Introduction. The need to develop students’ ability to learn independently has been a widely discussed issue in the theory and practice of education over the past 50 years (in research on learning to learn, self-regulated learning, metacognitive learning, etc.). If we understand instruction as a system of activities by the student and teacher, associated primarily with the transmission of cultural experience, then studying the psychological mechanism for accepting and using the proffered knowledge as an orientation for future actions is highly relevant.
Objective. We surmised that the ability to use given knowledge in the school instruction process (which we call “orientation towards given knowledge” [OGK]) would differ between fourth-graders studying in traditional educational systems (TE) and those in Developmental Education (DE), since these systems differ significantly in the principles of the selection learning material and organization of learning activity. We also sought to clarify the correlation between OGK and such important educational outcomes as the ability to identify the most important thing in a text, logical skills, memorization skills, and academic achievement.
Design. To diagnose OGK, we gave fourth-graders (N = 115) the definition of a concept, an instruction to recognize and identify objects as either being described or not described by that concept, and 10 recognition problems in the form of short texts. We assessed the level of OGK by counting the number of problems for which the answer was justified by the given definition. In addition, we measured the ability to identify the main point in the text, logical skills, and random memorization skills.
Results. Almost a quarter of all the fourth-graders (25.7%) failed to use the given definition at all; however, the DE students demonstrated a higher level of OGK (U = 2038, p < .01) significantly more often. OGK among general sample also correlated with the ability to identify the most important thing in a text (R = 0.31, p < .001), logical skills (R = +0.35, p < .001), and memorization skills (R = +0.195, p < .05 for short-term memory and R = +0.301, p < .01 for long-term memory).
Conclusions. Possible reasons for the cognitive performance of the fourth-graders are discussed. We argue that orientation towards given knowledge can be considered an essential condition for effective learning, and therefore serious attention should be paid to its development.
Keywords: Activity approach, Developmental Education, action, recognition action, orientation towards given knowledge.
Background. This paper addresses the issue of educational text comprehension, which is one of the major problems in secondary schools, especially when such texts are introduced in the natural sciences. Studies on text comprehension often regard reading as a standalone skill: its mechanisms are discussed from leading theoretical approaches (cognitivism, constructivism, etc.), and variables are distinguished and evaluated. Most of the researchers consider text comprehension to be active reconstruction of the meaning which the text delivers, and regard the application of the information retrieved from the text to problem-solving as the indicator for a deep comprehension level. Since we work within the framework of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), we consider educational text comprehension to be mediated through special content-related models which students have to acquire. Unfortunately, there are no studies which have directly linked reading, corresponding problem-solving, and working with content-related models (symbolic means, schemes); hence, with this research, we are seeking to fill in the gap.
Objective. Our goal is to elaborate the perspective on educational text comprehension as mediated through mastering special modeling (symbolic) means. In this article we illustrate this approach with the “Moon test” – an assessment procedure which we designed to materialize the components of orientation of students’ action as they succeed or fail to solve problems by relying on the educational text provided.
Design. We conducted the “Moon test” among the fifth graders (10-12 years old). The text, which told the students how to use the moon’s visual transformations as a calendar, was followed by 12 tasks on the topic. The tasks required using the text to master the model provided, and then solve challenging tasks which only referred to the model implicitly.
Results. To analyze the results, we grouped the tasks in four blocks: 1) model acquisition; 2) mastering; 3) application; and 4) experience. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in the students’ performance on tasks of the third and the fourth blocks, which required reasonable application of the models. Further analysis of individual patterns of performance allowed us to distinguish clusters of students with different levels of success in each block.
Conclusion. Our results attest to the importance of model mediation for reading comprehension and the development of scientific literacy.
Keywords: Scientific literacy/ assessment/ reading comprehension/ model acquisition and application/ transfer from primary to secondary education