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Verbal Comprehension and
Reasoning Skills of Latino High School Students
Richard Duran, Russell Revlin and Dale
University of California, Santa Barbara
National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning
This report examines the readiness of Latino high school students for
college-level academic work based on their reading comprehension and verbal
reasoning skills. We first review pertinent college admissions test data and
educational survey data. Next, we go on to discuss findings from a variety of
research fields that sharpen our understanding of factors that can promote or
inhibit the development of verbal comprehension and reasoning skills among
Latino students. Our analysis of research covers contextual factors, discourse
processing, and word recognition factors related to reading comprehension and
verbal reasoning performance. We conclude with a discussion of some important
questions that need to be pursued in devising effective instruction and
interventions based on what research has revealed.
In this report we discuss Latino1 high school students' readiness for college in
the areas of English reading comprehension and reasoning skills. We draw
attention to two issues: 1) college admissions test scores and educational
survey findings on the preparation of Latino students for college-level academic
work in the verbal and reasoning areas and 2) research on the academic demands
of reading and reasoning activities. We conclude with a discussion of questions
that still need to be answered in order to make sense of existing research
findings and to devise effective interventions to improve the verbal reasoning
skills of Latinos aspiring to attend college.
College Admissions Test Scores and Educational Survey Data
College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test Verbal (SAT-V) scores assess students'
general verbal ability. Along with SAT Mathematics (SAT-M) scores and class rank
in high school, SAT-V scores have been found to be among the best quantitative
predictors of early grades in college (Duran, 1983; Pennock-Roman, 1990). SAT-V
test score data for Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic test
takers indicate that the average scores of these students are 50 to 100 points
(1/2 to 1 standard deviation) lower than those earned by non-Latino White
students. The SAT-V (and SAT-M) scores of Latino students have not shown
appreciable growth since the College Board began collecting ethnic/ racial
identity information on various Hispanic groups in 1976. Indeed, 1994 College
Board data indicate that since 1976, the SAT-V scores of Mexican Americans have
risen by only 1 point and those of Puerto Rican origin examines by only 3 points
(College Board, 1994). In 1994, the average SAT-V score was 423 for all students
regardless of ethnic background; in contrast, Mexican-American examines earned
an average score of 372 and Puerto Ricans an average of 367.
Other data corroborate the differences in verbal ability between Hispanic and
non-Hispanic White students prior to the college years. Data from the 1987-88
National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, indicate that Hispanic
high school students have more difficulty in reading comprehension and reasoning
than non-Hispanic White students. Over 46% of non-Hispanic White students scored
at the adept level of reading achievement on the NAEP test as compared to just
over 24% of Hispanic students (National Center for Education Statistics, 1991).
The adept level is defined as being "able to find, understand, summarize, and
explain relatively complicated literary and informational material." Latino high
school students also lagged behind non-Hispanic White students at the advanced
level on the NAEP reading assessment. Slightly over 1 % of Hispanic students
scored at this level as compared to nearly 6% of non-Hispanic White students.
The advanced level is defined as being "able to understand the links between
ideas even when those links are not explicitly stated and to make appropriate
generalizations even when the texts lack clear introductions or explanations."
Taken at face value, these data suggest that both Latino and non-Hispanic White
high school students are sorely under prepared to comprehend written English and
to reason in English as would be required in college.
Consistent with test score information, there is evidence that Latinos are not
judged as being as academically eligible for college work as non-Latino White
students in regions of the country heavily populated with Latinos. For example,
a study in California by the California Postsecondary Education Commission
(Ratliff & Barker, 1992), which compared college eligibility rates from 1983 to
1990, showed that there was no change during this period in the percentage of
Latino high school seniors eligible for the California State College System
based on high school grades alone (11.7% in 1983 and 11.4% in 1990). Latino
academic eligibility rates for University of California (U.C.) improved
marginally from 2.1 % in 1983 to 3.9% in 1990. The disparity in Latino high
schools students' academic eligibility for the U.C. system is egregious given
that the California Master Plan for Higher Education specifies that the top
12.5% of graduating high school seniors are academically eligible for admission
to the U.C. system.
Empirical research findings suggest that Latino 4-year college applicants show
self-awareness of limitations in their verbal development for academic
coursework in English. For example, a language survey of more than 700 Latino
SAT takers revealed statistically significant, moderate correlations (median
correlation .35) between students' serf-ratings of English academic ability and
their scores on the SAT Verbal and the Test of Standard Written English (Duran,
Enright, & Rock, 1985). The 11 language survey items that showed a significant
correlation probed students' serf-ratings of skill in recognizing and using
English grammar and vocabulary and in understanding or producing discourse in
academic contexts. Two items probing reading comprehension skill showed the
strongest association with students' SAT Verbal scores. These items asked
students to rate their comprehension of text book materials (r=.38, p<.O1 ) and
of vocabulary in academic reading tasks (r=.45, p<.O1 ) on a scale of 1 to 5.
Although these correlations are not huge, they are substantial given that they
involve only a single, abbreviated question. They are of the same magnitude as
correlations commonly found between SAT scores and high school grades with early
Interpretation of Latino students' college aptitude test scores and high school
achievement test scores needs to take into account the possible influence of
numerous background and schooling factors associated with students' ethnicity
and social history. For example, the number of U.S. Latino immigrants has risen
dramatically over the past 20 years. It may be that test scores have failed to
rise because more Latinos from immigrant non-English backgrounds are
matriculating through the school system (National Center for Education
Statistics, 1992). Unfortunately, this hypothesis has yet to be explored
Research on the Academic Demands of Reading and Reasoning Activities
Given the findings of college admissions test data and educational survey
data, how can we better understand factors that influence Latino students'
ability to comprehend texts and to reason?
Three issues seem salient. The first concerns the wholistic nature of academic
reading assignments and how the nature of assignments influences second language
learners' approach to academic language use and reasoning with language. The
second issue concerns cognitive and linguistic processing strategies used by
second language readers to accomplish specific kinds of problem solving that
require the processing of discourse and sentence-level language. The third issue
concerns students' fluency in basic decoding of English language words. We
deliberately stage this discussion to go from macro to micro concerns so as to
avoid the interpretation that the acquisition of basic language processing
skills necessarily precedes the acquisition of the language comprehension skills
required for making sense of whole academic activities.
The Nature of Reading Assignments
In the everyday classroom, academic reading tasks require students to read
textual materials for assigned purposes. These purposes can be quite varied yet
interrelated. For example, they can include goals such as understanding portions
of a text as part of a homework reading assignment, studying a text for an
examination, answering assigned questions based on a text, reading for the
purpose of writing a report, and so forth.
Qualitative research on Latino students' classroom interaction has found that
the nature of the reading and writing tasks assigned has a strong impact on
opportunities for students to develop higher order reasoning skills in language.
Moll, Estrada, Diaz, & Lopes (1980), for example, found that the reading,
writing, and reasoning demands placed on upper-elementary-grade Latino students
in English language arts classes differed dramatically from class to class
depending on whether teachers expected students to practice decoding skills or
to author book reports or summaries of texts. Gutierrez (1995) interviewed and
observed Latino college students enrolled in remedial English courses. She
reported that students were given language arts remedial assignments utilizing
prepackaged worksheets and workbooks emphasizing word decoding and grammatical
rules. Interviews revealed that, prior to college, these students had not had
much experience with academic assignments requiring extensive discussion and
reasoning from texts nor with extensive essay writing. Gutierrez concluded that
remedial students were ill-prepared for college work, because they had not been
socialized in earlier schooling to engage in higher order thinking while
carrying out academic assignments. Research on the development of language
skills among bilinguals and second language learners supports the notion that
language acquisition can occur effectively when learners participate in
meaning-making activities requiring rich interaction with more fluent speakers
who model appropriate language use (Krashen 1982; Wong Fillmore, 1979).
Taken as a whole, these findings highlight the intimate connection between the
students' appropriation of social identities in the classroom and their
communicative competence. The findings suggest that exposing Latino students to
cognitively and linguistically undemanding activities does not equip them to
acquire the communicative competence needed for advanced academic learning.
Gutierrez (1995) and Moll et al. (1980) suggest that Latino students exposed to
remedial tasks, such as isolated word decoding practice, acquire forms of
communicative competence tailored specifically for such remedial tasks, along
with self-identities as remedial learners.
We agree with Gutierrez (1995) and Moll et al. (1980) that it is essential that
Latino high school students planning to attend college be given significant
meaning-making academic assignments requiring high levels of reading
comprehension and reasoning from texts. Further, we agree that the development
of such skills is inherently a social process tied to students' development of
self-identities as advanced learners within the communities of practice arising
in the classroom. However, we do not believe that brute exposure to complex and
demanding academic tasks will always be a sufficient intervention to accelerate
the academic development of Latino students. This is especially true of those
Latino students whose communicative competence and classroom self-identity may
not match the demands of the college preparatory classroom. We believe that
there is considerable value in helping students acquire conscious competence in
using important linguistic structures occurring in specific academic reasoning
contexts. The next section highlights research supporting this belief.
Cognitive and Linguistic Processing Strategies
Investigators such as Rose (1989) have documented at length the struggle of
Latino and other minority background students attempting to make sense of
academic reading and writing assignments in college. Like Moll et al. (1980) and
Gutierrez (1995), Rose calls attention to the inherently social nature of the
development of academic skills. Students need first to acquire a sense of how
reading is a transaction between the reader and the author. They need to
understand what it means to become partners with the authors they read, with
other students, and with a teacher in a sense-making community tied to the
academic assignments at hand. In addition, however, Rose cites the need for
educators to retain concern for the acquisition of specific linguistic and
reasoning skills required by students to comprehend texts in order to complete
academic work. What are some of these specific and important demands of texts
and reasoning about texts?
Before we address this question, it is important to note that the information
signaled in text passages in everyday academic textbooks or other academic
materials is conveyed not only through standard prose, but also through graphic
and text-formatting devices (Duffy & Wailer, 1985). These additional features
may include, for example, the table of contents, index, glossaries, special type
fonts to signal introduction of critical new terms, and text boxes, tables, and
figures to provide supplemental discussion and illustration of text information.
There is no research that we are aware of that investigates Latino high school
students' ability to recognize and use effectively such features of texts. Such
research seems needed in light of their importance to the communicative
competencies expected of learners within classrooms as communities of practice.
Returning to standard academic prose as it occurs in textbooks and other
academic materials, we find features of English that often prove problematic for
English language learners (Abed), 1994; Celce-Murcia & Larsen Freeman, 1983):
• low-frequency vocabulary
• passive voice
• lengthy nominal phrases
• conditional clauses
• relative clauses changing given-new and
• topic-comment relations complex phrasing of questions
• abstract as opposed to concrete wording.
Abedi (1994) found that non-English-background students performed more poorly on
NAEP eighth grade verbal mathematics test items than did English-background
students on test items heavily utilizing the foregoing features of English. The
study in question found that elimination of these features led to improved
performance on items by both non-English- and English-background students. The
study in question merits replication given that the findings reached only
marginal statistical significance. Nonetheless, the results suggest that lack of
communicative competence involving particular English structures is related to
lower academic test performance.
Other research has begun to identify and probe specific linguistic difficulties
encountered by students and has also uncovered evidence of adaptive information
processing strategies used by students to compensate for difficulties in
comprehending reading comprehension test items and academic texts. A study by
Duran, O'Connor, and Smith (1988), drawing on the work of Fillmore (1983) and
Kay (1987), collected and analyzed protocols from seventh-grade Latino language
minority students as they worked sample reading comprehension test items drawn
from popular standardized reading tests. Students read English test item
passages in a line-by-line manner, and they were asked to reason aloud about
what they understood and what might come next in a passage. They were also asked
to explain how they picked multiple choice answers to questions based on a test
item passage. Qualitative analysis of students' protocols and responses to the
examiner's question-probes showed that students' multiple-choice responses to
questions were not often consistent with accounts of how students reasoned as
they read. In particular, students' incorrect answers were often strategic.
Wrong answers often revealed careful reasoning by students about how to answer
questions given what they understood from a text and their assumptions about the
meaning of material not fully understood. Students' on-line reading and
reasoning performance was found to be affected by their ability to do the
1) envision the meaning of a text as a whole;
2) resolve the meaning of individual words and phrases;
3) recognize and reason based on the genre of a text;
4) call up relevant cognitive schemata appropriate for understanding a passage;
5) recognize grammatical and rhetorical features organizing a passage based on
the genre of the text.
Collins and Smith (1982), in a synthesis of reading comprehension research and
metacognition, identify specific cognitive strategies used by readers
encountering comprehension difficulties along with difficulty carrying out the
foregoing processes. These strategies apply to readers regardless of language
• ignoring an uncomprehended word, sentence, or relationship and continuing to
• suspending judgment about what a word or sentence or a relationship means.
• forming a tentative hypothesis about a meaning.
• rereading the current sentence or sentences.
• skipping back and rereading text from a previous context.
• getting help from an expert source.
The interaction of specific strategies of this sort with text and learner
characteristics has been investigated with ESL (English as a second language)
students and non-ESL students at the college level. Goldman and Duran (1988)
presented oceanography text passages and passage questions to students taking
courses in this subject. They presented passages on a computer screen in
sentence segments and tracked students' selection of portions of a text passage
to reread. As students made their decision about whether and what to review from
a text, they spoke aloud about how they were trying to answer a text question at
hand. Analysis of native English and ESL students' protocols and responses to
questions and patterns of text search revealed that all students just beginning
the study of oceanography read the passage very differently from students with
more experience in the subject matter. Beginning students matched the terms
occurring in questions with the same terms in a passage when first initiating
work on a question. In contrast, students who had studied more of the subject
matter were more likely to rely on memory as they began answering questions.
Regardless of expertise in the subject matter, ESL students tended to expend
more effort on understanding a target passage. These students were more likely
to reread a passage and to search through it for specific information that might
be relevant to answering a question.
A series of studies by Goldman (1988) investigated native-English-background and
ESL students' ability to recall a sequence of ideas introduced in text passages
from a psychology text as it unfolded on a computer video screen. Passages were
taken from real psychology texts and were modified so as to systematically
manipulate the occurrence and nonoccurrence of sequential connect or terms
(e.g., first, second, next, etc.) marking enumeration of ideas in a passage. The
results of the research showed that both native English speakers and ESL
students used a mixture of three global reading strategies:
a) reading a text all the way through then quitting;
b) reading a text all the way through then going back to reread portions; and
c) stopping and rereading throughout a text.
ESL students, however, spent more time in strategies involving rereading of a
text. The results also showed that all students, regardless of language
background, recalled passage information somewhat better when it was
foregrounded by a sequence marker; however, occurrence or non-occurrence of
sequence markers had little effect on the recall of ESL students who were
classified as having the least proficiency in English.
Another series of studies by Goldman and Murray (1989, 1992) investigated native
English and ESL students' ability to complete cloze items in psychology text
passages that required selecting an appropriate logical connector term. The
terms signaled additive (e.g., in addition), adversative (e.g., however), causal
(e.g., because), and sequential (e.g., next) relations among adjoining clauses.
Protocols were collected from students regarding how they made decisions to fill
in cloze items. These protocols were analyzed subsequently to gain information
about the reasoning of students as they chose an appropriate connector term from
a list representing each possible connector type. The results showed that
native-English-speaking students were more likely to make a correct connector
choice than ESL students and that native speakers also showed significantly
higher confidence ratings than ESL students about their judgments for correct
responses involving adversative and sequential connectors. ESL students appeared
to be aware of the isolated meaning of alternative connectors outside of their
occurrence in a text, but they showed difficulty in identifying the logical
relationship required to adjoin clauses in text passages using those same
Other research on the verbal reasoning of high school students suggests that
students show a similar pattern of correct and incorrect judgments when solving
conditional reasoning problems, but that non-English-background students do not
perform as well as English-background students. Duran, Reviin, and Havill (in
press) administered 64 conditional reasoning problems to two groups of 46
ninth-grade students. One group consisted of 28 male and female Latino students
who were once classified as limited English proficient, but who were
subsequently classified as fluent English proficient and were enrolled in
regular English language classes. The second group consisted of 28 male and
female ninth grade students who had never been classified as needing English
language services and who had experienced only English language instruction
throughout their schooling.
The conditional reasoning problems were presented on a computer screen. Each
problem was based on a brief paragraph-length passage. Each passage included a
conditional sentence of the form, "If x then y." The last sentence of a passage
made an assertion that "x" or "y" was or was not the case. Following their
reading of a passage, students were asked to respond follows or doesn't follow
to a conclusion statement incorporating either "x" or "y." The problem set
consisted of 16 instances of valid arguments corresponding to modus ponens (
i.e., given "x," "y" follows) and 16 instances of valid arguments corresponding
to modus tollens (i.e., given "not y," "not x" follows). Additionally, students
were presented 16 instances each of invalid arguments corresponding to the
fallacies of "affirming the consequent" (i.e., given "y," "x" follows) and
"denying the antecedent" (i.e., given "not x," "not y" follows").
The results showed that all students found modus ponens and modus tollens
problems the easiest and "affirming the consequent" and "denying the antecedent"
problems the hardest. The difference was statistically significant regardless of
language background. However, the result also showed that all problem types were
significantly harder for the formerly limited English proficient Latino
The body of work cited above leads to the hypothesis that non-English
Latino-background high school students approach solution of some complex verbal
reasoning problems in English in a way similar to their English-background
peers, but that they encounter additional information processing difficulties.
It is important to qualify this hypothesis. Non-English-background students from
other cultural and linguistic backgrounds might show a different pattern of
performance because of the way in which logical relations are marked in primary
language structure and language practice.
How might we develop a more comprehensive theoretical approach to encompass
these findings? O'Malley and Chamot (1990), for example, present a theoretical
model for acquisition of second language skills tied to language use and study
in academic contexts. Their work draws on contemporary cognitive research on
metacognition and academic study skills.
They call attention to helping second language learners acquire the ability to
plan, monitor, and evaluate their academic functioning in a second language.
They also introduce an ESL instructional model built around their theoretical
analysis. Additional approaches applying cognitive theory to second language
learners' reading development are described in Carrell, Devine, and Eskey (1989)
and Frederiksen (1987).
Padron (1986,1987) has also adopted a cognitive framework for examining academic
reading skill development. Her work is especially important to mention because
it has involved Latino bilingual education students and non-bilingual program
comparison groups. Padron administered a self-report survey of cognitive reading
strategies employed in academic work. She found that the Latino bilingual
program students were less likely than other students to report use of
high-level strategies such as assimilating to passage events, noting/searching
for salient details, and summarizing. In addition, she found that Latino
bilingual students' self-ratings of comprehension strategy improved relative to
a control group when students were exposed to direct reading comprehension
instruction or to the reciprocal teaching technique for teaching reading
Fluency in Decoding of English Words
This paper began with a discussion of contextual sociocultural factors that
affect Latino students' performance on academic verbal reading and comprehension
tasks. It then went on to discuss research on students' ability to perform
academic tasks from a cognitive psychology perspective proposing specific
cognitive and linguistic processes that mediate performance on specific
high-level comprehension and reasoning tasks. But more needs to be said about
the processing of individual words in a second language and the importance of
students acquiring fluency and automaticity in decoding lexical terms.
One basic point is that reading comprehension involves the construction or
semantic interpretation of propositions emanating from a text as it is read word
by word. McLaughlin (1988) describes the rich interplay of word decoding,
syntactic, semantic, and discourse processing skills required to comprehend
texts. He emphasizes the importance of accurate, automated word decoding skills
in reading in a second language. Advanced skill in reading comprehension
requires that language learners concentrate their attention on building and
refining key ideas as they emerge in a text, and this entails fluent, automated
recognition of words in order to ascribe them meaning or to interpret their
The acquisition of accurate and automated orthographic and phonemic decoding of
English words was investigated by Frederiksen (1987). He used computer games to
develop Hispanic bilingual high school students' perceptual word encoding and
word pronunciation skills in both Spanish and English. The Hispanic students
were identified as scoring as below the 30th percentile on the Gates McGinitie
Reading Test, but had average reading ability in Spanish based on the Prueba de
Lectura, Nivel 4. One game (SPEED) rewarded students for accurate and fast
recognition of target letter clusters imbedded in words in each language. The
target clusters for words in a language were systematically picked so as to
correspond to recurrent orthographic patterns in each language. The game also
presented students with "foils"--words containing letter clusters that were
similar to, yet different from, the target cluster students were expected to
recognize. The second game (RACER) required that students rapidly decode and
pronounce words shown on a computer screen at a pace faster than that
established by the computer. Periodically, students were required to confirm
that a word that they had just pronounced was one that the computer audio
synthesis program pronounced next. Frederiksen found that bilingual Hispanic
students' accuracy increased and time to respond decreased on both games over
repeated blocks of trials. These findings were also confirmed by computerized
pre and post-game tasks measuring the same skills. A most interesting finding
was that experience with games in one language was allied with improved
performance in the other language on the separate computerized evaluation
tasks--without game experience in this other language. Frederiksen concluded
that these latter gains suggest that the cognitive and linguistic processes
affected by game experience included general language processing skills that can
transfer across two languages as similar as English and Spanish. Frederiksen's
research is valuable in suggesting that direct training of specific component
skills in reading can be assessed and trained using a computerized system to
track students' performance and offering students repeated practice with
feedback on criterion reading tasks.
When looking at proficiency in detecting word meaning in English as a second
language, McLaughlin (1988) found that even advanced adult ESL readers have
difficulty in predicting the meaning of words from contextual cues. He also
cites evidence that upper-elementary-grade bilingual readers who had been
classified as poor readers were prone to make more errors in detecting word
meaning in English than in recognizing the syntactic function of English words.
Garcia (1991 ) reported a similar finding with Latino bilingual children in the
upper elementary school grades. She also found that students' awareness of
cognate relationships and non-cognate relationships across Spanish and English
words was associated with enhanced skill in accurately recognizing English word
meaning (Garcia & Nagy, 1993).
Conclusions and Challenges
Based on the review of theory and research findings discussed in this report, it
seems fair to state that we are beginning to see the emergence of coherent
approaches for understanding the reading comprehension and reasoning skills
development of Latino high school students along with directions for the design
of interventions. One area of progress involves our understanding of the
importance of communicative competence to the development of Latino students'
ability to use language within the communities of practice that constitute the
classroom and of the importance of students' language and sociocultural
background as the source for their adaptation at school. A second area of
progress is represented by research on linguistic features of texts, on second
language learning, and on the use of specific comprehension and reasoning
strategies in performing academic tasks. A third area of progress stems from
research on factors affecting the verbal decoding of English words and
strategies that might promote automatization of word decoding skills.
Adamson (1993) suggests, among others, that second language competence can be
studied from two complementary perspectives. One approach is to study the
acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in the second language, and the other
is to study psycholinguistic competence in the second language. This perspective
is consistent with the review of research provided here. Studies of the
development of communicative competence and of academic functioning in real
academic activity have relied greatly on ethnography and analysis of classroom
These studies utilize ethnography and discourse analysis methods to examine the
sociocultural demands of second language usage in real classroom environments
and students' capacity to participate as members of a classroom culture. In
contrast, studies of comprehension and reasoning strategies and of word decoding
have relied greatly on information processing models of language processing and
reasoning that arise within the cognitive system of the individual as he or she
pursues well-defined problem-solving tasks. These latter studies most often rely
on experimental methods designed to isolate performance differences on verbal
recognition and reasoning tasks associated with task characteristics and
students' language background.
The biggest shortcoming of approaches investigating communicative competence
involving ethnographic methods is that it is very difficult for such studies to
be configured in a manner informing the design of educational interventions tied
to competence in specific discourse practices. The work of Gutierrez (1995),
Moll et al. (1980), and Rose (1989), cited here along with research by Warren
and Roseberry (in press) and the Santa Barbara Discourse Group (1994), point to
a new direction helpful to framing such research in the future. These
researchers have investigated the acquisition of complex literacy skills by
students within the communities of practice that constitute students' in-and-out
of school experiences. While these studies have provided insights on social
negotiation, there is a pressing need for further studies of discourse genres of
competence that emerge through successful socialization in classrooms. We need
to capture better how students are able to acquire whole ensembles of language
practice tied to classroom activities that then become genres of student
academic competence. We need to ask questions such as the following: How do
Latino students acquire competence in participating in critical discussions of
subject matter? How do students learn to state and debate positions regarding
ideas and concepts? How do students learn to summarize, predict, and analyze
academic passages in specific kinds of academic assignments?
The biggest shortcoming of psycholinguistic studies of text comprehension and
reasoning strategies is that they involve tasks and materials that simulate
rather than sample authentic academic reading assignments. Because of this,
their findings may or may not generalize to authentic academic activity. Many
adherents to a sociolinguistic perspective emphasizing the importance of the
development of communicative competence within communities of practice might
dismiss the relevance of cognitive research involving experimental techniques
for developing effective interventions. We believe that such criticisms are
valuable, but should not dismiss the potential of interventions intended to
promote acquisition of specific psycholinguistic skills. We see a need for new
kinds of research to investigate the generalizability and applicability of
psycholinguistic research findings to the study of communicative competence in
classroom communities of practice. The characteristics of such an alternative
paradigm for research have yet to emerge fully and deserve close attention.
The term Latino is used in this report to refer to persons of Hispanic descent.
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This report was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research
and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education, under Cooperative
Agreement No. R1 17G10022. The findings and opinions expressed here are those of
the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI.
Questions for Self-reflection and/or Discussion
1. Do you see similarities with other minority populations in the three issues
raised about the academic demands of reading and reasoning activities? (p. 2)
2. Do you find examples of Gueierrez’s conclusion that lack of engagement in
higher order thinking while doing assignments contributes to being ill-prepared
for college? (p. 3)
3. What are some examples of students’ problems with cognitive processing?
4. Do you encourage learners to strive for automaticity in decoding? (p. 7)
5. What are the implications for ESL instruction in the findings in this