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Six questions regarding strategy use when learning from multiple texts

Multiple text use, whereby students access and consider information introduced across multiple documents to understand a particular topic, has been described as a complex, challenging, effortful, goal-directed, and contextualized process (Goldman & Scardamalia, 2013; List & Alexander, 2018b; Rouet & Britt, 2011; Rouet, Britt, & Durik, 2017). These characterizations, in and of themselves, point to the central role of strategic processing in students’ learning from multiple texts. In this chapter addressing strategic processing in multiple text use, I have three goals. I first overview prior work on strategic processing and introduce a central framework that may be used to conceptualize strategy use when students learn from multiple texts. Second, I suggest future directions in strategy research. I do this by asking six questions. In particular, I make the case in the first section of this chapter that much prior work has focused on what strategies students may engage when learning from multiple texts. In the second part of this chapter, I further suggest that the where, when, who, why, and how of strategy use ought to be considered as well. In the final section of this chapter, I extend the strategy framework introduced in the first to consider how strategies may be applied when students learn from multiple, multimedia documents, presenting a plurality of textual and non-textual information (e.g., diagrams, tables, videos) side by side.

What strategies do students use when learning from multiple texts?

Research on strategy use has been an integral part of the multiple text use literature since its inception. Indeed, in one of the first studies to examine multiple text use, Wineburg (1991) compared the strategy use of expert historians and Advanced Placement history students presented with multiple historical documents. Wineburg (1991) found historians’ multiple text use to be characterized by the use of three heuristics absent among the document use of Advanced Placement history students. In particular, historians engaged in (a) sourcing, (b) contextualization, and (c) corroboration, whereas high school students did not (see also De La Paz & Nokes, this volume). Sourcing included looking at a documents meta information (e.g., author, publisher) to determine document origin and trustworthiness. Contextualization reflected the application of prior knowledge to situate documents within a historical context. Finally, corroboration reflected the comparison of information across texts, one to another. Since Wineburgs (1991) study, these strategies, and sourcing in particular, have received considerable attention in the literature (Braasch, Rouet, Vibert, & Britt, 2012; Britt & Aglinskas, 2002; De La Paz et al., 2014; De La Paz & Nokes, this volume; Nokes, Dole, & Hacker, 2007; Rouet, Favart, Britt, & Perfetti. 1997) and have been targeted for intervention, to varying extents (Brante & Stromso, 2018; Nokes et al., 2007; Reisman, 2012).

Likewise, as the literature on multiple text use has progressed, investigations of strategy use have expanded to consider strategies associated with (a) elaboration to support text comprehension (e.g., Wolfe & Goldman, 2005), (b) information accumulation and linking across multiple texts (e.g., Braten & Stromso, 2011), (c) notetaking (e.g., Kobayashi, 2009a, 2009b), (d) cross-textual navigation (List & Alexander, 2017b), (e) metacognitive monitoring (Stadtler & Bromme, 2007, 2008), and more (see Afflerbach, Hurt, & Cho, this volume). To systematize this strategic breadth, two frameworks have been introduced (Cho, Afflerbach, & Han, 2018; List & Alexander, 2018b). In the first section of this chapter, I integrate these two frameworks to classify strategies according to two dimensions: their functions (Cho et al., 2018) and referents (List & Alexander, 2018b) when learning from multiple texts. In this case, functions reflect the particular aims of strategy deployment, while referents capture their targets or foci.

Strategy Functions When Learning from Multiple Texts

A key framework describing strategic processing during multiple text use defines strategies as conscious and controllable efforts to achieve some cognitive purpose and multiple text use as a constructive, meaning-making process (Afflerbach & Cho, 2008; Cho et al., 2018, p. 135). This reflects definitions of strategy use found in earlier work on single text comprehension. This work defines strategy use as intentional and purposeful on the part of the learner (Paris, Lipson, & Wixson, 1983) and strategic processing for comprehension as active and constructive in nature (Baker & Brown, 1984). When engaging in meaning-making based on multiple texts, then, Cho et al. (2018) suggested that students engage in processes falling into one of three general, strategy clusters reflecting: (a) constructive-integrative processing, (b) critical-analytic processing, and (c) metacognitive-reflective processing. Constructive-integrative processing, which includes the search for and identification of information in texts, reflects learners’ efforts to construct a singular, coherent, cognitive representation of multiple texts, including both content and document information from across texts (Britt, Perfetti, Sandak, & Rouet, 1999; Cho et al., 2018, p. 140; Perfetti, Rouet, & Britt, 1999). Critical-analytic processing reflects students’ efforts to determine the value, quality, or veracity of texts or text-based information, with such determinations rendered based on sourcing (i.e., consideration of document information) and source evaluation.

Finally, metacognitive-reflective processing is focused on the deployment and control of strategies falling into the previous two strategy clusters and includes the reciprocal processes of comprehension monitoring, self-regulation, and metacognition (Cho et al., 2018, p. 143). Across these strategy clusters, Cho et al. (2018) emphasized the interactive nature of strategy use, with the engagement of some strategies (e.g., metacognitive monitoring) eliciting the engagement of others (e.g., information search).

In describing strategic processing as serving “diverse functions and purposes,” Cho et al. (2018, p. 144) adopted afunctional view of strategic engagement. That is, they classified strategies according to their aims or purpose. The three general, strategic aims that may be served during multiple text use are presented in each row of Table 8.1.

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