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Gamson Leads Project to Study the Cognitive Demands of Reading Comprehension

David Gamson and other researchers have received funding of $468,750 from the Spencer Foundation to study the cognitive demands of reading comprehension.

By Pamela Batson (March 2008)

Researchers at Penn State have received funding of $468,750 from the Spencer Foundation to study the cognitive demands of reading comprehension. The principal investigator, David A. Gamson, associate professor of education, will work with David P. Baker, professor of education and sociology, and Robert J. Stevens, associate professor of education and two faculty members from the College of the Liberal Arts, Steven L. Thorne and Xiaofei Lu who are both assistant professors of applied linguistics.

The research study is a multi-disciplinary effort to make research on reading comprehension more systematic and interconnected. The researchers plan to pursue a detailed analysis of the cognitive demands placed on students by the reading curricula and by reading comprehension tasks. The study will be composed of four intersecting phases that constitute a blend of historical, psychological, linguistic, and sociological methods.

The Spencer Foundation previously supported another project by the researchers (principal investigator was Baker) titled, “The Increasing Cognitive Demand of the American Mathematics Curriculum, 1890-2005.” This current study from 2005-2008 examined shifts in the cognitive demand of the mathematics curriculum as represented in textbooks and other materials. The new study will build upon the current study’s body of research. The new grant will provide funding from March 1, 2008 to February 28, 2011.

Established in 1962, the Spencer Foundation aims to “investigate ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world.” According to their Web site, “the Foundation has been dedicated to the belief that research is necessary to the improvement in education. The Foundation is thus committed to supporting high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and to strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and training programs and related activities.”