A Metacognitive Program for Improving the Word Identification and Reading Comprehension Skills of Upper Primary Poor Readers

Awarding Institution

University of Newcastle

Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Associate Professor Lorna Chan

Second Advisor

Dr Greg Robinson


This project consisted of a pilot study to assess the effectiveness of a metacognitive approach to teaching word identification and reading comprehension skills to upper primary poor readers, followed by two investigations of effective methods for implementing the metacognitive program in the regular classroom. To improve word identification skills, experimental subjects were trained to: Consider the context, Compare with known words, and Carve up the word parts. To help monitor and control the use of these strategies, subjects were taught to: Be flexible, Look for the cues, and Ask: Does it make sense. Reciprocal teaching procedures, incorporating the above word identification strategies, were used for comprehension training.

In Study One, (conducted by the experimenter) experimental subjects were given reciprocal instruction in metacognitive word identification strategies prior to reciprocal teaching of comprehension. Subjects in the control group received reciprocal teaching of comprehension combined with traditional methods of word identification. In Study Two, the experimenter set up the metacognitive word identification and reciprocal teaching program for the poor readers in the experimental classrooms, and then gradually ceded responsibility for its implementation to the class teachers. Subjects in control classrooms received their normal word study and comprehension activities (in some cases combined with phonics-based instruction). In Study Three, school-based personnel were responsible for conducting the program from the beginning. Subjects in the experimental condition received the combined metacognitive word identification and reciprocal teaching program. Subjects in two control conditions received either normal classroom word study and comprehension activities or reciprocal teaching of comprehension combined with traditional methods for identifying unfamiliar words. Measures of improvement in word identification and comprehension, metacognitive awareness and monitoring of reading strategies, and self-perceptions of academic ability, were taken on several occasions during each study.

Results from Study One indicated that a combination of metacognitive word identification strategies and reciprocal teaching of comprehension was clearly more effective than reciprocal teaching of comprehension with traditional methods of word identification. Results from Studies Two and Three indicated that a classroom-based model of implementation appears to be more successful when teachers have responsibility for its implementation from the beginning.

The implications of these findings for classroom practice are discussed, along with the limitations of the study and suggestions for further research.


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Thesis. University of Newcastle.

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