This case study explores the impact of metacognitive reading
strategies on the ability of five college students in developmental
courses to self-regulate while reading. Instruction in reading
strategies derived from past research on metacognition was scaffolded,
based on Pearson and Gallagher's (1983) model of gradual release of
responsibility. Through the use of interviews, think-aloud protocols,
informal observations and document analysis, the following outcomes of
instruction were uncovered: increased knowledge of reading strategies,
ability to use the strategies successfully to change overall reading
behavior, and understanding of the strategies' value. The
combination of these outcomes seems to have contributed to the
students' ability to self-regulate while reading.
While the number of freshmen entering college requiring
developmental reading courses remains high (see NCES report, 2003),
there is little research to guide the design and content of such courses
so that they are beneficial to students (Grubb, 2001; Paulson, Laine,
Biggs, & Bullock, 2003). Reading instructors are left to wonder what
really works for their students who test into developmental reading
courses. Moreover, few researchers have investigated the connection
between findings in the plethora of recent reading comprehension studies
conducted with elementary school students and potential implications for
students in college-level developmental reading courses. Could reading
strategies that seem to assist younger students also improve college
students' reading behaviors? Could such strategies enable college
students to become self-regulating readers, that is, readers who monitor
and control their reading processes to comprehend texts?
In this qualitative case study, in which the researcher and
observer was also the course instructor, findings from past reading
research conducted with elementary-aged children were applied to a
developmental reading course at the college level. The goal was to guide
students to transform their reading behaviors and become self-regulating
readers. Two studies on metacognition conducted with younger children
were particularly helpful in deciding how to proceed in the
Metacognition: Revisiting Two Landmark Studies
In two landmark studies (Paris, Cross, & Lipson, 1984; Pressely
et al., 1992), metacognitive reading strategies were taught to
elementary students using a scaffolded approach. Teachers in both
studies explicitly taught students specific reading strategies, paying
close attention to three critical elements of metacognition: the
declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge of each strategy
(Jacobs & Paris, 1987). Declarative knowledge is defined as
propositional information one possesses about a certain task, such as
knowing "that" utilizing prereading strategies prior to
reading a text will greatly aid in comprehension. Procedural knowledge
is one's thinking processes. An example would be knowing
"how" to implement prereading strategies prior to reading a
text. Finally, conditional knowledge is defined as awareness of factors
affecting learning. Knowing "why" or in what circumstances
prereading strategies increase comprehension of a text would be
considered conditional knowledge. Understanding not only what the
strategies are but also how, when, where, and why they are used allows
students to form a conceptual foundation of successful reading
(Borkowski & Muthunkrishna, 1992; Jacobs & Paris, 1987).
Paris et al. (1984) embedded an additional element of metacognition
into their experimental instructional design, an aspect they called
self-management of thinking (Jacobs & Paris, 1987). This aspect of
metacognition allows students to actively assess the variables involved
in a certain task by planning, evaluating, and regulating their own
comprehension in strategic ways. According to Jacobs and Paris, planning
occurs when a reader determines which cognitive strategy would be most
appropriate to use to reach a particular cognitive goal. An example of
strategic planning would be deciding whether using context clues would
be sufficient in defining the meaning of an unknown word or if locating
the word in the dictionary is necessary. Evaluation involves an
assessment of the task, its difficulty relative to the reader's
ability, and the effectiveness of a chosen strategy for the task (Paris
et al., 1992). Through regulating, readers monitor their progress and
revise their strategic planning, depending on the outcome of their
evaluation. For instance, after concluding that context clues have
yielded an insufficient understanding of an unknown word, the reader
then decides that locating the word in a dictionary would be an
effective strategy to use to better understand the meaning of the word.
These metacognitive processes conceptualize the reading strategies
utilized in the following focal study.
Pressley et al. (1992) and Paris et al. (1984) implemented a
variety of reading strategies in their programs. Drawing from Brown,
Palinscar, and Armbruster's (1984) research, Paris et al.
implemented six strategies deemed essential to a student's
comprehension of text: (1)understanding the purpose of reading,
(2)activating relevant background knowledge, (3)allocating attention to
main ideas, (4)critically evaluating, (5)monitoring comprehension, and
(6)drawing inferences. Pressley et al. utilized a slightly different set
of strategies, promoting summarization, prediction, visualization,
thinking aloud, story grammar analysis, text structure analysis, prior
knowledge activation, and self-questioning. Strategies taught to the
participants in the present study were derived from both studies and are
discussed in greater detail below.
Five college freshmen (19-20 years old) were selected as subjects
in this 10-week research project. Based on their scores on a mandatory
entrance exam, these students were required to attend a two semester
developmental reading class. These five students were chosen based on
specific criteria. It was required that potential participants attend
both the first and second semester developmental reading classes taught
by the researcher, demonstrate regular class attendance, consistently
complete work on time, and participate in class activities on a regular
basis during the first semester. Additionally, only those students who
demonstrated average ability throughout the first semester, scoring
neither extremely low nor extremely high on assignments and assessments
were considered. Students struggling with the curriculum or working
through it with great ease were not considered for inclusion in the
Each of the five participants, Darren, Liz, Jillian, Ryan, and
Mark, had received some support for reading during their elementary
and/or middle school years. Darren had been placed in pull-out special
education courses from the first grade onwards. Many times these
classrooms were designed primarily for students with behavioral
challenges. Darren, a soft-spoken and mild mannered student, somehow
slipped through the cracks and graduated from high school unable to
correctly recite the alphabet. At the beginning of the study, Darren was
unsure if he would be able to pass a college course. Liz had also
received special education, and experienced an inclusion, or push-in
model of support. She was initially unsure why she needed the
developmental reading course, believing her reading ability was adequate
for college. Jillian recalled that she enjoyed reading asa young child,
yet as she progressed in school she realized her reading skills were not
equal to those of her peers. She received basic skills support for
reading in middle school. Upon entering college, Jillian reported her
feelings towards herself as a reader as very poor. Ryan and his family
relocated numerous times during his childhood and by eighth grade he had
been in nine different schools. He believed that the constant relocating
left "little gaps" in his learning and that this was why he
needed the developmental reading course. Mark, who had recently
relocated to New Jersey, was not eager to attend college and was doing
so primarily to appease his parents. He said that he had never finished
reading a book in his life. He received basic skills support in reading
during middle school, although he admitted that he did not take the
classes very seriously. Mark complained of "dazing off" [sic]
while reading, then becoming frustrated and confused, and ultimately
The setting of this study was a community college in central New
Jersey. The college offers an open-door policy allowing any student,
regardless of skill or ability, to attend classes. It is a large
college, with more than 13,000 students, most of whom (87.9%) are
matriculated, and more than half (55.6%) plan to transfer to a four-year
college or university. The student body is made up of 56% females and
43% males with a slight majority (56%) falling into the 21-or-younger
age bracket. Seventy-three percent of the students attending the college
are Euro-American, and 10% are African American.
Taking past research into consideration, a two-semester reading
course was designed for college freshmen who tested into developmental
reading. Over the course of two semesters, the following strategies were
taught: connecting personal schemata to text (background knowledge),
implementing fix-up strategies for unknown word meanings of confusing
sentences, asking questions of the text, drawing inferences from the
text, summarizing/synthesizing, and determining importance of a text
through the use of marginal notes (annotating). Each strategy was first
introduced and explained using a variety of examples and instructor
think-alouds with particular focus on when, where and how to use the
strategy in different reading situations. Each strategy's value to
the reader was also emphasized. The students then worked collaboratively
in pairs or small groups, practicing a strategy while using a variety of
authentic college texts. Finally, the students implemented each strategy
in an independent assignment that was graded. Teacher/student
conferences were held daily to review students' progress with each
Collection and Analysis of Information
As this was a case study, multiple sources of information about the
five students' reading abilities were used to understand the impact
that the metacognitive reading strategies had on these college
students' reading behaviors, in particular, their ability to
self-regulate while reading.
Interviews, think-aloud protocols, informal observations, and
document analyses were utilized during this 10 week study.
Interviews with the students before and after the 10 weeks of
instruction were the primary source of information for this study.
Following Patton's (1990) model for the interview guide approach, a
predetermined set of questions was written in outline form; however, the
sequence and exact wording of the questions were dependent upon the
participants' reactions and responses.
Drawing from verbal protocol research by Pressley and Afflerbach
(1995), two separate think-aloud protocols were conducted with each
participant. Think-aloud protocols were administered prior to each of
the two interviews. The purpose of the think-alouds was to determine
what metacognitive reading strategies the students used in the process
of reading. The protocol texts were taken from the Qualitative Reading
Inventory (Leslie & Caldwe11, 2004). Some debate exists on whether
students should be instructed to stop and self-report in a structured
way of be allowed to self-report when they choose during a think-aloud.
The issue primarily involves the impact each approach has on
metacognition (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). To create a more
natural reading experience, I asked students to self-report freely
rather than at intervals chosen by the investigator.
Student documents were another important source of information for
this case study. The student documents accessed for this study consisted
of notebooks, textbooks, and other study materials from the
students' other college courses. These documents were analyzed for
evidence of reading strategy usage (e.g., annotations in the margins).
Additionally, students were asked to complete a comprehension assessment
after the think-aloud protocols, and this assessment also constituted a
document reviewed for evidence of learning. Informal observations took
place during each class session. Information from these observations did
not aid in directly answering the specific research question but
enhanced the depth of each participant's case by capturing
classroom behaviors related to their reactions, struggles, and successes
while learning the reading strategies.
Data were initially separated by case and by data source. Codes
were derived inductively as patterns emerged from the various
assessments and interviews. These codes included but were not limited to
themes such as value of strategies, appropriateness of strategy use, and
understanding of strategies. Coded observations were then analyzed
across the five cases to answer the research question comprehensively.
Using Strategies to Change Overall Reading Behavior
The participants utilized a wide variety of strategies during the
first and second think-alouds, yet some strategies appeared more
frequently than others. The three most frequently used strategies were
connecting schema, making inferences, and activating background
knowledge prior to reading. It is impossible to say with certainty why
these were the most preferred strategies, but one possible explanation
is that they were the first strategies introduced in the reading course.
Thus, they were modeled and practiced more frequently than the other
Connecting schema. In the first protocol, the participants tried to
implement strategies, yet, more often than not, they were unable to do
this successfully. Many times Ryan would integrate his own personal
schema with the author's ideas. However, his background knowledge
deviated so far from the topic of the passage that the meaning of the
text was clouded rather than clarified. The example below illustrates
this phenomenon. (Text in bold reflects what the student read aloud.
Text in italics reflects the participant's spoken thoughts):
"'Every night,' recalled a Jewish girl who fled
Russia, 'they were chasing after us, to kill everyone.'"
The passage said nothing of females being raped of being forced to
produce offspring to support ah increasing workforce. In fact, this
section of the text discussed religious persecution against the Jewish
population in Russia that led to ah increase in immigration to the
United States. The first think-aloud protocol painfully demonstrated
just how far Ryan's inaccurate background knowledge led him off the
subject of the text. In our second interview, Ryan actually commented
that although learning how to connect his schema was helpful to him when
trying to understand a text, "it can also be really wrong [at] the
Similarly, Darren's background knowledge only confused the
"The Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire, present day
Turkey. Between the 1890s and the 1920s, the Ottoman government killed a
million or more Armenians [mispronounced]."
In this example, Darren digressed too far from the intended message
to make meaning of the text. His connection to the text was unrelated to
the intended meaning and was quite distracting. Asa result, perhaps,
Darren and Ryan both failed to correctly answer the comprehension
assessment question for this section of text. It is probable that
because they became so distracted with their stories, their
interpretation of the author's message was off target.
Mark and Jillian also tried to integrate their background
knowledge, but instead of elaborate stories such as Ryan and
Darren's, they appeared to make "think-aloud" statements
merely because they were instructed to do so. I questioned whether or
not these statements were true of helped them in any way to comprehend
the text. On many occasions, Jillian and Mark would read a section of
text and make a comment such as, "I remember learning all about
that in history class." Their thoughts ended there, however, making
it impossible to deduce whether or not Jillian or Mark did indeed learn
similar ideas in their past history classes. If they did have prior
knowledge, it did little to help them answer the assessment questions
that followed the text.
As the semester progressed, the students continued to practice the
aforementioned strategies such as connecting schema and activating
background knowledge. Through modeling, the researcher demonstrated not
only what each strategy was, but also how, when, and where each strategy
could best be used. Fortunately, vague statements and distracting
stories did not occur in the second think-aloud protocol. In the
following example, Mark again connected his schema with the text but did
so with much more detail and clarity:
"Ship owners jammed up to 2,000 people in steerage, as the
airless rooms below the decks were called."
As with all the participants, Mark no longer made statements in the
think-aloud simply because it was required. The participants'
attempts to connect their prior knowledge with the text were much richer
and more closely aligned with the author's meaning. Below was one
such instance from Ryan's second think-aloud:
"Immigrants adjusted to their new lives by settling in
neighborhoods with their own ethnic group."
In the above example, Ryan utilized knowledge that was relevant to
him and linked it to the text in ah attempt to make the passage more
concrete. This behavior occurred quite often across the
participants' second think-alouds. It is conceivable that due to
the participants appropriately connecting their schema to the text they
increased their success when answering the comprehension questions after
the second think-aloud.
Inference. Not only did the participants increasingly rely on
effectively connecting their personal schema to assist them in
understanding the passage, often they found making ah inference would be
more beneficia1. It was obvious in the first protocol that this strategy
was not refined, and as a result, it did not seem to be helpful with
regard to comprehension. As seen below, Liz tried to make an inference
but in reality simply restated what the author had already said:
"After gold was discovered in California, thousands of Chinese
poured into California attracted, like so many others, by tales of
"mountains of gold."
By contrast, the inferences Liz drew from the second protocol
constituted instances of reading between the lines and going beyond the
text (as opposed to merely restating the author's words).
Evidence of richer, stronger inferences was apparent across the
thinkalouds. Many times the participants would draw out an inference
that aligned exactly with an assessment question; hence, they were able
to answer these implicit questions with ease. This finding was
encouraging in that Hock and Mellard (2005) claimed that drawing
inferences is one of the most important reading comprehension strategies
for adult literacy outcomes.
Activating background knowledge prior to reading the text.
Perhaps the most apparent change in reading behavior for three of
the participants was that in the second protocol they actually read the
titles and subtitles. This behavior did not occur in the first
think-aloud. Mark, Ryan, and Liz stopped to talk a bit about the titles,
activating their background knowledge before they began reading the
second protocol. Ryan admitted he "never used to read titles"
asa way to activate his background knowledge on the subject of a text.
Rather he would "just jump right into" reading. He believed
that "reading the [titles] now helps a lot" with regard to his
comprehension of a text. Below was an example of activating background
knowledge prior to reading from Mark's second think-aloud:
"Adjusting to New Land."
In his final interview, Mark reported that one of the ways he kept
focused while reading was to continue to "keep in your mind the
background knowledge." Mark was noticeably focused in the second
protocol. At the end, he answered all 10 of the assessment questions
with unequivocal certainty. As compared to the first think-aloud where
he had answered only four questions correctly, this was a great
Although every participant was notable to answer all of the
assessment questions correctly following the second protocol, all five
students improved dramatically from their earlier performances. Darren
and Ryan, who had been able to answer correctly only three of the 10
questions in the first protocol, each answered 8 correctly in the
second. Liz, who with six correct answers scored the highest of all the
participants in the first protocol, improved to nine correct in the
After close analysis of the think-aloud information, what became
apparent was that the areas of the text where the participants stopped
to think aloud were, more often than not, areas they were then able to
remember when it came time to answer the assessment questions. This
finding suggested that using the strategies facilitated comprehension of
the text. This observation corroborated the findings of at least some
other researchers who have sought to instruct students in using
metacognitive strategies to aid in comprehension (Garner &
Alexander, 1989; Pressley, Snyder, & Cariglia-Bull, 1987).
On the Road to Self-Regulation
Metacognitive research has long supported the conclusion that
successful metacognitive thinking requires three types of knowledge:
declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and conditional knowledge
(Nist & Simpson, 2000). As seen in the examples drawn from the first
protocol, the participants all appeared to possess some declarative
knowledge of certain strategies, such as knowing that prior knowledge
could be linked to the text, yet they lacked procedural and conditional
knowledge. Such limitations in strategy knowledge can be seen in
Liz's first protocol, as she focused on a single word within a
paragraph and digressed into an unrelated story:
"There, after "1880," [sic] they saw the giant
Statue of Liberty in the harbor. The statue was a gift from France to
the United States. The Statue of Liberty became a symbol of hope and
freedom offered by the United States."
Liz appeared to possess a declarative knowledge of connecting her
personal schema with the text but seemingly did not understand how to
use this strategy appropriately or to know where its use might be most
beneficial. The participants' procedural and conditional knowledge
was bolstered at the end of the study, as their use of strategies was
better suited to the particular text. An example of appropriate usage of
a strategy can be seen in the following excerpt from Mark's second
"Children assimilated more quickly than parents."
"They learned English in schools and then helped their
families learn to speak it. Because children wanted to be seen as
Americans, they often gave up customs their parents honored."
In this instance, Mark not only connected his personal schema to
make the text more concrete for himself, but he drew out an inference as
well. Both strategies were used appropriately, and Mark's thoughts
confirmed the author's intended message.
Liz, too, used her personal schema appropriately in the same
section of text:
"Children assimilated more quickly than their parents. They
learned English in school and then helped their families learn to speak
Each participant's second protocol was complete with similar
examples demonstrating strategies used at the appropriate time and place
to deepen their understating of the text. Their thoughts in the second
think-aloud appeared more authentic, as opposed to forced. This finding
was of particular importance to the study, as research suggests that
"students will transfer a strategy to their tasks if they possess
the 'how to employ' or procedural knowledge of that strategy
and the 'why and when to use' or the conditional
knowledge" (Simpson, Stahl, & Francis, 2004, p. 3).
Change in Beliefs
Students must believe in the value of reading strategies if they
are ever to utilize them on a consistent basis (Simpson & Nist,
2002). Unfortunately, many college students who are required to take
developmental reading courses have "had a long history of literacy
problems and years of instruction that failed, in their estimation, to
enhance their literacy development and preparedness for college
success" (Allgood, Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks, 2000, p. 203).
This was evident in Ryan's explanation of a study skills course he
was required to take in high school after failing a New Jersey
standardized test. When asked about his feelings towards the course,
Ryan explained he was "supposedly learn[ing] how to read, but [he
didn't] think it happened."
Students like Ryan may have little faith in college reading
programs. Why should it work now when it has never worked in the past?
This sentiment was evident among all five participants in this study.
Often the strategies introduced in class were attempted with reluctance,
particularly by those students who had a strong dislike towards reading
classes. However, over time, the five participants came to acknowledge
the value of the reading strategies. Below are some of the
students' thoughts on when and why they altered their feelings
towards the strategies and the reading class in general. Although each
participant came to acknowledge the value of the reading strategies in
his or her own time, most believed this transition occurred when their
understanding of a text increased.
Jillian's shift in conceptualizing the value to the reading
strategies was perhaps the most profound. Asa student whose discomfort
with reading was deeply rooted, Jillian's conversion came later
than most students. She explained:
J: Yeah. I thought [the strategies] were pretty strange at first.
I'm like "I don't understand why we're learning
this. How is this gonna help?"
I: Okay. And--
J: But afterwards, I was like, "Now I understand why we had to
do all this stuff."
I: Okay. When do you think you made that change of thought?
J: Probably either at the end of [the first] semester or the
beginning of [the second], because I realized that [the strategies]
I: In what ways, do you think?
J: Well, I understand [the text], and I think I'm becoming a
better reader because I take my time when I read, instead of just like
breezing through it. I take my time to try to understand word for word
what's going on.
Mark experienced similar feelings with regard to the reading
strategies early in the course. He believed that the reading strategies
introduced "were gonna be pointless." His perspective began to
shift "towards the end of the [first] semester" as he
"found that [the strategies] actually meant something." He
continued, "You were doing it for a reason, to make us comprehend
more and make the text easier for us to understand."
Liz, who initially said she did not need developmental reading
courses, came into the class doubting she could be taught anything
useful. In her mind, she believed her reading capabilities were adequate
and would be sufficient for success at college. However, as seen in the
following discourse, she began to realize her reading skills were not as
proficient as she thought they were upon entering college:
L: Well, at first, I didn't like [the developmental reading
class], but then I began to like it a little bit.
I: Okay. And about how many classes into [the first semester] did
L: Probably, I don't know, I guess maybe like halfway through
because things started to make sense to me.
I: Okay. And do you remember what at first you weren't that
L: I guess going over [the text], reading it, trying to pull out
[my thoughts] ... that didn't make sense, and then making
connections and [the other strategies].
I: Okay. So why halfway through do you think you changed your
thoughts, your feelings?
L: Because I realized that I really didn't understand what I
was reading, and then when I was doing [the strategies], then [the text]
became a lot clearer.
Liz's epiphany made her question her preparedness for college
reading as well as her view of reading in general. In her interviews,
Liz spoke repeatedly about the importance of decoding and understanding
the words she read. She subscribed to the notion, as do many of the
students in college reading courses, that understanding a text depended
solely on understanding the words. She was correct in the sense that
without comprehension at the word level, no meaning making can take
place (Breznitz, 1997), but she believed understanding the words in a
text led directly to comprehension. Her initial understanding of reading
can be glimpsed in this statement: "Normally, I would just go and
read la text], and then if I didn't understand it, then I would try
to look [the words] up, but it wouldn't really help me that
much." Liz's belief that defining unknown words would
automatically result in comprehension of a text began to unravel when
she was faced with more complicated college texts. Hence, her view of
her reading abilities began to shift, as did her perspective on the
value of the strategies being introduced.
As Borkowski, Carr, Rellinger, and Pressley (1990) suggested,
students who do not see the value in strategies will typically not
benefit from strategy instruction. Students who do not have a repertoire
of strategies to draw upon when faced with a challenging text will
inevitably give up. Thus, it was crucial for these five participants to
appreciate fully the power and the value of reading strategies.
Reading behavior changed substantially for all five participants.
Through their think-aloud protocols, they revealed movement from very
basic declarative knowledge of strategies to deeper procedural and
conditional knowledge. The students' enhanced knowledge seemingly
allowed them to become more self-regulated readers. Additionally, the
participants reported that they found themselves using the strategies
independently when reading both academic and out-of-school texts. Many
of them explained this phenomenon with some degree of astonishment, as
if they stunned themselves when they realized they were using strategies
without prompting. Jillian described how she "catches herself every
once in awhile" thinking about a text while reading. She reported
that when she had downtime at work, she read articles on the front page
of the newspaper, an activity she admitted she would never have thought
of doing before. While reading, Jillian also described having
"random thoughts," which in reality were strategies, such as,
"Oh, I don't know what this word is," "Oh, this
reminds me of this," or, "Oh, this is ridiculous!" It is
clear through Jillian's words that she has indeed become a
self-regulated reader as the use of reading strategies has permeated her
Similarly, Mark described how he noticed his reading behavior
changing as well:
His words led me to believe that Mark's earlier conception of
reading was merely to move his eyes across the page, unaware that the
words needed to come together in some way to make meaning. Further, in
the last interview, Mark elaborated on how he was now able to better
comprehend a text with the aid of the reading strategies:
Other participants found that because they had been using the
metacognitive strategies for two semesters, the strategies had become
comfortable, and internalized. In other words, they had come to
understand the strategies so well that using them while reading had
become automatic. Liz explained, "Even if you don't realize
[you're using a strategy] or write it down, you're still using
it" in your head. In the same sense, Darren admitted he was not
always consciously "aware" that he utilized the reading
strategies. He explained, "I find myself doing [the strategies]
sometimes ... 'cause that's what I've been doing"
over the course of the semester.
Being unable to transfer learned strategies to reading activities
beyond the reading course has plagued college and adult literacy
students and troubled their teachers (Cromley, 2005). Simpson and Nist
(2000) suggested that there are certain ideas that college students must
understand prior to transfer occurring:
The five participants of this study appeared, from the evidence of
their observations, to have experienced successful transfer of the
strategies taught in their reading course to other reading situations.
The notion of reading as thinking, and the practice of thinking while
reading, constituted a tremendous step toward becoming a self-regulated
reader for each of these students.
Salomon and Globerson (1987) wrote, "When mindfulness is
instigated during the process of instruction it may compensate those who
would not tend to be particularly mindful otherwise" (p.632). All
five of the participants learned to be more mindful while reading as
they applied the reading strategies to a variety of texts, shifted their
reading behaviors, and consequently became more self-regulated readers.
Implications of the Study
My purpose in conducting this research was to educate not only
myself, but also inform other instructors of developmental reading
courses regarding ways to better serve a population of students who are
growing in number every year. This study demonstrated the positive
influence metacognitive reading strategies can have on college
students' ability to self-regulate while reading. Thus, this
researcher offers teaching methods that may serve to guide other
educators in the field of developmental college instruction to assist
their students in achieving improved reading abilities, and ultimately,
greater success in college level classes.
Just as the findings of my literature review generally purport the
benefits of teaching metacognitive strategies with elementary school
students, I believe this study could increase awareness of the benefit
these strategies have on readers at the college level. It should be
noted, however, that the students did not become self-regulated readers
overnight. The students, in many cases, did not buy into these
strategies initially. Repeated modeling, practice, assessment, and
continued feedback regarding these strategies were necessary to see
progress. Students must be exposed to strategies more than once, and
must have repeated opportunities to practice strategies after they are
introduced (Simpson & Nist, 2003). Over time, students can begin to
integrate the strategies into their reading process, so that they are
focused on making sense of the text, rather than practicing the
individual strategy (Hadwin & Winne, 1996). Sinatra, Brown, and
Reynolds (2002) warned instructors to:
Therefore, providing various, sustained opportunities to repeatedly
practice these strategies would be optimal for college readers in
developmental courses. Activities that incorporate authentic texts,
written at a college level, would be most beneficial, as these types of
text would prepare the students for real reading situations. Further,
allowing students the opportunity to listen to how other classmates, as
well as the teacher, utilize reading strategies would allow them to
better grasp their value and scope. Over time, strategy usage can more
from an activity in and of itself to an innate practice that happens
without conscious effort.
The type of instruction described above takes a great deal of
careful planning, commitment and sustained time (Pressley & Block,
2002). Achieving this presents significant challenges to college
curriculum development. Colleges have historically relied on adjunct or
part-time instructors to teach developmental courses. These positions
generally lack permanence and respectable compensation, and frequently
colleges must therefore hire individuals who are not highly qualified
and may not have the appropriate education or experience to be effective
(Maxwell, 1997). While my experience suggests that a degree in
developmental reading is not necessary to teach a reading course at the
college level, a successful instructor does need a strong foundation in
current reading theories. Adjunct and part-time instructors may feel
they are not compensated enough to devote the tremendous amount of time
required to design and teach a course focusing on metacognitive
strategies. Teaching basic, isolated skills in a traditional whole class
setting is a much easier approach to teaching reading, requires less
preparation time, and offers a more straightforward grading criterion
(Simpson & Nist, 2003). Yet, research has found that teaching
isolated, basic skills using prefabricated materials "provide[s]
atypical practice opportunities in the form of paragraphs and multiple
choice questions ... and ... [M]any students have difficulty modifying
and transferring the reading and study strategies [taught this way] to
their own textbooks and tasks" (Simpson & Nist, 2003, p.169).
To overcome these challenges, colleges with developmental reading
programs might benefit by offering professional development
opportunities on current reading theory and pedagogy to their
developmental instructors. In-house professional development is more
cost-effective and typically better received than outside programs.
However, like the developmental students, instructors need substantial
time to learn, practice, and implement effective reading strategies into
their curriculum. Past research supports this claim stating,
"Teaching strategies well requires a deep understanding of the
cognitive processes involved in comprehension and an ability to scaffold
students through an apprenticeship in executing those processes
successfully" (Sinatra, Brown & Reynolds, 2002, p.65).
It has been shown in this study that there are teaching techniques
and reading strategies that can significantly promote improved reading
abilities in college students. Asa college degree is increasingly viewed
as generally essential for success, and correspondingly as more
under-prepared students enter higher education, teaching reading
effectively at the college level could not be more crucial.
Studies indicate that our most marginalized population of students
receives instruction that is neither based in research, nor taught by
instructors who understand reading theory (Maxwell, 1997). For many
students, participating in a college reading course may not only be
their last opportunity to significantly improve their reading abilities,
but may also be a gatekeeper to the success of their college journey.
These students deserve research-based instruction that not only
addresses their reading deficits but also speaks to the underlying
emotional impact of these deficits. Currently, this type of college
level instruction is not the norm; however, as demonstrated in this
study, such can be successfully accomplished through the implementation
of metacognitive reading strategies.
Allgood, W. R, Risko, V. J., Alvarez, M. C., & Fairbanks, M. M.
(2000). Factors that influence study. In R. F. Flippo & D. C.
Caverly (Eds.), Handbook of college reading and study strategy research
(pp. 201-219). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Borkowski, J. G., Carr, M., Rellinger, E., & Pressley, M.
(1990). Self-regulated cognition: Interdependence of metacognition,
attributions, and self-esteem. In B. F. Jones & L. Idol (Eds.),
Dimensions of thinking and cognitive instruction (pp. 53-92). Hillsdale,
Borkowski, J. G., & Muthukrishna, N. (1992). Moving
metacognition into the classroom: "Working models" and
effective strategy teaching. In M. Pressley, K. R. Harris, & J. T.
Guthrie (Eds.), Promoting academic competence and literacy in school
(pp. 477-501). San Diego, CA: Academic.
Breznitz, Z. (1997). Effects of accelerated reading rate on memory
for text among dyslexic readers. Journal of Educational Psychology,
Brown, A. L., Palincsar, A. S., & Armbruster, B. B. (1984).
Instructing comprehension-fostering activities in interactive learning
situations. In H. Mandl, N. L. Stein, & T. Trabasso (Eds.), Learning
and comprehension of text (pp. 255-286). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cromley, J. G. (2005). Metacognition, cognitive strategy
instruction, and reading in adult literacy. Review of Adult Learning and
Literacy, 5, 187-204.
Garner, R., & Alexander, P. A. (1989). Metacognition: Answered
and unanswered questions. Educational Psychologist, 24, 143-148.
Grubb, N. W. (2001). From black box to Pandora's box:
Evaluating remedial/developmental education. New York, NY: Teachers
College, Columbia University, Community College Research Center.
Hadwin, A. F., & Winne, P. H. (1996). Study strategies have
meager support: A review with recommendations for implementation.
Journal of Higher Education, 67(6), 692-715.
Hock, M., & Mellard, D. (2005). Reading comprehension
strategies for adult literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult
Literacy, 49(3), 192-202.
Jacobs, J. E., & Paris, S. G. (1987). Children's
metacognition about reading: Issues in definition, measurement, and
instruction. Educational Psychologist, 22, 255-278.
Leslie, L., & Caldwell, J. (2004). Qualitative reading
inventory--4. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.
Maxwell, M. (1997). The dismal state of required developmental
reading programs: Roots, causes and solutions. Kensington, MD: MM
Nist, S. L., & Simpson, M. L. (2000). College studying. In M.
L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook
of reading research (Vol. 3, pp. 645-666). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Paris, S. G., Calfee, R. C., Filby, N., Hiebert, E. H., Pearson, E
D., Valencia, S. W., et al. (1992). A framework for authentic literacy
assessment. The Reading Teacher, 46, 88-98.
Paris, S. G., Cross, D. R., & Lipson, M. Y. (1984). Informed
strategies for learning: A program to improve children's reading
awareness and comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76,
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods.
Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Paulson, E., Laine, E., Biggs, S., & Bullock, T. (Eds.).
(2003). College reading research and practice. Newark, DE: International
Pearson, P. D., & Gallagher, M. C. (1983). The instruction of
reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 317-344.
Pressley, M., & Afflerbach, P. (1995). Verbal protocols of
reading: The nature of constructively responsive reading. Hillsdale, NJ:
Pressley, M., & Block, C. C. (2002). Summing-up: What
comprehension instruction could be. In C. C. Block, & M. Pressley
(Eds.), Comprehension Instruction (pp. 383-392). New York: Guilford
Pressley, M., El-Dinary, P. B., Gaskins, I., Schuder, T., Bergman,
J., Almasi, L., et al. (1992). Beyond direct explanation: Transactional
instruction of reading comprehension strategies. Elementary School
Journal, 92, 511-554.
Pressley, M., Snyder, B. L., & Cariglia-Bull, T. (1987). How
can good strategy use be taught to children? In S. M. Cormier & J.
D. Hagman (Eds.), Transfer of learning: Contemporary research and
applications (pp. 81-120). San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
Remedial Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions in
fall 2000. (2000). Retrieved March 11, 2009, from NCES official Website:
Salomon, G., & Globerson, T. (1987). Skill may not be enough:
The role of mindfulness in learning and transfer. International Journal
of Educational Research, 11, 623-638.
Simpson, M. L., & Nist, S. L. (2000). An update on strategic
learning: It's more than textbook reading strategies. Journal of
Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 43, 528-541.
Simpson, M. L., & Nist, S. L. (2003). Ah update on strategic
learning: It's more than textbook reading strategies. In N. A.
Stahl & H. Boylan (Eds.), Teaching developmental reading (pp.
157-178). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's.
Simpson, M. L., Stahl, N. A., & Francis, M. A. (2004). Reading
and learning strategies: Recommendations for the 21st century. Journal
of Developmental Education, 28(2), 2-14.
Sinatra, G. M., Brown, K. J., & Reynolds, R. E. (2002).
Implications of cognitive resource allocation for comprehension
strategies instruction. In C. C. Block & M. Pressley (Eds.),
Comprehension instruction (pp. 62-76). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Susan Nash-Ditzel received a B.S. and an M.A. in Elementary
Education from The University of Connecticut. She has worked as ah
elementary classroom teacher, basic skills teacher, and reading
consultant in Connecticut and New Jersey. In 2008 she completed a
doctorate in Literacy Education at Rutgers University and is presently
working as an instructor of Developmental Reading at Brookdale Community
College in New Jersey.
The girls left Russia because of the high [occurrence of] rape and
all the statutory rapes that were going on. Older people were
trying to get the younger girls to work for them and to make babies
so that they can produce more workers out in the world. And they
were [be] coming pretty much a perverted people.
This reminds me of a couple of weeks ago. There was this Turkish
girl that was ah exchange student, and she was staying at my
cousin's house. And she was kind of like me, like into the same
music--I guess over there, they'd call her a punk girl--she didn't
dress like it too much here, but back there she did. And people
would come up and say that like, "Do you eat cats and drink blood?"
And that was the first question like she kind of asked. And I'm
like, "Oh well, I do that." I made a funny joke to her.
All right. That kinda reminds me of in history, when I was in maybe
high school, I learned about what they used to do to people who
used to come from Italy or whatever or Mexico. They used to just
put them all on the boat, and they'd live in the bottom. And
whenever they had to go to the bathroom, they'd just go, and they'd
stack people up on top of each other People died from it.
You know how Jersey has Newark? It's all Portuguese people. And
then like up in Patterson, it's where all the African-Americans
I guess they wanted to find the gold.
Most immigrants stayed in the cities where they landed.
I guess it must've been cheap land, or cheap real estate, so they
I guess a lot of immigrants had to do that when they more here,
because they probably don't even know how to speak English.
I remember in fifth grade we did this play, and because I was the
tallest one in the class, I was the Statue of Liberty. It was so
I was just gonna say that, that adults, they--because they're so
much older than kids, so they know what they know, and kids have
more time to develop the American way.
I work in a supermarket now, and whenever a Spanish family or a
Mexican family comes in, it's always the kids speak English and the
I know it's a lot harder to learn a language that you're not used
to when you're older, 'cause I remember they started teaching me
Spanish in high school and not in middle school of elementary
school, and it was a lot harder for me, but my brother and sister
are learning it right now in elementary school, and they know it
five times better than I do.
I'm not just reading [anymore]--because when I used to read, I used
to just read it, and--like I just didn't process [the text] through
my head. And now when I read, I actually think about [the text] and
I think [the reading strategies] did help me, because they helped
me focus on [the text] more--because I actually had to read it and
then write down what I think about [the text]. So I can't wander
off [and say], "Oh, I'm done."
For transfer to occur, students must understand strategies and be
able to discuss "knowingly" the courses and tasks for which they
are appropriate. In addition, students must understand the
advantages of a particular strategy, especially if they are
expected to abandon their usual approaches, which may be more
comfortable and accessible (p.538).
Make sure students know that strategies are a means to an end, not
an end in themselves. Comprehension strategies are no more than
tools that readers employ in the service of constructing meaning
from text. However, learning to use strategies can be such a
challenging and time-intensive endeavor that students may place an
undue emphasis on learning the strategy itself. In such cases, the
text and comprehension end up taking a back seat (p.71).