The efficacy of reciprocal teaching in fostering the reading literacy of students with intellectual disabilities

  • Alfassi M
  • Weiss I
  • Lifshitz H
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of strategy instruction on the reading literacy of students with mild and moderate intellectual disability. Students aged 15–21 with intellectual disability (n=35) participated in 24 sessions of literacy strategy instruction (experimental condition) or remedial literacy-skill acquisition- lessons (control condition). The main objective of strategy instruction was to foster comprehension monitoring. Through shared dialogues, students were trained to generate questions about text, to summarise what was read, to clarify difficult words and to make predictions. The strategies were taught using the reciprocal teaching method developed by Palincsar and Brown . This method involves provision of support adjusted to students’ difficulties and peer teaching of strategies. Control subjects were exposed to direct instruction of basic reading skills that were presented sequentially and practiced solitarily by the students. Opportunities were given to respond to questions and to summarise but no strategy instruction was provided to foster comprehension monitoring. Two different measures of comprehension and a measure of strategy use were administered to test for variation across different methods of instruction. Findings on all measures provide support for the claim that strategy instruction is indeed superior to traditional remedial methods of skill acquisition in fostering reading literacy comprehension. These findings challenge the common perception that literacy is an organic impossibility for people defined as intellectually disabled. Moreover, the results add to recent research in sociocognitive instruction that supports the need to modify prevailing methods of reading curriculum and suggests a reconceptualisation of the comprehension process and its instruction to students with intellectual disabilities.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Intellectual disability
  • Reading literacy
  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Sociocognitive instruction

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  • Miriam Alfassi

  • Itzhak Weiss

  • Hefziba Lifshitz

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