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Improving reading comprehension in the primary grades: Mediated effects of a language-focused classroom intervention

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Language and Reading Research Consortium
  • Hui Jiang
  • Jessica Logan
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/08/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number8
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)2812-2828
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Purpose: This paper includes results from a multi-state randomized controlled trial designed to investigate the impacts of a language-focused classroom intervention on primary grade students’ proximal language skills and distal reading comprehension skills.
Method: The sample included 938 children from 160 classrooms in four geographic regions in the United States; each classroom was randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions (two variations of a language-focused intervention) or business-as-usual (BAU) control. For this study, the two experimental conditions were collapsed as they represented minor differences in the language-focused intervention. All children completed assessments at multiple time points during the academic year. Proximal measures (curriculum-aligned measures of vocabulary, comprehension monitoring, and understanding narrative and expository text) were administered throughout the school year. Distal measures of reading comprehension were administered at the beginning and the end of the school year.
Results: Multilevel multivariate regression was conducted with results showing that students receiving the language-focused intervention significantly outperformed those in the control group in comprehension monitoring and vocabulary, with effect sizes ranging from .55-1.98. A small effect in understanding text (narrative) was found in third grade only. Multilevel path analyses were then conducted to examine if the intervention had a positive impact on reading comprehension through the influence of proximal language outcomes. In all three grades, instruction impacted reading comprehension via the mediation of vocabulary, with sizable effects (1.89-2.26); no other indirect pathways were significant.
This study provides evidence that a language-focused intervention can positively impact students’ performance on language measures that are closely aligned with the intervention, with indirect, large effects on distal reading comprehension measures. Theoretically, this study provides causally interpretable support for the language bases of reading comprehension.