Intervention effects on comprehension are the Holy Grail: Investigating effects of an academic vocabulary and morphology intervention on reading comprehension with multilingual adolescents

Intervention effects on comprehension are the Holy Grail: Investigating effects of an academic vocabulary and morphology intervention on reading comprehension with multilingual adolescents

First Author: Amy Crosson -- Penn State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Hui Zhao; Puiwa Lei; Margaret G. McKeown
Keywords: Reading comprehension, Morphology, vocabulary learning, Intervention, Multilingual setting
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Recent evidence suggests that morphological analysis—i.e., problem-solving the meanings of unfamiliar words using morphological constituents—predicts reading comprehension growth among English-speaking children (Levesque, Kieffer, & Deacon, 2018) and that morphological awareness—i.e., the insight that words are related through morphological relations—plays an important role in reading comprehension among bilingual learners (Kieffer, Biancarosa, Mancilla-Martínez, 2013). In this study, we investigated effects of an academic vocabulary and morphology intervention with adolescent multilingual learners in US schools. We examined indirect effects of the intervention on reading comprehension through morphological analysis, knowledge of target words, and orthographic processing efficiency. We also examined direct effects of morphological analysis, target words, and orthographic processing efficiency on comprehension.

Method: The intervention comprised 16 weeks of instruction on general academic words and their Latin roots. Instruction emphasized multiple encounters with target words; morphological analysis using roots; and analysis of orthographic representations. Grade 6-8 students of diverse linguistic backgrounds (e.g.,Spanish, Nepali) participated in the intervention (n= 100) or comparison (n= 92) condition. Assessments included target word knowledge; morphological analysis; orthographic processing efficiency; and passage comprehension. A taxonomy of half-longitudinal mediation models (Kline, 2016) was developed to estimate effects on comprehension.

Results: A significant indirect effect of intervention on comprehension through morphological analysis (β =.319, SE =.150, p =.034) was observed. As well, the intervention had a significant indirect effect on comprehension via knowledge of word meanings (β =.686, SE =.231, p =.003).

Conclusion: Findings extend current knowledge about morphological analysis and vocabulary in multilinguals' comprehension.