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Improving Reading Comprehension

A Joint Trial from BetaEd and ReadWorks

About BetaEd

BetaEd, a research initiative led by Professor Angela Hawken, helps schools learn how best to meet the education goals of their students. The objective is to help schools improve by gathering the good ideas of teachers, administrators, students, and parents, and then testing these ideas. The BetaEd team includes psychologists, economists, policy experts, clinical researchers, statisticians, and other researchers with decades of experience planning and conducting pilot tests and collaborating with stakeholders in the field. The BetaEd approach allows for fast evaluations that make it easier for promising practices to expand. Supported by philanthropy, BetaEd services are provided at no cost to its school partners.

Improving Reading Comprehension

BetaEd recently partnered with ReadWorks to test ideas for improving reading comprehension among young students. Pairing images with text may benefit young readers, as images can provide context, activate prior knowledge, and serve as clues to the meaning of important words. Several factors may affect an image’s impact on reading comprehension, including the student’s age, the difficulty of the text, and the time spent looking at the image. The impact may be negative or positive. For example, too many images may distract readers from the text and reduce comprehension.

The BetaEd / ReadWorks trial, involving 100 classrooms and 1,824 third to fifth graders, tested whether image placement impacts reading comprehension. The research team found that students were significantly more likely to complete the assignment, and scored higher in comprehension, when an image was placed at the beginning of the text. The effect was larger for younger students. By fifth grade, image placement had only a negligible effect on completion or score.

Read the Trial Snapshot

Tile photo by Aaron Burden.

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