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The IERI Research Community :: Projects

Increasing Reading Comprehension, Motivation and Science Knowledge through Concept Oriented Reading Instruction in a District-Wide Experiment

John T. Guthrie

Reading, Science

Background: Reading achievement in grades 3-5 is vitally important because comprehension for information text in science and social studies is a new challenge for students. Due to the effort and persistence needed to comprehend science text, instruction must address students' motivational as well as their cognitive needs for reading science text and science learning.

Purpose: This research was designed to investigate the effectiveness of innovative instruction to increase reading comprehension, reading motivation, and science knowledge. We attempted to chronicle students' acquisition of engagement, motivation, interest and reading skills as they learned concepts of ecology in an inquiry context.

Intervention: We investigated Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI), which integrated reading and life science for grades 3-5. The model consists of: (1) using conceptual knowledge goals for reading instruction; (2) providing science hands-on experiences; (3) affording students guided choices of topic, text, and task; (4) using interesting texts (information and literary); and (5) fostering collaborative learning. Embedded in this context, teachers provide explicit reading comprehension instruction including: activating background knowledge, questioning, graphic organizing, summarizing and comprehension monitoring. Instruction was provided 90 minutes daily for 12 weeks. Instruction consisting of strategy instruction but no explicit support for students engagement was also provided in comparable classrooms.

Setting: Research was conducted in public schools with Title I eligibility in the mid-Atlantic region. Interventions occurred from 2001-2006.

Research Design: Methodologies included: quasi-experimental, correlational, interview, longitudinal, observation, statistical modeling (SEM), videography with coding.

Students in the samples consisted of approximately 280 students in 11 classrooms in each of grades 3-5 in the CORI model, and 320 students in 13 classrooms in the strategy instruction model. Approximately 95 students from 4 classrooms participated in a traditional instruction control.

In each academic year, pretests (September) and posttests (December) were conducted including the following: passage comprehension, multiple text comprehension, questioning, activating background knowledge, inferencing, searching for information in text, ecological knowledge, word recognition, Woodcock Johnson reading fluency, oral reading fluency, Gates MacGinitie reading comprehension, reading motivation via self-report, reading motivation via teacher rating, reading motivation via interview. Analysis procedures included: Analysis of Variance, Analysis of Covariance (classroom unit of analysis), Structural Equation Modeling, Hierarchical linear regression, Multiple regression, Constant Comparison, and Profile Cluster Analysis.

Findings: The findings essentially consist of experimental effects in grades 3, 4, and 5 in which Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) surpassed Strategy Instruction and Traditional Instruction in (a) reading comprehension (Standardized test; experimenter formed multiple text comprehension, and passage comprehension); (b) reading strategies including activating background knowledge, questioning, searching for information in text; (c) reading motivation (as measured by student self report; teacher ratings of each student; and students self-reports of amount of reading); and ecological knowledge (measured separately by multiple choice, and essay tasks). A different quasi experiment showed that inquiry science activities that were conceptually linked to interesting texts increased amount of growth in reading comprehension. Therefore, in sum, placing strategy instruction in the context of inquiry science combined with support for reading motivation increased multiple outcomes in science and reading.

Through structural equation modeling (SEM) of student growth, we documented that reading motivation increased ecological knowledge growth, mediated by reading comprehension and inferencing. Also using SEM, we found that reading fluency consisting of 3 constituents (word, syntactic, and passage level processing) predicted reading comprehension partly but not totally mediated by use of background knowledge and inferencing. Further, using Profile Cluster Analysis of interview data, we found that interest in reading was a prominent factor generating reading comprehension growth.

Journal publications
Wigfield, A., Guthrie, J. T., Tonks, S., & Perencevich, K. C. (2004). Children's motivation for reading: Domain specificity and instructional influences. Journal of Educational Research, 97(6), 299-309.

Guthrie, J. T. (2004). Teaching for Literacy Engagement. Journal of Literacy Research, 36(1), 1-30.

Ozgungor, S., & Guthrie, J. T. (2004). Interactions among elaborative interrogation, knowledge, and interest in the process of constructing knowledge from text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 437 443.

Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., Barbosa, P., Perencevich, K. C., Taboada, A., Davis, M. H., Scafiddi, N. T., & Tonks, S. (2004). Increasing reading comprehension and engagement through Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 403 423.

Wigfield, A. (2005). Influences of Concept Oriented Reading Instruction on children s motivation for reading. Unterrichtswissenschaf, 33, 106-121.

Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., Humenick, N. M., Perencevich, K. C., Taboada, A., & Barbosa, P. (2006). Influences of stimulating tasks on reading motivation and comprehension. Journal of Educational Research, 99, 232-245.

Guthrie, J. T., Wagner, A. L., Wigfield, A., Tonks, S. M., Humenick, N. M., & Littles, E. (in press). Reading motivation and reading comprehension growth in the later elementary years. Contemporary Educational Psychology.

Guthrie, J. T., Wagner, A. L., Wigfield, A., Tonks, S. M., & Perencevich, K. C. (in press). From spark to fire: Can situational reading interest lead to long-term reading motivation? Reading Research and Instruction.

Taboada, A., & Guthrie, J.T. (in press). Contributions of student questioning and prior knowledge to construction of knowledge from reading information text. Journal of Literacy Research.

Lutz, S. L., Guthrie, J. T., & Davis, M. H. (in press). Scaffolding for engagement in learning: An observational study of elementary school reading instruction. Journal of Educational Research.

Guthrie, J. T., McRae, A. C., & Lutz, S. L. (in press). Impacts of instruction on children's reading engagement, achievement and knowledge. Educational Psychologist.

Book chapters
Guthrie, J. T., & Ozgungor, S. (2002). Instructional Contexts for Reading Engagement. In C. Collins Block & M. Pressley (Eds.), Comprehension Instruction: Research Based Best Practices (pp. 275-288). New York: Guilford.

Guthrie, J. T. (2002). Motivation and Engagement in Reading Instruction. In M. Kamil, J. Manning, & H. Walberg (Eds.), Successful reading instruction, (pp. 137-54). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Cox, K. E., & Guthrie, J. (2002). Concept instruction with text. In B. J. Guzzetti (Ed.), Literacy in America: An encyclopedia of history, theory, and practice. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Guthrie, J. T. (2003). Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction: Practices of Teaching Reading for Understanding. In C. Snow & A. Sweet (Eds.), Reading for Understanding: Implications of RAND Report for Education. New York: Guilford.

Guthrie, J. T. (2004). Classroom contexts for engaged reading: An overview. In J. T. Guthrie, A. Wigfield, & K. C. Perencevich (Eds.) Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, (pp. 1-24). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Guthrie, J. T. (2004). Differentiating instruction for struggling readers within the CORI classroom. In J. T. Guthrie, A. Wigfield, & K. C. Perencevich (Eds.) Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, (pp. 173-193). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., & Perencevich, K. C. (2004). Scaffolding for motivation and engagement in reading. In J. T. Guthrie, A. Wigfield, & K. C. Perencevich (Eds.) Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, (pp. 55-86). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Guthrie, J. T., & Taboada, A. (2004). Fostering the cognitive strategies of reading comprehension. In J. T. Guthrie, A. Wigfield, & K. C. Perencevich (Eds.) Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, (pp. 87-112). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Guthrie, J. T., & Scafiddi, N. T. (2004). Reading comprehension for information text: Theoretical meanings, developmental patterns, and benchmarks for instruction. In J. T. Guthrie, A. Wigfield, & K. C. Perencevich (Eds.) Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, (225-248). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Taboada, A., & Guthrie, J. T. (2004). Growth of cognitive strategies for reading comprehension. In J. T. Guthrie, A. Wigfield, & K. C. Perencevich (Eds.) Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, (pp. 273-306). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Guthrie, J. T. & Humenick, N. M. (2004) Motivating students to read: Evidence for classroom practices that increase reading motivation and achievement. In. P. McCardle & V. Chhabra. (Eds.) The voice of evidence in reading research (pp. 329-354). Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

Guthrie, J. T. & Wigfield, A. (2005). Roles of motivation and engagement in reading comprehension assessment. In S. Paris, & S. Stahl (Eds.), Children's Reading Comprehension and Assessment (pp. 187-213). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Wigfield, A., & Lutz, S. (2005). Reading instruction in sociocultural context: Impact on reading comprehension and engagement. In D. McInerney & S. Van Etten (Eds.), Research on sociocultural influences on motivation and learning. Volume 5: Curriculum and teaching from a sociocultural perspective. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Press.

Guthrie, J. T., Taboada, A., & Coddington, C. S. (in press). Engagement practices for strategy learning in Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction. In D. S. McNamara (Ed.). Reading comprehension strategies: Theory, interventions, and technologies. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., & Perencevich, K. C. (Ed.). (2004). Motivating reading comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Perencevich, K. C. (under review). Fostering literacy engagement in the classroom. McGraw-Hill.

Guthrie, J. T. (Ed.) (under review). Literacy engagement in high school: Problems and practices. Corwin Press.

For more information about this project, visit the Concept Oriented Reading Instruction website at, John Guthrie's Homepage at, and the following websites: