ABSTRACT

Most current theories of text learning assume that comprehension results from the interaction between the propositional content of a text and the reader’s previous knowledge (Kintsch, 1998; van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). However a full theory of comprehension must also take into account a num­ ber of contextual factors that influence the nature of the text-reader inter­ action. Among these factors is the way the study situation is designed, and especially the type of instructional objective or question that motivates the study of a particular text. In this chapter we examine the cognitive pro­ cesses of answering questions from text, and their effects on comprehen­ sion. First, we review a number of assumptions concerning the cognitive processes of text comprehension. We emphasize the crucial role of study ob­ jectives, especially when reading lengthy scientific texts. Next, we examine

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the processes of question answering from memory and from text. In the third section we discuss three factors that influence the role of inserted questions in text comprehension: type of questions, metatextual cues, and individual variables (such as previous knowledge and study skills). Finally, we draw some instructional implications concerning the design of instruc­ tional study tasks that promote effective learning from text.