Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension

This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. 

Nell K. Duke
P. David Pearson
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
International Reading Association
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

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.

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.

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.

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