cooperative groups, students are actively involved and have multiple opportunities to contribute to the group’s understanding of text. Students are assigned roles and serve as critical leaders and collaborators in the effective functioning of the group and the implementation of CSR strategies. For CSR to function smoothly, at least four roles are essential (leader, clunk expert, gist expert, and question expert). Other roles (encourager and timekeeper) are assigned as needed.
During a 40- to 50-minute session, students work in their small groups, with teacher feedback, utilizing all of their CSR strategies to assist all group members in raising the level of comprehension of the assigned text. In a typical CSR session, the teacher might begin by reviewing an instructional practice (e.g., take 5 minutes to remind students how to use feedback from other members of the group to develop a “gist” or main idea). Students then work in their groups reading the text and using the instructional practices. Each member of the group has an assigned role and learns to lead the group through previewing, gist, summary, and so on. Students use their learning logs to record previews, gist, clunks, and summaries. The teacher moves from group to group, guiding instruction, listening and providing feedback, and asking questions to check for understanding and to enhance student learning of the text content.
2.6.3 Theoretical Background for CSR
In collaborative strategic reading method, reading is considered as a transactive, socially constructed process and in our understanding of cognitive strategy instruction. Meaningful encounters with text result from interaction between a reader’s prior knowledge and experience, information found in the text and the broader social context of learning (Katims & Harmon, 2000).
Katims and Harmon (2000) emphasized that CSR takes a social constructivist approach to learning with a reading text. Students are actively engaged in constructing meaning from text. Students must work together on meaningful tasks to make sense of the text (Katims & Harmon, 2000). The social constructivist approach has roots in the work of John Dewey. Dewey’s writings encouraged teachers to engage students in real life, problem-solving situations where the students conduct the inquiry. He argued that learning should have a purpose and that this could be accomplished by organizing students into small groups to pursue problem-solving activities (Arends, 2003; Dewey, 1916).
The theory of social constructivism is also evidenced in Dewey’s writings promoting the social environment of education. He discusses the interactive nature of education as “…truly educative…in the degree in which an individual shares or participates in some conjoint activity” (p. 22). It is Dewey’s view that by taking on a significant role in a group, students will become familiar with the methods and acquire the skill to be learned while being “saturated” by the spirit of the group (Dewey, 1916). CSR reflects many of the social constructivist views held by Dewey. For example, students initiate the comprehension processes in small collaborative groups of four or five as they process text and gather meaning to complete the task. The learning takes place in a cooperative format where students complete shared goals while taking a significant role within the group.
Jean Piaget also supported the theoretical aspect of social constructivism. His research with young children led him to believe that learners are actively involved in the process of acquiring information and constructing knowledge. According to Piaget, knowledge is constantly changing and evolving as learners have new experiences and build on their existing knowledge and experiences (Arends, 2003; Wadsworth, 1989).
Piaget’s theory emphasized that environment or learning context plays a significant role if cognitive development was to occur. The development of cognitive structures necessitated the assimilation and accommodation of stimuli in the environment. He stated that it is central that children act on objects and interact with people in order to construct knowledge. Complete understanding of an issue or event cannot occur from just reading or listening to people talk. According to Piaget, full knowledge can only be constructed by experience in a social environment (Wadsworth, 1989).
Piaget’s work in social constructivism is also closely related to the research of Vygotsky (1974). Like Piaget, his theories posit that intellect develops as individuals have new experiences and work on solving the discrepancies between the new and existing experiences. Vygotsky placed more emphasis on the social aspect of learning than did Piaget. Vygotsky believed that social interactions aided in the construction of new ideas and the development of students’ intellect and that cognitive development occurs when concepts learned through social interaction are internalized and become part of the learner’s inherent ability (Arends, 2003; Vygotsky, 1934).
A vital component of Vygotsy’s social constructivist theories involves the zone of proximal development. He writes that learners have two levels of development: the level of actual development and the level of potential development. The level of actual development is what the learners are capable of learning on their own. The level of potential development is the level that learners can accomplish with the support of others such as teachers, parents or peers. The zone of proximal development is the area between the individual’s current ability and potential ability. Vygotsky theorized that learning occurs through social interaction with teachers and peers (Vygotsky, 1934).
Collaborative strategic reading can be regarded as a reflection of Vygotsky’s theories because it takes social interaction to enhance students’ inherent ability into consideration. As students encounter a reading text, they discover discrepancies between this new knowledge and existing experiences. For example, in a recent CSR lesson a group of students were discussing an article about albino kangaroos in the Austrian zoo. Their comments on the reading in the wrap-up segment indicated that their prior knowledge on kangaroos was adapted to include the new knowledge of albino kangaroos and their habitat.
Collaborative Strategic Reading is based on social constructivism and according to Katims and Harmon (2000) it should be accompanied by Schema theory in order to be completed. They emphasized that Schema theory can emerge from the field of cognitive psychology and involves the way that knowledge is stored and represented in the memory. Therefore, it is the responsibility of teachers to create a schema for students’ learning.
A schema (plural schemata) is defined as a knowledge structure that represents a class of things, events and situations and that has components or subparts called slots (Anderson & Pearson, 1984). Individuals activate and employ these mental frameworks to interpret events. When schemata are activated, the slots are instantiated by specific information. Schema theory is a theory about how the knowledge is structured, and about how the knowledge structures facilitate the use of knowledge in particular ways.
According to schema theory, readers’ schemata provide the fundamental frameworks for understanding, learning, and remembering ideas in materials, and facilitate those processes (Anderson, 1978; Anderson & Pearson, 1984; Rumelhart, 1981). In order to comprehend stories and texts, readers need to have appropriate schemata that provide good explanations about the objects and events in the passages. A body of research has shown that information is understood effectively when readers employ appropriate schemata. Text content that is tied to learners’ schemata also is more effectively remembered (Anderson, Reynolds, Schallert, & Goetz, 1977; Bransford & Johnson, 1972; Steffensen, Joag-Dev, & Anderson, 1979).
Several schema-based processes in learning and remembering have
been identified. A schema helps the information to be encoded and learned more efficiently by allocating the learner’s attention to the important elements, providing ideational scaffolding for assimilating information, and enabling inferential elaboration when the text is not explicit (Anderson, 1994). Similarly, retrieval processes are facilitated by schemata guiding memory searches, providing standards for editing out unimportant information, and aiding inferential reconstruction when there are gaps in memory (Anderson, Pichert, &Shirey 1983). These processes will be reviewed in detail below.
Schemata enable information to be encoded more precisely because they provide slots for certain text information. As a consequence, the information consistent with the schema is easily remembered and learned with little mental effort. The schema provides what Anderson (1994) has called ideational scaffolding. Additionally, schemata enable readers to be guided to more important text elements and to allocate more attention to the text aspects consistent with their schemata. By doing so, important propositions in a text are connected with the overall representation that is being created. Making such connections extends cognitive capacity and helps readers’ better recall the information that receives more attention (Anderson, 1978, 1994).
Schemata also facilitate making inferences. Readers make inferences at the time of reading as well as at the time of remembering. In order to fully understand a passage as the writer intends, readers need to make inferences for parts that are not explicitly addressed. A reader’s schema allows inferential elaboration at the time of encoding and inferential reconstruction at the time of retrieval. Inferential elaboration refers to the notion that a schema enables readers to make inferences about the information that is not explicitly stated in a text whereas inferential reconstruction refers to the process of a reader generating missing information depending on his/her schema when there are gaps in memory (Anderson, 1994). Just as scholars use theories to forecast unknown situations, readers use schemata to make inferences about unobserved or unremembered events (Rumelhart, 1981).
Furthermore, a schema provides a guide to the information that needs to be recalled. That is, a schema facilitates memory searches by providing the framework used to structure the text. The readers are aided by schemata to get access to the specific information encoded when they read the text. Also, schemata help readers edit out unimportant information and remember important information more effectively. Because a schema itself contains a standard of importance, it enables readers to create summaries that contain important propositions and omit trivial ones (Anderson, 1978).
Anderson (1984) proposes six functions of schemata that affect a reader’s interaction with text. The first is that schema provides a slot or file for text information that helps the reader to assimilate text information. The second is that schema functions as a sieve to determine the important aspects of a text so the reader will filter out unimportant information and access the most important information. Third, schema aids the reader in making inferences about the text, which is vital as no text is completely explicit. Fourth, the reader can use their schema in a logical manner to search the memory categories or files to access the information they need to understand the text. Fifth, the schema aids the reader in editing and summarizing text as it contains criteria of importance. Finally, schema enables the reader to generate a hypothesis about text when there are gaps in the schema.
The next section of this chapter examines the current research in CSR and its effectiveness as a reading strategy with expository text in the content area.