Maryland elementary students who were taught to read by teachers who combined reading lessons with other subject matter made much bigger gains on reading tests than children who were drilled on skills alone, a report concludes.
For the study published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Educational Research, researchers at the University of Maryland surveyed 545 teachers in 33 schools in three predominantly middle-class districts.
Through a 30-item questionnaire, the researchers identified the teaching methods being used to help 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders comprehend what they were reading. Then the researchers compared those findings with the test scores for pupils taught by the different methods.
Most teachers said they relied heavily on prepackaged commercial courses that focused on drilling children on skills, such as inference and summarizing.
Motivation a Factor
Fewer teachers were using a method called “integrated instruction,” which involves teaching reading comprehension by introducing skills throughout lessons on history or science, for example.
The study found that the 5th graders who were taught in integrated instruction did far better on the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program, or MSPAP.
From 1995 to 1996, the 5th graders who were taught using the integrated approach registered an average gain of 30 percent on reading-comprehension tests over the other students. Students whose teachers stuck close to the basal approach had scores that were likely to stay the same or decline.
John T. Guthrie, a professor of educational psychology at the university’s College Park campus, said the integrated approach works better because it weaves the skill lessons with interesting material. “Kids are motivated to learn about pirates, oysters, and motorboats,” he said. “You can’t get motivated to learn about how to make an inference. It gets boring pretty quick.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2000 edition of Education Week as Maryland Study Finds Benefits In ‘Integrated Instruction’ Method