Home Education Handbook of Test Development
Because relative clauses are less frequent in spoken English than in written English, some students may have had limited exposure to them. In fact, Pauley and Syder (1983) argue that the relative clauses in literature differ from those in spoken vernacular language (Schachter, 1983).
Concrete Versus Abstract or Impersonal Presentations
Studies have shown that students perform better on test items when problem statements are presented in concrete rather than abstract terms (Cummins, Kintsch, Reusser &Weimer, 1988). Information presented in narrative structures tends to be understood and remembered better than information presented in expository text (Lemke, 1986).
Mestre (1988) observed that a considerable number of research studies indicate that sentences containing negations (e.g., no, not, none, never) are harder to comprehend than affirmative sentences. One possible reason for their complexity may be the lack of parallelism in the use of negation between English and other languages. In Spanish, for example, double negative constructions retain a negative meaning instead of reverting to an affirmative meaning, as would be the case in grammatically correct English. Mestre found that Spanish-speaking students processed negations from left to right, which works for natural discourse but does not always work for mathematics text.
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