Subjects were students enrolled in a Learning Strategies course of a major urban university who volunteered to participate in the study for course credit. Subjects were traditional age students of various ethnic and racial groups. SAT verbal scores from high school were used to group subjects by ability. The mean of the SAT verbal scores for the entire group of subjects (n=51), labeled college readers for purposes of this study, was 494.5 with a standard deviation of 86.1. The lower 50 per cent of the group (n=26) was categorized as poor readers (M=426.2, SD=58.9), and the upper 50 percent of the group (n=25) was categorized as good readers (M=565.6, SD=39.0). A t-test revealed that the difference between the two groups on this measure was significant (t=-93, p < 01).
Subjects read a segment of a physical science book (Hurd, Silver, Bacher, & McLaughlin, 1988) that contained seven paragraphs about Stephen Hawking and his work in astrophysics. Two different packets of materials were constructed. In the first packet, the passage is presented in regular manuscript form with directions to read the text for general understanding. On the next page in the same packet, the text is presented with each paragraph followed by a 1-5-10 scale (1 is low, 5 is moderate, and 10 is high) with directions to rate each paragraph in terms of its importance to the main idea. Then in the same packet, the text is presented with each paragraph followed by the same 1-5-10 scale with directions to reread each paragraph and rate it in terms of its level of interest as it pertains to the main idea. In the second packet, the materials are the same but the directions are to first read the entire passage for general understanding, then read each paragraph and rate it in terms of its interest, and then reread each paragraph and rate it in terms of its importance.
Subjects participated in the experiment in small groups under the direction of one experimenter. The two different types of packets were randomly distributed so that subjects were assigned to one of two counter-balanced conditions--reading the passage in manuscript form and then rating the paragraphs first for interest and then for importance or reading the passage in manuscript form and then rating the paragraphs first for importance and then for interest.
Subjects received no prior instruction in text structure, main idea, or supporting details prior to participation in the study.
Ratings of interest, importance, and interest and importance by subjects were compared to ratings by expert readers for each paragraph. Ratings were considered low, moderate, or high according to the same categorization scheme of ratings by expert readers from a previous study (Jetton & Alexander, 1997). A rating of 1.0 to 4.49 was categorized as low, 4.5 to 6.9 was categorized as moderate, and 7.0 to 10.0 was categorized as high. Subject ratings in the same category as expert reader ratings were considered to be in agreement.
For each paragraph, the percentage of agreement by poor and good adult readers with expert readers on interest, importance, and interest and importance combined was calculated (see Appendix B). For each paragraph, separate mean scores by poor and good readers for importance and for interest were calculated (see Appendix C). Additionally, mean scores of ratings by all subjects (college readers) for importance and interest were calculated (see Appendix D).