Misunderstanding 'Reading Comprehension': Implications for Instruction and Testing
5 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2010
Date Written: January 4, 2010
E. L Thorndike’s influential 1917 article, Reading as Reasoning, viewed printed text as having intrinsic meaning which the reader must “extract” from the text. The extraction constitutes “Reading Comprehension.” The belief prevails to this day. “Comprehension” is one of the “Five Essentials” of reading instruction. And Standardized reading tests, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, are measures of “comprehension” that use the same item forms used to measure “general intelligence/ scholastic aptitude.” The “Thorndike/NAEP Reading Framework” view of reading is contrasted with a view first propounded by D. B. Elkonin: “Understanding, which is often considered as the basic consideration in the process of reading, arises as a result of the correct recreation of the sound form of words. He who, independently of the level of understanding of words, can correctly recreate their sound forms is able to read.”
In this distinction lies the explanation for why standardized reading tests are insensitive to instructional differences and why test results have remained essentially flat over the years.
Keywords: Reading comprehension, reading instruction, reading tests, New Science of Reading
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