The development of superordinate inference ability and its contribution to reading comprehension: A cross-sectional study

The development of superordinate inference ability and its contribution to reading comprehension: A cross-sectional study

First Author: Chi-Shun Lien -- National Chung Cheng University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Yuhtsuen Tzeng; Wanshin Chang; Hung-Hui Chen; Su-Fen Hsueh; Jane Oakhill; Carsten Elbro
Keywords: Inference, Comprehension, Reading development, Summarization
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose:
Many studies have shown that inference ability is one of the unique and significant predictors of reading comprehension (e.g., Oakhill & Cain, 2012; Hananon & Daneman, 1998). However, few studies examined the importance of superordinate inference, which are made by organizing several ideas into a more general one. It is one type of information reduction process and is often useful for constructing global coherence and macrostructure of a text (Kintsch & van Dijk, 1978; van Dijk, 1980). The purposes of this study was to investigate the development of the superordinate inference ability and the contribution of superordinate inference to reading comprehension across grade 3 to 5.

Method:
558 students (i.e.,3rd, 4th and 5th graders ) were recruited from elementary schools in Chia-Yi, Taiwan. All participants received 4 different reading measures: a superordinate inference test, a general inference test, a reading span test, and a standardized Chinese Reading Comprehension Test (Lin et al, 1999). The superordinate inference test is an experimenter-developed test. It includes 3 subtests and assesses children's superordinate inference ability at word, sentence and passage level. Participants were asked to generate a superordinate concept from each question. The general inference test assesses participants’ abilities to generate local and global inference. A series of hierarchical regressions were conducted to examine the developmental patterns.

Results/conclusion:
The results indicated that there were clear developmental patterns on superordinate inference ability. Fifth graders outperformed fourth and third graders at all three levels of superordinate inference measures. The contribution of reading span, general inference and superordinate inference combined accounted for 53% to 59% variance for reading comprehension across three grade levels with the superordinate inference accounted for 7% to 17% unique variance.