Metacognition And Inferential Comprehension Education Essay

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The reading comprehension is usually occurred as a problem among young learners. Many researchers Guszak, 1967; Pearson, Hansen & Gordon, 1979; Raphael, 1980; NAEP, 1981 cited in Hansen and Pearson, 1982 through their studies asserted that inferential comprehension is considered more difficult compared to literal comprehension for learners. This study aims to discuss how explicit teaching of metacognition skills is used to solve reading problem among Grade 4students who only can manage to answer literal comprehension and have inferential comprehension failure in reading activities.

Inferential Comprehension

According to College of William & Mary, Department of Education (2002), inferential comprehension is frequently explained as ability to read between the lines. In order for inferential comprehension to occur, learners should know how to combine the factual contents in the text with their prior knowledge, insights and mind's eye to create premises

Kispal (2008) provided evidences that there are preconditions that are needed in order for learners to make inference. First, learners should be active participants in reading. Being an active reader is considered to be a major precondition for learners in making inference. Cain and Oakhill (1998 cited in Kispal, 2008) stated the reasons why poor readers are unable to make enough inference when they are reading. In the case of the poor readers, they do not perceive a reading process as dynamic and constructive. They only engage in the reading process when they encounter errors in their reading. That is why even though learners are attending to their reading process, sufficient understanding cannot take place. In order for learners to be active readers, they have to explore more information. So that learners can be able to create connections while they are reading. Second, learners who are actively engaged in their reading process continuously check their understanding because they usually do not permit inconsistencies abandoned that occur while reading. Instead, they will fill up the gaps to understand (Kispal, 2008). According to Cain et al. (2001), learners who are capable of comprehension might create inference more compared to those who are less capable. Those who are skilled readers repeatedly observe and monitor their comprehension process. Moreover, they perceive that they should fill up the particular information that are absent in the text by drawing inference. Lastly, learners' background knowledge which is a prerequisite to inference is indeed important when learners make inference (Kispal, 2008). According to Marr and Gormley (1982 cited in Cain et al, 2001), fourth graders will be able to make inference and to be involved in the reading text with the use of related background knowledge about the text. According to Houston and Torgesen (2004), in order for learners to acquire higher level of reading such as inferential comprehension, learners should enlarge their background knowledge and vocabulary as they enhance the ability to promptly recognize words. Moreover, learners should utilize strategies that will employ their own vocabulary and prior knowledge in reading. Learners who do not meet these preconditions may have inferential reading failure. Therefore, it is important for develop these preconditions in order for students to be successful in inferential comprehension.


Flavell (1976 cited in Cubukcu, F., 2008) defined metacognition as knowledge of a person regarding his or her own cognitive process. It also involves the vigorous monitoring and resulting regulation. Metacognition is comprised of knowledge about cognition and monitoring of cognition. Flavell (1979) defined metacognitive knowledge as one's knowledge or idea about the factors affecting cognitive activities. He described three categories of these knowledge factors as following: Person variables, task variables, and strategy variables. In the person category of knowledge, it embraces a person's knowledge and idea about himself as a learner, and what a person thinks about other people's thinking processes. A learner's idea may assist or hinder his learning performance situations. The task category of metacognitive knowledge includes all the information about a projected task that is presented to a person. This knowledge provides a direction to the individual in managing a task, and give information about the measure of accomplishment that he is possible to produce. The strategy category of metacognitive knowledge engages recognizing objectives and secondary objectives and choice of cognitive processes to apply in their success. As for the cognitive experiences, Flavell (1979) discusses cognitive monitoring in the context of cognitive experiences. Metacognitive experiences, according to Flavell (1979) contain the individual's personal inner reactions to own metacognitive knowledge, goals, or strategies. These can take place before, during, or after a cognitive venture. These experiences can offer inner comment about present development, future prospect of development or achievement, measure of comprehension, linking new information to old, and many other events.

Haller et al. (1988 cited in cited in Lai, R., 2011) recognized three groups of mental activity natural in metacognition within the context of reading comprehension, including awareness, monitoring, and regulating. Awareness entails recognition of explicit and implicit information and openness to text discord or imprecision. Monitoring involves setting of goals, asking question to self, rephrasing, stimulating appropriate background knowledge, building links between novel and formerly learned content, and shortening to develop comprehension while reading. Lastly, regulating is defined as compensatory strategies to transmit and reinforce uncertain comprehension.

Metacognition and Inferential Comprehension

Learners' inferential comprehension failure can be improved by metacognition. As mentioned earlier, the preconditions needed to be met by the learners are closely related to metacognition. Learners who are capable of doing inferential comprehension are active readers who monitor and regulate their reading process. Monitoring and regulating one's cognitive process are essential components of metacognition. Moreover, learners who are skilled in inferential reading comprehension are aware of the inconsistencies occurred in the reading process and know what strategies to apply. Knowing what strategies to use in solving a problem is part of metacognition. According to Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (2010), strategy variables which is one for metacognitive knowledge categories, refers to when a person is prepared to use certain strategies flexibly in order to complete a task or reading process. Knowing how to activate prior knowledge is an example of the strategies.

Schema theory suggests that the launching of one's schemata will serve as a guide for his or her capability to arrange information and to infer (Knox, 2008). The reason why learners are having problems with making inferences is that their schemata are not well-developed enough to obstruct their capability of making required connections (Lerner, 1993; Montague et aI., 1990; Nodine et aI., 1985 cited in Knox, 2008). From here, it shows that activation of learner's prior knowledge is closely related to their successful inferential comprehension. Hansen and Pearson (1983 cited in Kispal, 2008) built up a method in teaching inferential comprehension. This method is planned to promote learners to connect information stated in the text with their previous experiences. The connection between the learner's prior knowledge and subject matter of the reading is considered as a basis of creating premises about the reading text. Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (2010) states that metacognition is a person's capacity to apply prior knowledge when planning to use strategy for accomplishing a task, reflecting and assessing the outcome and adjusting. By the definition, it is evident that activating prior knowledge is closely related to metacognition. With these evidences proving that metacognition can improve inferential comprehension, explicit teaching of metacognition can help students who are struggling with inferential comprehension.

Intervention: Explicit teaching of metacognition

According to Brown and Reeve (1984), a main objective of most intervention study is to make sure that the trained practices can be utilized to answer troubles different to those on which the skills were taught at first. That is to say, the purpose is the "generalization of skills". On the other hand, the generalization of the skills figured out to be a failure because of these causes. First, researchers frequently remained their topics blind to the objective of the interventions to which they are shown. They are not assisted to comprehend the importance of such exercises. Second, the discipline adjusts into task-specific skills. In this circumstance, transfer of skills did arise but only on assignments which were fundamentally the same, or very alike to those on which discipline had taken place. In the mid 1970's, the researchers identified the needs of not only notifying their clients of the intentions of discipline but also identified the significance of discipline task-general skills that is in discipline of metacognitive skills such as planning, checking and monitoring. As an outcome, intervention study based on metacognitive theories has been flourishing particularly in developing the intelligent completions of retarded children. On the other hand, researches that do not connect metacognitive discipline element are far less flourishing at granting powerful and generalizable development in performance. In addition, teaching metacognitive skills to smooth the progress of either the acquisition or to cure meager skills in the reading text comprehension and reading domains has been especially thriving.

The teaching of metacognitive skills can be approached in various ways to support reading comprehension. By activating prior knowledge and scaffolding students to draw connections between their prior knowledge and new information, the students are able to monitor, plan, and self-regulate their cognitive process and make their own grounds of understanding in reading. Through instructors' scaffolding and modeling the strategies, students brainstorm and discuss the best strategy that they can use to draw connections between their prior knowledge to their new understanding. According to L.S Vygotsky (1962 cited in Gunning G. T. 1996), he also viewed that the children reach the higher level of learning through interaction with the adult. Since cognitive development occurs through social interactions, children gain more confidence to try out the process or discuss the concept through teachers' scaffolding and support. When students begin to understand the process and control over it, the teacher gradually reduces the support and scaffolding. The students then eventually are able to plan, monitor, and self- regulate the process by themselves.

The metacognitive strategies are at the core of self-regulated learning. The primary goal of teaching the metacognitive strategy is to enable students both to monitor their comprehension and apply repair skills when comprehension does not take place (Harvey & Goudvis, 2003 cited in Munro & Dalheim 2001). Students who acquired metacognitive skills set the goals for their own learning, give self-instruction, guide themselves to the right track of reading comprehension, and review the process of learning by themselves. These students are active learner who are responsible for their process of comprehension rather than a passive learner.

Teaching students to be aware of the purpose of the strategies, how, why, when, and where they work encourages them to be more active and responsible for their learning process. The self-talk in which the teacher does modeling can become a powerful guide for students in understanding their responsibility to perform the task. In this stage, teacher thinks aloud as they perform the task. Teacher explicitly models how to activate the prior knowledge, manipulate the text and review reading at every stage of reading (before, while, and after reading). For instance, teacher initiates the self-talk before reading by asking "what do the title and pictures remind me of?" and provide self-responses to the questions by thinking aloud. Students observe how strategy is being used, monitored, and reviewed to perform the task and then begin to internalize its use. Eventually, the purpose of strategy is stored in students' long term memory and results in generalization of skills. According to Richards and Anderson (2003), think-aloud questioning strategy would facilitate learners to gain knowledge on how to construct link between provided information and indirect information. Moreover, it assists learners to check their thinking and interpretation process in order for them to articulate how they were able to come up with their hypothesis. Observing learners reaction when they are utilizing the think-aloud questions would be an option way to document growth in students' ability to make inferential connections.

In this notion, the present intervention aims to teach metacognitive strategies to the underachieving middle primary students to assist their reading comprehension especially, inferential comprehension. Through teachers' explicit modeling, students will do self- regulation of every stage of reading (before, while, after reading) which involves goal-setting, self-instruction, self-monitoring, and self-repairing.

Research Question

Does explicit teaching of metacognitive strategies improve inferential reading comprehension?


Explicit teaching of metacognitive skills to grade four students will improve their inferential comprehension.