Language comprehension is an important component of reading that allows readers to derive meaning from oral or written language. Instructions on the components of language comprehension, including vocabulary, semantics, morphology, and syntax, may support language and reading comprehension. A meta-analysis published in Reading Research Quarterly investigated the effects of language comprehension interventions on K-5 students’ language and literacy outcomes.
Three experimental designs, including RCTs, quasi-experimental control group designs, and within-subjects designs, were included in this analysis. 43 unique studies were identified and coded for design, outcome, participant (e.g., sample size, demographics, and grade levels), and intervention characteristics (e.g., duration, strategies, and components). To avoid biased estimates, effect sizes of multiple outcomes were aggregated – one synthesized effect size for each study.
Findings showed that:
- Intervention effects were statistically significant and large for vocabulary (ES=+0.85), while modest to listening comprehension (ES=+0.10) and reading comprehension (ES =+0.19).
- However, the positive effects were seen on custom measures but not on standardized measures for these three outcomes.
- Significantly positive effects were found on morphology and academic language with a limited number of studies.
In terms of the effects on different participants, results indicated that:
- Lower effects on vocabulary were found in studies with higher proportions of students from low-income families (ES=-0.77).
- Further, ELLs tended to benefit more than non-ELLs from interventions on vocabulary and reading comprehension.
For intervention characteristics:
- Promising higher effects were found for multicomponent interventions compared to single-component interventions (ES=+0.50).
- Higher effects were also found for those incorporating technology compared to those without (ES=+0.31).
These moderator analyses should be interpreted with caution, as they may be confounded with each other. The authors suggested that more studies are needed to understand how to better support language comprehension for upper elementary grades, students with different races/ethnicity, and underserved students. They also called for more research on how to optimize interventions to support elementary students’ language and literacy outcomes.
Source: Silverman, R.D., Johnson, E.M., Keane, K., & Khanna, S. (2020). Beyond decoding: A Meta-analysis of the effects of language comprehension interventions on K–5 students’ language and literacy outcomes. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S207– S233. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.346