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Public defence Mariska Okkinga

Teaching reading strategies in classrooms- does it work ? 

Mariska Okkinga is a PhD Student from the faculty Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences (BMS

Reading comprehension is a necessary skill in today’s knowledge-based economy. However, many children and adolescents have trouble understanding the meaning of texts, which may hinder their school careers and future professions. Since the 1980’s, reading programs have focused on teaching reading strategies in order to foster reading comprehension. Most of this research was done with small tutoring groups with researchers as instructors. However, there are indications that the approach to instructing reading strategies is not always successful in improving reading comprehension in whole-classroom settings with teachers as instructors of reading strategies. The general aim of this dissertation is to gain further insight into how teaching reading strategies to students in whole-classroom settings promotes reading comprehension.

The dissertation consists of the results of an experimental study directed at testing the effects of a popular Dutch program for teaching reading strategies called ‘Nieuwsbegrip’ in the context of low-achieving adolescent students.

The main goal of this study was to find evidence whether the principles used in that program work in the context of whole-classroom instruction for these low-achieving students. In addition, the results of the experimental study triggered a separate meta-analysis of studies for the effects of interventions in reading strategy instruction specifically taking place in whole-classroom contexts.

Overall, the results suggest that reading-strategy programs can be beneficial in whole classroom settings for low-achieving adolescents to improve reading comprehension. But, attention for implementation quality is crucial to create the best circumstances in which such programs can thrive. For schools to implement reading-strategy programmes such as ‘Nieuwsbegrip’ it is beneficial to invest in teacher training, specifically focused on knowledge of the nature and characteristics of reading comprehension processes, how to diagnose the reading problems of their students, and how to instruct reading strategies and guide group work in whole-classroom settings.