Examining eye movements of elementary students during reading comprehension assessment
Zawoyski, Andrea Marie
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High-stakes reading comprehension assessment is commonplace in schools, given the increased emphasis on accountability for educational outcomes (Barksdale-Ladd & Thomas, 2000). Yet, not all assessment practices have empirical support. This two-study dissertation examined areas related to reading comprehension assessment: test-taking strategies and question format. Both studies employed eye tracking technology in order to examine participants’ underlying reading comprehension behavior. Due to conflicting findings regarding the effectiveness of test-taking strategies during reading comprehension assessment (e.g., Wiesendanger, Birlem, & Wollenberg, 1982), the purpose of Chapter 2 was to investigate elementary students’ reading behavior during a reading comprehension assessment under typical conditions and when required to read the passage first (PF) or read the questions first (QF). Participants were 84 third- and fourth-grade students who first completed a control condition and then completed PF and QF conditions in randomized order. Eye movement data revealed that the QF strategy was generally less efficient than the PF strategy. The purpose of Chapter 3 was to investigate the impact of anticipated question format (i.e., Multiple-Choice; MC or Short Answer; SA) on elementary students’ eye movements during reading. This study addressed concerns that MC questions may alter what reading assessments measure (Martinez, 1999; Rupp, Ferne, & Choi, 2006). Additionally, this study examined the influence of SA questions on reading behavior, given that new reading assessments will include more SA questions (Polikoff, 2014). Participants included 87 third- and fourth-grade students who were randomly assigned to the MC or SA condition. Condition assignment dictated the type of questions participants expected to answer after reading a passage. Results indicated that participants in the SA condition engaged in different eye movements than participants in the MC condition. Overall, this dissertation extends research in the fields of school psychology and cognitive psychology. Implications of the studies reported upon in Chapters 2 and 3 may inform future studies regarding the validity of reading comprehension assessment practices. Implications of findings from the two studies for classroom practices were also discussed.