A Dialogic Turn in Research on Learning and Teaching to Comprehend

Authored by: Ian A. G. Wilkinson , Eun Hye Son

Handbook of Reading Research

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780805853421
eBook ISBN: 9780203840412
Adobe ISBN: 9781136891427


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[Understanding a paragraph] consists in selecting the right elements of the situation and putting them together in the right relations, and also with the right amount of weight or influence or force for each. The mind is assailed as it were by every word in the paragraph. It must select, repress, soften, emphasize, correlate and organize, all under the influence of the right mental set or purpose or demand.

(Thorndike, 1917, p. 431) Comprehending is a dynamic and context sensitive process. The RAND Reading Study Group (2002) defined reading comprehension as “the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning” (p. 11) that involves an interplay between the knowledge and capabilities of the reader, the demands of the text, the activities engaged in by the reader, and the sociocultural context in which reading occurs. By this account, the product of comprehension—meaning—is not stable. Changing one element, for example, by increasing the knowledge or motivation of the reader, altering the text, or asking the reader a question, changes the interaction between the reader, text, and activity and hence the meaning the reader constructs (cf. Harrison, 2004). It is not too farfetched to say that the product of comprehension changes day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and moment-by-moment (Pearson, 2001).

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