Funding, Grants & Awards

Penn State To Explore Science Text Comprehension

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) have won a grant worth nearly $1 million over three years to study how students' reading levels affect their comprehension of science texts.

The National Science Foundation awarded grants to this research project and 15 others as part of its Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems program and as part of its support for the White House Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative.

The researchers aim to understand the neurocognitive mechanisms that affect reading comprehension of science texts by school-aged children and adults for whom English is a first or second language. To accomplish this goal, the researchers will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), cognitive study of learner abilities and advanced data-analytic techniques in cognitive modeling and brain networks to study behavior and neural patterns while subjects read science texts.

"Our research hopes to capture cognitive and brain representations and states during and after the reading of science texts, in both native English speakers and immigrant students for whom English is the second language," said Ping Li, principal investigator for the project and professor of psychology, linguistics and information sciences and technology, in a prepared statement. "Such an approach to individual differences in learning — good readers vs. poor readers — will have significant implications for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and education in general."

According to information in the NSF award abstract, the research project may provide "new insights into the neural bases of individual differences, neuroplasticity, and language learning and representation."

Li's co-principal investigators are Roy B. Clariana, professor of education in the learning, design and technology program, and Bonnie Meyer, professor of educational psychology.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].