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The Reading Comprehension and Cognition (RCC) Lab at the University of New England is committed to gaining a deeper understanding of how people encode, store and retrieve information from memory, and assessing new ways to optimize the learning process.

There are a number of exciting research projects in progress within the lab, including a new line of research investigating the impact new technologies, such as computers and e-readers (rather than print books and text), have on the reading comprehension process. When we consider the impact of different technology devices, discussion tends to focus on convenience, connectivity, and the exchange of/access to information. But there is still much to learn about the transition from printed page to screen and whether or not reading on digital devices improves or hinders the learning process.

My ongoing studies investigate whether there are measurable differences in reading speed and comprehension when reading on an iPad versus printed text, whether e-readers are best suited for reading for pleasure (rather than text for learning purposes) and lastly investigating how we can optimize settings on e-readers to make them more user-friendly.

Another focal point of my research is the exploration of various factors which differentiate skilled- from less-skilled readers, and the actions which can be undertaken to remediate reading deficits. One ongoing study associated with this research line investigates various standardized reading comprehension tests and how these tests predict reading outcomes for expository and narrative text comprehension.

Studies I have conducted in the past played an important role in laying the groundwork for my current projects. This includes studies in which I investigated the extent to which readers (of all levels) engage in the process of updating information while in the act of reading news articles (after they have been presented with more accurate information) and examining the types of cues necessary to reactivate spatial information once it is no longer active in memory.

What I find particularly interesting about the exploration of reading comprehension are applications in real world settings – most notably education. My research efforts to date with regard to skilled- and less-skilled readers have fueled some applied research projects in education settings, including how the use of adjunct questions can aid the comprehension of less-skilled readers in understanding expository readings, identifying which factors predict success in online classes, and presentation methods capable of facilitating a deeper processing of course material by online learners.

Since starting the RCC Lab in 2010, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of exceptional students who have used their experience working in the lab to broaden their exposure to scientific research and better plan post-UNE career plans.

UNE students interested in employment or volunteer opportunities in the lab may email Dr. Stiegler-Balfour at jstiegler@une.edu for more information.

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