Issues Involved in Context, Comprehension and Content

Rigoberto Castillo


This chapter discusses the role that context plays in comprehension when teaching and learning content. Two constructs provide the framework: The first deals with Cummins’ (2000) distinction of Basic Interpersonal Communication skills (BICS), Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency skills (CALPS) and Common Underlying Language Proficiency (CULP). The second construct appeals to Bradford and Johnson's findings on the role of context in comprehension (cited by Omaggio 1986). As a replication of Bradford and Johnson's experiment a reading workshop was conducted with 19 teachers of English participating in the First English Content-Based Learning and Instruction Symposium held at Universidad de La Sabana in Bogotá D.C in 2006. The teachers were given a science text in French in which the effect of no-context, partial-context and full-context on reading comprehension was explored. Results suggest that the successful completion of the task did not correlate highly with the participants’ self-assessment of their French proficiency but with the presence or absence of advance organizers, in this case pictorials. The results and the implications for course and materials design close the discussion.

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