Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension

Share: Share on LinkedIn! Print page! More options
This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. 
Resource URL:
Nell K. Duke
P. David Pearson
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
International Reading Association
comprehension, balanced instruction, supportive classroom, reading comprehension
Number of Pages: 
Product Type: 
Professional Article Taken From What Research Has To Say About Reading (2002). International Reading Association, Inc. (with Permission)
Target Audience: 
Local Program Administrators, Professional Developers, Teachers, Curriculum Developers
Skill Level: 
NRS EFL 1--ABE Beginning Literacy
NRS EFL 2--ABE Beginning Basic Education
NRS EFL 3--ABE Intermediate Low
NRS EFL 4--ABE Intermediate High
Required Training: 

Teachers could learn about effective comprehension strategies from this text. However, this product would lend itself well to a curriculum or study circle.


This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. While the article does not specify that it is intended for adults and draws from research in the K-12 field, it has the potential to be useful to adult educators. The article makes a strong case for balanced comprehension instruction (explicit instruction and time to practice) and the need for a classroom that supports reading, provides real texts, provides a range of different genres, and provides an environment rich in language experiences including discussion about words and their meanings and text (meaning and interpretation). The article provides a model of comprehension instruction with five components:

  • Explicit instruction of the strategy and when/how it should be used
  • Teacher/student modeling the strategy in action
  • Collaboration in the use of the strategy
  • Guided practice in the use of the strategy
  • Independent use of the strategy

The article lists and describes effective individual comprehension strategies and the research that supports them, including

  • Prediction
  • Think-aloud (teacher or student)
  • Text Structure (story, informational)
  • Visual representation of text
  • Summarization
  • Questions/questioning

The article also provides descriptions of effective comprehension routines, which have some research base:

  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Transactional strategy approaches
  • Questioning the author

Throughout the article, the authors provide examples and figures. The article ends with challenges to research in reading comprehension and discussion questions for the chapter.

What the Experts Say: 

The authors attend to both the importance of explicit instruction in comprehension strategies and providing learners with a “great deal of time and opportunity for actual reading, writing, and discussion of text” (p. 2), making a convincing case for adult educators to use both.

Much discussion is about what else needs to be in place in addition to comprehension strategy instruction—such as reading real texts for real purposes, reading a range of text genres, and writing texts for others to understand. The authors highlight the importance of routine for improving comprehension and give examples of how teachers can support learners in building strategic thinking, which is likely to be more important that gaining mastery of specific strategies. The authors provide a list of questions for teachers to assess the “comprehension environment and instruction in the classroom” (Figure 10.6, p. 21), to guide thoughtful reflection about how a classroom is supporting the development of skillful readers.

The resource would lend itself well to teacher in-service or study
circle so that strategies could be practiced. Using the assessment guide
would help teachers see the importance of teaching comprehension skills,
rather than the common practice of focusing on decoding, vocabulary, and

The suggestions for future research could provide ideas for practitioners to engage in action research projects, implementing comprehension strategies in their own classrooms. The extensive list of references and other resources is helpful for those who would like more depth and background in reading comprehension.

Please note: We do not control and cannot guarantee the relevance, timeliness, or accuracy of the materials provided by other agencies or organizations via links off-site, nor do we endorse other agencies or organizations, their views, products or services.