The effects of an inference instruction intervention on the inference generation and reading comprehension of struggling readers in grades 6 and 7
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There is ample evidence that inference generation skill directly contributes to reading comprehension, as well as evidence that struggling readers make fewer inferences than proficient readers. This experimental study examined the effectiveness of a small-group inference instruction intervention on the inference generation and reading comprehension of struggling readers in Grades 6 and 7. The sample comprised 78 students randomly assigned to a small-group inference instruction intervention condition (n = 39) or a business-as-usual comparison condition in which students received computer-delivered English language arts instruction via individualized learning software (n = 39). In the intervention condition, small groups of 3 to 6 students participated in 24, 40-minute sessions. Instruction focused on both text-connecting inferences (e.g., pronoun reference, inferring word meaning from context) and gap-filling inferences (i.e., inferences that require students to integrate their knowledge about the world with information in text). Treatment effects were estimated using multiple regression analyses. Results indicate that membership in the Making Inferences treatment condition statistically significantly predicted higher outcome score for the standardized measure of general reading comprehension skill, the GMRT Reading Comprehension subtest (d = 0.60), but not for any of the three measures of inference skill. Phonemic decoding at pretest was a statistically significant moderator of intervention effects on the GMRT-RC, with treatment effects increasing as students’ levels of phonemic decoding skill increased. The same pattern of effects was evident for the depth of vocabulary knowledge moderator variables, although interaction terms were not statistically significant, p < .05: as student depth of vocabulary knowledge at pretest increased, the effects of inference instruction on the GMRT-RC were greater. Overall, students’ perceptions of the Making Inferences instructional treatment were positive.