frameworks, leading them to see learning as a blur of myriad facts, dates, names, equations, or procedural rules to be memorized. For these students, the subject matter of most disciplines, and especially science, mathematics, and history, is a cacophony of information to memorize, and they usually find this boring. Many feel they cannot master knowledge in the field. If semantic maps are used in planning instruction and students are required to construct concept maps as they are learning, previously unsuccessful students can become successful in making sense out of science and any other discipline, acquiring a feeling of control over the subject matter (Bayes & Husain, 2008).
Varying the ability levels. Many students, particularly students with language disabilities, lack skills for processing and organizing written and oral information (Canas, 2004). These students experience difficulties with making inferences, understanding relationships and connections, distinguishing main ideas from insignificant details, and understanding the gist of a passage or lecture (Kameenui & Simmons, 1980). Students with language disabilities and other students who struggle to understand relationships, need instruction that explicitly demonstrates the connectedness of knowledge (Adams, 1990). Semantic maps have been shown to be effective in improving the understanding and application of content material for students of varying ability levels (Darayesh, 2003).
Semantic maps as assessment tools. Although semantic maps are far more frequently used as instructional tools (e.g. Briscoe & Lemaster, 1991) than as an assessment tool, the validity of several semantic mapping techniques has been well established in the literature (e.g. Ruiz-Primo, Shavelson, & Schultz, 2001).
As an assessment tool, semantic maps can be thought of as a procedure to measure a student’s declarative knowledge (Ruiz-Primo, Shultz, & Shavelson, 2001). Any assessment can be conceived as a combination of a task, a response format, and a scoring system. Based on this framework, a semantic map as an assessment tool can be characterized as: (a) a task that invites students to provide evidence of their knowledge structure; (b) a format for student response; (c) a scoring system by which students’ semantic maps can be evaluated accurately and consistently.
On the other hand, if state, regional, and national exams would begin to include semantic maps as a segment of the exam, there would be a great incentive for teachers to teach students how to use this aid. Currently there are a number of projects in the USA and elsewhere that are doing research to see if better evaluation tools can be developed, including the use of semantic maps. For example, the “Computer concept maps” tool allows the comparison of an “expert” semantic map for a topic with maps constructed by students, and all similar or different concepts and propositions are shown in color (Bayes & Husein, 2008: 853).
۱.۲.۴.۲. Problems of implementation. The greatest challenge is to change the school situational factors in the direction of the teacher as coach from the prevailing model of teachers as disseminator of information. Surely, it is needed to engage teachers and administrators in training programs to model the new educational approaches, and to seek their counsel on ways to improve on this new model for education (Pressley et al., 1989).
There is also the challenge of changing assessment practices that now rely primarily on multiple-choice tests that measure mainly rote recall of information, to performance-based tests that require students to demonstrate that they understand basic concepts and can use these concepts in novel problems solving, and that they can grow and modify their concepts and learn new concepts (Sinatra, 1984).
In the semantic mapping model, remains plenty of room for acquisition of specific facts and procedures, but these should be learned within the context of powerful conceptual frameworks. Research (Yeselson, 2000) has shown that factual information acquired in a context of meaningful learning is not only retained longer, but this information can be used much more successfully to solve new problems. In fact, research overwhelmingly supports the value of “guided learning”, such as that involved in semantic mapping model (Mayer, 2003).
Moreover, there is an enormous job of teacher education that needs to be done before the semantic mapping strategy can be implemented in schools. Teachers need to become familiar with the use of semantic map and the various tools it contains (Novak & Gowin, 1984). They also need to learn about the theory underlying semantic mapping, including the ideas in this paper. Teacher education programs should model the kind of learning recommended here.
“Teachers should work collaboratively to build on some of the simpler semantic maps dealing with education ideas and perhaps add resources to some of the more complex maps. Even with the current state of technology and pedagogical understandings, it is possible for schools to mount semantic mapping model for Education” (Novak & Canas, online document: 23).
۱.۳. Statement of the Problem
As mentioned above, how to read meaningfully is the main problem of EFL learners in second language classrooms (Adams, 1990). The learners only learn reading to fulfill their needs in the achievement tests and this does not go beyond their school textbooks. Actually, they do not know the process of reading and required techniques for reading comprehension (Canas, 2004). Consequently, they usually gain low marks in reading comprehension tasks. Most of the students read the text as if it consists of discrete elements and does not interact with the passage they read, nor they build relationships between the terms in the text to build up the meaning and then to lead themselves toward reading comprehension. Students are not aware of the strategies that may help them in reading, because they are not taught to do so (Williams, 1994). The problems of reading exist for Iranian learners also (Birjandi& Noroozi, 2000). The low marks in reading comprehension tests and the teachers’ considerations are themselves emphasis on this issue as a problematic area, which may cause further problems in the higher levels of learning English.
This study concerned teaching students how to use semantic mapping strategies in reading and teaching them how to build up the structure of the maps. It is believed that learners learn better if they are taught to build up relations between the terms in the text (Williams, 1994). This strategy motivates and involves students in the thinking, reading and writing skills. It is based on building up new relationships between the components of the text that enhances vocabulary development by helping student link new information with previous knowledge or experience (Mayer, 2003).
۱.۴. Purpose of the Study
The present study followed two main purposes. Firstly, to teach and apply the semantic mapping strategies in the classrooms in order to investigate the direct effect of these strategies on improving reading comprehension ability of intermediate Iranian learners. In case of existence of such effect, the result can be generalized to other levels of education. The results of this study may help the teachers and learners in reading skills and also in other relevant skills that need comprehension of the texts in some way, such as writing skills and the thinking processes relevant to the field.
The second purpose of the current study is to determine and introduce the best or the most effective semantic mapping strategy between three considered kinds which are: 1. Teacher-initiated; 2. Student-mediated; 3. Teacher-student interacti
ve semantic mapping strategy. These three types are three variations of semantic mapping technique, so this is a comparative study in this aspect. The most effective one can be focused and offered to all English Language Teaching courses; particularly in reading courses, as a teaching reading aid.
There are other goals within these two main purposes. One is using the semantic mapping technique to change the provided lessons into semantic maps. The other is teaching the students the semantic maps in an effective way
۱.۵. The Significance of the Study
As it is obvious in the next chapter (which is a review of related literature) , there are different researches and studies about the effect of semantic mapping strategies on reading comprehension and also on the cognitive abilities and related thinking processes around the world. Here the researcher’s goal is to discover the relationships between two variables: semantic mapping strategies and reading comprehension. The effect of these strategies on Iranian learners’ reading comprehension abilities in a particular level (intermediate) is considered. Moreover, the study investigated three kinds of these varied strategies: teacher-initiated, student-mediated and teacher-student interactive one, on comprehension in Iranian classroom contexts, in order to introduce the most effective one as a useful aid in reading classes. Anyway, in all three considered kinds, the learners need their teachers as facilitators and coordinators to improve their reading in an interactive way (Canas, 2004). This is, in itself, a new issue which has not given enough care and not worked on, in Iran, by now. By this way, the results of this study could be a little step toward solving the reading comprehension problems for Iranian learners.
In this study the semantic mapping strategy is considered because this strategy has capability of implementing in the classrooms. It can easily be taught and implemented by the students, in addition to its significant role in developing students’ thinking skills and reading comprehension.
Semantic mapping strategy can be used for different instructional purposes. It assists teachers in syllabus design to identify the patterns of organization of ideas and concepts (Pressley, 2000). Applying semantic mapping strategies before reading the text can be useful for introducing the important and new vocabulary and keywords in a selection to be read (Zaid, 1995). It shows the interrelations between the terms. Also, these strategies can be used to activate and tap learner’s background knowledge and as a helpful reference for clarifying confusing points during reading (Sinatra et al. 1984). In addition to its significant role in developing thinking skills and reading comprehension, this strategy can be easily taught and implemented by students.
۱.۶. Research Questions
There are two questions which are considered in this research to be answered:
۱- What is the nature of relationship between semantic mapping strategies and reading comprehension for Iranian intermediate EFL learners in Kerman?
۲- Which of the three semantic mapping strategies; teacher-initiated, student-mediated or