The relationship between reading ability and subject knowledge amongst West Indian primary school students

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A study investigated the degree to which scores on content-based tests were influenced by non-content factors such as difficulty with reading, lack of confidence in responding independently to a test, and inexperience with modes of responding to multiple-choice questions. A test compiled from science, math, and social studies material in a primary education project was administered to children in six primary schools in the West Indies. Two treatment groups in three age categories were used. Half the students read the test and answered questions on paper. The other half had the test items read to them and responded, also on paper. Results suggest a relationship between subject area knowledge and reading. The problem appears not to be in decoding, but seems to arise with complex language structure and written forms of lexical items. Oral, receptive vocabulary is larger than written receptive vocabulary. It is suggested that students are overloaded when saturated with content knowledge and required to function in an unfamiliar medium. The problem is most apparent with the youngest students, but persists in the older students. Paper and pencil tests may, therefore, not reflect true content knowledge


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