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IES Grant

Title: Improving Comprehension of Struggling Readers: Connecting Cognitive Science and Educational Practice
Center: NCER Year: 2004
Principal Investigator: Broek, Paul van den Awardee: University of Minnesota
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,443,487
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305G040021

Co-Principal Investigators: David Rapp and Kristen McMaster

Many students struggle to learn to read, with difficulties beginning early and continuing into adulthood. Many of these struggling readers lack the skills necessary to comprehend what they read. And although the knowledge base on reading comprehension is extensive, there are two significant limitations: (1) most comprehension research focuses on one specific aspect of comprehension and/or one specific subgroup of readers; (2) most comprehension research focuses on the offline products of reading, even though the assumption is that interventions influence online processing. In our proposed research, we address the limitations of the current knowledge base by focusing on both online processes and offline products of struggling readers, and by using a comprehensive theoretical framework to understand reading comprehension processes and develop interventions for readers of different ages and abilities and within different types of text.

The long-range goal of our research is to improve the reading comprehension of struggling readers through the development and evaluation of interventions that address the underlying causes of comprehension difficulties. The objectives of the research are to (1) develop an integrated, theory-based description of the reading comprehension processes used by students of different grade and performance levels and within different types of text, (2) use this framework to guide the development of effective reading comprehension interventions across readers and texts, and (3) ensure that these interventions are effective and feasible for classroom use. The rationale of the proposed research is that for interventions to be successful, they must influence the actual processes that struggling readers employ as they proceed through a text. Consequently, the selection of interventions for students of differing ages and abilities across different types of texts can be made more efficient and effective by use of a theoretically grounded framework of reading comprehension.

Our proposed research addresses three specific aims:

  1. Develop an integrated framework of reading comprehension processes across students of various grade and performance levels.
  2. Examine the effects of interventions developed based on the integrated framework of reading comprehension in controlled experimental settings.
  3. Examine the effectiveness of classroom-based implementation of the interventions developed in Specific Aim #2 in collaboration with participating school districts.

The central outcome of the proposed research will be a set of interventions that are based on rigorous theoretical and empirical work, that have direct relevance for educational practice, and that will improve the underlying reading comprehension processes of struggling readers.


Book chapter

Rapp, D.N., and Kurby, C.A. (2008). The ‘Ins' and ‘Outs' of Learning: Internal Representations and External Visualizations. In J.K. Gilbert, M. Reiner, and M. Nakleh (Eds.), Visualization: Theory and practice in science education (pp. 29–52). Springer, Dordrecht.

van den Broek, P., Kendeou, P., and White, M.J. (2008). Cognitive Processes During Reading: Implications for the Use of Multimedia to Foster Reading Comprehension. In A.G. Bus, and S.B. Neuman (Eds.), Multimedia and Literacy Development: Improving Achievement for Young Learners (pp. 57–74). New York: Routledge.

van den Broek, P., White, M.J., Kendeou, P., and Carlson, S. (2009). Reading Between the Lines: Developmental and Individual Differences in Cognitive Processes in Reading Comprehension. In R. Wagner (Ed.), Biological and Behavioral Bases of Reading Comprehension (pp. 107–123). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

van den Broek, P., Espin, C., McMaster, K., and Helder, A. (2017). Developing Reading Comprehension Interventions: Perspectives from Theory and Practice. In E. Segers and P. van den Broeck (Eds.), Developmental Perspectives in Written Language and Literacy: In honor of Ludo Verhoeven, (pp. 85–101). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Zwaan, R.A., and Rapp, D.N. (2006). Discourse comprehension. In M. Traxler and  M.A. Gernsbacher (Eds.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics (Second Edition) (pp. 725–764). Elsevier.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Carlson, S.E., van den Broek, P., McMaster, K., Rapp, D.N., Bohn-Gettler, C.M., Kendeou, P., and White, M.J. (2014). Effects of Comprehension Skill on Inference Generation During Reading. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 61(3), 258–274.

Clinton, V., Seipel, B., van den Broek, P., McMaster, K.L., Kendeou, P., Carlson, S.E., and Rapp, D.N. (2014). Gender Differences in Inference Generation by Fourth-Grade Students. Journal of Research in Reading, 37(4), 356–374.

McMaster, K.L., Espin, C.A., and van den Broek, P. (2014). Making Connections: Linking Cognitive Psychology and Intervention Research to Improve Comprehension of Struggling Readers. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 29(1), 17–24.

Muijselaar, M. M., Kendeou, P., de Jong, P. F., and van den Broek, P. W. (2017). What Does the CBM-Maze Test Measure?. Scientific Studies of Reading, 21(2), 120–132.

Rapp, D.N. (2006). What Readers Do: Reader-Guided Processes In Discourse Comprehension. Information Design Journal, 14 (2): 109–113.

Rapp, D.N. (2006). The Value of Attention Aware Systems in Educational Settings. Computers In Human Behavior, 22(4), 603–614.

Rapp, D.N. (2008). How do Readers Handle Incorrect Information During Reading?. Memory and Cognition, 36(3): 688–701.

Rapp, D. N., and Gerrig, R. J. (2006). Predilections for Narrative Outcomes: The Impact of Story Contexts and Reader Preferences. Journal of Memory and Language, 54(1), 54–67.

Rapp, D.N., and Kendeou, P. (2007). Revising What Readers Know: Updating Text Representations During Narrative Comprehension. Memory and Cognition, 35 (8): 2019–2032.

Rapp, D.N., and Kendeou, P. (2009). Noticing and Revising Discrepancies as Texts Unfold. Discourse Processes, 46(1): 1–24.

Rapp, D.N., van den Broek, P., McMaster, K.L., Kendeou, P., and Espin, C.A. (2007). Higher-Order Comprehension Processes in Struggling Readers: A Perspective for Research and Intervention. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11(4): 289–312.

Rapp, D.R., and van den Broek, P. (2005). Dynamic Text Comprehension: An Integrative View of Reading. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 14(5): 276–279.

Tilstra, J., McMaster, K., van den Broek, P., Kendeou, P., and Rapp, D. (2009). Simple but Complex: Components of the Simple View of Reading Across Grade Levels. Journal of Research in Reading, 32(4): 383–401.