teacher-student interactive strategies, is the most effective one for the purposed population?
۱.۷. Research Hypotheses
The hypotheses of the study based on the research questions were:
۱- There are significant differences a) between the mean scores attained by the experimental group and those attained by the control group on post-test and b) between the mean scores of experimental group on the pre-test and the post-test that can be attributed to the semantic mapping strategies.
۲- There are significant differences between the mean scores of three subgroups A ( which used teacher-initiated semantic mapping strategy), B (which used student-mediated semantic mapping strategy) and C (which used teacher-student interactive semantic mapping strategy) within experimental group in post-test that show one of the three semantic mapping strategies is the most effective one on reading comprehension ability of learners.
۱.۸. Definition of Key Words
In this section the key items of the study are explained: semantic mapping with describing its steps and types in different views and reading comprehension with its needed skills.
۱.۸.۱. Semantic map. Formal definitions can be given about semantic map, such as:
Semantic maps are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts. Words on the lines referred to as linking words or linking phrases, specify the relationship between the two concepts. These linking words may not be wrote necessarily (Ausebel, 1968).
Semantic mapping is an adaption of concept definition mapping, but it builds on student’s prior knowledge or schema, to recognize important components and to show the relationships among the components (Zaid, 1955). Semantic mapping is “a visual representation of knowledge, a picture of conceptual relationship” (Antonacci, 1991:174); “a graphic arrangement showing the major ideas and relationships in text or among word meanings” (Sinatra, Stahl-Gemake, & Berg, 1984: 22), or “a categorical structuring of information in graphic form” (Johnson, Pittelman, & Heimlich, 1986:779). However, a personal classroom illustration is probably the best way to gain an understanding of semantic mapping. Semantic mapping strategy or structured overview, as it is sometimes called, is a “schematic diagram of the major concepts in a portion of text” (Zaid, 1995: 15).
These strategies, as considered in this study, are tools for organizing and representing knowledge. Semantic maps, word webs or idea maps are ways of “showing the relationships between different ideas”, or saying exactly, “words of the text, in graphic organizer formats” (Raymond, 2006: 12). They are “visual strategies” or “graphic organizations” for vocabulary expansion and “extension of knowledge by display in word categories related to one another” (Novak & Gowin, 1984: 153). They actually are important in the facilitation of creative thinking which has utmost importance in reading comprehension and meaningful learning (Williams, 1994). By this way, one can find out how words are approximate in meaning. Making connections and association between discrete parts of the text, keywords, synonyms, collocations and etc, semantic maps give a whole understanding of the reading text (Heimlich& Pittleman, 1986; Williams, 1994; Reymond, 2006). These strategies can be used by students in groups or individually or with the teacher (Williams, 1994).
This strategy is a very interactive process that should be modeled by the teacher first. It has been used for the following aspects:
۱) For general vocabulary development
۲) As pre-reading and post-reading tasks
۳) To teach a study skill
۴) For a link between reading and writing instruction and
۵) As an assessment technique (Zaid, 1995)
Many researchers in their empirical studies, focusing on the relationships between the words and ideas and also known words when presenting new words in the text, , point out that Semantic Mapping highlights the connections between the old and new words; the prior and existing knowledge (Heimlich& Pittleman, 1986; Williams, 1994; Zaid, 1995). They introduce the procedures for presenting new words central to a theme that is linked to a reading activity. The maps prepare students to understand, assimilate and evaluate the information in the material to be read (Raymond, 2006). After reading, the maps can be refocused to emphasize the main idea presented in the reading material (Heimlich and Pittelman, 1986). After being familiar with these strategies, the learners can produce their own maps as pre-reading and post-reading activities (Williams, 1994).
As an example, the following semantic map is about transportation. This topic or category is prominently placed in the center of the map. The map is then read from the center to the outside. The details which describe or support the topic/category are on the outside.
On this map, the primary level or “bubble” is “transportation.” It is the most general topic or category that all of the other terms support. The secondary level is the “land, water, air level” on this semantic map. All of these terms are of equal importance and relationship to the primary topic; “transportation”. The tertiary level is the detail level (including “automobiles, bicycles, trains,” etc.); these words attach to the secondary “bubbles” as shown on this semantic map (Zaid, 1995: 14).
Therefore, Semantic mapping is the act of constructing a semantic map which is referred to as a reading comprehension strategy in this study.
۱.۸.۱.۱. Characteristics of semantic maps. Semantic mapping as a learning strategy can be used in many learning skills as reading comprehension (Zaid, 1995). As mentioned before, it benefits from other learning strategies: Rehearsal strategy of learning, finding the essential points, connecting newer and older knowledge, organizational strategies and use of keywords and advanced organizer. Rehearsal strategy of learning is outlined as a basic cognitive strategy (Pintrich & McKeachie 2000: 41). Weinstein & Mayer (1986: 137) illustrated that rehearsal strategies are necessary at the beginning of a learning process as reading, when a novice starts to develop towards gaining expert skills. Finding the essential points strategy describes how students concentrate and discover the essential and central ideas in their learning material. This strategy is used specifically in reading tasks. A good student does not only take notes of all the material s/he studies, but also organizes learning material into more important and less important areas; what a semantic map exactly does. Connecting newer and older knowledge strategy means that a student is able to combine new knowledge with his/her previous knowledge and construct the meaning of studied subjects. Students with high values on this factor, for example, use their previous notes and compare the new knowledge with these. They attempt to understand how the previously-learned information is connected to the new things, and actively construct and develop their concepts of the subject (Virtanen et al., 2003). Weinstein and Mayer (1986: 322) described the organizational strategies for complex learning as a student’s effort to identify the main ideas and important supporting details from the text they are studying. Ausubel (1978) used the term advanced organizer when a student uses some beforehand given figure or orientating material to activate his/her view of the subject to be studied. In order to improve the homogeneity of the factor, one item was reformulated (Nevgi, 2002). Students with high
values on this factor approach their study task, arranging it in advance into the essential and less essential subjects. Use of keywords and advance organizers strategy resembles the previous focus on essential strategy. However, the focus in this strategy is that a student clarifies the subject by using keywords, in order to organize the material to be studied both before and during the reading task. A student achieving high values on the factor, for example takes notes of the central concepts and ideas and classifies them. S/he uses these keywords during the review period of the study process, and thus the review becomes more complex and leads to a deeper understanding in learning (Virtanen et al., 2003).
One characteristic of semantic maps is that the concepts are represented in a hierarchical fashion with the most inclusive, most general concepts at the top of the map and the more specific, less general concepts arranged hierarchically below. The hierarchical structure for a particular domain of knowledge also depends on the context in which the knowledge is being applied or considered (Zaid, 1995). Therefore, it is best to construct semantic maps with reference to some particular question the teacher seeks to answer, which is called a “focus question”. The semantic map may pertain to some situation or event that the students are trying to understand through the organization of knowledge in the form of a map. Thus it is necessary to provide the context for the map (Sinatra, 1984: 113).
Another important characteristic of semantic maps is the inclusion of “cross-links” (Zaid, 1995). These are relationships or links between concepts in different segments or domains of the map. Cross-links help to see how a concept in one domain of knowledge represented on the map is related to a concept in another domain shown on the map. In the creation of new knowledge, cross-links often represent creative leaps on the part of the knowledge producer.
Moreover, two mentioned features of semantic maps are important in the facilitation of creative thinking: the hierarchical structure that is represented in a good map and the ability to search for and characterize new cross-links (Zaid, 1995).
A final feature that may be added to semantic maps is specific examples of events or objects that help to clarify the meaning of a given concept. Normally these are not included in ovals or boxes, since they are specific events or objects and do not represent concepts (Sinatra, 1984).
۱.۸.۱.۲. Constructing semantic maps. Each student can construct the initial semantic map individually. This gives the teacher feedback on the level of understanding of every student. Within the option of individual construction of the map, the students could be allowed to collaborate through a “knowledge soup”, where students are able to share propositions but not see each other’s maps. This is student-mediated semantic mapping strategy (Canas, 2004:4).
In another version, the semantic map can be constructed by students working in couples or small groups, where the teacher must pay attention to the level of participation of every student. Here, the teacher is the initiator of the constructing process. S/he starts the developing the map