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Effects of an executive function-based text support on strategy use and comprehension–integration of conflicting informational texts

Abstract

Executive functions (EF) have been theoretically implicated in multiple text comprehension. Yet, the contributions of EFs to comprehension and integration of multiple texts have not been tested empirically, and instructional supports for text integration grounded in EFs are only beginning to be developed. Using a conflicting-text paradigm, this study examined the roles of EFs, based on measures of learners’ reported EF use and EF skills, and a text-embedded intervention, designed to elicit readers’ EF and metacognitive engagement, in comprehension–integration of conflicting informational texts. Structural equation modeling was employed to test a proposed indirect effects model in which EF use and skills and the text intervention condition predicted comprehension–integration, both directly and via reported cross-text elaboration; academic achievement was controlled. Learners’ reported EF use contributed directly and indirectly to learners’ comprehension–integration of the conflicting texts; EF skills, based on a measure of verbal fluency, contributed only indirectly to comprehension–integration. The effect of condition on comprehension–integration was transmitted entirely through learners’ reported use of cross-text elaboration strategies. The model explained 15% and 16% of the variance in reported cross-text elaboration and comprehension–integration, respectively, suggesting moderate effects of EFs and the brief, text-embedded intervention on comprehension–integration of the texts. Empirical and theoretical implications are discussed.

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Fig. 1

Availability of data and materials

Data and material are available from the first author upon reasonable request.

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Notes

  1. These reflect completely standardized indirect effects and serve as an indication of effect size (Hayes, 2018).

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Correspondence to D. Jake Follmer.

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Executive Functions for Learning Inventory (EFLI)

Instructions: The following statements describe ways in which you use specific skills to support your learning. Use the scale below to rate the extent to which each statement is true of you while thinking about your behavior. Answer each question honestly.

1-Not at all 2-Mostly untrue of me 3-Neither true nor untrue of me 4-Mostly true of me 5-Very true of me
Item 1: I set goals and determine ahead of time the best way to meet my goals. (Planning)
Item 2: I’m able to control my impulses when making decisions. (IAC)
Item 3: I can maintain my focus when working on projects and completing schoolwork. (IAC)
Item 4: I often make plans to help me complete the things I need to do. (Planning)
Item 5: I can easily shift the focus of my attention from one topic to another. (Shifting)
Item 6: I can sustain my attention for long periods of time. (IAC)
Item 7: I often break projects and assignments down into smaller tasks to make them more manageable. (Planning)
Item 8: I can hold several things in memory at the same time while working on a task. (Updating)
Item 9: I can suppress the impulse to do things that aren’t related to what I’m working on. (IAC)
Item 10: My desk and workspace are usually clean and organized. (Organizing)
Item 11: I can juggle multiple things at the same time in my mind. (Updating)
Item 12: I don’t let my emotions get in the way of my work. (EC)
Item 13: I’m good at keeping order and organization. (Organizing)
Item 14: I would describe myself as an organized person. (Organizing)
Item 15: I can defer my feelings about something until I’ve finished what I need to finish. (EC)
Item 16: I can keep important information in mind for an extended period of time. (Updating)
Item 17: I express my emotions appropriately. (EC)
Item 18: I’m good at focusing on what is most relevant to the task I’m working on. (IAC)
Item 19: I can move back and forth between tasks to finish what I’ve started. (Shifting)
Item 20: If I’m interrupted, I can get back on task easily. (IAC)
Item 21: I can block out things that might get in the way of me finishing my work. (IAC)
Item 22: I don’t let little things keep me from completing my work. (EC)
Item 23: I’m able to maintain information in memory while doing something with it. (Updating)
Item 24: I tend to work on a task until it’s finished. (IAC)
Item 25: I can switch easily from task to task. (Shifting)
Item 26: I’m able to anticipate future events. (Planning)
Item 27: I think through the consequences of my behavior before acting. (IAC)
Item 28: I respond well to changes in plans and routines. (Shifting)
Item 29: I think things through before making a decision. (IAC)
Item 30: I’m able to think ahead and plan for the future. (Planning)
Item 31: I’m good at keeping track of materials and information. (Organizing)
Item 32: I would describe myself as flexible. (Shifting)
Item 33: I’m good at organizing my thoughts. (Organizing)
  1. IAC = Inhibitory and Attentional Control; EC = Emotional Control

Appendix 2: Conflicting informational texts

Text 1: Revised rankings show improved gun safety through new regulations

By: Jaylen Samuels

A biennial report of the Gun Violence Prevention Alliance, published last week, showed initial progress in gun safety efforts based on state rankings on measures of gun safety. The rankings rely on established and effective indicators of gun safety, such as type and strength of specific gun safety laws, gun death rate information, and statistics on exported gun crimes. To support the ratings, the Alliance aggregates these indicators into a ranking and letter grade system that comprehensively shows how states compare on gun safety.

States with weaker gun laws, higher gun death rates, and higher exported gun crimes earn worse rankings. Weaker rankings serve to highlight specific areas of needed improvement that stand to improve gun safety of state residents. Examples of basic steps for improvement might include requiring background checks and waiting periods upon purchasing firearms and repealing so-called permitless carry laws. States with stronger gun laws, including the implementation of anti-trafficking laws and the use of strong background checks, earn stronger ratings. “In general, states with stronger gun safety laws tend to have fewer gun-related deaths,” says Carla Sagan, managing director of the Gun Violence Prevention Alliance. A total of seven states have even improved their rankings in the most recent report. Nevada, for example, just implemented universal background checks for gun purchases, while New Mexico put into place a bill that disarms domestic abusers. “We believe the evidence shows that comprehensive gun laws save lives in states that enact them.”

There is also evidence that this strengthened focus on states’ gun safety efforts has led to real-world improvements in violence prevention in local contexts. “We’ve observed an increase in funding for community violence intervention programs,” Sagan said. The number of states implementing some level of background checks for all gun sales has also increased in recent years by 45%. In addition, several additional states are enacting laws that limit individuals’ abilities to carry firearms without a permit.

Sagan hopes that these revised rankings reinforce but also instigate additional progress and regulation toward effective gun safety measures. “There is much more work to be done,” says Sagan. Still unknown, for example, is the impact of gun violence on community-level economic health, or how the true costs of gun violence can be systematically assessed in context.

“We know that the overall rate of death by firearms in the United States is 12.2 per 100,000 people,” says Sagan. “This rate is higher than basically any of the other so-called developed countries, and amounts to more than 40,000 deaths per year.” Americans also own more guns per capita than any country in the world. According to Sagan, these statistics paint a grim picture and a need for stronger gun safety efforts.

As might be expected, there is also considerable variability in the ways in which states experience the effects of gun violence. When adjusted for age, for example, Hawaii (2.6), Massachusetts (3.1), and New York (4.2) consistently have among the lowest firearm death rates. On the other hand, states such as Alaska (19.8) have among the highest firearm death rates and supply crime guns to other states at the sixth-highest rate in the United States.

Moving forward, the Alliance aims to augment their ratings by taking into account additional gun safety measures, such as systematic tracking of the implementation of waiting periods and monitoring of firearms safety trainings for gun purchasers. “Our goal is to provide rankings that are as accurate and comprehensive as possible and support gun safety measures that lead to positive change,” says Sagan.

Text 2: Gun-friendly states face possible restrictions Amid revised gun safety rankings

By: Taylor Cartwright

A biennial report of the Gun Violence Prevention Alliance, published last week, provided revised state-based gun safety rankings. The rankings aim to provide a comprehensive assessment of the strength of each state’s gun laws and safety efforts. The rankings rely on often-used but flawed indicators such as type and strength of specific gun safety laws as well as gun death rate information and statistics on exported gun crimes. The Alliance aggregates this information into a ranking and letter grade system that intends to show how states compare on gun safety.

The report found that eight states received a letter grade of A, while as many as 21 states received a grade of F. Some states, like Idaho, even obtained weaker rankings based on reduced gun regulations in recent years. Other states, like Illinois and Colorado, saw improvements in their rankings based on steps taken to “improve gun safety measures”, such as enacting gun dealer restrictions and implementing an extreme risk protection order law.

Yet, some say that these rankings fail to paint an accurate picture of the complex problem of gun safety. “These rankings have more to do with gun control than with gun safety,” says Jeff Freeney, managing director of the Gun Freedom Coalition. “Year after year, the methodology behind these rankings becomes less and less clear and it feels more and more like an infringement on personal freedoms.”

Freeney’s concerns are also economically driven. “In recent years, analysts have shown that states with more relaxed gun laws have experienced higher net migration and personal income growth,” he says. These metrics provide an indication of the number of new state residents and the annual growth in personal income of state residents, respectively. Freeney believes these changes are the result of new residents’ beliefs about gun-friendly states valuing personal freedom. “Our own research shows that, for the most part, states with stronger gun freedoms gain the advantage of having more new residents each year compared with states with stricter gun laws,” according to Freeney. Others, however, dispute these claims, noting that the factors that contribute to these economic patterns, including job availability and security and income level, are complex and interconnected.

The problem of gun safety continues to be a heavily-debated issue. By recent estimates, the overall rate of death by firearms in the United States is 12.2 per 100,000 people. This death rate is roughly the same as the rate of death by motor vehicles in the United States over the same time-frame. According to Freeney, “we need to take a clear and objective look at how much gun control is actually necessary and not overstep on the rights of our citizens.”

An alternative approach to ranking states is provided triennially by the Coalition. This alternative ranking provides a listing of the best and worst gun-friendly states and is based on how states respond to and address several gun categories, including right-to-carry laws and the Castle Doctrine. Based on the ranking, states such as Alaska, Kansas, and Oklahoma were identified as among the most gun-friendly states, while Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York were identified as the least gun-friendly states in the United States.

“These rankings provide law-abiding individuals with a way to understand how states are managing and controlling their gun freedoms,” says Freeney. The Coalition’s view is that rankings that weaponize gun control, such as those produced by the Gun Violence Prevention Alliance, risk overstepping on individuals’ liberties and may lead to additional unnecessary restrictions on gun rights that should be protected. “We have to ensure we are looking out for the interests and freedoms of our citizens.”

Note: The texts include fictionalized accounts and organizations representing differing perspectives on gun control and safety rankings.

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Follmer, D.J., Tise, J. Effects of an executive function-based text support on strategy use and comprehension–integration of conflicting informational texts. Read Writ 35, 1731–1758 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-022-10257-7

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Keywords

  • Executive function
  • Strategic reading
  • Comprehension
  • Integration
  • Multiple texts