The influence of topic knowledge, domain knowledge, and interest on the comprehension of scientific exposition

Patricia A. Alexander, Jonna M. Kulikowich, Sharon K. Schulze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this study, we explored the influence of subject-matter knowledge and interest on college students' comprehension of scientific exposition. Two forms of subject-matter knowledge were considered: Passage-specific (i.e., topic) knowledge and general (i.e., domain) knowledge. College students read two passages from physics, one dealing with Stephen Hawking and Grand Unification Theory, and one about the search for the truth quark. Students' topic knowledge and domain knowledge were tested before reading the passages. After reading each passage, students rated their interest in what they read. Comprehension measures were then completed for each passage. We performed regression analyses to determine the effects of subject-matter knowledge and interest on the comprehension scores for each passage. For the more technical Quarks passage, domain knowledge and interest were both significant predictors of comprehension. For the more personally-involving Hawking passage, topic knowledge, domain knowledge, and interest were significant predictors of comprehension performance. Overall, students were more interested in less abstruse and more personally-involving information for both passages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-397
Number of pages19
JournalLearning and Individual Differences
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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