On 30 January 2015 Pilve Kängsepp will defence her doctoral thesis "Impact of Asking Support Questions on Reading Comprehension".
Professor Edgar Krull, University of Tartu
Professor Aino Ugaste, Tallinn University
Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor Merike Darmody, Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland
Good functional reading skills are necessary in order to cope successfully in studies and in life. Although functional reading skills, that reveal in understanding the text and the ability to use it, among Estonian students is relatively good compared to children in developed countries who are the same age, there are students in basic school who have difficulties in understanding the reading and who's reading skills should be improved. One possibility to support reading with understanding is to ask support questions about the text and to answer them. The results and findings from studies conducted in other countries have proven to be inconsistent and dependent on specific conditions. The aim of this research was to find out how asking questions in different conditions about the text that is read affects the understanding in Estonian school circumstances: how asking inferential questions affects reading with understanding depending on the timing of presenting questions, students' age, sex and the complexity of the text and what is the impact of these three factors all together. Experiments, in which 568 students took part from grade 4 and 7, and where the complexity and timing of inferential questions were varied showed that asking inferential questions influences understanding the text positively only in certain conditions. The influence was greater when the text was manageable to the students but even then it depended on the timing of presenting questions. The impact of the questions was positive in grade 4 only when inferential questions were asked after reading the whole text. When inferential questions were asked during the reading after reading sections the understanding of the reading turned out to be even worse than that of the control groups. No influence of the timing when asking questions was noticed in the 7th grade. When reading a more complex text, asking inferential questions did not have any positive impact in grade 4 nor in grade 7. The results of this study can be used as grounding for methodologies where student' reading with understating is developed by presenting inferential questions about the text to be read. As a result of the implementation of these methodologies students will learn to present questions in order to understand reading. The practical output of this study for primary teachers lies in specifying the implementing conditions that allows supporting and developing reading with understanding by using inferential questions. The results of the study also provide an opportunity to up-to-date the content of preparation of primary teachers with methodologies for teaching reading skills.