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Contributions of Student Questioning and Prior Knowledge to Construction of Knowledge from Reading Information Text
Ana Taboada and John T. Guthrie Journal of Literacy Research 2006 38: 1 DOI: 10.1207/s15548430jlr3801_1

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JOURNAL OF LITERACY RESEARCH, 38(1), 1–35 Copyright © 2006, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Contributions of Student Questioning and Prior Knowledge to Construction of Knowledge From Reading Information Text
Ana Taboada and John T. Guthrie
Department of Human Development University of Maryland

This study investigated the relationship of student-generated questions and prior knowledge with reading comprehension. A questioning hierarchy was developed to describe the extent to which student-generated questions seek different levels of conceptual understanding. Third- and fourth-grade students (N = 360) posed questions that were related to their prior knowledge and reading comprehension, measured as conceptual knowledge built from text. The results indicated that student questioning accounted for a significant amount of variance in students’ reading comprehension, after accounting for the contribution of prior knowledge. Furthermore, low- and high-level questions were differentially associated with low and high levels of conceptual knowledge gained from text, showing a clear alignment between questioning levels and reading comprehension levels.

An active learner has been described as inquisitive and curious—someone who asks a substantial number of questions (Graesser, McMahen, & Johnson, 1994). Students who compose and answer their own questions are perceived as playing an active, initiating role in the learning process (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1990; King, 1994; Palincsar & Brown, 1984; Singer, 1978). They seek information that is related to an existing knowledge structure (Olson, Duffy, & Mack, 1985). Student questioning, defined as self-generated requests for information within a topic or domain, relies on assessing what is known and what is unknown about a topic and attempting to expand existing knowledge of the topic (Taboada & Guthrie, 2004).
Correspondence should be addressed to Ana Taboada, University of Maryland, 3304 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: ataboada@umd.edu

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TABOADA AND GUTHRIE

In reading, student questioning is represented as a strategy that helps foster active comprehension (e.g., National Reading Panel, 2000; Singer, 1978). The significance of student questioning during reading was underscored in a call for the improvement of comprehension tests: “We might wish for more extended passages, more complex interpretive questions, and certainly, opportunities for students to formulate questions about what they read instead of just selecting answers to a test-maker’s questions” (Resnick & Klopfer, 1989, pp. 208–209). Student Questioning in Relation to Text Instruction in generating questions in relation to both expository and narrative texts has been shown to positively influence reading comprehension for elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students (Ezell, Kohler, Jarzynka, & Strain, 1992; King & Rosenshine, 1993; Nolte & Singer, 1985; Raphael & Pearson, 1985; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1992; Singer & Donlan, 1982; Taylor & Frye, 1992). The instructional effect has been evident in students’ accuracy in answering test questions, better free recall of text, and identification of main ideas (Rosenshine, Meister, & Chapman, 1996). However, a limitation of many of these studies is that the authors have not attempted to provide evidence that the processes of question asking were the source of improvement in comprehension, nor has a theoretical explanation for the effects of questioning instruction been provided. For example, it is possible that instruction on questioning increased students’ activation of their background knowledge and that such activation accounted for the positive effects of the instruction. In other words, the attribution of the instructional effects to questioning has not been shown empirically, and a theoretical explanation of the benefits of questioning instruction has not been formulated in detail. The evidence for questioning instruction in relation to narrative texts is extensive in terms of the types of questions students ask and the impact these questions have on different comprehension measures. For instance, third graders who learned to ask literal questions in relation to short stories showed significant gains in answering and generating questions in criterion and standardized reading comprehension tests as compared to students who did not learn to generate story-based questions (Cohen, 1983). Older students, who learned to ask story-specific questions by using elements of story structure (e.g., Who is the leading character?), also scored significantly higher on tests assessing knowledge of story structure as compared to students who answered teacher-posed questions (Nolte & Singer, 1985; Singer & Donlan, 1982). Furthermore, third-grade students have learned to formulate their own questions by distinguishing between the text to which the question referred and the knowledge base of the reader (Ezell et al., 1992). These students showed gains of 2.2 years (grade-equivalent score) on the California Achievement Test when compared to third graders who did not receive questioning instruction

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. How are X and Y alike? How is X related to Y?) for expository texts. 1985. 1986). 1992). it has been assumed that higher order inferential questions induce more thorough processing of text and enhance attention to the macrostructure of text (Davey & McBride... In summary.. these results may be confounded by the fact that students who received questioning instruction had also been exposed to a rich. 1986).g.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2.87) than for standardized tests (ES = . and (c) story grammar categories (e. when sixth graders learned to differentiate between literal and inferential questions in relation to expository passages. with regard to expository texts. whereas for narrative texts. 1996. 1996) revealed that the impact of questioning instruction yielded larger effect sizes for experimenter-based comprehension tests (effect size [ES] = . In fact. three types of question prompts: (a) signal words (e. For example. Palincsar & Brown. mainly.. Despite the evidence that instruction in questioning in relation to narrative texts has a positive impact on the comprehension of those texts. Rosenshine et al. Dreher & Gambrell. 1984. 1988)—did not differ in vocabulary and reading comprehension from students who asked mainly one of the two question types. story-based questions were believed Downloaded from jlr. 1996). It is possible that. 1992. Nolte & Singer. sixth graders who were taught to formulate questions on the main ideas of expository paragraphs (Dreher & Gambrell. how. 1982) and that this questioning instruction fosters reading comprehension on both experimenter-designed and standardized tests (e.. Singer & Donlan. students need to learn to ask questions that go beyond the literal level of term definitions and require integration of information between the text and the reader’s prior knowledge. studies have indicated that a wide age range of students can learn to generate questions in relation to text (Cohen. 2012 . (b) generic question stems (e. who. Similarly. the literature has not fully addressed that impact from a theoretical viewpoint.. Rosenshine et al.. third-grade students who asked two literal-text types of questions—definition of terms and clarification questions (MacGregor. a main character’s goals) for narrative texts. A similar scenario occurs in the case of questioning in relation to expository texts. narrative reading curriculum with a large number of supplemental stories and were compared to students who did not have the same curriculum. 1985. A meta-analysis of instructional studies (Rosenshine et al. However.g.sagepub.36). researchers have discussed possible explanations for the impact of question generation on reading comprehension. 1983.g. 2000. they were better at answering and asking questions than students who engaged only in question practice or who did not ask any questions (Davey & McBride. National Reading Panel.g.STUDENT QUESTIONING 3 (Ezell et al. where. to have an impact on reading comprehension. These effects were observed when students asked specific questions using. Occasionally. 1985) performed better in answering main idea questions for new paragraphs than students who interacted with text through different activities. why). Ezell et al. For example..

sagepub. In particular. however. researchers have not attempted to account for why instruction in questioning improves their reading comprehension of a text. (b) knowledge use. College students. p. Singer & Dolan. A plausible explanation for this relationship is that questions activate prior knowledge. prior knowledge may play a very specific role in the types of questions a student asks. but at least three possibilities exist. 2001). students are involved in multiple processes requiring deeper interaction with text. and (c) attentional focus. Davey & McBride. evidence has not been presented to address these possibilities. the questioner directs his or her attention to text sections that contain information necessary to provide appropriate answers. A second explanation for the association between questions and reading comprehension is the influence of prior knowledge on students’ questions. During questioning. less conceptual materials in that domain (Miyake & Norman. Influence of Questioning on Reading Comprehension Processes Among the factors that can explain the relationship between questioning and reading comprehension. and possibly anticipate conclusions about information in the text. Experts. it is possible that the generation of questions improves reading comprehension as a result of active text processing (Wittrock. 1982). and we discuss them next. Theoretical explanations for the impact of questioning instruction on students’ reading comprehension have been scarce. A third possibility is that the impact of questioning on reading comprehension is explained by attentional factors. Despite the evidence that students who ask questions improve their understanding or their reading comprehension of a topic. do not ask many questions on materials that are too difficult or that exceed the extent of their knowledge base in the domain. 1986. 1979). three have been discussed in previous literature: (a) active text processing. These data support the notion that some type of relationship exists between the extent of the questioner’s prior knowledge and the number of questions asked. Risden. aids in reading comprehension. tend to ask more questions on difficult materials than they do for easier. in turn. 1981). This process has been termed the selective attention hypothesis. which..g. They hypothesize. students ponder relationships among different aspects of the text.4 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE to aid in the organization of story events (Singer & Dolan. 1982. Questions may contribute to reading comprehension mostly because they initiate cognitive processes. 2012 . By asking questions related to a specific topic. use attention selectively on different text sections (van den Broek. Trabasso. with little prior knowledge in a knowledge domain.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Tzeng. & Basche. When asking questions. 1982). However. College students retained more knowledge Downloaded from jlr. 624). focus on details and main ideas. According to some authors (e. where “questions lead to a focusing of attention on text segments containing information from the category that the questions are about” (Reynolds & Anderson.

Students’ questions may enhance reading comprehension by creating a preliminary structure for the different elements and relationships of a text representation. 2000). Chi. Guthrie & Scafiddi. & Squires. 1985.. Most theories of comprehension view successful understanding of a text as the identification of the elements in the text and the relationships among those elements to form a coherent structure. Secco.. 1981. reading comprehension can be characterized by the conceptual knowledge constructed from text (Alao & Guthrie. Trabasso. Van den Broek et al. de Leeuw. This evidence supports the notion that readers selectively allocate more attention to question-relevant information and learn this information better (Reynolds & Anderson. 2004). When the text is expository or informational.g. readers are motivated to give thorough answers that require integration of information across the story. Graesser & Clark. All three explanations are feasible reasons for the association between questioning and reading comprehension.STUDENT QUESTIONING 5 from text information that was relevant to questions than they retained from text information irrelevant to questions. Kintsch. then. questions may increase expository reading comprehension to the extent that they support the conceptual knowledge structure Downloaded from jlr. Student questions. Guthrie & Scafiddi.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Similarly. Under the general attentional focus. 522) in relation to narrative texts. 1998. 2004). Central to this structural organization are the interrelationships among the main concepts in the knowledge domain (e. was also proposed.sagepub. a mental representation of the text (e. However. thus. 1994. (2001) described “specific attention perspective” (p. Questions may benefit comprehension of narrative texts to the extent that they support the text representation of a causal network (van den Broek et al.. few of these reasons have been empirically investigated in past research. Questioning and the Conceptual Level Hypothesis We propose a fourth plausible explanation for the contribution of questioning to reading comprehension: that the conceptual levels of questions enable students to build knowledge structures from text. & Chiu. may support expository text comprehension to the extent that they support building a conceptual knowledge structure that includes the main concepts and essential relationships among the concepts in the text (Taboada & Guthrie. they focus on understanding the text as a whole (van den Broek et al. for which questioning results in improved comprehension of the whole text. Klopfer..g. 522). 2001). Under this perspective. 1982). Desena. 1984. A “general attention perspective” (p. 2001). 2004). Champagne. & van den Broek. Conceptual knowledge consists of content information that can be structurally organized within a knowledge domain or a particular topic in that domain. 1999. Alao & Guthrie. readers’ comprehension and memory would improve only for the story sections that were targeted by the questions asked. 1999. 2012 . van den Broek & Kremer.

The situation model is new knowledge gained from text.6 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE of the text (Taboada & Guthrie. Ezell et al.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. 1993). For example. & Bagget. If students’ questions in relation to text are examined in terms of the characteristics of their requests for information. Downloaded from jlr. and so on. requesting causal explanations (Costa. In this process. 1988). they can then be related to reading comprehension. 1992). Langston. it is necessary to build a framework that characterizes the structural qualities of questions. this has been done by describing types of questions. the fuller the situation model can be constructed. The majority of previous studies have proposed binary levels of question types. the conceptual complexity of these questions can be described. We call this process the conceptual level hypothesis. Prior Knowledge. prior knowledge contributes declarative information (content) to which the text base can be connected. 2000. Palincsar & Brown. 1983. and requesting the integration of complex information from multiple sources (Scardamalia & Bereiter.sagepub. to understand the association between questioning and reading comprehension.g. higher level questions tend to subsume lower level ones. The more prior knowledge possessed by the reader. it is necessary to construct types or levels of questions that allow examining questioning as a variable. High-level questions have also been described as eliciting responses such as explanations of concepts. & Otero. prior knowledge is used by the reader in conjunction with the text base to construct a “situation model” that fuses the two. relationships. and application of information to new situations (King & Rosenshine. with higher level questions being more inclusive in their requests for information than lower levels. Gallastegui. inferences. To investigate the hypothesis that questions increase comprehension by creating a preliminary expectation for the conceptual knowledge structure of the text.. 1986. 1984). whereas high-level questions required cause–effect explanations of science phenomena. Graesser. 2012 . definitional versus clarification (MacGregor. 1992). and Reading Comprehension Our view of the roles of questioning and prior knowledge in reading comprehension is based on Kintsch’s (1998) theory of the constructive-integration process. When questions are categorized in terms of the conceptual complexity of the information requested to answer them. 1993). In that view. Cohen. Conceptual Questions. 2004).. such as literal and inferential (e. Davey & McBride. A few studies have described question hierarchies. Cuccio-Schirripa and Steiner (2000) described a four-level question hierarchy in which low-level questions required yes/no or factual answers. main idea questions versus detail questions (Dreher & Gambrell. Caldeira. In the past. In some of these hierarchies. We suggest that. 1985. which categorize questions along a continuum of types or levels.

A description of each level is included in the Method section. we examined the association of question levels with reading comprehension. can be used. but may only anticipate a list of factual information. questioning is likely to facilitate the construction of a full situation model by constructing a high standard of coherence for understanding. or patterns of relationships among ideas or concepts (see Appendix A for a description of the questioning hierarchy). Third. simple descriptions. facilitating the differentiation of students’ new constructed knowledge from prior knowledge. and memorable. which does not facilitate the interconnections that foster reading comprehension. The reader with high-level questions preconstructs a framework into which the text base can be integrated. Questioning in Ecological Science In this study. a reader who asks highly conceptual questions expects a large number of links among propositions. such as headings. and propositions that enable the situation model to be rich. we hypothesized that levels of student self-generated questions in the content domain of ecology would be associated with degrees of conceptual knowledge built from texts in that domain. complex explanations. Specifically. concepts. captions. Second. concepts are readily identifiable in ecological science texts.sagepub. thus minimizing the total volume of reading for young students.STUDENT QUESTIONING 7 If the reader poses conceptual questions prior to reading. The structure of this questioning hierarchy varies as a function of the complexity of the knowledge the question elicits. Students’ self-generated questions were categorized according to requests for factual information. First. Not only does this reader have the content for a new situation model based on his or her prior knowledge. That is. However. science texts derived from trade books often have topographical markers. that afford the construction of conceptual knowledge more readily than other genres. Second. to understand these relationships. This expectation leads the reader to construct a relatively large number of causal relationships among words.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. multilayered. the reader brings a new cognitive process to the constructive reading task. First. We had three reasons for choosing ecological science texts. the questions anticipate a possible macrostructure of the situation model. and so on. Downloaded from jlr. indentation. A reader with low-level questions does not anticipate an elaborate macrostructure. but the reader has established part of the structure of the situation model before reading by posing questions. conceptual knowledge structures are often represented in short amounts of text in this domain. Conceptual questions enable the reader to connect the reader’s prior knowledge to the text base more easily for several reasons. any other content domain. 2012 . as characterized by conceptual knowledge built from expository science texts. such as geography or history.

supported by subordinate information (e. Level 4) differ from the student asking a lower level question (e.8 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE Conceptual Knowledge in Ecological Science Conceptual knowledge for ecological science in this study was categorized into degrees or levels of knowledge built from text. how does the student asking a higher level question (e.g. The six-level hierarchy used in this study was constructed by using students’ statements of their knowledge about ecology (Guthrie & Scafiddi. 2004). 2012 . 2004).g. Level 2)? In our theoretical perspective. Higher complexity is also noticeable in knowledge statements in which concepts are coherently organized and related to each other. For instance. the relevant question is: How do different question levels contribute to knowledge? Or. rather than explained in isolation from each other. measured as conceptual knowledge built from text. Like Chi et al. qualitative changes are evident in knowledge statements that represent a few major concepts from the text with supporting facts. qualitative shifts reflect that more elaborate and higher knowledge statements do not necessarily include more propositions but rather require a substantive integration of information (Guthrie & Scafiddi. In addition.g.. a student who asks a Level 4 question has understood and managed individual concepts and can focus on a higher organizational level. a Level 4 question would be “How do tadpoles develop lungs when they become toads. This last piece of the question captures the request for an answer that connects both concepts. (1994). and (c) the concept of adaptation to habitat (explicitly stated in the question). the higher levels in this hierarchy represent levels of conceptual knowledge characterized by qualitative and quantitative shifts with respect to lower knowledge levels (see Appendix B for a description of the knowledge hierarchy). higher knowledge in this hierarchy is represented by explanations of the essential relationships among concepts in the domain. (b) specific animals’ features that will contrast toads and tadpoles. What is presupposed by a higher level question is the ability to anticipate a knowledge structure that includes conceptual relations.. which entails relationships among concepts.sagepub. Questions as Contributors to Knowledge Building If student questioning is to be related to reading comprehension. and how do these help them in adjusting to their habitats?” A student asking a question such as this is seeking information on (a) the concept of respiration by asking about toads’ lungs. more precisely.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. For example. Downloaded from jlr. facts) in a structured network of knowledge. as opposed to statements containing facts only. Similar to Chi et al. which represented conceptual knowledge of the circulatory system.’s knowledge hierarchy.. This hierarchy is comparable to the rubric constructed by Chi et al.’s categorization.

3. METHOD Participants This study included 360 students from Grades 3 and 4. 2. 19% were newly enrolled. In summary. the student asking a Level 4 question forecasts that the type of information the text contains will be comprehensive and will provide an explanation that relates these ecological concepts. and 4) will be associated with reading comprehension consisting of conceptual knowledge supported by factual evidence. Essentially. 3.72 for Grade 4). Downloaded from jlr. Eighty-one percent of Grade 4 students in the sample were returning students and had been at the same schools in Grade 3. The students’ reading achievement was indicated by the Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test mean grade equivalent score (M = 4. Students’ question levels on a questioning hierarchy will be positively associated with students’ levels of reading comprehension measured by a multiple text comprehension task. SD = 1. Students participated with parental permission.78 for Grade 3. with the teacher providing the instruction for approximately 25 children. 2012 .com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. measured by a multiple text comprehension task when the contribution of prior knowledge to reading comprehension is accounted for. our focus on student questioning has to do with the organization of information in the questioner’s mind.and fourth-grade classrooms in all schools were self-contained.sagepub. On the indicator of social economic status (SES).STUDENT QUESTIONING 9 The three components of this question reveal the complexity of the knowledge necessary to answer the question. whereas the district has 13%. Students’ questions at the lowest levels of the questioning hierarchy (Level 1) will be associated with reading comprehension in the form of factual knowledge and simple associations. Both third. showing comparability between the sample and the district population. the sample had approximately 20% of students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals. Demographic characteristics of the sample are included in Table 1.08. with the knowledge that the reader/questioner brings to the text.34. and M = 5. The 125 third-grade students and 235 fourth-grade students were from four schools in a small city in a mid-Atlantic state. Hypotheses Three hypotheses are proposed in this study: 1. and how this is expressed through questions. Students’ questions at higher levels in the questioning hierarchy (Levels 2. SD = 2. Students’ questions will account for a significant amount of variance in reading comprehension.

and Rivers and Grasslands (Form C).4 7. Texts in this packet simulated a variety of information texts in ecology and were extracted from multiple published trade books on Reading Levels 2 to 5 in the domain of ecology. and the ratio of illustrations to paragraphs was similar for both text types.3 4.2 49. Ponds and Deserts (Form B).0 District % 50 50 100 8 2 87 2 1 100 Characteristic Gender Male Female Total Ethnicity African American Asian Caucasian Hispanic Other Total n 57 68 125 32 7 69 4 12 124 Materials A multiple text packet containing topics on two specific biomes within the field of ecology was the core text for three of the administered tasks.7 100. Font size was generally bigger for the easy text than for difficult text. and eight sections were more difficult text.8 5. In addition. Difficult text had longer sentences (14–28 words per sentence).. Each packet comprised approximately 75 pages and a total of 22 chapter-like sections. with approximately one or two illustrations per paragraph. Distribution of sections was the same across all three forms (i.10 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE TABLE 1 Demographic Characteristics of Students in Grades 3 and 4 Grade 3 Grade 4 % 45.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Biome and animal/plant life information was emphasized equally across sections. Easy text had approximately two to four sentences (3–13 words in length) per paragraph and five to six paragraphs per section.8 100.2 9.0 25. and 13 to 16 paragraphs per section.0 20. Texts were relevant to the school district science requirements. and biome characteristics).9 63.0 n 118 117 235 48 9 147 17 11 232 % 50. Each packet consisted of one of three alternative forms: Oceans and Forests (Form A). Students received alternative forms of the packet in both years. Each packet had a glossary and an index. 2012 . and six sections were nonrelevant (i. animals. equal number of sections on plants.sagepub.4 100. difficult texts had twice Downloaded from jlr. Eight sections were easy text.7 100.6 3.6 55. distracters).e. Each section was three to four pages long. Sixteen of these sections were relevant to the packet biome. Text difficulty varied mainly in terms of sentence and paragraph length.6 54. The three alternative forms were parallel in content difficulty and text structure.7 3.e.. Text difficulty was equally distributed throughout the packet. with an average of 6 to 10 sentences per paragraph.

was used to provide a measure of concurrent validity for the multiple text comprehension task. and Rivers and Grasslands (Form C). The directions read: Downloaded from jlr. the results are limited to expository texts in ecological science. ecological science).. generalizability of the results is limited to this content domain and this genre. Measures used in the analyses for Grade 4 were administered in September and December 2003.g. reproduction) or depicted factual and detailed text information (e. Most illustrations were real-life photographs. The pictures in these texts generally illustrated a concept in the text (e.. Packets had an average of two to three illustrations per page. Prior knowledge. with approximately 100 pictures in black and white and 11 pictures in color. number and size of water lilies in a river). the others were diagrams with captions explaining their components. In this study.g.g. as well as the comprehension subtest of the Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test (Form S). Students were prompted to activate their prior knowledge by recalling what they knew about the topics described in the multiple text packet. questioning. Prior knowledge activation consists of students’ recall of what they know about the topic of a text before and during reading for the purpose of learning the content as fully as possible and linking new content to prior understanding. All measures used in the analyses for Grade 3 were administered in September and December 2002. Five minutes were devoted to directions. a standardized measure of reading comprehension. The Gates–MacGinitie. this task measured the breadth and depth of students’ prior knowledge on an assigned topic in ecology. Ponds and Deserts (Form B). Students were randomly assigned to one of the three alternative forms of the task: Oceans and Forests (Form A). Therefore. Due to the specificity of the content domain of the text materials used in this study (e. According to teachers’ ratings. and multiple text comprehension. The majority of these illustrations had accompanying captions explaining the major features depicted.. Measures A total of four tasks were administered to students in Grades 3 and 4 over three school days: prior knowledge. Prompts for prior knowledge activation consisted of five questions that focused on similarities and differences between the two biomes described in the reading packet.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2.sagepub. 40% of texts were appropriate for a Grade 3 reading level and 60% were appropriate for a Grade 5 reading level. Students wrote what they knew about their assigned biomes for 20 minutes.STUDENT QUESTIONING 11 as many captions (per illustration) as easy texts. 2012 . This task measured prior knowledge about the topic before students read about it in the multiple text comprehension task.

Ponds are very wet. and fish.001 for Grade 4. p < . think about the following questions. For example. There are many other things about deserts and ponds. Two independent raters coded students’ responses into the corresponding hierarchy for the task. and flowers and much. These correlations were r(116) = . You can turn over the page if you need more room. Write in complete sentences. Students’ responses to the prior knowledge task consisted of written essays. Keep writing if you can. If exact agreement was below 70%. discrepancies in final scores were resolved by a third independent rater. Well that’s all I have to say about deserts and ponds.001 for Grade 3. Deserts and ponds are opposites.12 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE In the space below. Concurrent validity for this measure was indicated by the correlation between prior knowledge and multiple text reading comprehension using the three alternative forms for both of these tasks in December 2002 for Grade 3 and December 2003 for Grade 4. There are lots of plants like lily pads that frogs jump on and reeds that ducks lay their eggs.” After 15 minutes. Ponds have lots of animals. When writing your answer. adjacent was 100%.sagepub. p < . For example.35.45. 2012 . much more. Parallel form across time reliability for this task was r(118) = . Exact interrater agreement for 20 responses for this task in Grade 3 was 80%. The procedure for establishing interrater reliability was very similar for all three tasks for which interrater reliability was indicated. Downloaded from jlr. Exact interrater agreement for 20 responses for this task in Grade 4 was 77%. The following is an example of a third grader’s prior knowledge essay on the topic of Ponds and Deserts: Deserts are very dry. After 7 minutes. birds.44. There are lots of plants that are in the desert. the teacher provided the following prompt: “You are doing well.001 for Grade 4. Adjacent agreement was computed to report whether raters disagreed by one or less on the coding of a response. p < . They do eat but don’t drink as much. and r(151) = . At a desert animals don’t need a lot of water. and r(159) = . You have 15 minutes to write your answer. adjacent was 100%. p < . snakes. Parallel form across time reliability was established by correlating students’ scores on one of three forms of the prior knowledge task in September with scores on an alternative form of the task in December for each grade. there are ducks. there are cactuses.31.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. owls and lizards (reptiles). Deserts have animals like coyotes.001 for Grade 3. forms were collected. write what you know about [ponds and deserts]. rabbits. How are [ponds and deserts] different? What animals and plants live in a [pond]? What animals and plants live in a [desert]? How do these animals and plants live? How do the plants and animals help each other live? Write what you know. Exact agreement was computed to report whether raters concurred on the identical number (coding) for a given response.

In addition. factual versus conceptual questions can be described in geography. These classifications are present in the preceding example (see Appendix B). In this task. often in lists. The hierarchy scores ranged from one to six. Students’ questions were coded into the four levels of the questioning hierarchy presented in Appendix A. Questioning. 2012 .com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. What questions do you have about [ponds and deserts]? These questions should be important and they should help you learn more about [ponds and deserts]. Students were given directions to browse the text for 2 minutes: “Look at your packets for a few minutes to remind yourself of the important ideas you have been learning about [ponds and deserts]. students generated questions about life in two biomes that were described in the multiple text packet. students can correctly classify several organisms. Coding students’ questions: Developing a questioning hierarchy. These questions were neither coded nor used for data analyses. as well as in history). You have 20 minutes. You should write as many good questions as you can.. Very few students wrote more than 10 questions. questions are also quantifiable because levels are ascribed Downloaded from jlr. with limited definitions. The hierarchy is a valuable tool because it characterizes a wide range of question levels in a qualitative and quantitative way. We do not believe the questioning task was affected negatively or positively by the prior knowledge activation task. students received the following directions: You have been learning about [ponds and deserts]. Students were provided enough space on the forms to write a maximum of 10 questions. A score of 6 (Level 6) corresponds to high prior knowledge and is evident in essays in which students describe complex patterns of relationships among several organisms and their habitats. Packets were collected before students started generating their questions so texts were not available to students during question generation. Qualitatively. At this level. A large majority of the students completed the task in 20 minutes. These types of essays are characterized by concepts and science principles that are thoroughly supported by appropriate examples and statements. Questioning refers to students asking or writing self-initiated questions about the content of the text before or during reading to help them understand the text and topic.g.” After browsing. The essay example previously presented for this task corresponds to a Level 2 in this hierarchy.sagepub.STUDENT QUESTIONING 13 Students’ performance on prior knowledge was rated on the same knowledge hierarchy as the multiple text comprehension task. A score of 1 (Level 1) corresponds to low prior knowledge and is evident in essays consisting of briefly stated simple facts. questions are described in terms of their requests for information in a way that is transparent for multiple users and applicable to various knowledge domains (e.

questions request a global statement about an ecological concept or an aspect of survival of an organism. Level 1. 2004). competition. yet they do so using different behaviors and different features). We sorted 65 questions from a sample of 25 students holistically into six relatively lower and higher categories. Based on students’ written questions. We discussed the categories again and reduced them to four categories. Therefore. events. defense is a concept because it refers to a series of behaviors or a class of interactions that takes place for several organisms and species. communication. concepts are characterized by their abstractness because they are transferable from organism to organism (i. Students’ questions were examined in two stages: (a) questions about animals. or interactions (Guthrie & Scafiddi. To test our prior classifications we sorted another set of 40 questions into the same categories. Alternatively. feeding. A concept is an abstraction that refers to a class of objects. or to distinguish a species’ habitat or biome. respiration. based on redundant characteristics across the six original ones. we started by examining third-grade students’ questions at the beginning of the school year. During a pilot phase. the questions are simple in form and ask for a factual proposition or a yes/no answer. both owls and bears defend themselves and protect their young from predators. a question such as “How do owls defend themselves from predators in the woodlands?” elicits a request for conceptual information that is not captured by a question such as “How big are grizzly bears’ paws?” The concepts used in ecological science in this study are reproduction. At the same time. it is limited to particular species or organisms. although it can be related to defense. 2012 . adjustment to habitat. in the question “What kinds of sharks are in the ocean?” rather than a request for a mere grouping or quantification of organisms. locomotion. For example. The questioning hierarchy was developed by the two authors of this study. these are still global in their requests for information. At Level 2. and niche (see Appendix C for ecological concept definitions).sagepub. predation. Despite the conceptual focus of questions at Level 2..14 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE values that correspond with objective characteristics of a question.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. We then identified the critical qualities of each category and discussed them. paws cannot be characterized as an ecological concept because. The qualitative difference between questions at Level 1 and Level 2 rests on the conceptual (rather than factual) focus that Level 2 questions have. A second characteristic of Level 2 questions is that they may also ask about a set of distinctions necessary to account for all the forms of species. For example. defense. Level 2 questions are not specific about aspects of the ecological concept.e. a feature that Level 3 questions have. allowing quantitative analyses and multiple uses of the hierarchy. we constructed a hierarchy characterizing the types of questions students asked. At the basic level of the hierarchy. After reasonable agreement on the four categories. the notion of class or group is evident. we identified two question prototypes for each category. and (b) questions about biomes. Downloaded from jlr.

At Level 4. interactions between two or more concepts are central to the requests for information. The questioning mean was computed by dividing the sum by the number of questions asked.001 for Grade 3. anthropomorphic questions (e. Level 3 questions require information about ecological concepts (i. 2012 .e. the progression from Level 1 to Level 4 questions is based on the complexity of the question as expressed in requests for knowledge.003 for Grade Downloaded from jlr. Level 4. In summary.g.. Exact interrater agreement for coding students’ questions to the questioning hierarchy in Grade 4 was also 90%. p < .. Exact interrater agreement for coding students’ questions to the questioning hierarchy in Grade 3 was 90%. Lastly. “Why is the forest surrounded by water?”). and r(173) = . with a score of 0 if they wrote no question.g. adjacent was 100%. with Level 1 questions requesting factual knowledge and Levels 2 to 4 asking about conceptual knowledge with increasing degrees of specificity and complexity within the question. “Why do salmon go to the sea to mate and lay eggs in the river?”). questions including ethical or religious notions (e. adjacent was 100% (100 questions for 25 students). “Why do elf owls make homes in cactuses?”). questions containing misconceptions in their formulation (e. Parallel form across time reliability was r(116) = ... knowledge about the concept of adaptation to habitat is expressed in the previous question) by specifying a particular aspect of that concept (i. Parallel form across time reliability coefficients were calculated for each grade. A student’s score could range from 0 to 40. questions at the highest level.g..STUDENT QUESTIONING 15 Level 3 questions are requests for elaborate explanations about a specific aspect of an ecological concept with accompanying evidence. The number of questions asked included the noncodable questions (coded as 0). The higher conceptual complexity in Level 3 questions is evident within the questions themselves because they probe the ecological concept by using knowledge about survival or animal characteristics.g. and nonreadable questions due either to very poor spelling or poor grammar. Questions at Level 4 are differentiated from the other three levels because they constitute a request for principled understanding. p < . aim at the interrelationships of ecological concepts or about interdependencies of organisms within or across biomes (e.23. A score of 0 was also given if the question was categorized as noncodable. requests for semantic definitions. “Why are bats sad?”). Noncodable questions included statements (rather than questions). These questions show clear evidence of specific prior knowledge about an ecological concept that is contained in the question itself (e.g..43. The sum of the question levels was calculated by adding the codes assigned to the questions.. that elf owls use cacti to make their homes).com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Students wrote from 0 to 10 questions and were given a hierarchy score of 1 to 4 for each question.sagepub. The questioning mean was used in all analyses as the indicator of the average level of questions asked. “Why did God make grasslands?”). with evidence for complex interactions among multiple concepts and possibly across biomes.e.

com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. and taking notes about the two biomes described in the multiple text packets. indicating adequate reliability. Students’ essays were coded into the categories of the hierarchy for conceptual knowledge (Appendix B). Concurrent validity was indicated by correlations with the Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test of r(114) = . how to select relevant sections. For Grade 3. salmon. water weed. p < . students were explicitly taught how to use the table of contents. ponds and deserts).30. students were asked to write about what they learned during their interaction with text in the two previous sessions. students spent a total of approximately 40 minutes searching for information and an additional 30 minutes writing what they had learned from the text. the content domain for this task was ecological science. This task was administered in three sessions over 2 days. Like the other two tasks.38. trouts. Multiple text comprehension. p < . piranhas.001 for Grade 3. and r(151) = . interrater agreement for 20 responses for Grade 4 was 95% for adjacent coding and 60% for exact coding. Downloaded from jlr. Internal consistency reliability for this task yielded a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of . The same knowledge hierarchy was used to score students’ responses to the prior knowledge task. reading. On the second day. and platypus all live in a river. and r(160) = . lotuses. Interrater agreement for 20 responses for Grade 4 was 100% for adjacent coding and 70% for exact coding. Water lilys. and writing an open-ended statement expressing conceptual knowledge gained from performing this task. An example of a third grader’s Level 6 essay follows: Grassland and rivers are different because grasslands are dry and have few water and rivers are a channel with water in it.001 for Grade 3.g. As part of the searching activity. In the third session.001 for Grade 4. On the first day. During the first two sessions. students spent time searching for information. Prompts consisted of the same questions posed for the prior knowledge task (e.16 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE 4. reading to obtain question-relevant information. The searching activity consisted of identifying text-relevant information by choosing sections that helped them explain how animals and plants live in two biomes (e. How are [oceans and forests] different? What animals and plants live in a [forest]?) Students had 30 minutes to express their knowledge and were prompted to write in full sentences. otters.g. sea wasp. indicating adequate reliability. p < .001 for Grade 4. Multiple text comprehension refers to students’ competence in identifying text-relevant information. and how to take notes in the spaces provided on the given forms... taking notes. Parallel form across time reliability was r(108) = .35. p < .sagepub.83 (10 items). discrepancies in final scores were resolved by a third independent rater.46. students spent approximately 20 minutes searching for information. They were encouraged to keep writing after 7 minutes and again after 20 minutes into the task. 2012 .

38. deers.98 119 469.95 0. this hypothesis was addressed by examining the correlations of questioning and multiple text comprehension.69 128 1. Prior knowledge correlated with questioning. 2012 .64 42. butterflies. r(116) = .17 218 Downloaded from jlr. and also need sunlight. questioning correlated with multiple text reading comprehension. Animals drink.28 0.22 211 494. r(125) = . trees.44 164 Grade 4 2.29 1. and the correlations are presented in Table 3.sagepub. cheetahs. The first hypothesis was that students’ question levels on the questioning hierarchy would be positively associated with students’ level of text comprehension measured by a multiple text comprehension task.35 0.44 0. These tests consist of approximately 12 paragraphs on varied subjects with a range of two to six questions on each paragraph for students to answer.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test. The comprehension tests of Levels 3 and 4 (Form S) of this standardized measure of reading comprehension were used in this study. birds.61 235 3.31. rinos. eat. and puff adder all live in grassland.001.STUDENT QUESTIONING 17 Elephants. hyenas. The extended scale score was used for all statistical analyses.001.52 125 2. grass. Plants help animals by making oxygen and when animals die they can fetalize the soil and that is good for plants.86 221 1. RESULTS The means and standard deviations for all variables are presented in Table 2. and sleep to live. sleep. For Grade 3.90 37. p < . p < . plants also drink. and prior knowlTABLE 2 Means and Standard Deviations for All Variables for Grades 3 and 4 Cognitive Variables Prior knowledge M SD n Questioning M SD n Multiple text comprehension M SD n Gates–MacGinitie M SD n Grade 3 1. flowers.30 0. eat. For both grades.

p < . r(116) = . r(221) = .com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. p < .01). questioning explained 2% of the variance in multiple text comprehension.47. p < . Gates–MacGinitie 1 — . p < .001. Questioning 3. 2012 .001. measured by a multiple text comprehension task when the contribution of prior knowledge to reading comprehension was accounted for. F∆(1. which was significant. The multiple R was . This order of entry was intended to examine the contribution of student questioning when prior knowledge was statistically controlled.34. 121) = 7.001.52. **p < . r(197) = .48*** 2 . p < .01.001.23 (p < .05. questioning explained 7% of the variance in multiple text reading comprehension.01. When the Gates–MacGinitie was entered as the criterion. In each analysis. Prior knowledge correlated with questioning. which was significant.42. with prior knowledge entered first and questioning entered second as independent variables.27 (p < . Results for Grade 4 (Table 5) indicated that.01. and prior knowledge correlated with multiple text comprehension. r(114) = . After prior knowledge was accounted for. and the final beta for questioning was .45*** .19** . ***p < .40*** . The second hypothesis of this study was that students’ questions would account for a significant amount of variance in reading comprehension.01. questioning accounted for 6% of the variance on this standardized test after prior knowledge was accounted for. after prior knowledge was accounted for.34*** 4 .43. p < .34*** .sagepub. The multiple R was .45.31*** — . p < .40. The Gates–MacGinitie test correlated significantly with the multiple text reading comprehension task. 201) = 3. 113) = 10. Downloaded from jlr.38*** — . The Gates–MacGinitie test correlated significantly with the multiple text reading comprehension task.21. and Reading Comprehension for Grades 3 and 4 Cognitive Variables 1. multiple text reading comprehension was the dependent variable. Questioning.01. Correlations for Grade 3 are above the diagonal. For Grade 4.18 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE TABLE 3 Correlations Among Prior Knowledge.89. Prior knowledge 2. F∆(1.19.30*** — Note.21** . questioning correlated with multiple text reading comprehension. those for Grade 4 are below the diagonal. F∆(1. This was tested in multiple regression analyses for Grades 3 and 4. r(211) = .41*** . p < .01). r(204) = . edge correlated with multiple text comprehension. Multiple text comprehension 4. p < .31*** 3 .99. Missing data were handled with list-wise deletion. and the final beta for questioning was . The multiple R was .30.001. Results for Grade 3 (Table 4) indicated that questioning accounted for a significant amount of variance in multiple text reading comprehension and the Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test over and above that accounted for by prior knowledge.

01.04.05).98*** 7. p = .001.80).23** Final β .43*** . ES = . 112) = 1.52 R2 .97. The multiple R was . Figures 1 and 2 show multiple text comprehension as a function of questioning levels and prior knowledge levels for each grade. ***p < .47 R2 .STUDENT QUESTIONING TABLE 4 Regression Analyses of Prior Knowledge and Questioning on Reading Comprehension for Grade 3 Students Dependent and Independent Variables Multiple text comprehension Prior knowledge Questioning Gates–MacGinitie Prior knowledge Questioning **p < . F∆(1.48 .sagepub.43** 23.38*** . Had there been an interaction between questioning and prior knowledge. prior knowledge had benefits on comprehension for students with high questioning levels (Grade 3.45 . 200) = 0. R .23 . TABLE 5 Regression Analyses of Prior Knowledge and Questioning on Reading Comprehension for Grade 4 Students Dependent and Independent Variables Multiple text comprehension Prior knowledge Questioning Gates–MacGinitie Prior knowledge Questioning *p < .51.27 ∆R2 .42 .001.52.001).13* . p < . As shown in the regression analyses.07 .22 ∆R2 . ES = .16 .20). questioning also accounted for 4% of the variance over and above prior knowledge when the Gates–MacGinitie test was the criterion variable. Grade 4. or for Grade 4.57) and low prior knowledge (Grade 3. We tested for the interaction effects of prior knowledge and questioning on multiple text comprehension for each grade.959.69*** R .93*** 3. Results from regression analyses showed that the interaction between these two variables was not significant for Grade 3.329. 202) = 11. main effects were observed.45. ES = . ES = .16 .21 (p < .43*** 11.18 .com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2.40 .99* 59. ***p < .20 . these two variables Downloaded from jlr.33*** .04 F∆ 38. For both grades. as well as for students with low questioning levels (Grade 3.16 . F∆(1. questioning improved comprehension significantly for students with high prior knowledge (Grade 3.36*** .27 . and the final beta for questioning was . In addition. ES = 1. ES = .52 .89** 19 Final β .41 .13 (p < . Grade 4. F∆(1.69.879.02 .27** .23 . Grade 4.21*** and the final beta for questioning was .20 .001. ES = .05.34*** 10. p = .06 F∆ 28. Grade 4.35).173.16 . ES = . 2012 . Similarly.

high prior knowledge). Scores for the multiple text com- Downloaded from jlr. 3.g. is evidenced by the fact that either one of the two variables has an impact on reading comprehension.g. irrespective of the levels of the other variable.g. questioning) making a difference at one level of the other variable (e. with one variable (e. The absence of an interaction. whereas students’ questions at higher levels in the questioning hierarchy (Levels 2.. Frequencies of high and low scores were computed for the variables of questioning and multiple text reading comprehension for each grade.20 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE FIGURE 1 Mean proportion of multiple text comprehension scores as a function of prior knowledge levels and questioning levels for Grade 3 students. would have been dependent on each other for their impact on reading comprehension. Low-level questions reflected factual knowledge (defined as Level 1 in the questioning hierarchy). and 4) would be associated with reading comprehension levels consisting of factual and conceptual knowledge.. low prior knowledge). High-level questions reflected conceptual and factual knowledge (defined as Levels 2.. and 4 in the questioning hierarchy). The third hypothesis was that students’questions at the lowest levels of the questioning hierarchy (Level 1) would be associated with reading comprehension levels in the form of factual knowledge and simple associations. 2012 .sagepub.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. or the independence of these variables from each other. 3. A chi-square test for independence was used to address this hypothesis. but not making a difference at the other level of that variable (e.

Scores for multiple text comprehension were low if they equaled 2 or below on the knowledge hierarchy.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. 2012 . the Pearson chi-square was statistically significant. The chi-square tested whether question levels were independent of the levels of conceptual knowledge. This partitioning of high and low for both variables was done to make the subgroups as equivalent as possible in size to enable a chi-square to be computed and to meet the requirement that expected frequencies in each cell should be at least 5. Scores were high if they equaled 3 or above on the knowledge hierarchy.23. For both grades. Tables 6 and 7 show the observed frequencies in the form of 2 × 2 matrices. p < .001. It should be noted (see Table 6) that the majority of the students (67%) were located in the low questioning/low multiple text comprehension group (n = 49) and in the high questioning/high multiple text comprehension group (n = 29).sagepub.STUDENT QUESTIONING 21 FIGURE 2 Mean proportion of multiple text comprehension scores as a function of prior knowledge levels and questioning levels for Grade 4 students. where the rows correspond to the two categories of the multiple text comprehension variable and the columns correspond to the two categories of the questioning variable. Downloaded from jlr. N = 116) = 12. χ2(1. which indicates that the hypothesis of independence between the two variables is rejected. The higher proportion represented by these two groups gave the significant association between these variables. For Grade 3. prehension task were also categorized into high and low levels.

N = 100) = 8.29) higher than Grade 3 (M = 2. TABLE 7 Questioning Levels According to Levels of Multiple Text Comprehension for Grade 4 Students Questioning Multiple Text Comprehension Low High Total Note.01. Low 42 15 57 High 19 24 43 Total 61 39 100 The values represent frequencies of questioning categories (high/low).001.35) higher than Grade 3 (M = 1.44). Results from this analysis showed significant differences between Grades 3 and 4 on all three variables collectively.001. F(1. and questioning. p < .sagepub. p < . These results support a specific alignment between questioning levels and levels of conceptual knowledge built from text measured by the multiple text comprehension task for Grade 3 and Grade 4 students. which indicate a significant association between these two variables for this sample (see Table 7). Multiple text comprehension was also statistically significantly different.95).96.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Results from a follow-up analysis of variance showed significant differences between the two groups on two of the three variables. Again. Low 49 19 68 High 19 29 48 Total 68 48 116 The values represent frequencies of questioning categories (high/low). with Grade 4 (M = 2. 2012 . F(1. Statistically significant differences between the two grades were found for prior knowledge. The two groups of students were compared for descriptive purposes. multiple text comprehension. p < .50.22 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE TABLE 6 Questioning Levels According to Levels of Multiple Text Comprehension for Grade 3 Students Questioning Multiple Text Comprehension Low High Total Note. Questioning was not statisti- Downloaded from jlr. the Pearson chi-square statistic was also statistically significant. with Grade 4 (M = 3. χ2(1. 303) = 37. A multivariate analysis of variance determined any significant differences between the two age groups on the outcome variables of prior knowledge. For Grade 4.01. 303) = 19. the higher proportion of cases was represented by the cells of low questioning/low multiple text comprehension (n = 42) and high questioning/high multiple text comprehension (n = 24).

1996. when. they show that questioning. Rosenshine et al.30 for Grade 3). student questions were described as requests for conceptual knowledge from text.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. In this study. Scardamalia & Bereiter. 1992. To investigate the relationship between student questioning and reading comprehension. These findings indicate that the contribution of questioning to reading comprehension is not constrained to the topic or content domain of the text.. 1992). 1986. rather than by question form (e. 2012 .sagepub. Both of these findings contribute to the literature in two main ways. Thus.g.28 for Grade 4. question stems). These findings are consistent with suggestions from previous investigators that there is a positive relationship between students’ generated questions and their reading comprehension (e. understood as a strategy that serves to seek conceptual information. 209). Categorizing questions on the basis of their requests for content. Regression analyses showed that third and fourth graders’ self-generated questions contributed a significant amount of variance to reading comprehension in the domain of ecology when the contribution of prior knowledge was statistically controlled. This association was shown in the correlations between student questioning and reading comprehension for students in Grades 3 and 4. Furthermore. this study expands previous literature because of its distinctive measure of student self-generated questions that allowed relating these questions to reading comprehension and prior knowledge. 1994. is consistent with previous suggestions in the literature: “Defining categories on the basis of content of the information requested rather than form is consistent with theories of question answering in the cognitive sciences” (Graesser et al. p. previous research has indicated that students who possess higher prior knowledge in a given domain tend to ask a higher proportion of questions or higher Downloaded from jlr. we examined the relationship of questioning with reading comprehension when taking into account the influence of prior knowledge. question words what. King & Rosenshine.g. our results contribute to the extant literature in student questioning by specifying a measure of question quality and presenting empirical evidence for the association of student questioning and reading comprehension. and M = 1. questioning still explained a significant amount of variance over and above prior knowledge in reading comprehension when the Gates–MacGinitie was the dependent variable in the regression analyses for both grades. Rather. Ezell et al. Davey & McBride. is a process that benefits skills involved in standardized reading tests such as the Gates–MacGinitie. First. However. 1993. who.STUDENT QUESTIONING 23 cally significantly different across grades (M = 1... DISCUSSION The findings in this investigation showed that students’ questions were positively associated with their reading comprehension...

Indeed. in our view.sagepub. we found no evidence of an interaction between prior knowledge and questioning for either grade. Specifically. during the meaning construction process that takes place during reading comprehension. not only did significant regression weights indicate that prior knowledge and questioning contributed to reading comprehension independently of each other. but not for students with low prior knowledge. Therefore. As shown in Figures 1 and 2. Downloaded from jlr. Van der Meij. our analyses permit discussing the contributions of each of these variables to reading comprehension. 1979. questioning would show benefits on reading comprehension for students with high prior knowledge. Likewise. Similarly. 2012 . questioning accounted for variance in reading comprehension when this was measured with an experimenter-designed test and with a standardized test of reading comprehension. Had the interaction between these two variables been significant for either grade. our results provide evidence showing that students’ spontaneous question generation.24 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE level questions than students who have lower prior knowledge in the domain (Miyake & Norman. as discussed. questioning contributes to comprehension in parallel—concurrently with prior knowledge. For both grades. Our results do not support this notion. questioning would be dependent on prior knowledge for its contribution to reading comprehension. In other words. in these studies. who indicated that fifth and sixth graders tended to ask more definitional types of questions when they did not know enough about a topic but asked more high-level questions when they had some prior knowledge on the topic. The absence of this interaction indicates that both of these variables had benefits for students’ reading comprehension independently of one another. Furthermore. In this sense. but the absence of an interaction lent further support to their separate benefits on reading comprehension when levels of each variable were examined. Although we observed similar findings. this apparent interaction between types of questions and prior knowledge was not tested empirically. as well as for students with high prior knowledge in both grades.. Questioning facilitates the use of prior knowledge but does not itself require prior knowledge beyond the extremely minimal level that any student would bring to the text. Thus. these two processes are parallel. accounts for variance in reading comprehension above and beyond the variance accounted for by prior knowledge in the domain of ecological science. these findings do not seem to be constrained to the specific domain of ecological science. middle-school students tended to ask more questions on word definitions than high-level/causal questions when they had difficulty understanding the terminology in the text (Costa et al. Second.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. rather than interdependent in their action. questioning contributed to reading comprehension for students with low prior knowledge. This last finding verifies the unique contribution of questioning to reading comprehension through replication of results across different measures. prior knowledge does not require questioning beyond a minimal level. these results appear to contradict the findings of Scardamalia and Bereiter (1992). 1990). in reference to authentic school texts. However. 2000).

students who asked questions such as “Are sharks scary?” (Level 1) tended to gain knowledge from text consisting of statements such as “I know that most sharks are terrifying. whereas questions requesting information about concepts were associated with higher levels of reading comprehension consisting of conceptual knowledge supported by factual evidence and examples.. In addition. otters. tended to gain simple concepts from text. Hear are the animals and plants of a river salmon. and may appear as a list. crocodile. Some of them live in trees one of them live in a hole some of them live on the ground. They all live by water. Yet. such as the concept of feeding in this statement. For example. some don’t. such as “What do grasslands animals eat?” (Level 2). plants or meat. For example a third-grade student’s question at Level Downloaded from jlr. asked questions at Level 3 had knowledge representations at Levels 3 and 4 in the knowledge hierarchy. elephant. most of them eat meat and only some of them eat plants. Students asking Level 3 questions requested an elaborated explanation about a specific aspect of an ecological concept. whereas the majority of the students asking conceptual questions as expressed in Levels 2. hippo. I will tell you the animals and plants of a river and grassland. these statements are not characterized by full definitions of biomes or descriptions of organisms’ adaptations to biomes. in which the information is minimal.sagepub. Students who asked questions requesting a global statement about an ecological concept. weakly stated concepts may be included. questions that requested simple facts were associated with reading comprehension levels consisting of factual knowledge and simple associations. as in the previous statement. 3. coyote. on average. Some of them are less terrifying like the carpet shark.STUDENT QUESTIONING 25 Our third finding was that students’ question levels were associated with levels of reading comprehension measured as conceptual knowledge built from text.g. Some live by water. The specificity of the concept was generally expressed by using prior knowledge within the question. Hear are the animals and plants in a grassland lion. and polar bears. I will tell you the difference is. prairie dog. Specifically. sea plants.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. They all live by water. Students who. and 4 had levels of conceptual knowledge commensurate with those levels. as defined by the questioning hierarchy used in this study. 2012 .” Statements such as these denote the absence of ecological concepts and biome definitions and include only a few characteristics of a biome or an organism. tended to have low levels of reading comprehension. “rivers and grasslands”). factual. Such knowledge is expressed in statements like this one: Rivers and grasslands are different. Knowledge built from text at this level is characterized by the identification of one or more biomes (e. The majority of the students asking Level 1 questions. and orangutan. zebra. eagle.

com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. algae. and plains. “grasshoppers. Animals in ponds rely on plants for food. Downloaded from jlr. the student expressed conceptual knowledge (Level 3) by presenting conceptual.g. prickly pears. oxygen. and shelter. spiders and raccoons. insects. Some animals in a river are otters. Bigger insects eat small fish. a question such as “How do animals in the deserts get water and protect themselves from heat if there is not water and it doesn’t rain a lot?” (Level 4) requests information about the interaction of the organism with the biome. Insects in ponds eat algae and plants. Some on water. defining characteristics typical of each biome (e. The animals that live in the desert are jack rabbits. “The big difference between a river and a grassland is the main natural resource”). and flowers. The main natural resource for a river is water. it is called a River Hippo. The plants that live in a pond are duckweed. students who asked questions requesting a pattern of relationships between concepts (Level 4) tended to show patterns of organized conceptual knowledge (Level 5). Some on both. road runners. snakes. and other plants. It is not a regular type of hippo. Lastly. and bushes.sagepub. such as feeding and interdependence between animals. hippos. and fish. The plants in the desert are cactuses. The main natural resource for a grassland is grass. One way all plants and animals help each is for food. lily-pads. trees. as well as a few correct classifications of organisms to each biome (e. In this example. Otters like to eat snakes. Students who were able to ask questions at this level of complexity tended to write essays that expressed similar complexity (essays at Levels 5 and 6). Jack rabbits usually feast at night. donkeys. bushes. and vultures. They eat desert grasses. scorpions. The animals that live in a pond are fish. deserts have little or no freshwater and ponds have a lot of water. insects.. trees. prairies. frogs. flowers. crickets and vultures. tadpoles.g. crickets and vultures”).26 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE 3 was “What kinds of birds eat river animals?” The following is a knowledge statement commensurate with this question level: One thing I know about rivers and grasslands are the animals that live there. Scorpions kill their prey using their stinger in their tail. The big difference between a river and a grassland is the main natural resource. birds. spiders. such as the following: Ponds and deserts are different. Some types of grasslands are savannahs. shrimp. Some animals that live in grasslands are grasshoppers. great blue herons. Prairies and plains have large openings and a lot of grass but very little trees.. 2012 . Animals in the desert rely on plants and animals for food and water. For instance. elf owls. green herons. Animals in ponds rely on other animals. The student also included types of grasslands with characteristics for each type. Survival concepts. are also briefly stated.

we doubt that questioning improves comprehension by increasing generalized cognitive activation. whereas they studied experimenter-posed questions. scorpions and jack rabbits in deserts). then questioning of any form would increase comprehension.STUDENT QUESTIONING 27 The student who wrote this (Level 5) essay showed command of several ecological concepts such as predation. In synthesis. We propose that the association between question levels and reading comprehension levels. In other words. By comparing high. Van den Broek et al.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. with supporting information for each of them. 2012 . First. “Animals in the desert rely on plants and animals for food and water”). and comprehension of diverse texts in which the content was broader than the questions. Our data suggest that it is not the presence or absence of questions in general. the benefit is due to questioning levels. Thus. The student also showed several correct classifications of animals and plants to their corresponding biomes (e. question asking and answering mobilizes attention for learning broadly from text (Wittrock. we propose that this relationship is explained by a conceptual level hypothesis. Knowledge statements at these levels show higher organization by emphasizing knowledge principles that subsume relationships between ecological concepts and of the organisms with their biomes. First. 1981). serve to inform the theoretical views of the contribution of questioning to comprehension. we explained cognitive characteristics of questions in general. feeding. Second. we vastly reduce the explanation of the active processing hypothesis. based on our evidence and our measurement of questioning. we did not attempt to distinguish between the at- Downloaded from jlr. we did not attempt to examine whether the content of the questions predicted or related to the content of knowledge built from text. and high-level questioning was associated with high levels of multiple text comprehension. Our interest focused on the relationship between levels of questions and levels of conceptual knowledge built from text.sagepub. and protection.. In addition.g.g. if this view were fully accurate. If high-level conceptual questions have greater benefits for reading comprehension than low-level questions. Another explanation found in the literature for the relationship between questioning and reading comprehension is that attentional processes are elicited by asking questions. comparisons across the two biomes and interdependencies between organisms were also included (e. Our findings differ from van den Broek et al. 1986). previous investigators have speculated that the generation and answering of higher.and low-level questions. (2001) found that questions induce a selective enhancement of memory because the reader focuses attention only on the text information needed to answer the questions. but the presence or absence of higher level questioning that facilitates higher comprehension. inferential questions could be due to the active processing of text (Davey & McBride.’s in two main ways. we investigated students’ self-generated questions. as described here. Our chi-square analyses showed that lower level questions were associated with lower than average comprehension. In other words.. However. Consequently.

Therefore. characterized by a larger number of connections and relationships among the major concepts in the text. Rich. Furthermore. Perhaps the question hierarchy can be applied to questions generated by students in later elementary grades. Although these processes facilitate text comprehension. What makes some students more avid questioners than others? What questions do highly motivated students ask? Examining the role that motivational variables play in student questioning may be the next step toward understanding the interplay of questioning and reading comprehension.sagepub. Therefore. the text type used to elicit questioning in this study was based on authentic information texts for elementary grades. Downloaded from jlr. 1998). for example. informational text and vivid pictures characterize these texts. Our findings. we suggest that students who tend to ask lower level questions struggle with identifying the overall hierarchical structure and the major interrelationships among the concepts within texts in a knowledge domain.28 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE tention hypothesis proposed by van den Broek et al.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. First. conceptual questions can anticipate and bring to the text an elaborate text macrostructure. conclusions regarding student questions are applicable to these particular types of texts. Consequently. we studied third and fourth graders’ questions only. these readers would tend to build fuller text representations and richer situation models (Kintsch. they are not central to the explanation of the effects of questioning on comprehension. Third. as well as with our proposed conceptual level hypothesis. the findings raise doubts about whether a full explanation of the effects of questioning on reading comprehension can be based either on prior knowledge or general activation. LIMITATIONS This study has three main limitations. 2012 . hierarchical structure. However. are consistent with an attentional hypothesis. generalizability of the results is constrained to questions for information texts within the domain of ecology. this study provides only a cognitive view of the relationship between questioning and reading comprehension. students who overall ask higher level. Conversely. Therefore. then. it is not known how questioning for narrative texts would relate to reading comprehension of stories. In conclusion. we cannot rule out the possibility that students’ questions had an attentional effect of enhancing recall and/or comprehension of sections of text that pertain solely to their questions. Second. but its scope may be too limited to describe questions formulated by middle and high school students. The complexity of question generation calls for exploring the motivational aspects that may be involved. conceptual questions tend to represent knowledge built from text in a conceptually organized. Readers asking high-level. and the conceptual level hypothesis.

. S. 15. & Scafiddi. Gernsbacher (Ed. Autonomy and question asking: The role of personal control in guided student-generated questioning. S. & Johnson.. the NSF. M. M. Cognitive Science. & Guthrie. L. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. N. Cohen. (2000). learning. (1986).. 6. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 2012 . (1985). A. T. and mathematics. A. 37. We thank Ellen Kaplan and Eileen Kramer for help in preparation of this article. J. A. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. B. 163–185. A. Graesser. J. Klopfer. 92. (1994). Self-generated questions as an aid to reading comprehension. 256–262. Resnick (Ed. (1994). F. C. & Steiner. & Squires. CA: Academic. Exploring information about concepts by asking questions. J. Use of peer-assisted procedures to teach QAR reading comprehension strategies to third-grade children. Ezell. S. D. (1994)... Graesser. Structural representations of students’ knowledge before and after science instruction. E. M. T. C. and benchmarks for instruction. In G. H. Brown. C. B. (1992). T.. A. Education and Treatment of Children. Reading Improvement. S. San Diego. Guthrie. and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 225–248). W. J. Learning and Individual Differences. H. Kohler. (1993).. A. Effects of question-generation training on reading comprehension. (2004).). & Clark.. Reading comprehension for information text: Theoretical meanings. McMahen. developmental patterns. Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading. Wigfield. K. 36. The Journal of Educational Research. Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-oriented reading instruction (pp. Nakamura & D. 439–477. & Gambrell. King. Dreher. & K. (1999). C. 453–494). & Strain. L. 205–227. M. C. P. Predicting conceptual understanding with cognitive and motivational variables. NJ: Ablex. & Chiu. In M. M. Perencevich (Eds. J. de Leeuw. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 18. N. FL: Academic.. (2000). B. Inc.. 210–224. & Newman. The findings and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of the IERI.. W. Collins. Costa. T. Journal of Educational Psychology.. F. REFERENCES Alao. Norwood. (1981).. T. Langston. B. J. Desena.). R. The Reading Teacher. Orlando. (1990). S. Davey.. or the University of Maryland. Downloaded from jlr. & Bagget. R. A. A.. Mahwah. H. 602–614. Guthrie. B. writing. H. & McBride. Medin (Eds. Champagne.. E. A.. Gallastegui. 517–538). Caldeira. (1983). An analysis of question asking on scientific texts explaining natural phenomena. Eliciting self-explanations improves understanding. H.). 2–7.).. Jarzynka. In L. 243–253.. Handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. L. Chi. Hillsdale. K. C..com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2.. Categorization by humans and machines (pp. 37. J. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. & Otero. T. In J.. 22. E. Inc. 97–111.sagepub. 78. (1985). Teaching children to use a self-questioning strategy for studying expository prose. L. Enhancement and analysis of science question level for middle school students.. Structures and procedures of implicit knowledge. Graesser. Cuccio-Schirripa.STUDENT QUESTIONING 29 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work was supported by Interagency Educational Research Initiative (IERI) Award 0089225 as administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Knowing. 18. V. S. A. 411–436). Question asking and answering. 770–775.

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C. H. 229–259). The question may be simple. Questions refer to relatively trivial. The question probes the ecological concept by using knowledge about survival or animal biological characteristics. Questions may also request information that denote a link between the biome and organisms that live in it. Examples for text about animals: How do sharks have babies? How do birds fly? How do bats protect themselves? What kinds of sharks are in the ocean? What types of places can polar bears live? What kind of water do sharks live in? How many eggs does a shark lay? How fast can a bat fly? How far do polar bears swim in the ocean? Examples for text about biomes and organisms: What bugs live in the desert? What kind of algae are in the ocean? How do desert animals live? How do grasslands get flowers and trees? How come it almost never rains in the desert? How long do sandstorms last? Why do rivers start at a hilltop? Level 3: Complex Explanation Questions are a request for an elaborated explanation about a specific aspect of an ecological concept with accompanying evidence. J. The question is complex and the expected answer requires elaborated propositions. (1990). such as a single fact. An answer may also be a set of distinctions necessary to account for all the forms of species. In F. (1981). The answer may be a moderately complex description or an explanation of an animal’s behavior or physical characteristics. Examples for text about animals: How big are bats? Do sharks eat trash? How much do bears weigh? Examples for text about biomes and organisms: Are there crabs in a river? How old do orangutans get? How big do rivers get? How big are grasslands? How many grasslands are there? How many rivers are there in the world? How many plants live in ponds? Level 2: Simple Description Questions are a request for a global statement about an ecological concept or an important aspect of survival. 2012 . general principles. Wittrock (Eds. Questions are a request for a factual proposition or yes/no answers. APPENDIX A Questioning Hierarchy Level 1: Factual Information Questions are simple in form and request a simple answer. yet the answer may contain multiple facts and generalizations. nondefining characteristics of organisms (plants and animals). 505–512.). Neuropsychological and cognitive processes in reading (pp. and supporting evidence about ecological concepts. M. 82. Pirozzolo & M. Questions also include classifications or general taxonomies of species. C. Wittrock. or biomes. New York: Academic.sagepub. Questions may also request general information that denotes a link between the biome and organisms that live in it.STUDENT QUESTIONING 31 Van der Meij. Journal of Educational Psychology. Questions use defining features of biomes to probe for the influence those attributes have on life in the biome. They are based on naive concepts about the world rather than a disciplined understanding of the subject matter. Question asking: To know that you do not know is not enough. ecological concepts.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. Examples for text about animals: Why do sharks sink when they stop swimming? Why do sharks eat things that bleed? How do polar bears keep warm in their dens? Why do sharks have three rows of teeth? Why is the polar bear’s summer coat a different color? Do fruit-eating bats have really good eyes? Do owls that live in the desert hunt at night? (continued) Downloaded from jlr. Reading comprehension.

The animals that live in a pond are snakes. They like to live there because it’s nice and warm. and plants. rabbits. Level 2: Facts and Associations—Extended Students correctly classify several organisms. zebras. Examples for text about animals: Do snakes use their fangs to kill their enemies as well as poison their prey? Do polar bears hunt seals to eat or feed their babies? Examples for text about biomes and organisms: Why do salmon go to the sea to mate and lay eggs in the river? How do animals and plants in the desert help each other? How does the grassland help the animals in the river? How are grassland animals and river animals the same and different? Is the polar bear at the top of the food chain? APPENDIX B Knowledge Hierarchy Level 1: Facts and Associations—Simple Students present a few characteristics of a biome or an organism. how can animals be so active? Level 4: Pattern of Relationships Questions display science knowledge coherently expressed to probe the interrelationship of concepts. The plants eat the food in the soil and the little rain. often in lists. The plants help the animals by bringing some animals close so other animals can catch them and eat them. little grass. the interaction with the biome. Some of the animals eat plants. ducks. with limited definitions. Example: Animals live in a desert. Example: In grasslands are lions. Answers may consist of a complex network of two or more concepts.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. The animals also help the plant when some of the bugs that drink the plants nectar carry things from one plant to another. Questions are a request for principled understanding with evidence for complex interactions among multiple concepts and possibly across biomes. They are different because one of them is wet and the other dry. Example: Deserts are different than ponds because deserts have a little bit of water and ponds have a lot of water. fish. tigers. Level 3: Concepts and Evidence—Simple Students present well-formed definitions of biomes with many organisms correctly classified. foxes. Knowledge is used to form a focused inquiry into specific aspects of biological concepts and an organism’s interaction with its biome. live in the deserts. (continued) Downloaded from jlr. The animals and plants that live in a desert are rattlesnakes. bugs.sagepub.32 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE APPENDIX A (Continued) Examples for text about biomes and organisms: What kinds of meat-eating animals live in the forest? Why do elf owls make their homes in cactuses? What makes the river fast and flowing? How do animals in the desert survive long periods without water? If the desert is hot. The plants that live in a desert are cactus. birds. The plants that live in a pond are grass and seaweed. The animals help the plants live by when the animals step on the ground it makes it a little soft and it is easy for the plants to grow. or interdependencies of organisms. owls. accompanied by one or two simple concepts with minimal supporting evidence. small trees. woodpeckers. Snake and bears. 2012 . Ducks like to drink water in the pond. They help each other live by giving the animals water and some food that’s what the mothers do.

Both deserts’ hot or cold. Downloaded from jlr. such as zebra. 2012 . Swallow tail butter fly larva look like bird droppings. Many animals live in grasslands. Many birds fly above the grasslands and rivers. and birds. In the desert two male jackrabbits fight for a female. Bright markings on some snakes are warnings to stay away. Otters have closable noses and ears. Level 5: Patterns of Relationships—Simple Students convey knowledge of relationships among concepts of survival supported by descriptions of multiple organisms and their habitats. They also have insects and mammals.STUDENT QUESTIONING APPENDIX B (Continued) 33 Level 4: Concepts and Evidence—Extended Students display several concepts of survival illustrated by specific organisms with their physical characteristics and behavioral patterns. This is called a food chain of what eats what. This is called a deadly hug. and zebra eat the grass. In just a drop of river water millions of animals can be living in it. Some fish lay thousands of egg because lot of animals like eating fish eggs. Many fish live in the river. Grasslands have mammals and birds. Rivers have lots of animal like fish trout and stickle backs. In the African savanna meat-eats prey on grazing animals. Gills let fish breath under water. Example: A river is different from grassland because a river is body of water and grassland is land. it barely ever rain and if it does it comes down so fast and so hard it just runs off and does not sink into the ground. That is what I know and about grasslands rivers.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. One case could carry 100 eggs. emphasizing interdependence among organisms. Some deserts are actually cold and rocky. zebras. Some animals have camouflage. In rivers the food chain starts with a snail. Rivers don’t have many plants but grassland have trees and lots of grass. Grasslands usually have lions. Then bigger animals like the heron and bears eat the fish. gazelles. The river is a home to many animals. antelope. Example: River and grassland are alike and different. Level 6: Patterns of Relationships—Extended Students show complex relationships among concepts of survival. giraffes. A river is called freshwater because it has no salt in it. Then fish eat the small animals and insects. A grasshopper called a locust lays its egg in a thin case. Animals have special things for uses. Then animals like lions eat them. Insects and small animals eat the snail. Rivers have lots of aquatic animals. Animals like gazelle. which live in the desert. like the giant water bug and river otters. squeeze their prey to death and then eat them. In the grass lands the sun grown the grass. Grasshoppers live in grasslands.sagepub. Snails also eat algae with grows form the sun. The largest herbivores in the grassland are an elephant. antelope. A river is fast flowing. Example: Some snakes. In a way the animals are helping each other live.

sexual communication Songs. camouflage. size of organisms. chirps. seeking other animals. tail. behavioral adaptations for chasing. and adaptations designed to ensure reproduction of its species Communication Critical to all aspects of the life of plants and animals Defense All plants and animals must have adaptations for defense from predators. mimicry. response to other animals. colors. types of appendages. or Features Encompassed by the Concept Egg laying. skin (continued) Downloaded from jlr. eyes Conflict. running or hiding. competition in plants and animals is often observed Predation Although feeding on plants is very common. mimicry. location in habitat. ways of swimming. teeth. warning colors. behavior Types of bodies. morphological or behavioral adaptations Chasing or seeking other animals. how they move. without which most life cannot proceed Feet. mating. movement in groups. amount of available food. warning colors. types of mouths and feeding. how they move. eyes Competition Because most critical resources are shared and in limited supply. where in the habitat they live. odors. predation is a frequently observed interaction among animals Feeding The search for food and the interactions involved in feeding are critical if animals and plants are to acquire the nutrition needed for growth and development Locomotion Locomotion allows organisms to undertake all needed requirements of life and usually reflects a close adaptation to their habitat Respiration Respiration is an essential process for the acquisition of oxygen. patterns. teeth Teeth. feeding preference (specialization on food type or general feeder). types of bodies. 2012 . and the environment in order to survive Traits. where in the habitat they live.sagepub. enemies. lungs. fins. chemicals. camouflage. shell. shape.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2. scales. types of appendages. suction cups.34 TABOADA AND GUTHRIE APPENDIX C Ecological Concepts Science Concept Reproduction All plants and animals have behaviors. Behaviors. webbed feet Gills. traits.

2012 . Behaviors. Downloaded from jlr.g. polar bears have thick fur. recycling. scavenging. penguins have webbed feet. camels can store water) Dam building.sagepub.STUDENT QUESTIONING APPENDIX C (Continued) 35 Science Concept Adjustment to habitat Physical and behavioral characteristics of plants and animals enable them to survive in a specific habitat Nichea Function of a species in a habitat described by the use of resources and its contribution to other species’ survival aThe Traits.. population control. habitat conservation concept of niche was used only in Grade 4. or Features Encompassed by the Concept Animals’ and plants’ physical adaptation to habitat (e.com at DUQUESNE UNIV on February 2.

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