This study investigated the cognitive processes and reader characteristics of sixth graders who had good and poor performance when reading scientific text with diagrams. We first measured the reading ability and reading self-efficacy of sixth-grade participants, and then recorded their eye movements while they were reading an illustrated scientific text and scored their answers to content-related questions. Finally, the participants evaluated the difficulty of the article, the attractiveness of the content and diagram, and their learning performance. The participants were then classified into groups based on how many correct responses they gave to questions related to reading. The results showed that readers with good performance had better character recognition ability and reading self-efficacy, were more attracted to the diagrams, and had higher self-evaluated learning levels than the readers with poor performance did. Eye-movement data indicated that readers with good performance spent significantly more reading time on the whole article, the text section, and the diagram section than the readers with poor performance did. Interestingly, readers with good performance had significantly longer mean fixation duration on the diagrams than readers with poor performance did; further, readers with good performance made more saccades between the text and the diagrams. Additionally, sequential analysis of eye movements showed that readers with good performance preferred to observe the diagram rather than the text after reading the title, but this tendency was not present in readers with poor performance. In sum, using eye-tracking technology and several reading tests and questionnaires, we found that various cognitive aspects (reading strategy, diagram utilization) and affective aspects (reading self-efficacy, article likeness, diagram attraction, and self-evaluation of learning) affected sixth graders’ reading performance in this study.
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