Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

The readability of selected fourth, fifth and sixth grade social studies textbooks as determined by the Fry Readability Graph and group informal reading inventories Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this study was to determine the readability of three series of selected fourth, fifth and sixth grade social studies textbooks, a total of nine textbooks. Two measurements were utilized: a readability formula (Fry Readability Graph; Knapp, 1971), and group informal reading inventories. The Fry Graph was applied to ten randomly selected 100-word passages in each text; proper nouns were included in the computations. The group informal reading inventories were constructed from the same textbooks on passages not previously taught. The tests were administered in May to 1467 students in 70 randomly selected classrooms. Procedures Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data. Readability levels derived by the application of the Fry Graph were reported for each text:, as was the range of readability within each text and the deviation of each sample from the overall readability of the textbook. The test scores from the group informal reading inventories were first reported in terms of the per cent of subjects scoring at the independent level (90, 95, 100 per cent), the instructional level (65, 70, 75, 80, 85 per cent) and the frustration level (60 per cent or lower) for the sample. Mean test scores were also computed for the sample, the urban and rural subsets, for each grade level, and for each publisher. To determine if there were significant differences among the subsets, the following null hypotheses were formulated: H1 There are no significant differences in the mean scores of the urban and rural subjects. H2 There are no significant differences in the mean scores of the subjects in grades four, five and six. H3 There are no significant differences among the mean scores of the subjects tested on the D. C. Heath, the Silver Burdett or the Benefic Press social studies series. The differences among groups were statistically analyzed at the .05 and .01 levels of significance by the pooled variance t-test or by the analysis of variance. When the analysis of variance resulted in a significant F value, the multiple range test was applied to determine the exact location of the mean difference. Findings of the Study Fry Readability Graph 1. Two textbooks, the fourth grade textbooks published by D. C. Heath and by Silver Burdett, had readability levels in agreement with the publishers' designated grade level. The remaining seven textbooks had readability levels one to four years above the designated grade level. 2. The average range of readability within the textbooks was 6.2 years with little evidence of a gradation from less difficult to more difficult reading material. 3. When the three series were ranked according to their relative difficulty on the basis of the Fry readability levels, it was determined that: a. The D. C. Heath series is the least difficult. b. The Silver Burdett series occupies an intermediate position. c. The Benefic Press series is the most difficult. Group Informal Reading Inventories 1. For the total sample 9.41 per cent of the subjects scored at the independent level, 32.04 per cent scored at the instructional level, and 58.55 per cent scored at the frustration level. The mean test score was 54.82 per cent. 2. The mean score (56.64 per cent) of the urban subjects was significantly higher (.01 level) than the mean score (52.35 per cent) of the rural subjects with a t value of 3.30. H1 was rejected. 3. The mean score for grade four was 50.35 per cent; for grade five, 53.96 per cent; and for grade six, 58.09 per cent. The analysis of variance resulted in a significant (.01 level) F value of 11.25. H2 was rejected. 4. The mean scores by publisher were: D. C. Heath, 55.88 per cent; Silver Burdett, 55.77 per cent; and Benefic Press, 50.38 per cent. The analysis of variance resulted in a significant (.01 level) F value of 5.47. The multiple range test showed significant differences between the Benefic Press and D. C. Heath series (.01 level) and between the Benefic Press and Silver Burdett series (.01 level). There were no significant differences between the D. C. Heath and Silver Burdett series. H3 was rejected. Implications 1. The findings of this study did not differ in any substantial way from the results reported by earlier investigators. Further studies of the readability of social studies textbooks similar in content to the three series analyzed in this investigation is not warranted. 2. Additional research is needed to determine if systematic instruction resembling the procedures prescribed for a well-developed basal reading lesson will significantly affect the ability of students to comprehend social studies textbooks. Recommendations 1. Current knowledge regarding the nature of concept development should be a major consideration for curriculum decisions in the social studies. Piaget's findings regarding the cognitive functioning of elementary school students provide insight regarding the capabilities of this age group. 2. Instructional alternatives that diminish heavy reliance on the textbook should be afforded a fair trial in the classroom, e.g., simulation and gaming (Cuetzkow, 1962; Inbar, 1972), process analog (Fielder, 1967; Joyce, 1972), role playing (Shaftel, 1967), problem solving (Fenton, 1967; Shaftel, 1967), inquiry approaches (Suchman, 1964; Clements, Fielder, Tabachnick, 1966), and inductive development of concepts and generalizations (Taba, 1966; Fenton, 1966; Hanna, 1965). 3. A publicly financed agency staffed by expert analysts and equipped with the necessary resources should be established to provide analysis services to publishers and to determine the difficulty level of all instructional materials as they appear on the market (Bormuth, 1971). 4. Pilot editions of all new textbooks should be field tested with a cross section of students using procedures similar to those utilized by the publishers of standardized tests. 5. When classroom teachers make reading assignments in social studies textbooks, they should faithfully adhere to the same procedures that are prescribed for a well-developed basal reading lesson.
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