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Typographic Access Structures for Educational Texts

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  • Simplification Centre

Abstract

The term “access structure” refers to the co-ordinated use of typographically signalled structural cues that help students to read texts using selective sampling strategies. In spite of their prevalence, however, the research literature contains very few references to access devices which include contents lists, headings, glossaries, and so on. This paper suggests some reasons for this and proposes that for research to be truly actionable it must be more firmly rooted in real-world problems. Evidence for the significance of selective reading is presented and some implications for research strategies are discussed. If you were to compare an educational textbook and a novel, both in a language you do not know, you would very probably be able to tell them apart just by appearance. The novel will almost certainly consist solely of continuous prose. The text of the educational book, though, may be surrounded by additional pedagogical components, such as contents, index, glossary, summaries and so on. Why is the difference visible? It is not because the textbook has a structure and the novel has none. It is because the structure of the textbook has been typographically signalled, while the structure of the novel is signalled by linguistic means alone. So, whereas the typography of plain text can be evaluated by criteria of congeniality and legibility, the typography of textbooks clearly involves additional factors.
... Once the vertical grid is in place, we can position such navigational features or 'access structures', as Rob Waller calls them (Waller 1979). Each of these should sit on any of the horizontal lines that are part of the top and bottom margins. ...
Article
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The article explains how one can achieve good typography and design with a word-processing software package, namely Microsoft Word, as against using a page layout software package such as InDesign.
... However, designing documents that are received the way the author wishes has always been difficult, partly because of the intrinsic difficulty of structuring ideas and writing, partly because the readership and its reactions are not known at the time of writing. In general, authors "know comparatively little about the abilities, purposes, opinions, prior knowledge and circumstances of their readers" (Waller, 1979). The digital world increases this difficulty by multiplying the possibilities related to mixed media and interactivity, hence increasing the complexity of documents with the use of 1.3 Research goal, questions and objectives 2 multimedia, more and more interactivity, etc. ...
Thesis
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Providing high-quality content is of utmost importance to drive successful reading. Besides, designing documents that are received the way the author wishes has always been difficult, and the digital world increases this difficulty by multiplying the possibilities related to mixed medias and interactivity. This compels authors to continuously review the delivered content to meet readers’ needs. Yet it remains challenging for them to detect the comprehension barriers that may exist within their documents, and to identify how these latter can be improved accordingly. This compels authors to continuously review the delivered content to meet readers’ needs. Yet it remains challenging for them to detect the comprehension barriers that may exist within their documents, and to identify how these latter can be improved accordingly. In this thesis, we focus on an educational context, where reading is a fundamental activity and the basis of many other learning activities. We propose a learning analytics approach for assisting course authors to maintain their courses to sustain learning. The proposals are based on theoretical background originated from research on learning analytics, reading comprehension and content revision. We advocate “usage-based document reengineering”, a process defined as a kind of reengineering that changes document content and structures based on the analysis of readers’ usages as recorded in their reading traces. We model reading activity using the concept of reading-session and propose a new session identification method. Using learners’ reading sessions, a set of indicators related to different aspects of the reading process are computed and used to detect comprehension issues and to suggest corrective content revisions. The results of the analytics process are presented to authors through a dashboard empowered with assistive features. We instantiate our proposals using the logs of a major European e-learning platform, and validate it through a series of studies. The results show the effectiveness of the approach and related dashboards to enhance authors awareness learners’ needs, and to provide them with guidance in improving their courses accordingly.
... They can identify the topic of the upcoming text segment (Lorch, 1989, Lemarie, Lorch & Woodley, 2012 and help the reader to determine the extent of the present topic shift between two successive text segments (Lorch et al., 2013). Further, headings give the reader an access structure that allows him to use the text for searching purposes (Waller, 1979). However, headings as means of fostering text comprehension show at least two deficits. ...
Article
Hypertext comprehension often suffers from inadequate representation of the text's structure. Explication of the local paragraph macrostructure within each node might help to overcome this obstacle. As headings show several deficits, especially in digital text, marginalia are considered a promising alternative in signaling hypertext structure as they should foster interactive processing. 41 participants learned with a hypertext with identical macropropositions presented as either macropropositional marginalia (EG1), paragraph-initial topic sentences (EG2) or with an unsignaled placing of the macropropositions at the end of each paragraph (CG). All three experimental texts contained identical information. Results revealed increased inference performance for marginalia and increased factual recognition for topic sentences, confirming the assumptions that marginalia foster interactive processing but suffer the same oversignaling deficit as headings concerning the processing of factual information. © 2019 Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. All Rights Reserved.
... (a) To ensure the production of quality instructional materials that are highly readable and serve to help, rather than hinder, the communication process, it is imperative that reference be made to current and relevant research in the field of instructional typography. There is considerable research (Waller, 1979;Rehe, 1972;Wheildon, 1986) which targets particular typographic issues in text presentation, while Hartley (1981) adequately summarises into a set of guidelines the typographical requirements of sound printed instructional materials. ...
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Article
About Joanna Suau Joanna studied English literature and culture at the University of Silesia in Poland, where she was born. She did a technical writing postgraduate degree in the picturesque city of Krakow and moved to the U.K. in 2012, to work for shipping solutions provider Pierbridge, where she mainly focused on user guides and walkthroughs of various types of shipping applications. Interested in what makes an app tick, Joanna started learning programming language (JavaScript) and explored CSS and HTML in more detail. This is when she discovered her passion for writing clean and appealing developer-oriented documentation, and moved to the start-up company Moltin, to become a part of the Developer Success team. Joanna has changed industry, and currently works in the field of telecommunication. She works for a messaging services provider, Infobip, contributing content to their robust API solutions.
Chapter
Useful guidelines on writing well have been available for more than fifty years (e.g. Fowler, 1926). Yet many legal documents are a lexical steeplechase, in which intrepid readers surmount the hurdles of archaic terms only to stumble at the lengthy waterjumps of qualifying clauses packed end to end against each other. Such language inevitably restricts people’s access to information. Moreover this style of language has been copied by many organisations dealing with the general public. The following example, from form SA101 issued by the Department of National Savings, is currently available in British post offices (January 1979). Paragraph to of the form explains what happens to those who join the Save as you Earn Scheme but die before making the full sixty payments: If repayment is made on or after the first anniversary of the starting date there shall be payable — (a) the total amount of the revalued contributions each contribution being revalued to reflect the difference between the Index figure applicable to the month beginning with the date following the due date of that contribution or, in the case of the first contribution, between the Index figure applicable to the month in which the starting date falls and the Index figure applicable to the month of repayment; or … Can many readers understand this without a struggle? Does the difficulty of such language restrict the number of people willing to join the scheme?
Chapter
Most of the research into reading eye movements has been concerned with making accurate observations of readers carrying out unusual tasks under restrictive conditions. However, the applicability of such findings to normal reading is limited, and has precluded investigation of strategies employed by skilled silent readers, which recent emphasis on flexibility in reading necessitate. This paper describes apparatus devised by the writer for studying styles and strategies used by skilled readers under normal conditions. It also reviews three studies where the method was used to investigate location of information in books. In addition, a correlational analysis is given that relates performance on this task to scores on several tests. It is concluded that more work needs to be done in observing readers’ purposeful use of texts, and that the neglect of this area may be due not only to methodological problems, but also to lack of knowledge about how adults read. Early studies of eye movements in reading appear to have been motivated by the belief that this topic provided an opportunity to observe the less accessible mental behaviour which is part of reading and thinking. “To completely analyse what we do when we read would almost be the acme of a psychologist’s achievements, for it would be to describe very many of the most intricate workings of the human mind….” said Huey (1908, p. 6) in reviewing the early work. Reviews by later writers (Vernon, 1931; Carmichael & Dearborn, 1948; Tinker, 1965) show that eye movement research has also concerned itself with applied fields, notably legibility, but an attempt to “understand what we do when we read” has nevertheless continued. Some important work in eye movement research (Yarbus, 1967; Ditchburn, 1973) has avoided reading as a topic, however, and it appears that our knowledge of the processes involved in reading has not increased markedly, despite the research. For example, Geyer (1972) concluded from his review of 48 models of the reading process, that we have insufficient understanding to be able to apply most of the models to normal reading.
Chapter
This paper outlines the major emphases within psychological research on reading and writing. It is divided into four sections. Section 1 examines the notion of literacy and suggests that much everyday reading differs from that studied in the experimental laboratory. In sections 2 and 3 the research on reading and writing is reviewed and it becomes apparent that there are virtually no points of contact between the two fields of research. Section 4 discusses some implications of broadening the concept of reading to include a wide range of cognitive processes. The value of increased interaction among different researchers is pointed out and it is suggested that a slight shift in the focus of the research makes it easier to apply our understanding of the processes of comprehension to the practical problems of helping readers acquire the skills necessary for literacy and of creating materials adequate for the various domains of textual literacy.
Article
This paper deals with what are called here paralinguistic organizers i.e. textual devices like underlining, brackets, footnotes, and, on screen, pop upfields..., In the framework at he theory of discourse comprehension (Van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983) it is proposed to view technical texts as tools, more Or less efficient, that readers use to build their representation (situation model). it is known that the schematic superstructure of a text can significantly enhance its comprehension and memorization. It ir assumed here that another kind of text structure could play a similar role ie. the structure based on the main points/secondary points distinction. More generally a text can be viewed as a set of textual units, each one corresponding to a communicative intention of the writer In other terms, each textual unit has a propositionnal content and an illocutory value. The distinction of secondary points from the main points corresponds to a value of "importance minimization". Among secondary points, a number of more precise illocutory values can be found in technical texts such as commenting, illustrating, guiding the reading process, synthesizing... Our conjecture ii that a clear distinction by the reader of these illocutory values should contribute to text comprehension and memorization as well as information retrieval. Analyzing a corpus of various technical texts we built a typology of textual units on the basis of the writer' intentions. In order to test the cognitive reality of such a typology, subjects were requested to analyze texts dividing them into textual units and to categorize these units according to the typology, only opt the basis of language (the paralinguistic organizers were removed). The results showed that, except for subjects trained in text analysis (students in psycholinguistics), such a categorization was a difficult task. Paralinguistics organizers such as parenthesis, footnotes, and pop-up fields on screen, should play an important role signaling the writer's "minimization" intention when secondary points are concerned. In two experiments the effect of such paralinguistic organizers was studied Groups of subjects were requested to read the same text with and without organizers. The subjects had to read texts "from beginning to end" knowing that they would have to answer questions on the text The results did not confirm the common signification (minimization) of the studied organizers. Putting textual units in brackets or in footnotes did not decrease significantly their memorization; putting textual units in pop up fields increased their memorization. A final experiment investigated the role of pop up fields compared to brackets in an information retrieval task (in a small base of texts) as opposed to a a from beginning to ends reading task. The results showed that, in this kind of task, putting secondary pieces of information into pop up fields significantly speeded the search process compared to a condition in which the same information war displayed in brackets. In conclusion it is argued that selecting information is an important subprocess of text processing, even when reading from beginning to end. In parallel with the increasing production of electronic documents, research on typology of textuals units and on type-signaling devices is needed toward efficient "access structures" for technical texts.
Chapter
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The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) puts forward a theory and a number of design guidelines for learning materials. Empirical studies enabled researchers to ground the theory and the design guidelines. In this study, a central design guideline is tested in the context of printed learning materials: the 'coherence design principle' that states that learners perform better when extra text is excluded rather than included. But, printed self-instructional materials have always been enriched with a variety of text-components, also called embedded support devices (ESD). The CTML questions the adequacy of this approach. In a 2 x 2 factorial experimental design, students studied four different versions of printed learning materials depending on the inclusion/exclusion of cognitive and/ or metacognitive embedded support devices that were expected to foster cognitive and metacognitive processes. Building on CTML, the hypothesis was put forward that learners studying text with ESD would demonstrate poorer learning results, would report higher levels of mental load and need significantly more study time. Research results do not confirm two out of three CTML-deduced hypotheses. ESD-enriched text does not result in poorer learning, higher mental load nor longer study time. A critical Discussion of the findings results in proposing directions for future research.
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A presentation is given of Meyer's (1974) system for analyzing the organization of information in textual materials. This system is based on Fillmore's (1968) case grammar and Grimes' (1974) semantic grammar of propositions. In addition, the need for such a technique in educational research and practice is pointed out, as well as, comparing Meyer's system to that of three different approaches to prose analysis. Also, the use of the structure of prose in two studies on reading and memory is described. Implications of this structural variable are discussed for other investigations into reading.
Chapter
Most of the research into reading eye movements has been concerned with making accurate observations of readers carrying out unusual tasks under restrictive conditions. However, the applicability of such findings to normal reading is limited, and has precluded investigation of strategies employed by skilled silent readers, which recent emphasis on flexibility in reading necessitate. This paper describes apparatus devised by the writer for studying styles and strategies used by skilled readers under normal conditions. It also reviews three studies where the method was used to investigate location of information in books. In addition, a correlational analysis is given that relates performance on this task to scores on several tests. It is concluded that more work needs to be done in observing readers’ purposeful use of texts, and that the neglect of this area may be due not only to methodological problems, but also to lack of knowledge about how adults read. Early studies of eye movements in reading appear to have been motivated by the belief that this topic provided an opportunity to observe the less accessible mental behaviour which is part of reading and thinking. “To completely analyse what we do when we read would almost be the acme of a psychologist’s achievements, for it would be to describe very many of the most intricate workings of the human mind….” said Huey (1908, p. 6) in reviewing the early work. Reviews by later writers (Vernon, 1931; Carmichael & Dearborn, 1948; Tinker, 1965) show that eye movement research has also concerned itself with applied fields, notably legibility, but an attempt to “understand what we do when we read” has nevertheless continued. Some important work in eye movement research (Yarbus, 1967; Ditchburn, 1973) has avoided reading as a topic, however, and it appears that our knowledge of the processes involved in reading has not increased markedly, despite the research. For example, Geyer (1972) concluded from his review of 48 models of the reading process, that we have insufficient understanding to be able to apply most of the models to normal reading.
Chapter
Sentences usually are not read in isolation. They must be related to the ideas expressed in other sentences in order for a reader to comprehend the passage as a whole. These comprehension processes were analyzed by measuring eye movements while subjects read an 1888 word narrative text. Measures of reading rate per sentence supported the idea that reading eye movements are influenced by comprehension processes that link sentential conceptual units together to form higher-order conceptual units (macro-propositions). On the strength of this finding, the present more global measure of reading eye movements was offered as an alternative to the currently popular fine-grain analysis. According to the procedures outlined in this paper, a strict moment-to-moment link between language processes and eye movements is not required for eye movements to be a useful tool for analyzing comprehension processes during reading. One of the practical applications of this approach is the possibility that the analysis of comprehension processes during reading will shed new light on the differences between average and superior readers. Results were presented to support this possibility, especially for those differences that relate to active, flexible reading.
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Science is continually confronted by new and difficult social and ethical problems. Some of these problems have arisen from the transformation of the academic science of the prewar period into the industrialized science of the present. Traditional theories of science are now widely recognized as obsolete. In Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems (originally published in 1971), Jerome R. Ravetz analyzes the work of science as the creation and investigation of problems. He demonstrates the role of choice and value judgment, and the inevitability of error, in scientific research. Ravetz's new introductory essay is a masterful statement of how our understanding of science has evolved over the last two decades.