Conceptual coherence, comprehension, and vocabulary acquisition: A knowledge effect?

Research paper by Gina N. Cervetti, Tanya S. Wright, HyeJin Hwang

Indexed on: 28 Jan '16Published on: 28 Jan '16Published in: Reading and Writing


Previous research has documented the role of readers’ existing topic knowledge in supporting students’ comprehension of text; yet, we know less about how to build students’ knowledge in order to support comprehension and vocabulary learning. In the current study, we test the hypothesis that knowledge can be built and leveraged simultaneously in the interest of students’ literacy development through the use of conceptually coherent text sets. Fourth grade students (N = 59) were randomly assigned to read either a set of six informational texts that cohered around a set of concepts related to the topic birds (CC texts) or a set of texts that addressed a range of topics (NCC group texts). After reading, we assessed students’: (1) knowledge of the concepts in the conceptually coherent text set, (2) knowledge of target concept-related words that appeared in their respective text sets, (3) knowledge of general academic words that appeared in both texts sets, (4) comprehension of a novel text on a related topic, and (5) interest in the topic of the conceptually coherent texts. Results revealed that students who read the conceptually coherent texts demonstrated more knowledge of the concepts in their texts, more knowledge of the target words in their texts, and had better recall of the novel text compared to students who read unrelated texts. Findings suggest that there is potential for knowledge and vocabulary to be built during English language arts through a focus on conceptual coherence in the design of reading experiences for students.