Four Inference Skills That Can Improve Reading Comprehension

Magazine Issue
Spring 2019

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Reading is a complex process that consists of both print-­based and meaning-based processes. Even though readers quickly master print-­based skills such as phonics, sight word identification, and decoding, they frequently do not thoroughly comprehend what they read. A group of educators in the BYU-Public School Partnership conducted research to understand and try to improve the comprehension issue.

Previous research has shown that a key to under­standing what we read is the ability to draw inferences. This is important because authors often do not include the details of their train-of­-thoughts in their works. They expect readers to make their own connections among ideas within the text, as well as draw on their prior knowl­edge and experiences to make inferences.

In their research, the group identified four types of infer­ences that readers must make to deeply comprehend what they read: anaphoric (refer­ring back to previously stated ideas in the text), background knowledge, predictive, and retrospective inferences.

They also examined the support teachers receive from core literacy programs to teach children to make infer­ences. They developed an assessment to evaluate children's abilities to draw these four types of inferences. They are developing materials to help children learn how to make these inferences as they read to improve their overall reading comprehension.

 

Timothy G. Morrison, Associate Professor, Teacher Education Department

Photo courtesy of Timothy Morrison

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