A Review of: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Reading Comprehension Interventions on the Reading Comprehension Outcomes of Struggling Readers in Third Through 12th Grades
In this article I will review a new Meta-Analysis on Reading Comprehension Instruction, by Filderman, et al, recently published in 2021. Studies were included if they were peer reviewed, written after 1975, written in English, used an experimental model that included a control group, had participants who were struggling readers in grades 3-12, measured comprehension, and investigated the effects of single component reading comprehension instruction. The authors found 24 451 studies on the topic; however, they excluded most studies for either not having a control group or for not examining comprehension specifically. Of the remaining studies they found 64 studies that completely met the above outlined inclusion criteria. The four authors then independently coded the effect sizes using a Hedges g calculation, to ensure reliability. I have graphed their results below.
Thoughts and Reflections:
Firstly, I think it is important to note that the meta-analysis shows reading comprehension instruction to have a comparable effect size to phonics, morphology, and fluency instruction. I think this suggests that evidence-based reading instruction includes phonemic, morphological, fluency, and comprehension instruction. That being said, the meta-analysis shows a clear advantage for Comprehension Instruction in later grades than early grades, with an ES of .67 for secondary students and an ES of .47 for elementary students. I wonder if this relationship would continue to show this correlation if broken down more. The elementary studies included grades from grade 3-8, which is actually quite a large range. I would imagine the impact for grade 3 students would be significantly different than for grade 8 students.
Admittedly, I have to admit I have always been sceptical of significant reading comprehension instruction in the primary grades. Considering most primary students are emerging readers and are still learning to decode. Surely the limiting factor on primary students comprehension abilities, is not their lack of knowledge of comprehension strategies or meta-cognition strategies, but rather their actual ability to read. This is in part why I created the Reading Instruction Continuum and Comprehension Instruction Continuum.
Tangentially, I think it is important to note that teaching main idea, strategy instruction, predictions and providing content knowledge outperformed the mean ES of comprehension instruction. I think this suggests that these strategies should likely form the core of our comprehension instruction. Similarly teaching retelling, inferences, and meta-cognition strategies had effect sizes close to the mean ES of comprehension instruction. I think this suggests that it is reasonable to use these instructional strategies on a regular basis. Comparatively, providing graphic organizers, and text structure instruction had well below average effect sizes and I think should therefore not be used as the core of our comprehension instructional strategies. That being said, all effect sizes in this study were statistically significant, and above the average effect size of an education study, which is .40.
Filderman, M. J., Austin, C. R., Boucher, A. N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E. A. (2022). A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Reading Comprehension Interventions on the Reading Comprehension Outcomes of Struggling Readers in Third Through 12th Grades. Exceptional Children, 88(2), 163–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860