A Taxonomy of Skills in Reading and Interpreting Fiction

Author(s): George Hillocks, Jr. and Larry H. Ludlow
Source: American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1, (Spring, 1984), pp. 7-24
Published by: American Educational Research Association
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7-24 A Taxonomy of Skillsin Readingand Interpreting Fiction GEORGE HILLOCKS. Pp. LUDLOW Universityof Chicago Theskills in the interpretationoffiction proposedin this paperare definedby seven item types. no source attemptedto organizeskillsinto a hierarchy"(p.recognizingcause and effect. and comparingand contrasting" (p. Responseswerescoredby independentratersusing a partial creditscoringdesign. recognizing words in context.March1982. 1. based on four differenttexts. decoding detail.An earlierversion of this paper was presentedat the annualmeetingof the AmericanEducationalResearchAssociation. identifying the main idea.however. In his recent review of reading skill hierarchies. he reports that research on skill hierarchiesin reading comprehensionhas revealed distinct reading skills but no evidence that the skills form a hierarchy.. were administeredto between 77 and 127 studentseach. He states unequivocally. The taxonomy of skills in the interpretationof fiction proposedin this paperhas been developed from two majorsourcesover the past 20 years: This researchwas fundedin partby a grantfrom the WilliamS.that "regardlessof the classification system. The common skills include "recognizingsequence. they also contain many unique skills. Further. The questionsets.Rosenshine (1980) compares"authoritative"lists of comprehensionskills. 7 . The resultsconfirmexperimentallythe hierarchicaland taxonomicnatureof the item types. 540). Vol.AmericanEducationalResearchJournal Spring 1984. These data wereanalyzed with the Rasch Rating Scale model. whichcan be discriminatedfromeach other and organizedtaxonomicallythroughlogical analysis.New York. drawing inferences.21. and LARRY H. 540). GrayReadingResearch Fund of the Universityof Chicago. This researchexamines the hierarchicaland taxonomiccharacteristics of item types withinfour questionsets.JR. No. finding that while the lists contain seven skills in common.

"The Butterfly"by James Hanley. at least logically.The question makermust judge what textual informationwill be the subjectof questions. What follows is an attempt to outline key types. The model is based on two assumptions:first.Inferentialskills requiregeneralizationsabout relationshipsthat are not stated in the text. Followingthe explanationof each skill type. writers of modern fiction often imply generalizationsin one part of the text that are made explicit in another part.The model is divided into two major levels: literal questions (those whose answers appeardirectlyin the text) and inferentialquestions(those whose answers are cued in the text but are not stated therein). It is simple logic that if readerscannot retrieveinformationthat is stated directlyin the text. For example. the two majorlevels are taxonomic. and "An Ominous Baby"by StephenCrane. which.In a similarfashioneach skill type can be discriminatedfrom the othersin the set. certaingeneralizationsare both implied and stated directlyin differentpartsof the text. All literal level skills requireidentificationof informationthat appears explicitly in the text. McCabe.the narrativesection of a fable implies a moral. "A Question of Blood"by ErnestHaycox. which are of apparentconcern to reading experts. second. 1980). many other types are not only feasiblebut probably useful.and literary critics.is subsequentlystated and labeled as a moral. they will not be able to make inferencesfrom that information. THE SKILLTYPES The classification of skill types that follows does not pretend to be exhaustive.one based on each of the selections used for this research:chapter 1 of The Pearl by John Steinbeck. in most fables.Thus. four questionsappear. teachers of literature. 1971). 8 . Questions are designed so that they involve little translationfrom the languageof the question to the languageof the text. The main purposeof this researchis to examine the taxonomic characteristicsof four question sets experimentally.Indeed. Yet they are not derivedalgorithmically. Similarly. In some fictionaltexts.HILLOCKSAND LUDLOW observationsof the workof literarycriticsand observationsof the responses of secondaryand college studentsto fiction. that a question must be classifiedas a skill type in conjunctionwith the text from which it is derived. The question types are organizedfrom simplestto most complex. & McCampbell. The first publishedmodel of this taxonomy appearedin 1971 as an informal reading inventory with each categoryof skill named and describedin terms of what the response involved (Hillocks. Such generalizationsthemselves cannot be the target of inferential questions. A revised model appearedin 1980 (Hillocks.that answersto questions representskill types and.

some of which are more importantthan others.In this sequencethe scorpionbite is explicitly statedsix times and alludedto severaltimes.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS LITERAL LEVEL OF COMPREHENSION Basic Stated Information(BSI) These questions are basic in at least three senses. Third. the neighborsgatherto see what has happenedand follow Kino and Juanato the doctor. conflictingvalues of citifiedlife. Key details may appearmore than once in the text but not with the frequencyof basic stated information. Althoughsuch details providethe texturethat encourageswhat Coleridge calledthe "willingsuspensionof disbelief. Juana attempts to clean the wound.such basic information is usually important to the higher levels of meanings of the text.Otherdetails-the color of Juana'shairribbon. When Coyotito laughs. First.That is. in the first chapter of John Steinbeck's The Pearl.the information to which they are directedis sine qua non for the story.That Coyotito slept in a hanging box is a key detail because of its relationshipto the scorpionbite.For example. The Pearl:Wheredid Coyotito sleep? Whatdid Cassidydo at the end of the story? "Butterfly": "Blood":What did Isabeltradefor his wife? "Baby":What did the nursemaidsay to the tatteredchild? 9 . the infant child of Juana and Kino. The followingare examplesof BSI questionsfor each work: The Pearl:What happenedto Coyotito? Wherewas Cassidybeing held? "Butterfly": "Blood":What was the race of Isabel'swife? "Baby":Wherewas the firstbaby wandering? Key Detail (KD) Any fictional work includes a multitude of details. This is the central event of the chapter. the rope shakes. the conditions are stated explicitly many times and implied as well. a scorpion stings Coyotito. Second.around which all other events develop.and so forth-have no causalrelationshipto the plot. For example."they do so interchangeablywith other details.what Kino drinksfor breakfast. Key details occur at importantjunctures of the plot and bear some causalrelationshipto what happens. they have to do with conditions without which the story would not be possible.the chance bite of the scorpionjolts Kino and Juanaout of what is describedas an almost pastoralexistence and throws them necessarily into conflict with the more complex. Kino sees the scorpionon the rope above the box and begins to move toward it.the scorpion fallsand strikes. In The Pearl Kino attempts to kill the scorpion but misses.

Many are stated explicitly in the text. Steinbeck clearly establishes that the doctor works only for money.. The relationship.Key detail questionsrequirethe location of a single piece of information. a character and an event.the relationshipto be located may or may not be importantto the plot. a question about the causal relationshipexpressedin such a statementis categorizedas literal. and that he despises the Indians. When the doctor's servant asks. In The Pearl.flattened 10 . is stated directlyin the text. who have none.To make these inferences. "Have you money to pay for the treatment?"Kino reaches under his blanket. and then infer the cued relationship.To make the inference.which is frequentlycausal. it is. usually only once.). and translatethe phrase. etc. but only one set is required to make the inference..Near the end of chapter 1 in The Pearl.two events. any fictional work is about relationshipsof various types. or part of it.Sometimes the same inferenceis cued by severalsets of data. ThePearl:Whatwas the beggars'reasonfor followingKino and Juanato the doctor'shouse? "Butterfly": Why did Cassidymiss mass? "Blood":Why did Isabelmarryhis wife in the "whiteway"? "Baby":How did the prettychild get his toy? INFERENTIAL LEVEL OF COMPREHENSION Simple ImpliedRelationship(SIR) Questionsof this type are similarto those of statedrelationshipwith the important differencethat relationshipsand causes must be inferred."Because such translation is minimal.Further. the readerneed only refer to very limited portions of the text-two or three pieces of informationwhich are often closely juxtaposed." The readermust locate this statement. Questions of this type contrast with key detail questions in that they requirethe readerto find the relationshipexisting between two or more pieces of information. In the case of the doctor'sgreaterconcern for the rich.as uglyand grayas little ulcers. when.and carefullyunfoldsit to reveal "eightsmall misshapenseed pearls. the readermust locate the relationshipwhich is said to exist between at least two pieces of information(two characters. the neighborspredict that the doctor will not come to Juana's aid.readersmust deal with denotativeand connotative clues in the text.pulls out a heavilycreasedpaper. when he had more than he could do to take care of the rich people who lived in the stone and plasterhouses of the town. "Why should he. In dealing with a question of this type."as "because.HILLOCKSAND LUDLOW Stated Relationship(SR) In a sense."why should he. relatethem to their own personalexperienceand knowledge.

Theircomplexityarisesfrom the factthat they involve a large numberof details which must be dealt with together. Why did he not repeathis explanationto BrotherTimothy? "Blood":Why did Isabel. Part of the differenceis the resultof what happenedto Coyotito."That Kino believes the pearls have value is cued both by the fact that he offers them as payment and by the care he has taken in wrapping them up and secreting them in his blanket.Explain the changesand the reasonsfor them.He feels and acts differentlyin these two places. Inferencesof this type demand considerationof many more details. Part is the resultof other things.Questionsabout the causesof characterchange. "Blood":Throughoutthe storyIsabel'sfeelingsforhis wifechange. Author'sGeneralization(AG) Everywork of fiction necessarilyreflectscertainabstractgeneralizations about the nature of the human condition. "Butterfly":Cassidyhad explainedwhy he missedmass.involve relatingdetailsof personality beforeand aftera changeand inferringthe causesof the changefrom the same details and from interceding events.Contrastingand explainingthose differencesinvolves examining many details.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS and almost valueless. In The Pearl SteinbeckclearlycontrastsKino's comfortable responseto his home environmentwith his responseto the villagewhich he hates because of the years of oppressionwhich he and his people have suffered. explainthe causesof those differences. This redundanceof cues appearsto make the inferencemore accessible. ThePearl:WhatwereKino'sfeelingsaboutthe pearlshe offersthe doctor? Explainhow you know.for example. Questions of this type contrastwith those of simple implied relationship. Whether or not the writer 11 .which are basedon two or three details. "Baby":In what way does the characterof the (tattered)child change from the beginningof the story to the end? Explain why the change takes place.take his child from the blanketand seat him at the table? "Baby":What does his (the tatteredchild's) forgettingthe rope suggest about human nature? ComplexImpliedRelationship(CIR) Questions of this type require inferences based on many pieces of information. "Butterfly":In what way are BrotherTimothy'sactionstowardthe caterpillarand Cassidysimilar?Explainthe similarityas clearlyas you can.at the end of the story. ThePearl:In this chapterKinoappearsat homeandin town. (a) What are the differencesbetween Kino's actions and feelings at home and those in town? (b) Apartfrom what happenedto Coyotito.

Complex implied relationshipquestions.considerthe author'suse of two babiesratherthan two older people. Thus. "love is wonderful"or "waris hell")fall outside the categorybecausethey involve only a simple and very generalview of what the writerlikes and dislikes. The contrastimplies that civilizationbegets or is based on a set of values which places material goods and hedonistic pleasurewell above human understandingand concern for other people.Generalizationsat this level are based on and implied by the whole fabric of the literarywork as it reflects some conception of the human situation as it exists outside the limits of the work. What generalizationsdoes the author suggestabout this issue? "Baby":What idea about human naturedoes the author suggestin this story?In answering. The Pearl: What comment or generalizationdoes this chaptermake on the way "civilization"influenceshuman behaviorand attitudes?Give evidencefrom the storyto supportyour answer. Such questions may make up a separate skill type-one with which this researchhas not been concerned. on the other hand.since all 12 .Obviously. Questionsthat elicit vague propositions(e.g. considerCassidy's and Timothy'sapproachesto religion. An author's generalizationquestion in contrast. "Blood":An importantconcern of this story is the effect of a society on the behavior of an individual.all the preceding question types involve a responseto the structureof the work.by the presenceor absence of certaindetails imply some conception of the relationshipsamong human beings and their environments.HILLOCKSAND LUDLOW consciouslyattemptsto illustratethose generalizationsis irrelevantfor our purposes. In chapter1 of ThePearlSteinbeckcontraststhe valuesof the "civilized" townspeoplewith those of Indians. of whom Juana and Kino are a part. a complex implied relationshipquestion might deal with how and why a particularcharacterchanges in the course of a story. Such a propositionis of the type targetedby questionsin this category. focus on relationshipsexistingprimarilywithinthe fabricof the text. Questions of author's generalizationcontrast with those of complex implied relationshipin that they deal with ideas implied about the world outside the work.Even the simplest basal readers. StructuralGeneralization(SG) Questions of this type require the readerto explain how parts of the work operatetogetherto achieve certaineffects. Whatideadoes the authorsuggestaboutthe effectsof people's "Butterfly": approachesto religion?In answeringthe question.pushes beyond the specificchangesin a characterto a propositionabout what they imply about human nature as it exists outside the text..

They focus on the order of content. requirean analysisof structureper se. Second. a question dealing with the inclusion of a scene in relationto other partsof the workis structuralbecauseit requires an abstraction.But a question seekinga generalization about the effectsof that scene in combinationwith others(e. Explainthreeways in whichthe authoruses the caterpillarin "Butterfly": developingthe story.. but is not structural. for example.Questionsof this type.a question must first requirethe readerto generalizeabout the arrangementof certain parts of a work.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS elements of the work are necessarilypart of its structure. which by definition appearat importantjuncturesof 13 .which goes beyond the specific content of the work. If making inferences about a given story is based. however. In chapter 1 of The Pearl. Steinbeckshows us the doctor at a decadent breakfast. on knowledge of the explicit text. ThePearl:Steinbeckpresentsa groupof beggarsin the story. if a readercannot glean basic stated informationfrom the text-information that is both repeated frequentlyand emphasizedby the structure-that readerwill not be likely to locate key details. Questionsthat requirethe recitationof eventsin a plot arenot structural.g.(b) Presentevidencefrom the storyto supportyour answer.To get readersbeyond responseto specific content. Similarly.becausethe readermust abstractcharacteristicstructures from specific plots.or they requirethe readerto identifyand explain aspectsof the structurethat contributeto certain effects. because they do not requirea generalizationabout structure. But a question that requiresthe contrastof plot typesis structural.(a) Explain what purpose they serve in relation to the first 11 paragraphsof the chapter. it must require an explanationof how those partswork in achievingcertaineffects.On the other hand. HYPOTHESES That these question types form a hierarchyis a hypothesis based on logic. "Baby":Give two or more reasons why the first five paragraphsare importantto the storyas a whole. A question asking about the effect of an event on a characterdeals with a problem within the fabric of the work. they allude to certain parts of the structureand requireexplanationsof the functions of those parts. That is. questions of this type must sometimes ask for two or more uses of a scene or section of the story. in part. To belong properlyto this category.Questions about what that scene reveals about the doctor'svalues are not structural.If the readerhas difficultyin locating key details. "Blood":Explainthe two ways that the first six paragraphspreparethe readerfor the final resolutionto the story. then failure to deal with the literal level should predict a failure to make appropriateinferences. Kino's and Juana'sbreakfast)is structural.

This researchdoes not treat questions that focus on details of setting and character.and the most difficultbeingtype 7.taxonomic relations will hold within and across all four inventories.however. basicstated information. The relationshipof structuralgeneralizationsto other inferencetypes is less clear. Hypothesesabout the relationshipsof these and additional question types to the hierarchy proposedhere may well be the subjectof futureresearch. he or she will be less likely to locate stated relationships.HILLOCKSAND LUDLOW the plot. That is.with the simplestbeing type 1.and their relationshipson the total fabricof the text. is that the seven question typesare orderedhierarchically."which the town represents.Nor does this hierarchyinclude what are often referredto as "application-to-life"questions. particularly Kino's and Juana's breakfast. For example. the question type is likely to be more difficult than those dealing with author'sgeneralizationonly. The research hypothesis states that the hierarchical.Determiningthe effectof one partof a storyin relation to some other part is a complex and abstract task. To ensurethat they did not.then. The major hypothesisof this research. and are at least in part dependent on making simpler inferences.Determining an author'simplied generalizationsis even more difficultbecause it is dependent on many simpler inferences about characters. inferringthe effectsof the doctor'sbreakfastscene in The Pearl involves not only contrastingit with other scenes.their relationshipto one anotheris taxonomic.which may be less importantto the events of the story. abilityto respondto any level above type 1 subsumesabilityto respondat the lower levels. Similarly.although such details and their relatedquestions are subsumed in the higherlevel questions. which appears to subsume at least a partialunderstandingat the level of author'sgeneralization. Further. basic stated informationwill be the easiest question and structuralgeneralizationwill be the hardestquestion on each inventory.the wordingof questionsshould not cue the answersto other questionson the test.which requireattentionto only two or threedetails. the researchers observedtwo groundrules. For example. the sets of questions.were routinelysubmittedto graduate studentsin Englishliteraturewho tried to answerthem on the basis 14 .In short.but assessing its details and inferringits decadenceas part of the "civilizedworld.at the upper end of the hierarchy.events. structuralgeneralizations. without the passages.they will not be able to make inferenceswhich requireattention to many more pieces of information. settings. First.if readerscannot make simpler inferences. PROCEDURES InventoryConstruction In preparingthe sets of questions for each passage.

criteria for "right"answers." The same question is answerablein more generalterms:The beggarswantedto know everythingthat happened in the town. To determine the validity of questions in the four inventories. Statedrelationshipquestions." n = 79. Studentswere given 50 minutes to read each story and write out answersto its accompanyingquestions. right answers usually entailed particularbits of information. Thus. The remaininginventorieswere administeredto students in ninth.for example. They could still be scored using criteriathat stipulatedkey content to be 15 . No questionswere identifiedas inappropriate. but some variabilitywas expected. and twelfth graders(n = 112).questionswerepresented from easiest to most difficult. thus missingquestionsthey might not otherwise have missed.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS of information in the questions. "A Questionof Blood. for "partly right" answers. For literal level questions. "An Ominous Baby.The additionalquestionswereincluded for experimentalpurposes but are not of concern here. Any that could be answered without referenceto the passagewereeliminated. tenth.his cruelty."n = 127. Scoring To score the results. They were permittedto examine the texts as they answeredthe questions. Sample Each inventory consisted of nine questions including the seven types that arethe subjectof this research.they often give up. Partialcredit was given to answersthat revealedthe beggars' attitudes toward the doctor. each inventorywas examinedby groupsof 9 to 13 Englishteachersor graduate students in English and English education. the question concerned with the beggars' reason for followingKino and Juanato the doctor'shouse might be answeredin the languageof the text: "to see what the fat lazy doctor would do about an indigent baby with a scorpion bite."n = 77. eleventh. but did not state explicitly why the beggars followed:for example." Because answersto higher level questions could not be drawn directly fromthe text.and for "wrong"answerswere developed. The inventory based on chapter 1 of The Pearl was administeredto one group of nine graduate students in English education and to groups of ninth.Second. and twelfth grades: "The Butterfly. because classroom experiencewith similar question sets indicates that when students encounter difficult questions early. eleventh. they involved much more variabilityin wordingand content. might be answered with language taken directly from the text or by inference.his avarice. They were asked to examine the questions and to identify any that seemed inappropriateto the text. "theyknew his ignorance.

Thus.one in Englishand one in education. 87.On fewerthan 1 percentof the responses was there no agreement.HILLOCKSAND LUDLOW coveredby a "right"answer. . Finally.and zero for a wrong answer.advancedgraduatestudents. The third rater'sagreementwith one of the primaryscorers was acceptedas the correctscore. a responseto the author'sgeneralization question for The Pearl was judged right if it presented an appropriate generalizationsuggestingthat civilization or the "civilized life" makes people greedy.To increaseindividualrater consistency. from the contrastbetweenthe beggarsand Kino's neighbors. the final score assignedto a response was the resultof two independentratingsand an arbitration. from the behavior of the doctor's servant.or presenteda generalizationwhich was only partlycorrect.if necessary."The Pearsonproduct moment correlationsbetween subject'stotal inventoryscores. all disagreementswere submitted to a third rater.g."Crosstabulationsof the primaryrater'sscoreson each item revealeda tendency forthe Englishgraduatestudentraterto scorethe inferentiallevel questions more stringentlythan the education student rater. Reliabilityof Scoring Two independentraters.2 for "Butterfly."88.scoredall responsesto questionson all four inventories. To test the hypotheses we sought a psychometricmodel that could compute estimates of item difficulties. the model had to be capable of analyzingpolytomous data. or presented appropriateevidence (e.were . or from Steinbeck'somniscientlypresentedcomments about the town and Kino's village.3 for The Pearl.92 for "Butterfly.81 for "Baby. Two points were awarded for a right answer.Thus. The MeasurementModel These scoreswereanalyzedto determinethe hierarchicaland taxonomic relationshipsof item types on the individualtests. concerned primarily with material values. The panel of three raters discussed these and reachedconsensus. Rater reliability was computed in a number of ways.8 for "Blood. Partial credit was assigned to a response which formulated a generalizationbut presented no evidence.". The 16 . Percentageof agreementwas 87.."and .ratersscoredresponsesby all subjectsfor a given item before moving to the next item. one point for a partially correctanswer. a discussionof the doctor'sattitudes)but no generalization.0 for "Baby.95 for The Pearl. Though these results indicated substantialagreement." and 86.91 for "Blood. and provide a means of testing the fit of the data to the model. and callous toward the plight of others.yield person ability estimatesin the same linear metric as the items. as assignedby the two raters. Evidence can be drawn from the doctor's comments on the civilized life.

Stringsof item or personresidualsmay be inspectedgraphically(Ludlow. Masters.Residualsare a key featurein the utility of Rasch models. 1982).an item with a given level of difficulty will always have a higher probabilityof being scored correctlyby any person than will an item with a higherlevel of difficulty. Wright. 1982).This continuum will stretchfrom the easiest items and the least able personsto the hardestitems and the most able persons. A Rasch model assumes that a person with a given ability level will alwayshave a higherprobabilityof respondingcorrectlyto any item than will any personwith a lowerlevel of ability. 1982) which summarizean individual'sor an item's fit to the model. 1950. or approximatet-statisticsmay be computed (Wright& Masters. Such inspection is necessary to understandwhy -unexpected failures or successes occurred. 1982). however.Likewise.that a personat a given position should "succeedon these items and fail on those items. A successfulresponse when a failurewas expected would also producea largeresidual. much as one marksoff locationswith a ruler. 1978. is a test of the reliabilityof the ratersin designingand usinga consistentpartial creditscoringsystem.the Rating Scale model assumesthat the difficultyof receivinga partial credit score as opposed to a no credit score and the difficulty of receiving a full credit score as opposed to a partial credit score will be equivalent for each item in an inventory. estimates of item difficulty and personability may be placed along a common linearcontinuum. then small residualsresult. Further. When data meet these assumptions. probabilistically. 1981) processedthe data.If a person answersin a manner consistentwith his ability level and the difficultyof the items. Person-by-itemresidualsare the differencebetween the observed and expected responses. It then becomes possible to state. A large negative fit statistic indicates a surprisinglyconsistent Guttman-like response pattern (Guttman. 1960) and is referredto as the RatingScale model (Andrich.in effect. & Ludlow.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS model chosen is a member of the Rasch model family (Rasch." The basic data for the model are the personand item total correctscores.Wright& Masters. A person with a large negative fit statistic will have (a) 17 . If. The computer program CREDIT (Wright.then a large residualresults. From these raw scores are computed the expected response for every person on each item. A largepositive fit statisticsuggeststhat the item difficultyor person ability be acceptedas accurateonly after the correspondingresponseshave been inspected.the person misses an easy item on which he was expected to succeed (given his ability and the item difficulty).This assumption. They providea check on the reasonablenessof an item difficultyor person ability estimate.

Scale values cannot.The thresholdvaluesdo not differfrom zero. The standarderrors indicatea clear separationof item locations. The item fit statisticsdo not suggestany grossanomalies. thus incurringa largeresidualfor BSI. BSI is the easiest item and SG is the hardestitem.(b) incorrectscores on those items for which the difficultylevel is greaterthan his ability.But.then we will have provided evidence for the hierarchicalrelationshiphypothesis. negativefit statisticsprovide evidencethat taxonomic responsepatternshave occurredas hypothesized. Further. The "Blood" results are not as clearly supportive of the hierarchical hypothesis.08 logits.27.That is.In addition. The lack of differentiationis the result of 12 students receivingpartialcredit and two full creditson SG. The ideal situation. basic stated information as the easiest through structuralgeneralizationas the hardest. while the standarderroris about .The relationsbetween the two easiest item types and the two hardestitem types are not as predicted. then we will have providedevidence that the item types are taxonomic.AND LUDLOW HILLOCKS correctscores on those items for which his ability is greaterthan the item difficulty. RESULTS The resultsof the Rating Scale analysisare presentedin Table I. An inspectionof the residualsfor the people with a fit t > 2. Sample statistics are based on the person ability distribution. Thresholdvalues estimate the difficulty of moving from one responsecategoryto the next higherone.A negativescale value refersto a relativelyeasy item. while a positivescale value refersto a relativelyhard item. 1982). that is. and 11 receivingpartialand one full crediton AG.if the items and people for each inventoryfit the model reasonablywell (using t > 2. For The Pearl in Table I we find items orderedas predicted.in terms of informationgain and test design. and (c) partialcreditscoreswhen his abilityand the item difficulty are approximatelyequal. If the item difficultiesalign themselves along the linear continuum as hypothesized. The same patternapplies to an item with a largenegativefit statistic. without furtheranalysis.0 as a misfit indicant). The standarderroris an estimate of the precisionof the scale value. Thefit Tis an approximatet-statistictestingthe reasonablenessof the scale value estimate.the criteriafor acceptableanswers appearsto have encouraged 18 . since the differencebetween AG and SG is only . be comparedacrossinventories. Scale valuerefersto the item difficultyestimate.Thus.0 revealstwo people who surprisinglymissed KD and two people who unexpectedly succeeded on CIR. The other person scored only KD correctly. is achievedwhen the thresholdvalues are zero (Wright & Masters. there is no statisticaldifferencein where these two items are located.

"Cassidywas actually being held in his room. an item (BSI) that everyonepasses is infinitely easy. and all but one of the items fittingthe model. It suggeststhat some subjectssurprisingly missed the KD and SR items but responded to the harder items in a Guttman-likefashion.Correct answers to the question ("What was the race of Isabel'swife?")were "Indian"or "Crow. Cassidy'santagonist.The single student with a large positive fit missed 19 .He scored 2 2 1 1 0 0 0. each missed one of the firstthree questions. and when he did this he always cast a quick and furtive glance at a stout wooden door that opened onto the middle of the dark. For the "Butterfly"inventory we find the predicteditem order. The four wrong answers on BSI appear to be idiosyncratic.The thresholdvaluesindicatethat the partialcredit responsewas given by the ratersmore often than was the case for any of the other inventories.It is noteworthythat the items are eitherquite easy or very hard. clear separationof item locations. Againthe item difficultiesare orderedas predicted. The "Baby"resultsin Table I illustrateanothercharacteristicof a Rasch model. The one person with a noticeable negative fit had a perfect Guttman responsestring. An examinationof the responsesand residuals for BSI revealsthat five of the betterstudentscompletelymissed the item: "Wherewas Cassidy being held?"Three of the five students responded with the same answer:"in a dark. but at the beginningof the story BrotherTimothy.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS raters to accept answers about content (as opposed to structure) as adequate."Answers such as "Cherokee" were consideredincorrect."It appears that these three readersinterpretedall this to mean that while Brother Timothy was in "the passage.Of the four relativelyable studentswho misfit.thresholdvalues near zero. however. One way of coping with the situation is to take the nearestitem difficultyand add one standarderrorto yield a rough estimate of the missing difficulty. musty corridor.musty corridor. The relation between BSI and KD. and the personswho misfit did so becausethey either missedBSI(threestudents)or succeededon a difficultitem (threestudents). the thresholdvalues do not differfrom zero.the separationbetween item locations is generallygood.is pacing up and down a passage. which when his ability of -.58 is comparedwith each of the item difficultiesmakes perfectlygood sense. and the item fits are quite acceptable. "Fromtime to time he mutteredto himself. the "Blood"items fit the model.The pattern of item fits is also of interest.The fifth sentence of the story reads. Nonetheless.This reversalwas due to four subjects missing BSI but only two missing KD."Cassidy was behind "the stout wooden door" in the corridor. seems to be that of a reversal since the two items are separatedby about one and one-half standarderrors. That is.

78 2.81 -2.71 .52 1.27 2.26 .91a -4.44 -1.31 .t TABLE I Summaryof RaschModel Statistics tandard Item Type Scale Value Standard ThePearl A Questionof Blood An OminousBaby BSI KD SR SIR CIR AG SG BSI KD SR SIR CIR AG SG BSI KD SR SIR CIR AG SG -3.28 .72 .43 -2.86 3.25 -2.29 .01 Values: Error: 1.34 .15 1.12 2.57 -.23 .47 1.30 Thr Fit T Error .13 - St Values: Error: -.15 .17 .34 .79 -3.44 .90 1.21 .51 .81 -4.27 1.19 1.21 -.58 .93 2.48 2.23 .59 1.14 .16 .80 -2.28 .18 .85 .42 Values: Error: .30 1.34 -.33 -.11 2.28 .28 -.24 .87 -.19 -2.17 -.30 -.09 -.15 -1.

31 2.62 -1. a Becauseall respondentsreceivedfull crediton this item. The n's for The Pearl and "The Butterfly"differ from original sample sizes because per assignedabilityestimates. No fit statisticis possible.02 Values: Error: Note.55 2.91).45 -1.18 .TheButterfly BSI KD SR SIR CIR AG SG -1.83 -1.97 -1..39 -.This is simply the easiestitem.78 .19 .57 .03 .22 .21 -.17 -1.29 . the item value has been estimatedby ad .27 .76 -1.18 2.25 .72 = -4. .

" concernsthe impossibilityof finding a faithfulwoman may help a reader understandthe function of the several paradoxeswith which the poem opens. The present researchdoes not examine questions that call for the interpretationof specificimageryin terms of higherordergeneralizations.Thus.HILLOCKSAND LUDLOW BSI but succeededon SG. DISCUSSION These resultsstronglysupportthe hypothesesof this study:that the items are hierarchicaland taxonomicallyrelatedto each other.The most plausibleexplanation.observedresponses.and residualpatternsindicates that a taxonomic relationshipdoes characterizethe item hierarchies.(c) The item fit statisticsare sensitiveto as few as two or even one unexpected response. On the other hand.These hypotheses have implicationsfor teachingliteratureand for furtherresearch.The fourth differsonly at the extremes.that readerswho are incapableof answering lower level questions will be incapable of answeringhigher level ones. Does lower level comprehension enable upper level comprehension or vice versa? The present research cannot answerthe question definitively. The question is almost one of chicken or egg. There are several points that can be summarizedfor these results:(a) Threeof the four inventorieshave the hierarchicalitem orderpredictedby the researchhypothesis. incurringtwo largeresiduals. "Go and Catch a Falling Star.(b) The analysisof fit statistics.(d) The thresholdvalues indicate that the partialcredit scoring formatwas consistentboth within and acrossinventories. Some theoristsadvancethe argumentthat the interpretationof specific imagery in a given literary work may not be possible without some understandingof the work at the level of author'sgeneralization. It does demonstrate.The five students with large negativefits had identical ability estimates(2.71) and the impossibilityof estimatingitem difficultyfor BSI in the "Baby"inventory.67) and identical responsestrings:2 2 2 2 2 1 1. while those who are capable of answeringhigherlevel questions are also capable of answeringlower level ones. 22 . knowledge that John Donne's poem. at least in terms of the question types examined here appearsto be the former.however. the reader who remains oblivious to the paradoxical character of the opening lines is unlikely to comprehend Donne's comment on women.(e) The difficulty for the easiest and hardestitem types was occasionallyimpreciselyestimatedbecausethe rangeof abilitylevel in the samplewas ratherrestricted. The imprecision is seen in the relativelylarge standarderror for BSI in The Pearl (.

Further research remains to be conducted on the inventories. 23 . (b) Are the inventoriesthemselvesof relativelyequal difficulty.or can they be orderedfrom easiestto hardestalso?This informationcould be used to design a literaturestudy plan that progressesfrom easier to harderworks of fiction.Theseassertionsaboutinstruction may be reduced to a hypothesis for further research:that study guide questionsand questionsfor discussionthat are organizedaccordingto the hierarchywill resultin higherlevels of comprehensionand enjoymentthan will questionsthat are selectedand organizedhaphazardly. 1978).In addition.The spread in item scale valuesin the presentresearchsuggeststhat questionsclassified as simple implied and complex implied relationshipsmay be elaboratedto form definablesubtypes.then inventoriescould be "linked"(Wright& Stone.if some subjectswereto take pairs of inventories.Editorsof literaturetextbooks and teachersof literatureare concernedwith higherlevel inferenceswithout realizingthat if studentscannot answerquestionsat lower levels. they will be unable to deal with far more difficultinferences. it is possible to compare item type scale values across inventories objectively.The resultsoutlined above indicate the need for teachers to determine at what level students can work comfortably in interpretingliteraturein general and to guide them in dealing with the next higherlevels.A TAXONOMYOF SKILLS Directionsfor FutureResearch The goals of literatureinstructioninclude helpingstudentsincreasetheir abilities to comprehend literaturein general and their understandingof given works in particular. That is.Further. The inventories need to be administeredto a sample with a wider range of ability. teacherswho want studentsto deal with the structureof Coleridge's"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"really need to be sure that students first understandthe lowerlevel relationships. (a) Do the item types remain statisticallyinvariant across inventories?The present researchcan only provideevidence that the predictedhierarchyis similaracrossinventories. Once inventories are linked. Workingat two or more levels above studentcompetenceis likelyto resultin failureto comprehendand hostility towardliterature. Finally. furtherresearchon skill types should be conducted.the resultssuggestthe need to work hierarchically in helpingstudentsunderstanda given work at higherlevels.Do these form a subhierarchy?What other item types can be defined?How do they fit the existinghierarchy?The answers to these and other questionsare likely to have importantramificationsfor teachingliterature. An objective interinventory comparisonwould addresstwo questions. More studentswho fail the easy items and more who succeed on the harderitems might resolve the confusion over item locations in the "Blood"and "Baby"inventories.

LUDLOW.. University of Chicago. Suchman. 24 . 1950. Depts.Seventy-fiveshortmasterHAYCOX.New York. New York: Random House.. Hillsdale. Seventy-fiveshort masterpieces. 1978..561-573. 1893. evaluation. LUDLOW. Personfit: Whyand how. Guttman. B. of Education. Brewer(Eds. The basis for scalogramanalysis. D.C. Skill hierarchies in reading comprehension. TheArena. D. 1960 (Chicago:Universityof Chicago Press.: EarlbaumAssociates. G.J.AND LUDLOW HILLOCKS REFERENCES ANDRICH.). IL 60637. Lazarsfeld.. G. Stouffer. JR. Best test design. for ordered response categories.1980. J. G. G. 1961.. March 1982. Dept. F. & MCCAMPBELL.& J.B.Psychometrika. HILLOCKS. 1971. EnglishJournal. March 1982 (ERICDocument ReproductionServiceNo. Goodman (Ed. CRANE. & W. New York.M. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Council on Measurement in Education.D. In R. B. C.. Specializations: Measurement. 1972. D. University of Chicago. of Education and English. 819-821.N. & LUDLOW. Chicago. L. Probabilisticmodelsfor some intelligenceand attainmenttests. The pearl. Chicago: MESA Psychometric Laboratory. 3. Theoreticalissues in reading comprehension. 1982. Chicago: MESA Press. STEINBECK. New York: Bantam Books..In R. Goodman (Ed. RASCH. B. N. 5835 S.). A. HILLOCKS. E. In R.Measurement and prediction.L. and statistical analysis (MESA).L. Bruce. A ratingformulationfor orderedresponsecategories. Chicago. WRIGHT. & STONE. University of Chicago. F. Star. Rating scale analysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Council on Measurementin Education. H.New York:Wiley. An ominous baby. LARRY H. 1980. Associate Professor. Toward a hierarchy of skills in the comprehension of literature. B.. pieces. A. ED 222 523). A. ROSENSHINE. CREDIT: A Rasch program WRIGHT.P. Spiro. New York:BantamBooks. A. 1981. B. 43. GUTTMAN. E. WRIGHT. S.). J. J. H. In S. Copenhagen:DanmarksPaedogogiskeInstitut.B. MASTERS. New York:BantamBooks.L. Clausen(Eds. 54-59.J. MCCABE. Specializations: Instruction in composition and in interpreting literature. The dynamicsof English instruction.. WRIGHT. Doctoral Candidate. 1980). 1961. HANLEY. & MASTERS. Chicago: MESA Press. The butterfly. N. 9. A questionof blood. A. 1978. A residual is more than a chi-square. IL 60637. Kimbark. AUTHORS GEORGE HILLOCKS. D.S. JR.). JR.

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