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August 26, 2019 Monday 01:34:22 PM IST

Background Knowledge Important for Reading Comprehension by School Students

Photo by Akshaya Patra Foundation

Lack of background knowledge in difficult topics can make learning difficult for school students, according toa  study published by Association of Psychological Science.
Apart from reading skills including reading and vocabulary, lack of background knowledge will also affect reading comprehension, according to the research done by Tenaha O'Reilly of Education Testing Service (ETS)'s Center for Research on Human Capital in Education. 
The study results were based on data from 3,534 high-school students at 37 schools in the United States. They were made to complete a test that measured the background knowledge on ecosystems. For the topical vocabulary section of the test, the students saw a list of 44 words and had to decide which were related to the topic of ecosystems. They also completed a multiple-choice section that was designed to measure their factual knowledge.
Then, after reading a series of texts on the topic of ecosystems, the students completed 34 items designed to measure how well they understood the texts. These comprehension items tapped into their ability to summarize what they had read, recognize opinions and incorrect information, and apply what they had read to reason more broadly about the content.
The researchers used a statistical technique called broken-line regression -- often used to identify an inflection point in a data set -- to analyze the students' performance. 
The results revealed that a background-knowledge score of about 33.5, or about 59% correct, functioned as a performance threshold. Below this score, background knowledge and comprehension were not noticeably correlated; above the threshold score, students' comprehension appeared to increase as their background knowledge increased.

Source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797619862276