Talking in class? Talking predicts students’ reading gains

Talking in class? Talking predicts students’ reading gains

First Author: Carol McDonald Connor -- University of California Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Benjamin Kelcey; Nicole Sparapani; Yaacov Petscher; Sarah W. Siegal; Ashley Adams; Jin Young Want; Joanne F. Carlisle
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Reading comprehension is critically important, yet classroom instruction is not always effective. To understand why, we observed 2nd-3rd grade literacy instruction and what teachers and students (n=337) said to each other, in 51 classrooms using the Creating Opportunities to Learn from Text (COLT) Observation System.

Methods: We used COLT to code over 150 hours of video-taped classroom 2nd-3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA) and literacy instruction. Our main research question was: to what extent do teacher and student talk predict students’ comprehension skill gains? To analyze the complex data generated and to identify the types of teacher and student talk that were most salient, we developed measurement models, which drew on multilevel item factor models that nested all of the individual lessons or observations within students or within teachers. We then developed structural models to answer our research question using multilevel structural equation modeling using multiple concurrent mediators.

Results: Using 11 types of talk, how teachers talked with their students during literacy instruction promoted student talk. The more students talked using 9 types of talk (e.g., answering and asking questions), the stronger were their reading comprehension gains (standardized coefficient=0.05). Plus, if their classmates also talked a lot, reading skills improved even more (standardized coefficient=0.10). Although teacher talk predicted student and classmate talk (standardized coefficient=0.41), teacher talk did not directly predict students’ reading comprehension gains.

Conclusions: The implication of these findings is that we may improve students’ reading comprehension during this critical time for reading development by encouraging students to talk more in class.