A Synthesis of Reading Interventions and Effects on Reading Comprehension Outcomes for Older Struggling Readers

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
Mar. 27, 2009

Source: Review of Educational Research, Volume 79, Issue 1; p. 262-300 (March 2009).

The paper reports a synthesis of intervention studies conducted between 1994 and 2004 with older students (Grades 6-12) with reading difficulties.
The authors have conducted the following synthesis to determine the outcome of comprehension, word study, vocabulary, and fluency interventions on reading comprehension.

Furthermore, they extended the synthesis to include all struggling readers, not just those with identified learning disabilities.
The authors addressed the following question: How does intervention research on decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension influence comprehension outcomes for older students (Grades 6 through 12) with reading difficulties or disabilities?

Interventions addressing decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension were included if they measured the effects on reading comprehension.
29 studies were located and synthesized. 13 studies met criteria for a meta-analysis, yielding an effect size (ES) of 0.89 for the weighted average of the difference in comprehension outcomes between treatment and comparison students.
Word-level interventions were associated with ES = 0.34 in comprehension outcomes between treatment and comparison students.


This synthesis yields several implications for educators.
First, the authors think that these studies indicate that comprehension practices that engage students in thinking about text, learning from text, and discussing what they know are likely to be associated with improved comprehension outcomes for students with reading difficulties and disabilities.
Second, the comprehension practices used are more effective for narrative text than expository text.
Third, comprehension outcomes were higher when interventions were implemented by researchers in contrast to when implemented by teachers.
Because it is likely that researchers are more attentive to implementing interventions with high levels of fidelity, teachers may want to consider their fidelity of implementation when targeting comprehension practices.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Intervention | Literature reviews | Reading comprehension | Reading difficulties | Reading instruction | Secondary school students