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Reading comprehension is an essential variable for academic success in general, but also specifically for learning in science. Therefore, it is of interest to which extent the reading comprehension of science texts is explained by general reading abilities or whether understanding of science texts might even be subject-specific.

Reading comprehension is generally described as an interaction between person characteristics of the reader and text characteristics. There is evidence of an immense importance of persons’ subject-specific vocabulary for reading comprehension. There is also evidence of effects of terminology as a text design feature. Furthermore, without taking possible subject effects into account an interaction can be found between features of the texts, such as local and global coherence, and person characteristics. In many existing studies either text features are not systematically varied in the design of the instruments or person characteristics are not differentiated (e.g., when detecting global reading comprehension instead of underlying skills).
Although some previous studies deal with predictors of reading comprehension in reading scientific texts, the state of research reveals certain desiderata. So far, only few empirical studies focusing on students in lower secondary education investigate to what extent the reading comprehension of subject-specific science texts can be explained by subject-specific knowledge, general reading ability, reading strategies, and vocabulary. Also, interactions between text characteristics and person characteristics have been rarely investigated.

The primary aim of the project is to clarify the interaction between person characteristics and text characteristics for reading comprehension of science texts in physics and chemistry in lower secondary education. Particular emphasis is put on general reading comprehension as a global measure, reading strategy knowledge, subject-specific knowledge, and vocabulary as person characteristics as well as the local and global coherence and the density of terminology as text characteristics.


Contact at the IPN:

Hendrik Härtig

Jan Retelsdorf

Sascha Bernholt