Automaticity and motivation’s effects on reading comprehension (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this time I picked this study:

As struggling readers get older and the words they read get longer, the effort it takes them to decode longer words interferes with their reading comprehension. Jessica Toste and colleagues conducted a study examining the effects of an intervention designed to develop multisyllabic word reading (MWR) automaticity via repeated exposure to multisyllabic words in isolation and in context. The goal of the intervention is for students to focus their attention on text meaning instead of decoding. Given that research shows motivation supports cognitive ability, researchers also wanted to examine the effects of this strategy with and without a motivational component.
Fifty-nine struggling third and fourth graders in two charter schools located in a large city in the southwestern U.S. were randomly assigned to one of three groups: MWR only (n=18), MWR with motivational beliefs (MB) training (n=19), or business as usual (22). No significant reading comprehension differences existed at pretest, as measured by subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson III, TOWRE, and WRAT, or among motivational beliefs as measured on the Reading Attribution Scale.
In groups of 2-3 students, the MWR and MWR + MB groups received tutoring sessions in reading for forty minutes a week, three times a week for eight weeks in addition to their regular reading instruction. The MWR + MB group also received five minutes of motivational instruction each session, while the MWR-only group practiced math facts for their final five minutes. The MWR lessons consisted of seven components, starting with repeated reading of vowel patterns and progressing to target words in paragraphs. The MB component added self-reflection, positive self-talk, and eliminating negative thoughts throughout the lesson.
Results showed that students in both MWR groups performed better than the control group at posttest on word fluency measures, and performed moderately better than the controls on TOWRE phonemic decoding and the WJ letter-word ID and word-attack subtests. The MWR + MB group had higher scores than the MWR group solely on sentence-level comprehension, but had higher scores than controls on the attributions for success subscale, meaning they were more likely to attribute success to internal causes like effort rather than external factors like luck. MWR + MB did not outperform MWR on motivational measures. The authors conclude that developing automaticity in multi-syllable word reading and motivation’s effect on reading comprehension are both promising interventions to develop MWR.

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