It should also be noted that there are many
possibilities for designing an interacti!e approach% and #e ha!e touched on only a fe# of
Prior knowledge activation through answering questions. "esearch by "o#e 1 "ayford
()*+I- suggests that teachers can facilitate student acti!ation of bac0ground 0no#ledge
by ha!ing them ans#er 4uestions before andAor #hile they read ne# material. They
analy;ed student responses to a series of , prereading purpose setting 4uestions.
Students #ere sho#n , purpose 4uestions from the Fetropolitan Achie!ement Test and
as0ed to ma0e predictions about the passage and end6of6passage 4uestions that might
go #ith each 4uestion. Students #ere also as0ed to put themsel!es in the test6ta0er5s
position and describe #hat they #ould try to find out #hile reading the passage. Analysis
of the students5 responses suggested that students #ere able to acti!ate bac0ground
0no#ledge under these conditions% an indication that purpose 4uestions may be helpful
cues for acti!ating bac0ground 0no#ledge.
/tending this #or0% studies ha!e in!estigated #hether acti!ating bac0ground
0no#ledge through 4uestion ans#ering impro!es reading comprehension. It has been
theori;ed that generating ans#ers to 4uestions facilitates deep processing and high le!el
0no#ledge construction% #hich in turn facilitate learning (7ing% )**D3 Pressley et al.%
)**8-. /perimental findings support this theory. :irst% 7ing ()**D- found that a guided
reciprocal peer 4uestioning and ans#ering approach% #here students #ere trained to
study ne# material by as0ing and ans#ering each other5s self6generated 4uestions%
promoted significantly better lesson comprehension than untrained 4uestioning.
Interesting% 7ing5s data sho#ed that 4uestioning focused on lin0ing prior 0no#ledge #ith
lesson material led to more maintained high performance than did 4uestioning focused
on ma0ing connections #ithin the lesson material. Thus% instruction in peer 4uestioning
and e/plaining through connecting te/t to prior 0no#ledge may be a particularly effecti!e
4uestion ans#ering strategy for impro!ing comprehension.
Pflaum% Pascarella% Auer% Augustyn and ?os#ic0 ()*+8- in!estigated a some#hat
different 4uestion6based method for prior 0no#ledge acti!ation #here students #ere
as0ed% before and during reading% fi!e 4uestions about the topic in the te/t. The
4uestions prompted students to define the topic% ma0e associations bet#een the topic
and their bac0ground 0no#ledge% identify the role and location of the topic matter% and
comment on the topic5s importance. Data suggest that this strategy may be effecti!e for
some readers and not others% depending on their reading ability.
A re!ie# by Pressley et al.% ()**8- builds a strong case for the hypothesis that 4uestion
ans#ering approaches can increase learning. After re!ie#ing a large number of
research studies% they conclude that as0ing students to generate e/planatory ans#ers to
4uestions about content to be learned can facilitate learning of the material. The
re!ie#ed approaches included guided reciprocal peer 4uestioning% as0ing students to
respond to pre4uestions accompanying te/t% elaborati!e interrogation #here students
generate elaborations in response to #hy 4uestions about to6be6learned facts% and
as0ing students to generate e/planatory ans#ers to 4uestions as part of group learning.
Pressley et al.% ()**8- emphasi;ed that not all 4uestioning inter!entions are effecti!e3
the most effecti!e 4uestioning re4uires deep processing of the to6be6learned material
and relating it to prior 0no#ledge.
The KWL strategy for activating prior knowledge. $gle ()*+@- de!eloped a strategy for
helping students access important bac0ground information before reading nonfiction.
The 7626C strategy (accessing #hat I 7no#% determining #hat I 2ant to find out%
recalling #hat I did Cearn- combines se!eral elements of approaches discussed abo!e.
:or the first t#o steps of 7626C% students and the teacher engage in oral discussion.
They begin by reflecting on their 0no#ledge about a topic% brainstorming a group list of
ideas about the topic% and identifying categories of information. Ne/t the teacher helps
highlight gaps and inconsistencies in students5 0no#ledge and students create indi!idual
lists of things that they #ant to learn about the topic or 4uestions that they #ant
ans#ered about the topic. In the last step of the strategy% students read ne# material
and share #hat they ha!e learned. Informal e!aluations indicate that the 7626C strategy
increases the retention of read material and impro!es students5 ability to ma0e
connections among different categories of information as #ell as their enthusiasm for
reading nonfiction ($gle% )*+@-% The approach has been recommended by teaching
professionals (?ean% )**<3 Carr 1 $gle% )*+I3 :isher% :rey% 1 2illiams% 8998-% but it has
not been rigorously tested.
CONTCT!"# co$puter!assisted activation of prior knowledge. The approaches
discussed so far in!ol!ed traditional materials such as paper and pencil and face6to6face
discussion. ?iemans 1 Simons ()**@- in!estigated a computer6assisted approach for
acti!ating conceptions during reading% called C$NTACT68. C$NTACT68 assists
students in searching for preconceptions% comparing and contrasting these
preconceptions #ith ne# information% and formulating% applying% and e!aluating ne#
conceptions. Students #or0ing #ith C$NTACT68 de!eloped higher 4uality conceptions
than students in a no acti!ation group% and this ad!antage #as still apparent at a 86
month follo#6up. Fore recent research suggests that the 0ey component of C$NTACT68
is comparing and contrasting ne# and e/isting 0no#ledge% #hich most accounts for
students5 successful performance on lesson tests (?iemans% Deel% 1 Simons% 899)-.
These findings reinforce the idea that integrating ne# information #ith prior 0no#ledge is
a !aluable learning strategy and suggests that a computer6assisted approach can be as
successful as a teacher6directed one.
Prior knowledge activation through interpretation of topic!related pictures. Croll% Idol6
Faestas% Heal 1 Pearson ()*+@- describe a uni4ue approach that combines building
and acti!ating prior 0no#ledge. The approach entails training students to interpret topic6
related pictures. T#o students trained in this strategy significantly impro!ed reading
comprehension for both pictures and te/t. These data suggest this to be an effecti!e
approach% but the limited sample of t#o students and lac0 of a control group ma0e any
such claims% tentati!e and preliminary at best. Foreo!er% there has been no subse4uent
research to help !alidate these findings.
Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Strategies to Activate Prior
%rade level. Students across a #ide range of grade le!els% spanning first to tenth grade%
are represented in the studies #e ha!e discussed% although most studies sampled
students to#ard the middle of this range% in grades fi!e and si/. Coo0ing across these
studies there is no apparent relationship bet#een study outcome and the grade le!el
sampled. $n the contrary% our re!ie# suggests that prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies
can be effecti!e #ith elementary% middle school% and >unior high students.
&tudent characteristics. Students bring to a te/t different le!els of topic area familiarity%
and this is understandably a factor of interest #hen in!estigating the effecti!eness of
prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies. T#o studies in!estigated the possibility that
students5 le!el of familiarity #ith the topic matter might influence the effecti!eness of
prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies. Carr 1 Thompson ()**@- disco!ered a different
pattern of results depending on the familiarity of the te/t topic to the student participants.
2hen reading unfamiliar passages% students that #ere as0ed to state their prior
0no#ledge on the te/t topic significantly outperformed students #ho #ere not as0ed to
state prior 0no#ledge. Ho#e!er% #hen reading familiar passages% only a subset of the
student population% age6matched students #ithout disabilities% benefited from prior
0no#ledge acti!ation. Similarly% Schmidt 1 Patel ()*+I- found that no!ices and e/perts
on passage sub>ect matter responded differently to a prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategy.
No!ices demonstrated better performance after ha!ing ta0en part in interacti!e prior
0no#ledge acti!ation than after ha!ing acti!ated irrele!ant prior 0no#ledge% #hile
e/perts sho#ed no benefit. These findings both suggest that students #ith more limited
0no#ledge of the topic area may more consistently benefit from prior 0no#ledge
acti!ation strategies.
$f course% readers may be familiar #ith a topic area J e!en ha!e considerable
0no#ledge of it J #ithout that 0no#ledge being accurate. A 4uestion of interest is
#hether or not prior 0no#ledge acti!ation is ad!antageous #hen students are acti!ating
false preconceptions. The consensus from the three studies #e re!ie#ed on this topic is
that prior 0no#ledge acti!ation may in fact interfere #ith learning #hen learners are
confronted #ith material at odds #ith their preconceptions. 2hen te/t is inconsistent #ith
prior 0no#ledge% students that mobili;e this prior 0no#ledge perform significantly more
poorly on tests of recall and comprehension than do peers #ho do not acti!ate prior
0no#ledge (Al!ermann et al.% )*+<3 Smith et al.% )*+,-. Cipson ()*+8- commented that
students tend to disregard passage information inconsistent #ith their prior 0no#ledge
and therefore construct more accurate meaning #hen lac0ing prior 0no#ledge !ersus
#hen ha!ing inaccurate prior 0no#ledge. Although Peec0 et al.% ()*+8- reported a
beneficial effect of acti!ating incongruous prior 0no#ledge% they did not randomi;e group
assignment% raising the possibility that pre6e/isting differences in recall ability confound
their findings. Foreo!er% a more recent re!ie# article% Pressley% Hohnson% Symons%
FcGoldric0 1 7urita ()*+*- minimi;es the importance of these findings by reporting that
there are more studies sho#ing inconsistent prior 0no#ledge to be detrimental than
2eisberg ()*++- claims that students #ith disabilities% as a group% demonstrate a
considerable o!er reliance on prior 0no#ledge #hen te/t material is inconsistent #ith
their preconceptions. This raises another issue% #hich is #hether a student5s educational
group or disability status influences the effecti!eness of prior 0no#ledge acti!ation
strategies. Fany of the studies in our re!ie# included students from different educational
groups% most often students #ith different reading le!els (?iemans et al.% 899)3 Canger%
)*+D3 Smith et al.% )*+,3 Spires et al.% )**+- but also students #ith and #ithout learning
disabilities (Carr et al.% )**@3 Croll% Idol6Faestas% Heal% 1 Pearson% )*+@3 Pflaum%
Pascarella% Auer% Augustyn% 1 ?os#ic0% )*+83 2alra!en et al.% )**,-. A fe# of these
studies analy;ed the data in a #ay that #ould re!eal differences in responsi!eness to
prior 0no#ledge acti!ation across educational groups (Carr et al.% )**@3 Canger% )*+D3
Pflaum et al.% )*+8-. Their findings suggest that the effecti!eness of prior 0no#ledge
acti!ation strategies may in fact differ across different student populations.
:or e/ample% Pflaum et al.% ()*+8- found that &same age normal' students significantly
benefited from prior 0no#ledge acti!ation% #hereas &young age6matched normal'
students and students #ith disabilities did not (instead these students sho#ed significant
impro!ement #ith sentence aids-. And Canger ()*+D- found that the P"eP prior
0no#ledge acti!ation acti!ities #ere not effecti!e for belo#6le!el readers. $n6le!el
readers demonstrated the greatest and most consistent benefit% and abo!e6le!el readers
a less consistent benefit. Canger5s findings also suggest that the impact of prior
0no#ledge acti!ation on students from different educational groups may depend in part
on the topic familiarity. Thus% a range of data suggests that it is !ery important to
consider learners5 uni4ue strengths% #ea0nesses% and preferences #hen selecting
instructional approaches.
Te't characteristics. The studies #e re!ie#ed used both e/pository and narrati!e te/ts
to in!estigate the impact of prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies on learning3 ho#e!er%
the !ast ma>ority used only e/pository te/ts. These studies pro!ide strong e!idence that
prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies are effecti!e at impro!ing comprehension of
informational te/ts. Although !ery fe# studies in!estigated the use of these strategies
#hen reading narrati!es% t#o studies by Carr 1 Thompson ()**@- and Dole et al.% ()**)-
suggest that prior 0no#ledge reflection and recording and interacti!e prior 0no#ledge
acti!ation% respecti!ely% may be beneficial #hen #or0ing #ith this 0ind of te/t. Additional
research may help to clarify any differences in effecti!eness of prior 0no#ledge
acti!ation #hen #or0ing #ith different 0inds of te/t.
Supporting students as they read to learn is an important instructional goal throughout
the curriculum. "esearch studies ha!e clearly established the importance of bac0ground
0no#ledge to reading and understanding te/ts. "esearch studies also pro!ide direct
e!idence that instructional strategies designed to support the accumulation and
acti!ation of prior 0no#ledge can significantly impro!e student reading comprehension of
informational te/ts. These studies suggest that by implementing instructional strategies
to support students5 bac0ground 0no#ledge% teachers can better support students5
content area learning.
The best6supported approaches emerging from this re!ie# are direct instruction on
bac0ground 0no#ledge% student reflection on and recording of bac0ground 0no#ledge%
and acti!ation of bac0ground 0no#ledge through 4uestioning. Ho#e!er% there are other
promising approaches% including the computer6supported approach C$NTACT68
(?iemans 1 Simons% )**@-% #hich merit additional research. The impact of such
approaches on general literacy is another issue #orth further study. Although a fe#
studies support the effecti!eness of bac0ground 0no#ledge instruction for impro!ing
student comprehension of narrati!e te/ts% more research is needed.
Another important conclusion that emerges from the research is the importance of
considering student characteristics% including their familiarity #ith a topic area and the
accuracy of their prior 0no#ledge% in selecting approaches to support the acti!ation of
bac0ground 0no#ledge. :or e/ample% students #ho hold inaccurate preconceptions may
not be helped by prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategies. :or these students% instruction
that clarifies andAor e/pands prior 0no#ledge may be important. ?y effecti!ely selecting
and implementing instructional strategies to build andAor acti!ate bac0ground
0no#ledge% teachers can better support all students on their #ay to#ard reading to learn
and succeeding throughout the curriculum.
Resources on the Internet
• General Background Knowledge •
Prior Knowledge,9)AScienceLPeterAprior.htmMtop
This 2eb site pro!ides definitions of prior 0no#ledge and ma>or conceptual perspecti!es
on the roles of prior 0no#ledge in learning. The importance of prior 0no#ledge is
e/plained #ith respect to the concepts suggested by some cogniti!e theorists% such as
Piaget% Eygots0y% and 2oolfor0. The last section of this site connects the concepts of
prior 0no#ledge to a case study described in the home page of the site.
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory - Critical Issue Building on Prior
Knowledge and !eaning"ul #tudent Conte$ts%Cultures
This 2eb site illustrates ho# teachers can more effecti!ely support students5 learning
through building and acti!ating prior 0no#ledge. This site houses information about
instructional issues% goals% and methods related to the use of students5 prior 0no#ledge
in classroom. This site also pro!ides a series of lin0s to sites #ith definitions of 0ey terms
and ideas suggested by e/perts in the field. Three cases are pro!ided as successful
&'#' (e)art*ent o" Education - +eaching ,ur -oungest . Guide "or Preschool
+eachers/ 0 Child Care 0 1a*ily Pro2iders' Building Children3s Background
Knowledge and +hinking #kills!A###.ed.go!AofficesA$SAteachingouryo
This 2eb site pro!ides an instructional guide for caregi!ers and teachers to help
de!elop young children5s bac0ground 0no#ledge and thin0ing s0ills. This site proposes
concrete ideas to enrich and e/pand children5s 0no#ledge building through the uses of
!arious educational resources% such as boo0s% discourse% classroom guests% and filed
trips. The PD: !ersion of this guide is a!ailable throughK
4ueensland Go2ern*ent 5 +he New Basics Pro6ect%Producti2e Pedagogies
Background Knowledge
The Ne# ?asics Pro>ect ta0es place in Gueensland% Australia% and aims to impro!e
students5 learning outcomes through dealing #ith students5 identities% ne# economies
and #or0places% ne# technologies% di!erse communities and comple/ cultures. This
2eb site illustrates instructional practices #ith different degrees of connectedness
bet#een students5 linguistic% cultural% #orld 0no#ledge and e/perience and the topics%
s0ills and competencies in lessons. This site pri!ides definitions of high6connected and
lo#6connected instructional practices% the continuum to describe different degrees of
connectedness% and an e/ample of a high6connected instruction in a grade @ classroom.
• Background Knowledge and +echnology •
Cinda C. Hoseph (8998-. Fultimedia Schools% CyberbeeK ?uilding Prior 7no#ledge
This #ebsite contains an e/ample of successful classroom instruction #hich
incorporated multimedia technology into e!ery aspect of the lesson in order to foster the
students5 use of their bac0ground 0no#ledge and o!erall learning. This site describes
the social studies instruction conducted by a fourth grade classroom teacher #ho used
the multimedia technology% such as Ficrosoft 2ordADigital Photographs% Po#erPoint%
2ebsite% and Ficrosoft Publisher in order to acti!ate and build students bac0ground
0no#ledge. The lesson plan is pro!ided #ith other resources and lin0s regarding the
topic% Hac0ie "obinson.
• Background Knowledge and Reading •
1arrell/ 7ack 5 8hat E$actly is 9Prior Knowledge:;
This 2eb site contains an article #ritten by Hac0 :arrell% #ho is an nglish teacher at
Ne#bury Par0 High School in California (his home page is In
this article% :arrell e/plains the role of prior 0no#ledge in learning and per!asi!e
misconceptions that students should not be e/posed to ne# concepts unless they ha!e
some prior 0no#ledge of the topic. "ead :irst is an instruction method through #hich the
students read silently and independently before others% including their teachers% and
control their thin0ing processes. :errell describes ho# "ead :irst is aligned to California
"eading standards for middle school age students.
#usan (iGiaco*o 5 Reading Instruction <andbook .cti2ating Personal
This 2eb site pro!ides information of using students5 prior 0no#ledge as one of the
reading comprehension strategies. Susan DiGiacomo emphasi;es student5s reali;ation
of the importance of their prior 0no#ledge to their reading processes and pro!ides some
instructional techni4ues that teachers can employ in order to acti!ate students5 prior
0no#ledge% including pre6reading acti!ities. This site is lin0ed to a 2eb site #ith more
information of !arious reading comprehension strategies and to DiGiacomo5s home
+LL =+he Library Lady> Education #er2ices 5 Building a Network o" Prior
The focus of TCC ducation Ser!ices is to assist educators and parents of emergent
readers to initiate the de!elopment of teaching methods and ne# curriculum. This 2eb
site highlights the importance of prior 0no#ledge to child5s reading de!elopment based
on the notion of neural reorgani;ation and restructuring of ne# information. This sites
also pro!ides some ideas of shortening child5s assimilation period through using
acti!ities #hich build a net#or0 of prior 0no#ledge% such as introducing the sub>ect
topics prior to actual instructions and connecting the sub>ect topics to child5s personal
#chool I*)ro2e*ent in !aryland - .cti2ating Prior knowledge
This 2eb site illustrates the importance of prior 0no#ledge in reading comprehension.
This site pro!ides the finding that &teachers #ho acti!ate rele!ant prior 0no#ledge
promote learning by enhancing comprehension of te/t% especially #hen information in
the te/t is compatible #ith prior 0no#ledge' and the rational behind this finding. Ideas of
incorporating this finding into reading instructions are briefly e/plained. The reference
section introduces t#o boo0s and an article on this topic although they are not !ery
recent resources.
Christen/ 8illia* L' and !ur)hy/ +ho*as 7' =?@@?>' Increasing Co*)rehension by
.cti2ating Prior Knowledge' ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading/ English/ and
The authors reports three ma>or topics of researchK ()- building readers5 bac0ground
0no#ledge3 (8- acti!ating readers5 e/isting bac0ground 0no#ledge and attention focusing
?:$" reading3 and (,- guiding readers5 DN"ING reading and pro!iding re!ie#
A:T" reading. The authors also suggested three ma>or instructional inter!entions for
students #ho ha!e little prior 0no#ledgeK ()- teach !ocabulary as a prereading step3 (8-
pro!ide e/periences3 and (,- introduce a conceptual frame#or0 that #ill enable students
to build an appropriate bac0ground for themsel!es% as #ell as classroom implications
based on teachers5 understandings of the le!els of students5 prior 0no#ledge.
Bank #tate College o" Education - Literacy Guide !aking Connection between
New and Known In"or*ation
This 2eb site pro!ides information of effecti!e literacy teaching% #hich builds students5
learning of ne# concepts on their di!erse areas of e/isting 0no#ledge of language%
#orld% and ho# the system of prints #or0s. The sites supports the concept that acti!ating
prior 0no#ledge before reading is an important step to foster comprehension for both
e/perienced and beginner readers.
.cti2ating Prior Knowledge &sing Background Knowledge as Learning #trategy
Acti!ating prior 0no#ledge is introduced as one of the reading comprehension strategies
in this 2eb site. The site pro!ides the definition of the strategy% research findings related
to the field% and some e/amples of strategy use in teaching% including the 7626C
strategy% prediction% the PQesANo...2hyR It "eminds Fe of...P strategy% and thin06aloud.
Fore information about these strategies can be found the listed lin0s pro!ided at the end
of the site.
Inter2ention Central - Prior Knowledge .cti2ating the 3Known3
This 2eb site pro!ides information on ho# to use te/t prediction strategies in order to
acti!ate students5 prior 0no#ledge and to increase their le!els of reading
comprehension. The information includes materials% preparation% and a step6by6step
e/planation of the procedure #hen the te/t prediction strategy inter!entions are
implemented in classroom.
Lewin/ Larry =ABBC>' Practical Ideas "or I*)ro2ing Instruction Connecting to Prior
Carry Ce#in% an educational consultant% e/plains that tapping in students5 prior
0no#ledge is one of the reading comprehension strategies and that students need
assistance to use this strategy successfully. This site pro!ides teachers a template of
&open mind' to brainstorm their students5 prior 0no#ledge before reading.
8ilkes/ Glenda - <ow Prior Knowledge I*)acts New Learning
This 2eb site is a part of the site created by Nni!ersity Teaching Center at the Nni!ersity
of Ari;ona. 2il0es e/plains that college students5 prior 0no#ledge often interfere #ith
their accurate learning of ne# concepts due to their misconceptions and learning
strategies. 2il0es states "oss5s categori;ation of fi!e possible te/t6related learning
strategies used by college students and suggests that identification of students5 prior
0no#ledge is an important step for teachers to find out misconceptions and to a!oid the
negati!e impact of prior 0no#ledge to ne# learning.
<oughton !i""lin Education Place 5 Learner Dariables to Consider in !eeting
Indi2idual Needs Prior Knowledge
This 2eb site contains a short e/planation of use of prior 0no#ledge as one of the
important !ariables #hich affect students5 learning. $ther !ariables introduced in this site
include language and cultural bac0ground% rate of learning% amount of instructional time%
and interests and attitudes. The site pro!ides a suggestion that prior 0no#ledge is a 0ey
for literacy learning and constructing meaning for all students.
Coiro/ 7ulie =ABBB>' Literacy In"or*ation and +echnology in Education 5 4ualitati2e
Reading In2entory .ssess*ent o" Prior Knowledge
Coiro introduces a reading in!entory to assess students5 familiarityAprior 0no#ledge to
the topics of reading and to acti!ate students5 prior 0no#ledge. This 2eb site includes
descriptions of this in!entory in terms of preparation% purpose% procedures% scoring% and
a guide to analy;e the results. This in!entory has t#o sections of tas0s% namely
conceptual 4uestions tas0s and prediction tas0s.
• Background Knowledge and #cience Instruction •
7ere*y Roschelle =?@@E>' Learning in Interacti2e En2iron*ents Prior Knowledge
and New E$)erience
The focus of this article is on de!eloping ne# perspecti!es of the roles of prior
0no#ledge in learning. Considering the parado/ical !ie#s of prior 0no#ledge (prior
0no#ledge as an important element for constructi!e learning process and prior
0no#ledge as a conflicting element to learning process-. "oschelle re!ie#s research
findings% ma>or theories% and empirical instructional methods and pro!ides scientific
interpretations of learning% ma>or perspecti!es on the process of learning as conceptual
change% and successful learning e/periences that foster learners5 reasoning s0ills. This
site is a part of the Fuseum ducation site% this site #as de!eloped by Institute of
In4uiry% #hich focuses on in4uiry6based science instruction.
Biology Lessons "or Pros)ecti2e and Practicing +eachers - Instructional
Philoso)hy Prior Knowledge
This 2eb site is designed for prospecti!e and practicing elementary school teachers to
impro!e their teaching in science and biology. This site pro!ides four philosophical
lessons for teachersK ()- to elicit students5 prior 0no#ledge as a starting point% (8- to
present familiar topics% (,- identify student5s prior 0no#ledge% and (D- identify students5
alternati!e conceptions #hich may impede their learning ne# concepts.
7ason Pro6ect ,nline 5 Learning .nalysis Background Knowledge
Hason pro>ect proposes a multimedia and interdisciplinary approach to impro!e teaching
and learning science. This 2eb site introduces the uses of digital labs (multimedia
game- and !ideo as possible instructional tools to build students5 bac0ground 0no#ledge
in science.
Pearson Prentice Education Inc' 5 &nit F <u*an Biology Reading #trategy ?
&sing Prior Knowledge
This 2eb site pro!ides definitions of prior 0no#ledge and an e/planation of ho# readers5
prior 0no#ledge can support their understanding the meanings of the te/ts. This sites
also pro!ides ideas of acti!ities #hich facilitate acti!ating prior 0no#ledge before
reading. There is a lin0 at the end to sites #here the !ie#ers can try the acti!ity using a
science te/tboo0.
Ale/ander% P.A.% Schallert% D.C. 1 Hare% E.C. ()**)-. Coming to termsK ho# researchers
in learning and literacy tal0 about 0no#ledge. (eview of )ducational (esearch# *+(,-%
The authors of in this article pro!ide a conceptual structure for organi;ing and relating
terms that relate to select 0no#ledge constructs. The author begins #ith a re!ie# of the
literature. A structure is built to clarify terms% and the associations among them% and to
articulate definitional statements for these 0no#ledge terms. In conclusion% the authors
also consider the significance of this theoretical tas0 for future research in cognition and
in learning.
Al!ermann% D..% Smith% C.C. 1 "eadence% H.. ()*+<-. Prior 0no#ledge acti!ation and
the comprehension of compatible and incompatible te/t. (eading (esearch ,uarterly#
"-(D-% D896D,@.
The authors studied the effect of prior 0no#ledge acti!ation on a!erage readers5
comprehension of compatible and incompatible te/t. Their findings support the concept
that prior 0no#ledge may interfere #ith% rather than facilitate% reading comprehension
under certain conditions. Those students% #ho acti!ated rele!ant bac0ground 0no#ledge
prior to reading te/t% #ere found to ha!e limited their ideas #ith their e/isting 0no#ledge
structures rather their pre!ious 0no#ledge and e/perience to o!erride the te/t
information. There #as no difference in performance bet#een acti!ators and non6
acti!ators on compatible te/t. The authors pro!ide some instructional recommendations
for changing inaccurate bac0ground 0no#ledge.
?ean% T.2. ()**<-. Strategies for enhancing te/t comprehension in middle school.
(eading . Writing ,uarterly/ Overco$ing Learning 0ifficulties# ++(8-% )@,6)I).
The authors present a case study for a middle school setting in #hich teaching
strategies related to !ocabulary% comprehension and #riting are employed as a part of
the curriculum. The strategies include3 dialog >ournals% the !erbal6!isual strategy for
!ocabulary% 7626C charts% and graphic organi;ers.
?iemans% H.H.A 1 Simons% P.".% ()**@-. Contact68K A computer6assisted instructional
strategy for promoting conceptual change. 1nstructional &cience# "2# )<I6)I@.
The authors in ac0no#ledging the importance of acti!ating or teaching prior 0no#ledge
prepared a study in #hich they could pro!ide instructional guidance to assist in this
process. The Contact% then C$ntact68 computer assisted instructional programs #ere
de!ised then studied #ith fifth and si/th6grade participants. Author5s results indicated
that students in the Contact68 group achie!ed higher performance and generali;ed
information better than students in the Contact in other condition.
?iemans% H.H.A.% Deel% $.". 1 Simons% P.". (899)-. Differences bet#een successful and
less successful students #hile #or0ing #ith the C$NTACT68 strategy. Learning and
1nstruction# ++% 8@<68+8.
This article describes a study in!estigating the use of a computer assisted sys program
to employ a strategy to help acti!ate students5 prior 0no#ledge in preparation for no!el
instruction. C$NTACT68% the computer6assisted acti!ation system% #as e!aluated in 8
e/perimental conditions and found to be most effecti!e #ith the inclusion of a compare
contrast strategy session regarding preconceptions about a topic #ith ne# information.
The authors pro!ide information for educational practices as #ell as future research.
Carr% . 1 $gle% D. ()*+I-. 7626C PlusK a strategy for comprehension and
summari;ation. 3ournal of (eading# 4-(I-% @8@6@,).
These researchers supplemented the traditional 7626C (0no#% #ant to 0no#% learned-
strategy #ith mapping and summari;ation strategies for use in content area te/ts. Their
findings indicate that these additions to the 7626C strategy #ere helpful for remedial and
non6remedial high school students.
Carr% S.C. 1 Thompson% ?. ()**@-. The effects of prior 0no#ledge and schema acti!ation
strategies on the inferential reading comprehension of children #ith and #ithout learning
disabilities. Learning 0isa5ility ,uarterly# +6% D+6@).
The purpose of this study #as to compare the reading comprehension abilities of
students #ith learning disabilities as #ell as age peers and reading le!el peers. The
topics included familiar and unfamiliar reading passages to re!ie# the use of prior
0no#ledge under !arying conditions. The researchers concluded that all children
benefited from e/perimenter acti!ation of prior 0no#ledge% but that the benefits #ere
important for children #ith CD% and #hen the topics #ere different.
CAST. Teaching )very &tudent.(n.d-. "etrie!ed September 9,% 899,% from
Chall% H.S. ()*+,-. &tages of reading develop$ent. Ne# Qor0K FcGra#6Hill.
Croll% E.H.% Idol6Faestas% C.% Heal% C. 1 Pearson% P.D. ()*+@-. ?ridging the
comprehension gap #ith picturesK Center for the Study of "eading. Nni!ersity of Illinois
at Nrbana Champagne.
This study focuses on t#o special education students from a middle school #ho #ere
taught to interpret pictures that #ere related to reading passages by topic. The authors
used a time series design to e!aluate this method of acti!ating prior 0no#ledge.
:ollo#ing )9 three6day se4uences of pre6picture reading% picture student% and post6
picture reading% the students reading comprehension significantly impro!ed in many
areas. The authors credit the students5 increases in the amount of accessibility of prior
0no#ledge to the systematic study of the pictures.
Da!is% S.H. 1 2ine0% H. ()*+*-. Impro!ing e/pository #riting by increasing bac0ground
0no#ledge. 3ournal of (eading% December.
The authors report their findings of the &fit' of bac0ground 0no#ledge in the e/pository
#riting process for se!enth grade gifted students. Implementing thoughtful research to
increase bac0ground 0no#ledge on a chosen research topics impro!ed students5
e/pository #riting.
Dochy% :.% Segers% F.% 1 ?uehl% F.F. ()***-. The relation bet#een assessment
practices and outcomes of studiesK the case of research on prior 0no#ledge. (eview of
)ducational (esearch# *6(8-% )D<6)+@.
The authors conducted a research re!ie# to o!er!ie# prior 0no#ledge and its role in
student performance3 to e/amine the effects of prior 0no#ledge in relation to the method
of assessment. They re!ie#ed)+, articles% boo0s% papers and research reports related
to prior 0no#ledge. They reported that prior 0no#ledge usually had positi!e effects on
students5 performance% the effects !aried by assessment method. In addition% prior
0no#ledge #as more li0ely to ha!e negati!e or no effects on performance #hen
inconsistent assessment measures #ere conducted.
Dochy% :.H. ".C. 1 Ale/ander% P.A. ()**<-. Fapping prior 0no#ledgeK a frame#or0 for
discussion among researchers. )uropean 3ournal of Psychology of )ducation# +-(,-%
This article is a re!ie# for fociK ()- to obser!e numerous problems related #ith usage of
prior 0no#ledge terminology3 (8- to obser!e 0ey dimensions of prior 0no#ledge
referenced mainly by researchers in the field of cogniti!e psychology and artificial
intelligence3 (,- to obser!e a conceptual chart of prior 0no#ledge terminology3 and (D- to
illustrate suggestions for future research and instructional practices. The authors
de!elop the argument to address prior 0no#ledge !ariables in future research.
Dole% H.A.% Ealencia% S.2.% Greer% .A. 1 2ardrop% H.C. ()**)-. ffects of t#o types of
prereading instruction on the comprehension of narrati!e and e/pository te/t. (eading
(esearch ,uarterly# "*(8-% )D86)<*.
In this study% @, fifth6grade N.S. students5 #ere assigned to one of three conditionsK (a-
teacher directed preteaching3 (b- interacti!e preteaching% and3 (c- no preteaching control.
The researchers compared the effects of t#o prereading instructional treatments on
students5 comprehension of narrati!e and e/pository te/ts. The authors found that
pretreatment #as more effecti!e than none and the teacher directed pretreatment had
the most impact on student reading comprehension.
:isher% D.% :rey% N. 1 2illiams% D. (8998-. Se!en literacy strategies that #or0.
)ducational Leadership# *-(,-% I96I,.
A focus on se!en instructional strategies for impro!ing reading and #riting across the
curriculum #ere is reported by the authors of this research. The se!en inter!entions
included3 read alouds% 7626C charts% graphic organi;ers% !ocabulary instruction% #riting
to learn% structured note6ta0ing% and reciprocal teaching.
Gra!es% F.:.% Coo0e% C.C. 1 Caberge% F.H. ()*+,-. ffects of pre!ie#ing difficult short
stories on lo# ability >unior high school studentsS comprehension% recall% and attitudes.
(eading (esearch ,uarterly# +7(,-% 8@868I@.
In this study% ,8 eighth6grade students reading at about the <th grade le!el and D9
se!enth6grade students reading at about the ,rd grade le!el #ere the sub>ects used to
e/plore the effects of pre!ie#ing difficult short stories on students5 comprehension% recall
and attitudes. The authors found that both pre!ie#s considerably impro!ed students5
comprehension of the stories% impro!ing factual and inferential comprehension using a
multiple choice test. Pre!ie#s significantly increased students5 recall of the stories and
their scores on the short6ans#er comprehension test.
7ing% A. ()**D-. Guiding 0no#ledge construction in the classroomK effects of teaching
children ho# to 4uestion and ho# to e/plain. American ducational "esearch Hournal%
,)(8-% ,,+6,@+.
In this study% pairs of Dth and <th graders #ere as0ed to study the material and as0 and
ans#er each others5 self6generated 4uestions in science lessons. In one condition% the
students5 discussion #as guided by 4uestions considered to support connections among
ideas #ithin a lesson. In the second condition% the discussion #as guided by comparable
lesson6based 4uestions and 4uestions proposed to access prior 0no#ledgeAe/perience
and encourage associations bet#een the lesson and that 0no#ledge. The authors found
that students #ho used both lesson 4uestions and access 4uestions out6performed
students in 4uestion only and control groups.
7olde#yn% .A. ()**+-. ?uilding the prior 0no#ledge of disad!antaged first6grade
students through the use of field e/perience. )ducation 8pp. 79:. $gdenK 2eber State
This master5s thesis study focuses on the effects of increasing prior 0no#ledge for an
inner6city school in Northern Ntah. ?ased on research results% the authors concluded
that the use of field e/periences and related acti!ities can broaden prior 0no#ledge%
build schema% and ma0e up e/perimental deficits for first6grade students #ho are at6ris0.
Canger% H.A. ()*+D-. /amining bac0ground 0no#ledge and te/t comprehension.
(eading (esearch ,uarterly# +6(D-% D@+6D+).
The author of this study focuses on e/amining relationships bet#een bac0ground
0no#ledge and passage comprehension% relati!e usefulness of certain !ariations in
measuring a!ailable 0no#ledge% !alue of a bac0ground 0no#ledge measure as applied
to teacher6directed small group pre6reading language and concept organi;er acti!ity%
and the effect of a pre6reading acti!ity on te/t6specific 0no#ledge and on
comprehension. The researcher found that pre6reading acti!ity significantly affects
bac0ground 0no#ledge and this noted impro!ement on student responses to reading
comprehension 4uestions.
Cipson% F.Q. ()*+8-. Cearning ne# information from te/tK the role of prior 0no#ledge and
reading ability. 3ournal of (eading ;ehavior# +2% 8D,68@).
"esearchers e/amined 8+ ,rd grade students% half considered belo# a!erage and the
other half considered a!erage in reading based on standardi;ed achie!ement test
scores. An inter!ention in #hich types of e/plicit !ersus inferential information #as
tested to e!aluate student ac4uisition of ne# information. Their reported findings includeK
(a- prior 0no#ledge #as great factor in reading comprehension for both groups% (b-
ac4uiring ne# information #as higher than correcting old inaccurate information% and (c-
all readers resorted to using te/t to find information% only if prior 0no#ledge #as #ea0.
Cong% S.A.% 2inograd% P.N. 1 ?ridget% C.A. ()*+*-. The effects of reader and te/t
characteristics on imagery reported during and after reading. (eading (esearch
,uarterly# "2(,-% ,<,6,I8.
The authors of this study e/plored ho# the characteristics of reader and te/t affect
readers5 spontaneous production of mental imagery% both during reading and later in
recalling their reading. "eading achie!ement% prior 0no#ledge% !i!idness of mental
imagery% and interest in passages read #ere the reader characteristics measured.
Considering D passage of , types% the researchers concluded that imagery occurred
spontaneously both during and after reading and that the production of imagery by both
reader and te/t characteristics #ere affected. The researchers concluded that the
relationship bet#een mental imagery and reading comprehension is more comple/ than
#as formerly belie!ed.
Fc7eo#n% F.G.% ?ec0% I.C.% Sinatra% G.F. 1 Co/terman% H.A. ()**8-. The relati!e
contribution of prior 0no#ledge and coherent te/t to comprehension. (eading (esearch
,uarterly# "<()-% I+6*,.
The focus of this article #as to present students5 important bac0ground 0no#ledge
embedded in re!ised te/t and test the effects of this 0no#ledge te/t comprehension.
Te/t #ere used in this study from a fifth grade social studies te/tboo0 on or about the
period of the American "e!olution. The results of this study #ere that students #ho read
re!ised te/t recalled notably more material and #ere able to respond to more 4uestions
correctly than those students #ho read original te/t.
$gle% D.F. ()*+@-. 7626CK A teaching model that de!elops acti!e reading of e/pository
te/t. (eading Teacher# 46% <@D6<I9.
This article contains information about a process that assists teachers to become more
recepti!e to students5 0no#ledge and interest #hen reading e/pository material. Prior
0no#ledge is deemed by the author as essential in learning. Here% the author
synthesi;es the benefits of the 7626C strategy to acti!ate learning and understanding of
e/pository te/t.
Peec0% H.% !an den ?osch% A.?. 1 7reupeling% 2.H. ()*+8-. ffect of mobili;ing prior
0no#ledge on learning from te/t. 3ournal of )ducational Psychology# <2(<-% II)6III.
The researchers conducted a study #ith si/ty6eight <th graders #ho studied a )8<6#ord
passage consisting of )+ statements% and after reading% they tried to reproduce the te/t.
The students #ere gi!en a multiple choice test on this content one #ee0 later. Half of the
students mobili;ed rele!ant pree/isting 0no#ledge prior to reading the passage. The
authors found that the mobili;ing of pre6e/isting 0no#ledge facilitated retention of
information inconsistent #ith prior 0no#ledge and did not interfere #ith congruous
Pflaum% S.2.% Pascarella% .T.% Auer% C.% Augustyn% C. 1 ?os#ic0% F. ()*+8-. Differential
effects of four comprehension6facilitating conditions on CD and normal elementary6
school readers. Learning 0isa5ility ,uarterly# 9% )9@6))@.
In this research% ** learning disabled and non6disabled elementary students #ere
studied. ach group #as assigned to one of D comprehension J facilitating conditions
(#ord identification and meaning aids% sentence aids% purpose6setting aids% and prior
0no#ledge aids- to establish their effects on comprehension. Ta0ing into consideration%
age% intelligence% prior reading achie!ement% and pretest comprehension le!els%
sentence aids #ere found to be considerably more effecti!e than prior 0no#ledge for
both learning disabled and e4ually achie!ing younger readers.
Pressley% F.% Hohnson% C.H.% Symons% S.% FcGoldric0% H.A. 1 7urita% H.A. ()*+*-.
Strategies that impro!e childrenSs memory and comprehension of te/t. The )le$entary
&chool 3ournal# 6-()-% ,6,8.
This study focuses on reading comprehension research of summari;ation%
representational6 and mnemonic6imagery% story6grammar% 4uestion6generation%
4uestion6ans#ering% and prior60no#ledge acti!ation of strategies. The authors pro!ide
information on teaching these strategies effecti!ely across the curriculum areas and
consistently #ithin the school day.
Pressley% F.% 2ood% .% 2oloshyn% E..% Fartin% E.% 7ing% A. 1 Fen0e% D. ()**8-.
ncouraging mindful use of prior 0no#ledgeK attempting to construct e/planatory
ans#ers facilitates learning. )ducational Psychologist# "<()-% *)6)9*.
These authors tested the hypothesis that learning is increased #hen students generate
e/planations to not yet learned content information. Se!eral years of correlational
research #ere re!ie#ed and analy;ed in relation to use of e/planatory 4uestions and
prior 0no#ledge to impro!ed content understanding. The 4uestion being% does prior
0no#ledge ser!e as a mediator in no!el learningR The authors noted the lac0 of
research specific to this 4uestion related to e/planatory ans#ers as a means to promote
content understanding by acti!ation of prior 0no#ledge. They note too% the promising
effects for students based on the scant research that has been conducted% and ma0e
thorough recommendations for future research.
"o#e% D.2% 1 "ayford% C. ()*+I-. Acti!ating bac0ground 0no#ledge in reading
comprehension assessment. (eading (esearch ,uarterly# "8(8-% )@96)I@.
The purpose of this study #as to in!estigate readers5 acti!ation of bac0ground
0no#ledge in response to prepassage purpose 4uestions from the reading
comprehension segment of the Fetropolitan Achie!ement Tests ()*+<-. There #ere
three purpose 4uestions from appropriate le!els of the FAT sho#n to ID students from
Grades )% @ and )9. The students #ere as0ed to ma0e predictions about the content of
related passages. The results concluded that a #ide range of students can use purpose
4uestions as cues to acti!ate bac0ground 0no#ledge3 yet% all purpose 4uestions are not
e4ually helpful as cues% and factors such as the topic and amount of information
contained in the purpose 4uestion may be important.
Schallert% D.C. ()*+8-. The significance of 0no#ledgeK a synthesis of research related to
schema theory. In 2. $tto% 1 S. 2hite (ds.-% (eading e'pository prose 8pp. +4!27:.
Ne# Qor0K Academic.
Schmidt% H.G. 1 Patel% E.C. ()*+I-. ffects of prior 0no#ledge acti!ation through small6
group discussion on the processing of science te/t. =eeting of the $erican
)ducational (esearch ssociation. 2ashington% D.C.
These researchers conducted a study #ith ninth and tenth6grade students in science.
Students had differing bac0ground 0no#ledge due to grade e/perience in science.
Student groups discussed a science problem% all indi!iduals studied te/t about the
problem% and #ere then administered a free recall measure. There #as no significant
difference bet#een e/pert and no!ice groups on the free recall measure. 2ith additional
analysis the researchers did find that discussion #ere richer and e/planations more
accurate for the e/pert students than those students #ith less bac0ground 0no#ledge.
Smith% C.C.% "eadence% H.. 1 Al!ermann% D.. ()*+,-. ffects of acti!ating bac0ground
0no#ledge on comprehension of e/pository prose. nnual $eeting of the National
(eading Conference. Austin% TT.
This paper is a technical report presented at the Annual Feeting of the National "eading
Conference. The study e/amined students5 ability to comprehend consistent or
inconsistent te/t #hen acti!ating rele!ant or irrele!ant bac0ground 0no#ledge. Sub>ects
#ho acti!ated prior 0no#ledge and then read consistent te/t comprehended more te/t
information than those in other treatments. In addition% sub>ects that did not acti!ate
rele!ant 0no#ledge but read inconsistent te/t appeared to be more accepting of te/tual
Spires% H.A. 1 Donley% H. ()**+-. Prior 0no#ledge acti!ationK inducing engagement #ith
informational te/ts. 3ournal of )ducational Psychology# 6-(8-% 8D*68@9.
This study focused on students at the high school le!el #ho are e/pected to read
independently but often fail to engage #ith informational te/ts. In addressing this issue% a
prior 0no#ledge acti!ation strategy (P7A- #as taught to *th grade students. These
students #ere encouraged to ma0e spontaneous connections bet#een their personal
0no#ledge and informational te/ts. Those students #ho learned to use the P7A strategy
consistently outperformed students in a main idea (FI- treatment group as #ell as those
in a no6instruction control group on comprehension 4uestions. In addition% a second
study #as conducted to duplicate the operations from the first study% #ith the addition of
an FI6P7A treatment designed to combine both strategies% the results #ere that both the
P7A and the FI6P7A groups performed higher on application6le!el comprehension
4uestions and demonstrated more positi!e attitudes to#ard reading than the other
S4uire% H.". ()*+,-. Composing and comprehendingK t#o sides of the same basic
process. Language rts# *-% <+)6<+*.
S4uire builds the reading and #riting discussion and states that these process6oriented
thin0ing s0ills are interrelated. Additionally% the author pro!ides recommendations to
assist the instructional process for composing and comprehension.
Ste!ens% 7.C. ()*+9-. The effect of bac0ground 0no#ledge on the reading
comprehension of ninth graders. 3ournal of (eading ;ehavior# +"(8-% )<)6)<D.
The researcher in this study e/amined on ninth6grade students5 differences in reading
understanding and acti!ationAinstruction of bac0ground 0no#ledge. Initially% students
#ere assessed on 0no#ledge information% based on this 0no#ledge 4ui;% students read
a high or lo# 0no#ledge topic passage and #ere administered reading comprehension
4uestions. The author concludes a significant difference #as found bet#een conditions.
Those students #ith high prior 0no#ledge demonstrated greater comprehension of the
passages. The authors are !ery enthusiastic about these results and conclude that #hile
additional research is needed% the nurturing of prior 0no#ledge is necessary if reading
#ith understanding is to result.
Ste!ens% 7.C. ()*+8-. Can #e impro!e reading by teaching bac0ground informationR
3ournal of (eading% Hanuary% ,8@6,8*.
In this study% the researcher sought to determine #hether or not direct teaching of
bac0ground 0no#ledge on the topic of instruction #ould benefit students #hen reading
passages on that topic. The research #as conducted #ith tenth grade high school boys
in #hich students #ere randomly assigned to one of t#o conditions% pre6reading
instruction related to the reading topic% and non6rele!ant instruction on another topic.
The authors conclude that instruction prior to reading on te/t6related information
impro!es student reading comprehension. They also pro!ide 4uestions for future
research to aide reading comprehension abilities.
Tobias% S. ()**D-. Interest% prior 0no#ledge% and learning. (eview of )ducational
(esearch# *2()-% ,I6<D.
The authors in this article present importance of studying interest 0no#ledge
relationships and re!ie# research on the relationship bet#een interest and prior
0no#ledge. The authors establish that there is a substantial linear relationship among
interest and prior 0no#ledge based on the model of interest 0no#ledge. They pro!ide an
updated interest60no#ledge model based on a re!ie# of recent research.
2alra!en% F. 1 "eitsma% P. ()**,-. The effect of teaching strategies for reading
comprehension to poor readers and the possible surplus effect of acti!ating prior
0no#ledge. National (eading Conference >ear5ook# 2"% 8D,68<9.
In this research% the authors e/amined students identified #ith se!ere problems in
reading comprehension and the effects of teaching comprehension6fostering strategies.
The strategies selected for this study included those from Palincsar 1 ?ro#n5s reciprocal
teaching3 clarifying the purpose% ma0ing predictions% acti!ating bac0ground 0no#ledge%
using self64uestioning% and summari;ing and interpreting information pro!ided in the te/t
()*+*-. In this treatment and control e/perimental condition research% the authors found
that pupils #ho follo#ed the e/perimental instructions% outperformed the control students
in their use of strategies to acti!ate and increase prior 0no#ledge in no!el reading
2eisberg% ". ()*++-. )*+9sK A change in focus of reading comprehension researchK a
re!ie# of readingAlearning disabilities research based on an interacti!e model of reading.
Learning 0isa5ility ,uarterly# ++% )D*6)<*.
The focus of this article #as to re!ie# reading comprehension research from )*+9 to
)*++ based on the interacti!e model of reading #ith the center of attention on reading
disabilitiesAlearning disabilities. The study in!estigated the influences of readers5 prior
0no#ledge of a topic% te/t structure and tas0 demands% as #ell as metacogniti!e
strategies. The author5s conclude that for reading disabled students5 the benefits of
e/plicit instruction in understanding #hat the assignment is% ho# to use the procedures
properly% and #hy the use of metacogniti!e strategies can help them become a stronger
This content #as de!eloped pursuant to cooperati!e agreement MH,8DH**999D under C:DA
+D.,8DH bet#een CAST and the $ffice of Special ducation Programs% N.S. Department of
ducation. Ho#e!er% the opinions e/pressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or
policy of the N.S. Department of ducation or the $ffice of Special ducation Programs and no
endorsement by that office should be inferred.
Cite this paper as
Strangman% N.% 1 Hall% T. (899D-. ;ackground knowledge. 2a0efield% FAK National
Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. "etrie!ed Uinsert dateV from
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C.#+ D9 Har!ard Fills S4uare (mapK D9 :oundry Street-%
Hands-On Literacy Coaching
By Nancy N. Boyles
Maupin House Publishing
Session One
Understanding Literacy Instruction (Chapters 1-2)

The Literacy Context: Classroom n!ironment and Classroom

#etting the #tage $or Literacy Learning
Guiding Quote:
%&igorous teaching and learning are characteri'ed (y curriculum and instruction
o$ (readth and depth) *here expectations are high $or all students+, (page 1-)
Discussion Questions:
1+ .hat is the %three minute classroom *al/ through0, .hy is it important0
2+ 1o* does room arrangement a$$ect literacy learning0
-+ .hy is e$$ecti!e classroom management important to the learning
2+ .hat do good teachers do to acti!ate (ac/ground /no*ledge0 .hy is this
Workshop Activity:
1+ 3i!ide the participants into six groups and assign each o$ the six groups a
num(er $rom 1-4+ 1a!e each group turn to the study 5uestions on pages
16 and 24+
2+ ach group *ill identi$y the 5uestions that correspond to their group
num(er and read in the chapters to (e a(le to ans*er the 5uestions+
-+ ach group *ill share their study 5uestions and ans*ers *ith the rest o$
the group+ 7articipants should (e prepared to lead the discussion o$ each
5uestion and ans*er+
2+ 3iscuss solutions to any concerns or 5uestions the group may ha!e
regarding the classroom *al/ through) classroom en!ironment) (uilding
(ac/ground) and teaching o(8ecti!es+
Classroom Implementation:
&e!ie* the in$ormation discussed in this session+ 7lan $or implementation o$ the
instructional model gi!en and gather needed materials+ #ur!ey the chapters $or
strategies) acti!ities) and lesson ideas to e$$ecti!ely plan $or instruction+
Looking Ahead:
Loo/ at the chec/list on page 191+ Use the chec/list to identi$y areas needing
impro!ement and to identi$y strengths already in place+ "a/e an appointment to
re!ie* the chec/list in a teacher:coach con$erence prior to the next session+
Session !o
Understanding Literacy Instruction (Chapters --2)

;uilding <no*ledge

Guiding Quote:
%=ood teachers someho* na!igate this la(yrinth o$ possi(ilities and design
applications that are not only connected to the text $or *hole-class or small-group
instruction) (ut di$$erentiated according to indi!idual student needs+, (page 24)
Discussion Questions:
1+ .hat are the three components o$ (uilding /no*ledge0
2+ .hat are the similarities and di$$erences (et*een guided practice and
independent practice0
-+ .hy is it important to re$lect on learning0 1o* can teachers help students
to (e re$lecti!e0
2+ .hat is di$$erentiated instruction0 .hy is it important0
Workshop Activity:
1+ 3i!ide the participants into six groups and assign each o$ the six groups a
num(er $rom 1-4+ 1a!e each group turn to the study 5uestions on pages
16 and 24+
2+ ach group *ill identi$y the 5uestions that correspond to their group
num(er and read in the chapters to (e a(le to ans*er the 5uestions+
-+ ach group *ill share their study 5uestions and ans*ers *ith the rest o$
the group+ 7articipants should (e prepared to lead the discussion o$ each
5uestion and ans*er+
2+ 3iscuss solutions to any concerns or 5uestions the group may ha!e
regarding explaining) modeling) (ridging) guided practice) independent
practice) and re$lection+
Classroom Implementation:
&e!ie* the classroom en!ironment chec/list on page 19> and the classroom
management chec/list on page 19?+ Use the chec/list(s) to identi$y areas
needing impro!ement and areas o$ pro$iciency+ Use the chec/list(s) to determine
strategies and other needs in order to impro!e the literacy en!ironment $or
Looking Ahead:
;e prepared to discuss the challenges and successes o$ *or/ing *ith a literacy
coach+ ncourage teachers to meet *ith the literacy coach and re!ie* the
chec/lists to $acilitate discussion at the next session and to plan $or authentic
Session hree
Understanding Coaching (Chapters @-4)

.hen and 1o* to Inter!ene

The Coach:Teacher 3ynamic
Guiding Quote:
%#ometimes instruction that has (een good enough $or he past t*o decades no
longer ma/es the grade as literacy standards (ecome more stringent, (page >4)
Discussion Questions:
1+ .hat do teachers need to understand a(out literacy content) instruction)
or assessment *hen *or/ing *ith a literacy coach0
2+ 1o* does the coach /no* *hen to inter!ene0
-+ 1o* can the administration in a school support (oth the teacher and the
coach to implement e$$ecti!e inter!entions0
2+ .hat traits or s/ills ma/e a literacy coach e$$ecti!e and help$ul to
Workshop Activity:
1+ 3i!ide the participants into groups or partners+ Assign each group one o$
the thirteen pro(lems and suggested inter!entions $rom chapter @+
2+ 1a!e each group read and discuss their assigned pro(lem identi$ying /ey
points and strategies+ ;e sure to include re$erence to the chec/lists *here
-+ 1a!e each group report on their pro(lem and possi(le inter!entions and
share speci$ic s/ills) lessons) or ideas that *ould (e (ene$icial *hen
implementing a solution+
Classroom Implementation:
ncourage teachers to read a(out the $our types o$ teachers (pages >-->>) and
complete the teacher (eha!ior chart (page ?9)+ ncourage teachers to meet *ith
the literacy coach to complete a coaching plan o$ action (page 192) and loo/ at
their schedules to (egin to address the plan+
Looking Ahead:
;e prepared to discuss the successes and challenges o$ implementing these
ideas and inter!entions+ ncourage teachers to *or/ *ith the literacy coach to
identi$y literacy needs and to de!elop a plan $or *or/ing together+
Session "our
Understanding Coaching (Chapters 6 and >)

7rinciples and 7rotocols o$ $$ecti!e Literacy Coaching

Applying .hat Bou <no*
Guiding Quote:
%.e should continuously analy'e our practice so that ho* *e teach tomorro* is
al*ays a little (etter than ho* *e taught today+, (page ?2)
Discussion Questions:
1+ .hat is the role o$ the administrator in literacy coaching0
2+ 1o* does the coach /no* ho* much time to spend *ith each teacher0
1o* does the coach initiate the interaction0
-+ .hich protocols can (e used immediately to (egin the coaching process0
2+ 1o* does the coach handle a teacher *ho is resistant to the coaching
Workshop Activity:
1+ As a group) re!ie* the instructions a(out the scenarios and application o$
/no*ledge $ound on page 12-+
2+ 3i!ide the participants into three groups+ Assign each group on o$ the
three scenarios $rom chapter >+
-+ 1a!e the groups re!ie* the teaching scenarios and (e a(le to discuss
their $indings and inter!entions *ith the *hole group+ ;e prepared to
ans*er 5uestions and lead the discussion+
2+ 3iscuss the challenges in *or/ing *ith the three scenarios and the
(ene$its to implementing the inter!entions chosen+
Classroom Implementation:
7articipants should plan $or continued re!ie* o$ materials and peer support to
e$$ecti!ely *or/ *ith the literacy coach+ Use chec/lists and strategies $rom the
resource to assist *ith the process+ "aintain acti!e communication (et*een the
literacy coach and the teachers+
Looking Ahead:
&e!ie* the ;i(liography o$ 7ro$essional &esources in the (ac/ o$ the (oo/+
Identi$y desired resources) materials) and literature that are not a!aila(le at your
site and explore $unding sources you can use to ac5uire these resources+
#no!ledge Construction $rocesses
% Introduction & Setting & $ro'lem & heory & Approach & Case Study & Discussion & Conclusion (
% )ome & Contents & *e+erences & Glossary (
This section is concerned *ith the /no*ledge that must (e constructed in participatory
and e!olutionary so$t*are design o$ domain-oriented systems+ Three processes are
singled out as crucial to constructing this /no*ledge: activation o$ existing /no*ledge)
communication (et*een sta/eholders) and envisioning o$ ho* a ne* system *ill change
*or/ practices (see Cigure 2+1)+
"igure ,-.- #ey #no!ledge Construction $rocesses
Activation (rings existing /no*ledge to the $ore$ront (y ma/ing it explicit+
Communication (uilds shared understanding among sta/eholders) and Envisioning (uilds
shared !isions o$ ho* the tradition o$ a *or/ practice should (e changed in the $uture+
The pro(lem $or so$t*are de!elopment is re$ramed in terms o$ these three /ey /no*ledge
construction processes+ This section *ill descri(e the /ey /no*ledge construction
processes and explain *hy they are important as *ell as pro(lematic in the context o$
so$t*are design (see Ta(le 2+1)+
a'le ,-.- Challenges +or #no!ledge Construction $rocesses
#no!ledge Construction $rocesses $ro'lem to Overcome
acti!ating /no*ledge is tacit
communication lac/ o$ common ground
en!isioning deciding *hat ought to (e
The $ollo*ing sections present a $rame*or/ $or addressing the challenges posed (y the
/no*ledge construction processes) and then propose the use o$ representations as a
solution approach+
,-.-.- Activating #no!ledge
The /no*ledge rele!ant to system design is o$ten distri(uted across people) organi'ations
and arti$acts+ Acti!ating /no*ledge means to ma/e it explicit and accessi(le to all
sta/eholders+ ;oth users and de!elopers (ene$it $rom Dacti!ation+D Cor de!elopers)
acti!ating /no*ledge is crucial to gain an understanding o$ the pro(lem to (e sol!ed+ Cor
users) acti!ating /no*ledge can mean to see the $amiliar aspects o$ their practice in ne*
The pro(lem acti!ation addresses is that experts /no* more than they can say+ "any
philosophers argue that practical /no*ledge (i+e+) the /no*ledge to participate in a
practice) is $undamentally ta/en $or granted) or tacit E7olanyi 1?44F+ .ittgenstein uses
the metaphor o$ Dlanguage gameD (as descri(ed in Ehn 1?>>F) to descri(e ho*
/no*ledge is tacitly understood) used and created in *or/ practice+ 7ractice is seen as a
game in *hich *or/erGs actions are guided (y unspo/en rules that are so $amiliar that
they (ecome ta/en $or granted+ These rules are not $ixed and explicitly articulated) (ut
instead are socially de$ined and em(edded in the situations in *hich coordinated acti!ity
ta/es place+ #uchman descri(es such practical /no*ledge as Dnot a mental state (ut
something outside o$ our heads that) precisely (ecause it is non-pro(lematically there) *e
do not need to thin/ a(outD E#uchman 1?>6F +
The /no*ledge that guides *or/ is thus not only hidden $rom de!elopers) (ut it is also
hidden $rom the *or/ers themsel!es (y its !ery $amiliarity+ This suggests that a large part
o$ the /no*ledge re5uired to (uild domain-oriented systems is not readily apparent -
e!en to *or/ers - (ut must some ho* (e (rought to the sur$ace) or acti!ated+ It also
suggests that practical /no*ledge can ne!er (e considered completely unco!ered) since
*or/ers /no* more than they can say+
,-.-/- Communication
The second /ey /no*ledge construction process is communication+ A common notion o$
communication assumes that /no*ledge is transmitted $rom one person to another+ This
assumption seems to hold in unpro(lematic communication) such as that (et*een people
*ho share a common (ac/ground+ ;ut *hen *e thin/ o$ the di$$iculties in
communicating *ith someone $rom a di$$erent (ac/ground $rom our o*n) it is e!ident
that Dthe phenomenon o$ communication depends on not *hat is transmitted) (ut on *hat
happens to the person *ho recei!es it+ And this is a !ery di$$erent matter than
Htransmitting in$ormationGD E"aturana) Iarela 1?>>F+
Communication is de$ined here as the creation o$ shared understanding through
interaction among people+ This de$inition implies that communication is a social acti!ity
and not simply a transmission o$ in$ormation $rom one person to another+ The
understanding created through communication can ne!er (e a(solute or complete) (ut
instead is an interacti!e and ongoing process in *hich common ground) i+e+) assumed
mutual (elie$s and mutual /no*ledge) is accumulated and updated EClar/) ;rennan
1??1F+ In this !ie*) shared understanding arises not $rom seamless communication (in
*hich case the shared understanding *as already present)) (ut rather through negotiation
and accumulation o$ meaning o!er time+
=roups o$ people *ho communicate o$ten and o!er long periods o$ time $orm Dsemantic
communitiesD E&o(inson) ;annon 1??1F *ith their o*n con!entions o$ meaning+
#imilarly) ;od/er and 7edersen de$ine the term D*or/place culturesD to descri(e a group
o$ *or/ers that share a common Dcode o$ conductD E;od/er) 7edersen 1??1F+ .or/place
cultures de!elop systems o$ meanings Dhidden (ehind or in the !arious arti$acts) sym(ols)
*or/ routines) and esta(lished patterns o$ cooperationD E;od/er) 7edersen 1??1F+
Culturally shared meanings are thus not an intrinsic property o$ arti$acts and sym(ols) (ut
instead are ascri(ed (y the people *ho share a particular culture+
.hile shared con!entions o$ meaning permit a shared understanding among *or/ers
*ithin a gi!en culture) they also $orm (oundaries that can hamper de!elopment o$ shared
understanding (et*een people $rom di$$erent *or/place cultures) such as (et*een
*or/ers and system de!elopers+ Communication re5uires some common ground+ This
ground may (e in the tacit $orm o$ *or/place cultures+ ;ut in system de!elopment)
sta/eholders generally do not share this understanding+ In this case) the challenge is to
esta(lish a common ground that permits communication among sta/eholders $rom
di$$erent *or/place cultures+
,-.-0- 1nvisioning
n!isioning is the third /ey /no*ledge construction process+ To en!ision is to understand
ho* the current practice *ill or could (e changed (y ne* computer support - the
possi(ilities and implications o$ ne* relationships (et*een tools) tas/s and in$ormation+
n!isioning is a constructi!e process in the sense that it is (ased on prior understandings
(ut extends to*ard the $uture+ It is there$ore di$$erent $rom acti!ation (ecause it (uilds
ne* understandings) rather than sur$acing existing ones+
#hared !isions o$ the $uture re5uire a constructi!e synthesis o$ /no*ledge $rom (oth
users and de!elopers+ Users donGt /no* the technological possi(ilities $or changing their
practice) and de!elopers donGt /no* *hether the technology they create *ill (e
appropriate $or the gi!en practice E<ensing) "un/-"adsen 1??-F+
n!isioning is a creati!e process) (ut it is not *ithout (ounds+ Constraints on the
possi(ilities $or transcending the existing tradition o$ a *or/ practice come $rom the *or/
organi'ation) the limits o$ technology) pro8ect (udgets) and so $orth+ Iisions at some
point ha!e to (e tested against reality to a!oid en!isioning *hat is not possi(le+
Another challenge to en!isioning is the $act that the $uture is a mo!ing target+ Users are
not passi!e recei!ers o$ technology) (ut instead are themsel!es designers) *ho use and
adapt technology to their o*n needs E#imon 1?>1J =reen(aum) <yng 1??1J "ac/ay
1??2F+ There$ore) it is important that !isions o$ the $uture are not regarded as static goals
to (e attained) (ut rather as the starting point $or continual change and adaptation+
This section has descri(ed three /no*ledge construction processes crucial to
de!elopment o$ domain-oriented systems+ ach o$ these processes in!ol!es generating
ne* and shared understandings o$ *or/ and o$ ho* *or/ might (e impro!ed+ The next
section presents a theoretical (asis $or understanding the cogniti!e mechanisms (eneath
these three processes) and ho* the processes might (e supported+
$revious )ome Contents 2e3t 4 ,-/- Constructionism
This page *as last (uilt on Cri) #ep 4) 1??4 at 6:9?:21 7"+
7lease send any comments or suggestions to ost*aldKcs+colorado+edu+
Than/sL - Monathan
Annual Con!ention
7re-Con$erence Institute: &esearch-;ased Comprehension 7ractices
San Francisco Cali!ornia
April "# "$$"
Session Title: Overcoming Comprehension Challenges: Assisting Struggling Students
to Eliminate Comprehension Difficulties
%. &ay &eut'el
Emma Eccles (ones Center !or Early Childhood Education
)tah State )niversity
&eut'el) 3+ &+ N Cooter) &+ ;+ (2999)+ *eaching Children to &ead+ Putting the Pieces
*ogether+ Upper
#addle &i!er) OM: "errill:7rentice-1all+
A Sampling o+ Comprehension $ro'lems
#tudents do not ha!e the necessary (ac/ground /no*ledge to understand a speci$ic topic+
&eaders may ha!e *ell-de!eloped (ac/ground /no*ledge $or a topic) (ut authors $ail to
enough in$ormation to access their /no*ledge+
Teachers may not help students acti!ate appropriate (ac/ground /no*ledge or
&eaders may acti!ate their (ac/ground /no*ledge to understand a text (ut $ail to change
it *hen
the text demands a change+
&eaders may not /no* an important *ord in the text+
&eaders may /no* one meaning $or a *ord in a text (ut the author used it to mean
something else+
&eaders may not /no* ho* to recogni'e and use text organi'ation+
&eaders may not recogni'e *hen they do not understand the message o$ the author+
&eaders $ail to shi$t the rele!ant $rom the irrele!ant+
&eaders $ail to select appropriate strategies $or understanding a text+
Assessing Student’s Background Knowledge and Experiences - PReP
ChildrenPs (ac/ground in$ormation and experiences are among the most important
contri(utors or
inhi(itors o$ comprehension+ &esearchers ha!e determined that students *ho possess a
great deal o$
(ac/ground in$ormation a(out a su(8ect tend to recall greater amounts o$ in$ormation
more accurately $rom
reading than do students *ith little or no (ac/ground /no*ledge (7earson) 1ansen) N
=ordon) 1?6?J Carr
N Thompson) 1??4J 7ressley) 2999J ;loc/ N 7ressley) 2992J &eut'el and Cooter) 2999)+
It also a *ell
/no*n $act that *ell-de!eloped (ac/ground in$ormation can inhi(it the comprehension o$
ne* in$ormation
that con$licts *ith or re$utes prior /no*ledge and assumptions a(out a speci$ic topic+
Thus) /no*ing ho*
much /no*ledge a reader has a(out a concept) topic) or e!ent can help teachers (etter
prepare students to
read and comprehend success$ully+ Qne *ay that teachers can assess (ac/ground
/no*ledge and
experience is to use a procedure called 7&e7 de!eloped (y Langer (1?>2) $or assessing
the amount and
content o$ studentsP (ac/ground /no*ledge a(out selected topics) themes) concepts) and
The chec/list and materials sho*n (elo*:
7hrase 1
.hat comes to mind *hen R0
7hrase 2
.hat made you thin/ o$ R0
7hrase -
1a!e you any ne* ideas a(out0
#elect a stimulus to prompt students to acti!ate (ac/ground /no*ledge (7icture) *ord)
phrase) experience)
e!ent) etc+)
"uch S (-)
#ome S (2)
Little S (1)
xamples 7ersonal
Attri(utes .ord
Analogies 3e$ining
#tudent Oames
"ary Maco(s
Ma*an #ites
Select a story !or children to read. Construct a list o! speci!ic vocabulary terms or story
related to the topic, message, theme, or events to be experienced in reading the story. For example,
students may read the story Stone Fox by John R. Gardiner (1980) about a boy named Willy, who saves his
grandfather’s farm from the tax collector. Construct a list of 5 to 10 specific vocabulary terms or concepts
related to story. Use this list to probe background knowledge and experiences of the students about the
story’s message and plot. Such a list might include the following:
Tax Collector
3ogsled &ace
#tudents are as/ed to respond to each o$ these terms in *riting or through discussion+
This is
accomplished (y using one o$ se!eral stem statements) as sho*n in
the shared area a(o!e such as) GG.hat
comes to mind *hen you thin/ o$ paying (ills and you hear the term %(ro/e0GG
#tudents then respond+ Qnce
students ha!e responded to each o$ the speci$ic terms) the teacher can score the responses
to sur!ey the
extent and nature o$ the classPs and each indi!idualPs /no*ledge and experience *ith) in
this case) taxes
and tax collectors+ A*ard the num(er o$ points that most closely represents the le!el o$
prior /no*ledge in
the response $or each item+ 3i!ide the total score $or the list o$ terms) concepts) or e!ents
(y the num(er o$
terms) concepts) or e!ents in the list to determine the a!erage /no*ledge le!el o$
indi!idual students+ ;y
scanning the xPs in the chec/list) a teacher can get a sense o$ the entire classP o!erall le!el
o$ prior
In$ormation thus gathered can (e used to in$orm (oth the content and nature o$
instruction aimed at acti!ating and using (ac/ground /no*ledge and experiences+
Reciprocal Teaching Cards
7alincsar and ;ro*n (1?>@) designed and e!aluated an approach $or impro!ing the
comprehension and comprehension monitoring o$ special needs students *ho scored t*o
years (elo* grade
le!el on standardi'ed tests o$ reading comprehension+ Their results suggest a teaching
strategy called
&eciprocal Teaching that is use$ul $or helping students *ho ha!e di$$iculties *ith
comprehension and
comprehension monitoring as *ell as those *ho are learning nglish (Mohnson-=len(erg)
2999J &osenshine
N "eister) 1??2J Casana!e) 1?>>)+ Although &eciprocal Teaching *as originally
intended $or use *ith
expository text) *e can see no reason *hy this inter!ention strategy cannot (e used *ith
narrati!e texts (y
$ocusing discussion and reading on the ma8or elements o$ stories+
1oyt (1???) descri(es a process using cards $or teaching children the $our interrelated
processes o$
&eciprocal Teaching:
• Prediction: #tudents predict $rom the title and pictures the possi(le content o$ the text+
teacher records the predictions+
• ,uestion -eneration: #tudents generate purpose 5uestions a$ter reading a
segment o$ the text) such as a paragraph) page) etc+
• Summari'ing: #tudents *rite a (rie$ summary $or the text (y starting *ith GGThis
paragraph *as
a(out + + +GG #ummari'ing helps students capture the gist o$ the text+
• Clari!ying: #tudents and teacher discuss !arious reasons a text may (e hard or
con$using) such as
di$$icult !oca(ulary) poor text organi'ation) un$amiliar content) or lac/ o$ cohesion+
#tudents are
then instructed in a !ariety o$ comprehension $ix-up or repair strategies+
7repare children to use &eciprocal Teaching Cards (y modeling the process *ith se!eral
o$ text+ Oext) ha!e students use the cards sho*n (elo* in small groups+ The group leader
sho*s the cards+
Teachers *ho use &eciprocal Teaching to help students *ith comprehension di$$iculties
should $ollo* $our
simple guidelines suggested (y 7alincsar and ;ro*n (1?>@)+ Cirst) assess student
di$$iculties and pro!ide
Card V1: 7lease get ready to read to
Card V 2: I predict this part *ill (e a(out
TTTTTTTT+ (Leader spea/s+)
Card V -: 3oes anyone else ha!e a
prediction0 (=roup mem(ers spea/+)
Card V2: 7lease read silently to the point *e
Card V@: Are there any *ords you thought
*ere interesting0 (=roup+)
Card V4: Are there any ideas you $ound
interesting or pu''ling0 (=roup)+
Card V6: 3o you ha!e comments a(out the
reading0 (=roup+)
Card V>: #ummari'e (in 2 or - sentences):
This *as a(out TTTTTTTT+ (3iscussion
reading materials appropriate to studentsP decoding a(ilities+ #econd) use &eciprocal
Teaching $or at least
-9 minutes a day $or 1@ to 29 consecuti!e days+ Third) model $re5uently and pro!ide
correcti!e $eed(ac/+
Cinally) monitor student progress regularly and indi!idually to determine *hether the
instruction is ha!ing
the intended e$$ect+ 7alincsar and ;ro*n (1?>@) and 7ressley (2999) ha!e reported
positi!e results $or this
inter!ention procedure (y demonstrating dramatic changes in studentsP ine$$ecti!e
reading (eha!iors+ Qther
research has demonstrated the e$$ecti!eness o$ &eciprocal *eaching *ith a !ariety o$
students (Casana!e)
1?>>J Mohnson-=len(erg) 2999J <ing N 7arent-Mohnson) 1???J <elly) "oore) N ;ryan)
1??2J 7ressley N
.harton-"c3onald) 1??6J &osenshine N "eister) 1??2)
Graphic Organizer
#tudents o$ten ha!e di$$iculty comprehending in$ormation texts+ A -raphic .rgani'er is
essentially a visual display summarizing and organizing information to be learned which is distributed to
students prior to reading. It is a way of showing relationships concepts and helping teachers clarify teaching
goals (Simmons & Kameenui, 1998).
• Materials
An in$ormation text to (e used as part o$ a ne* unit o$ instruction
A graphic organi'er is constructed in essentially t*o steps+ They are:
1+ Identi$y the type o$ text structure or organi'ation used (y the author+
2+ #elect a !isual that *ill highlight this type o$ structure+
Format. Teachers may *ish to use a !ariety o$ graphic $ormats to depict the same text+ It
is important that
the !isual communicate the o!erall organi'ation o$ the text to the readers and help then
understand the
relationships o$ ideas to one another+ ;elo* $ind an example o$ a third-grade le!el trade
(oo/ called) My
Boo/ o! the Planets (<ruli/) 1??1)+ This graphic organi'er depicts the authorPs
organi'ation) a collection
structure) !ery clearly $or students to $ollo* and use in gathering text in$ormation during
and a$ter reading+
"astropieri) "+) N #cruggs) T+ (1??6)+ ;est practices in promoting reading
comprehension in students
*ith learning disa(ilities: 1?64 to 1??4+
&emedial and Special Education 0#) 1?6-21-+
7ressley) "+ (2999)+ .hat should comprehension instruction (e the instruction o$0 In
"+L+ <amil) 7+;+)
"osenthal) 7+3+ 7earson) N &+ ;arr (ds+)) 1and(oo/ o$ &eading &esearch) Iol+ III+
"ah*ah) OM:
La*rence rl(aum Associates) 7u(lishers+
#immons) 3+ C+) N <ameenui) + M+ (1??>)+ 1hat reading research tells us about
children 2ith diverse
learning needs+ Bases and basics. "ah*ah) OM: La*rence rl(aum Associates+