Reaping the Rewards of the Reading for Understanding Initiative

Reaping the Rewards of the Reading for Understanding Initiative

First Author: Gina Biancarosa -- University of Oregon
Keywords: Reading comprehension, Reading development, Reading instruction, Reading Assessment, Grades K-12
Abstract / Summary: 

This symposium reviews the findings of three research syntheses of the work conducted under the Institute of Education Sciences $120 million Reading for Understanding research initiative. Six interdisciplinary teams were funded for five years to (a) explore the development of reading comprehension, (b) develop and test curricula and instruction aimed at the improvement of reading comprehension, and (c) develop and validate innovative assessments of reading comprehension, with the six teams collectively covering from pre-kindergarten through the end of high school.

(1) Educational Testing Service (ETS) - Assessing Reading for Understanding: A Theory-Based, Developmental Approach,
(2) University of Illinois at Chicago – Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6 Through 12: Evidence-Based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning,
(3) University of Texas at Austin - Understanding Malleable Cognitive Processes and Integrated Comprehension Interventions for Grade 7-12,
(4) Strategic Education Research Partnership - Catalyzing Comprehension Through Discussion and Debate,
(5) Florida State University - Examining Effective Intervention Targets, Longitudinal Intensity, and Scaling Factors in PreK Through 5th Grade, and
(6) The Ohio State University - The Language Bases of Reading Comprehension.

The symposium will present syntheses across the work of all six teams in each of the targeted areas: development, instruction, and assessment. A fourth paper will synthesize across the entire body of work with implications for practice and future research. The discussant will comment on the results, as well as the promise and perils of this kind of large-scale investment in reading research, from an international perspective.

Symposium Papers: 

The Nature and Development of Reading Comprehension

First Author/Chair:Gina Cervetti -- University of Michigan

Purpose: This paper synthesizes RfU studies that addressed questions regarding the nature and development of reading comprehension.

Method: For this systematic review, nominated studies were summarized and coded according to focus, participant characteristics, methodological characteristics, and findings. Themes were then derived from a question-driven, qualitative examination of studies with related foci.

Results: Guided by the Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) and cognitive models of reading comprehension (e.g., Kintsch, 1988), the RfU development studies examined a wide array of language skills, cognitive skills, social skills, and forms of knowledge that may relate to reading comprehension. Findings include insights related to the wide array of skills and knowledge that contribute to successful comprehension and trends in how specific components shift in influence across time, the role of language skills and cognitive skills in successful listening and reading comprehension, and the role of word and world knowledge in text comprehension.

Conclusions: This synthesis paper addresses implications for the design of interventions, such as the importance of early attention to world knowledge and language development, the likelihood that multifaceted early interventions related to language and cognitive skills are more appropriate than those focused on discrete skills, and the importance of supporting adolescent students in developing a sophisticated array of academic language skills. The paper also addresses some features of the research that delimit what was learned about development and point to future research, including lack of attention to textual and contextual factors in development.

The RfU Impact on Reading Comprehension Assessments

First Author/Chair:Panayiota Kendeou -- University of Minnesota

This paper focuses primarily on the three main assessments developed by the assessment consortium, which consisted of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in collaboration with the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) at Florida State University (FSU). This consortium was tasked specifically with the development of a new summative assessment of reading comprehension across all grades. To address the FfU assessment goals, the ETS/FCRR consortium defined the construct of reading comprehension as reading literacy, which was measured by both componential constructs (aspects such as decoding, vocabulary, and facets of comprehension) and global reading literacy (in which comprehension was applied to problem solving tasks). Two assessment systems were developed to assess components of reading in K-12: the RISE from ETS and the FRA from FCRR. The Global Integrated Scenario-Based Assessment (GISA assessed global reading literacy in Grades 3-12 within a digitally delivered setting. Review and evaluation of these assessments leads to the conclusion that the RFU research initiative had a profound impact in the area of reading comprehension assessment. They reflect an authentic conceptualization of reading, a solid theoretical basis, rigorous psychometric properties, and both developmental and instructional sensitivity. The result is a set of forward-thinking assessments that promise to advance both research and practice in reading.

The RfU Impact on Reading Comprehension Curriculum and Instruction

First Author/Chair:Gina Biancarosa -- University of Oregon
Additional authors/chairs: 
Peter Afflerbach; Matthew Hurt; P. David Pearson

Purpose: This paper synthesizes across the 18 curriculum and instructional approaches for pre-kindergarten through high school developed and tested for efficacy by five Reading for Understanding (RfU) research teams.

Method: The five teams provided published (and sometimes pre-publication) efficacy studies. In addition, teams shared their more iterative design research study results. The authorial team also searched for additional work using the RfU grant number for each research team. These materials were read by each member of the research team, with two members focusing on thematic consistencies and inconsistencies across the teams, one member recording (and calculating where necessary) results, including effect sizes, and the final member checking the work of both. Disagreements regarding themes and results were resolved through discussion. Effects and themes were examined for comprehension, as well as contributing skills and knowledge and applications of comprehension (e.g., writing).

Results: Across the five teams, significant and medium-to-large effects were observed in every studied grade for comprehension--reading and listening--and for applications of comprehension (e.g., writing, learning). In addition, effects were observed for a wide range of components skills and areas of enabling knowledge. The most significant themes across the various approaches revolved around the centrality of text, the importance of discussion, the promotion of metacognition, the necessity of addressing knowledge at all levels (from declarative to epistemic), and the acknowledgement of both learning to read and reading to learn spanning all the grades studied.

Conclusions: The results suggest that reading comprehension is indeed a malleable construct, but that sensitivity to instructional effects may depend on measures used. They also strongly suggest that integrating reading into content instruction (and vice versa) results in no loss to one in service to the other.

Reaping the Rewards, Seeding the Future

First Author/Chair:P. David Pearson -- University of California, Berkeley
Additional authors/chairs: 
Annemarie Palincsar

This paper looks across the three syntheses for larger, over-arching themes. The paper contextualizes results given the historical context of the initiative. This paper particularly attends to how the RAND Reading for Understanding Study Group set the stage for the Reading for Understanding (RfU) research initiative, with its 2000 report that spelled out a long-term program of research to be conducted by a cadre of qualified investigators, insulated from political agendas, and designed to explore instructional techniques that would generate long-term improvements in learners’ capacities to read with comprehension for the purposes of learning and applying knowledge. While the RAND report is the most obvious “progenitor” of the RFU program of research, there were a number of other landmark documents that speak to the “ideas in the air” at the time of this initiative, and the work is further contextualized in terms of these other influences, including but not limited to Preventing Reading Difficulties (1998), the National Reading Panel Report (2000), National Literacy Panel Report (2002).

More specifically, this paper looks across the three previous papers to answer these questions:
● What themes hold across the 3 areas of development, instruction, and assessment?
● What collateral benefits (serendipitous tools and lessons) did we accrue as a result of the RFU initiative?
● What are the implications of the RFU effort for future research directions--new initiatives, lingering issues, or still unanswered questions?
● Using what we knew going into the RFU era, what is the current state of our knowledge base about reading comprehension? How has the RFU contributed to that current knowledge base?

Implications of RfU for the Field of Reading Comprehension Research and Practice

First Author/Chair:DISCUSSANT Paul van den Broek -- Leiden University

The discussant's paper will focus on what lessons can be gleaned from the RfU effort from an international perspective.