The Effects Of Reciprocal Teaching On English Language Education Essay

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This review of the literature is separated into sections starting with reciprocal teaching and the current research. The studies for reciprocal teaching are reviewed according to their research design (e.g., meta-analysis, group designs, qualitative designs, and single-subject designs). Part of this section includes a review of the reciprocal teaching monitoring strategy as it relates to current studies. Subsequently there is a summary of the oral language development in English Language Learners (ELLs).

With a growing number of immigrants from various countries, Miami Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is a melting pot of ELLs. M-DCPS is also the second-largest minority public school district in the country. These students are expected to perform at the same levels as their peers on the Standardized Achievement Test, Tenth Edition (SAT-10) regardless of their grasp of the English language. With the current move into accountability and student achievement, teachers are obliged to find strategies to assist the ELLs in increasing not only vocabulary, but also reading comprehension.

ELL students need to understand the reading strategies not only to pass the SAT-10 and advance to the next grade level but also to interpret text in the real world. In order for students to effectively use the reading strategies, they must be actively engaged in the activities that are represented to them. The teacher must provide a vast amount of opportunities across all subject matter and bring in example from their daily lives as well. If the student continues to manipulate the various passages/text, then their comprehension skills will increase and in turn will achieve higher scores in the SAT-10.

Reciprocal Teaching

Researchers in a number of studies have consistently found that reciprocal teaching is an effective way to increase student comprehension. Relatively little is known about the issues of how multiple strategies can, and should, be combined in comprehension instruction (Brunstein & Kieschke, Sporer 2009). Reciprocal teaching (RT) is an instructional procedure developed by Palincsar and Brown (1984) to improve students' text comprehension skills through scaffold instruction of four comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring strategies (Palincsar & Brown, 1984; Palincsar, David, & Brown, 1989; Rosenshine & Meister, 1994), that is, (a) generating one's own questions, (b) summarizing parts of the text, (c) clarifying word meanings and confusing text passages, and (d) predicting what might come next in the text (Brunstein & Kieschke, Sporer 2009). The teacher could then provide guidance and feedback at the appropriate level for each student. Theories of comprehension suggests that active learning from text must involve a flexible repertoire of comprehension-fostering and monitoring activities (Alfassi, 1998). Explicit instruction in comprehension-enhancing activities appears especially crucial for the novice reader and the academically delayed student (Alfassi, 1998).


In order to investigate the effectiveness of reciprocal teaching two meta-analyses have been conducted. Meister and Rosenshine (1994) provided the first analysis of the study. After identifying 16 published and unpolished studies related to reciprocal teaching, they concluded that teacher-made assessments had a greater effect on reading comprehension rather than standardized test. In general, Meister and Rosenshine and (1994) found that when the four strategies (i.e., questioning, summarizing, clarifying, and predicting) were explicitly taught before engaging in the reciprocal teaching procedures students' comprehension abilities increased more than when the strategies were taught as the reciprocal teaching intervention was in process.

In an unpublished dissertation by Galloway (2003), an extensive review of the current literature on reciprocal teaching was conducted using traditional meta-analysis. The researcher found moderate effect sizes for interventions using reciprocal teaching. The significant differences between teacher-made tests and norm-referenced tests found by Meister and Rosenshine(1994) were not found by Galloway (2003). Galloway concluded there still is a need to document in the literature the implementation of the reciprocal teaching procedure. Both of the meta-analytic studies described provide support for the effectiveness of reciprocal teaching. Sample size and the fidelity to which the reciprocal teaching intervention was implemented remain a limitation.

Group Designs

Lysynchuk, Pressly, and Vye (1990) studied how reciprocal teaching improves the reading comprehension performance of poor readers. In this study, 72 four and grade seven students in Canada participated in 13 sessions of reciprocal teaching reading intervention reading instruction. Of the 72 students, 36 were assigned to the reciprocal teaching intervention, while the others worked in small groups, with the teacher offering assistance if needed in decoding and passage understanding. Thirteen sessions were administered to both groups, with daily dependent measures being taken (i.e., retelling and questions), as well as pre and post standardized reading measures. For both informal and formal assessments, the reading comprehension of the experimental group of poor decoders was higher than the control group of poor decoders. No improvements were seen on vocabulary acquisition and maintenance in either group.

Klinger and Vaughn (1996) used reciprocal teaching as an intervention for poor decoders with learning disabilities (LD), but who were also ELL at the middle school level. This study concluded that reciprocal teaching intervention appeared to improve the reading comprehension of students with LD/ELL and supported modeling and social interaction as means to learning as proposed by Vygotsky (Schunk, 2004).

Qualitative Designs

The use of qualitative research methods lend themselves well in the investigation of problems where participation, observation, and inquiry of meaning are of interest (Shank, 2006). In a study conducted by Hacker and Tenent (2002) teachers constructed their knowledge of reciprocal teaching (based on Hashey & Connors, 2003) as they implemented the intervention. The study lasted 3 years and 17 teachers from two elementary schools were followed. Data was collected based on practices and modifications of reciprocal teaching in order for them to develop a theory on how to implement the intervention effectively in the classroom. The three elements of reciprocal teaching that were examined: strategy use, richness of dialogue, and scaffold instruction. The main issue the teachers encountered with the students was in dialogue in which they felt it was superficial and not rich; this finding was also supported by Whitehead's (2002) investigation of guided reading intervention. Hashey and Connors (2003) also suggest that students benefit from reciprocal teaching beginning in the 3rd grade because of their experience with decoding skills.

Single-Subject Designs

Palincsar, David, and Brown (1989) have suggested that reciprocal teaching may be more beneficial as a small group intervention. In the initial reciprocal teaching study, Palincsar and Brown (1984) employed a single subject research design to investigate the effects of reciprocal teaching with a small group of students. To date several researchers have utilized single subject designs to measure the effects of reciprocal teaching with small groups of students in applied settings.

The Reading Process

Crowder and Wagner (1992) suggest reading may be a "fuzzy concept" (p. 3) to understand; it is a complex process (Sternberg, 2003), A simpler view of the reading process was explained by Hoover and Gough (1990). The researchers suggested that the reading process consisted of two components: decoding and comprehension. To them, decoding encompasses phonemic awareness, phonics, and reading fluency, while comprehension and vocabulary are thought of as one component. The simple concept of decoding and comprehension was elaborated on by LaBerge and Samuels (1974). From the perspective of cognitive psychology, they proposed a theory of automaticity, which explained decoding as a combination of reading speed and accuracy. This fluency in decoding allows for cognitive resources to process information efficiently make meaning from text (Hashey & Connors, 2003). Therefore, fluent readers have the ability and attention to comprehend what they read. Conversely, poor decoders, who lack fluency, will use their available cognitive resources to decode instead of using those resources to comprehend text fully (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974); this lack of fluency yields superficial comprehension and gaps in understanding.

English Language Learners

There is limited research conducted on the oral language development in English Language Learners (ELLs), such as vocabulary, grammatical form, and pragmatic patterns. Thus, limiting the understanding of specific aspects of ELLs oral language development and, thus little empirical basis for planning educational interventions (Genesse, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders & Christian, 2006). Hispanic students as a whole, including English proficient children in the second generation and beyond, score significantly lower in reading than other students. Nonetheless, the probability of acquiring an unknown word incidentally through reading is only about 15% (Swanborn & de Glopper, 1999). These students often exhibit more problems with reading comprehension than do fluent speakers of English of comparable ability, because of differences in background knowledge relevant to what is read in school and limited English language proficiency (Klingner & Vaughn, 1996).

There are also mixed views on the benefits of reciprocal teaching. Many studies suggests that ELLs can benefit from reciprocal teaching because of improve comprehension for students who can decode but have difficulty comprehending text (Klingner & Vaughn, 1996) and others recommend that vocabulary instruction should take place in order to increase student comprehension (Genesse, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders & Christian, 2006). Prior reciprocal teaching research has examined the effects of teacher-facilitated strategy instruction without examining how students apply strategies when the teacher is not present (Klingner & Vaughn, 1996). This study conducted by Klingner and Vaughn (1996) proved that that initial reading ability and oral language proficiency seemed related to gains in comprehension, that a greater range of students benefited from strategy instruction than would have been predicted on the basis of previous research, and that students in both groups continued to show improvement in comprehension when provided minimal adult support.

For those reasons, it is critical to understand the relationship of reciprocal teaching among ELLs. This will allow teachers to best determine the most effective reading strategy to achieve learning gains in reading comprehension. These practices include explicit instruction in core reading competencies after control for task difficulty through systematic scaffolding, teaching students individually or in small groups, modeling and teaching strategies, teaching when and where to apply strategies, ongoing and systematic feedback, and ongoing progress monitoring (Miester & Rosenshine, 1994).