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Title page for ETD etd-10162017-135106

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Reynolds, Daniel Eagan
URN etd-10162017-135106
Title Talking it Out: Scaffolding High Schoolers' Comprehension of Complex Text
Degree PhD
Department Learning, Teaching and Diversity
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Amanda Goodwin Committee Chair
Deborah Rowe Committee Member
Elfrieda Hiebert Committee Member
Rogers Hall Committee Member
  • text complexity
  • reading comprehension
  • scaffolding
Date of Defense 2017-09-13
Availability unrestricted
Though researchers and policymakers have called for an increase in text complexity in reading instruction, little research exists on whether scaffolding can support students reading complex texts, and almost no research has evaluated reading interventions for late high school students. In addition, research has experimentally verified scaffolding’s effectiveness in supporting comprehension and described possible mechanisms, but has not determined the effectiveness of different types of scaffolding. To address these gaps, the present study randomly assigned eleventh-grade students to either an eight-session intervention in which small groups of students (n=82) read complex texts with tutors or a comparison condition in which students (n=71) learned individually with computerized ACT preparation software. In addition, for intervention groups, tutors’ interactional scaffolding adaptations to support their students’ comprehension was tracked, and multilevel regression analyses were used to investigate possible associations between types of scaffolding and student comprehension. Results showed that the intervention group’s growth on a standardized measure of passage-based comprehension was statistically significant (p<0.03) and practically meaningful (d=0.17) for students who attended at least six sessions. Regression models examining links between types of scaffolding and outcomes found that scaffolds helping students determine the structure of the passage and scaffolds helping students unpack complex syntax were positively associated with comprehension outcomes, while scaffolds that involved rereading the text and understanding academic-register vocabulary words were negatively associated. The experimental results offer a causal argument to show that scaffolding can support readers of complex texts, and present a possible scaffolding-based model for comprehension interventions for late high school students. The correlational evidence linking scaffolds and outcomes suggests that the kinds of scaffolding matter for student outcomes, and that scaffolding which supports students in unraveling the syntactic and structural complexities of text may be helpful, while scaffolding that encourages rereading of text or prompting for knowledge of rare vocabulary commonly used in academic texts may be less helpful. Implications for research are presented. Overall, the study presents evidence for how scaffolding can support high school students reading complex texts.
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