Assessment of inference making in children using comprehension questions and story retelling : Effect of text modality and story presentation format

Freed, Jenny and Cain, Kate (2021) Assessment of inference making in children using comprehension questions and story retelling : Effect of text modality and story presentation format. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 56 (3). pp. 637-652. ISSN 1368-2822

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Background. Reading and listening comprehension are essential for accessing the school curriculum. Inference making is integral to successful comprehension and involves integrating information between clauses (local coherence) and integrating information with background knowledge (global coherence). We require appropriate methods to assess comprehension and inference making in order to identify areas of difficulty and provide appropriate support. Aims. Typically developing children’s ability to generate local and global coherence inferences was assessed. The effect of text modality (reading and listening comprehension) and presentation format (stories presented in segmented and whole story format) was explored using two comprehension measures (question answering and story retell). The main aims were to determine whether there were advantages for reading or listening comprehension and for segmented or whole text presentation. Methods & Procedures. Typically developing children in Year 3 (n=33) and Year 5 (n=40) either read or listened to short stories. Their ability to generate global and local coherence inferences was assessed in two ways: answers to inference-tapping questions and story retelling (scored for inclusion of necessary inferences). Stories were presented either in whole format (all questions after the story) or segmented format (questions asked at specific points during story presentation); the retelling was always after the complete story and questions had been presented. Outcomes & Results. For both comprehension measures, there was developmental progression between age groups and a benefit for the reading modality. Scores were higher for global coherence than local coherence inferences, but the effect was significant only for the question answering responses, not retells. For retells there was a benefit in presenting the text as a whole compared with the segmented format, but this effect was not present for the comprehension questions. There was a significant interaction between inference type and modality for both comprehension measures (question answering and story retell): for the local coherence inferences scores were significantly greater in the reading compared to the listening modality, but performance on the global coherence inferences did not differ significantly between modalities. Conclusions & Implications. Clinicians, teachers and other professionals should consider the modality and presentation format for comprehension tasks to utilise areas of strength and support areas of difficulty. Oral presentation may result in poorer comprehension relative to written presentation in general, and may particularly affect local integrative processing. These findings have important implications for the development of appropriate assessments as well as for supporting children with comprehension difficulties.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Additional Information:
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Freed, J. and Cain, K. (2021), Assessment of inference-making in children using comprehension questions and story retelling: Effect of text modality and a story presentation format. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 56: 637-652. which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? global coherenceinferencelisteninglocal coherencereadingschool-aged childrenstory retellspeech and hearing ??
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Deposited On:
22 Mar 2021 11:05
Last Modified:
08 Jan 2024 00:21