Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies to Students With Learning Disabilities: A Review of Research

by Russell Gersten, Lynn S Fuchs, Joanna P Williams, Scott Baker
Review of Educational Research Summer ()

Abstract

We review the body of research on reading comprehension for students with learning disabilities. First, we describe the factors that lead to the comprehen-sion difficulties of these students. Next we describe our procedures for review-ing the literature on effective instructional methods for this population. Next we review the body of studies involving instructional methods for improving the comprehension of narrative text. This is followed by the research on techniques for improving the comprehension of expository text. We conclude with a dis-cussion of ongoing issues in the field—in particular, (a) the increased use of socially mediated instruction, (b) the need to teach multiple strategies to stu-dents to improve comprehension, and (c) controversies in how important it is to explicitly teach specific strategies versus merely providing flexible frame-works to structure dialogue on texts read. In this article, we provide a comprehensive review of intervention research con-ducted over the past 20 years on comprehension instruction for students with learn-ing disabilities. We begin with a brief overview of current understandings of the difficulties experienced by students with learning disabilities related to compre-hending text. We then briefly outline our literature search procedures. Next we review studies investigating the efficacy of an array of teaching strategies for improving comprehension of narrative text, followed by an analysis of studies examining ben-efits associated with teaching strategies for understanding expository text. We con-clude with a discussion of unresolved issues and directions for future research. In 1977, the term learning disabilities was included as a category of exceptional-ity in the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142). Since then, the percentage of students with learning disabilities has increased steadily so that these students now constitute 7% of the school-age population and more than half of all children receiving special education services (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). 279

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