Metacognitive prompts and the paper vs. screen debate: how both factors influence reading behavior
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As online learning rises in popularity, students are increasingly learning through technology and without regular guidance from teachers. These learning environments differ from traditional classrooms in many ways and deliver different experiences. In this study, participants’ learning environments were manipulated using two independent variables, each with two levels for a total of four conditions: study medium (text was presented either on paper or a screen) and prompt type (text was interspersed with prompts designed either to induce metacognitive processes or to be interacted with non-metacognitively). Ninety-two participants were each assigned to one of the four conditions in a between-subject design, read three expository texts, completed a comprehension test after each text, and responded to a survey at the end of the study. Participants who read text on paper tended to take more notes and spend more time studying than those who read from a screen, but performance was equal between the mediums. Participants receiving metacognitive prompts performed better than non-metacognitive participants on multiple-choice questions with an effect size comparable to those generated by educational interventions in existing literature; however, the performance difference was not statistically significant unless prompt response scores were controlled for. In addition, behavioral differences emerged between metacognitive participants (re-read more) and non-metacognitive participants (summarized more while reading). The results from this study can be used to inform dialogue about technology in classrooms and instructional design.