Reading Demands in Secondary School: Does the Linguistic Complexity of Textbooks Increase With Grade Level and the Academic Orientation of the School Track?

ArticleinJournal of Educational Psychology · November 2017with102 Reads
DOI: 10.1037/edu0000225
Abstract
An adequate level of linguistic complexity in learning materials is believed to be of crucial importance for learning. The implication for school textbooks is that reading complexity should differ systematically between grade levels and between higher and lower tracks in line with what can be called the systematic complexification assumption. However, research has yet to test this hypothesis with a real-world sample of textbooks. In the present study, we used automatic measures from computational linguistic research to analyze 2,928 texts from geography textbooks from four publishers in Germany in terms of their reading demands. We measured a wide range of lexical, syntactic, morphological, and cohesion-related features and developed text classification models for predicting the grade level (Grades 5 to 10) and school track (academic vs. vocational) of the texts using these features. We also tested ten linguistic features that are considered to be particularly important for a reader’s understanding. The results provided only partial support for systematic complexification. The text classification models showed accuracy rates that were clearly above chance but with considerable room for improvement. Furthermore, there were significant differences across grade levels and school tracks for some of the ten linguistic features. Finally, there were marked differences among publishers. The discussion outlines key components for a systematic research program on the causes and consequences of the lack of systematic complexification in reading materials.

Do you want to read the rest of this article?

Project
Using digital media to assess generic aspects of teacher knowledge in different educational contexts Teachers' general pedagogical/psychological knowledge (PPK) is thought to be an important aspe…" [more]
Project
Digital technologies can support education in multiple ways. Traditional forms of instruction can be enhanced by incorporating a variety of multi-media presentation formats and telemedial communica…" [more]
Project
Despite a broad willingness in many countries to implement an evidence-based approach in educational policy, this process is severely impeded by a shortage of empirical data on "what works" in educ…" [more]
Article
July 2017 · Journal of Research in Reading · Impact Factor: 1.25
    Assessment of text readability is important for assigning texts at the appropriate level to readers at different proficiency levels. The present research approached readability assessment from the lexical perspective of word frequencies derived from corpora assumed to reflect typical language experience. Three studies were conducted to test how the word-level feature of word frequency can be... [Show full abstract]
    Conference Paper
    January 2014
      While the automatic analysis of the readability of texts has a long history, the use of readability assessment for text simplification has received only little attention so far. In this paper, we explore readability models for identifying differences in the reading levels of simplified and unsimplified versions of sentences. Our experiments show that a relative ranking is preferable to an... [Show full abstract]
      Discover more