Reading Comprehension Tests Don’t Test Reading
In this video from Cool Reading Facts, Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, discusses significant factors key to success in reading comprehension. His analysis suggests that educators frequently miss the critical role that basic knowledge plays in successfully interpreting and understanding passages in reading texts and that reading comprehension tests are actually knowledge tests in disguise. He makes three important points: (1) Students must have the basic decoding skills to translate print into meaningful information, (2) having a basic familiarity with the subject matter is of prime importance in comprehending what the writer is trying to communicate, and (3) providing students with an enriched knowledge base through the school’s curriculum is especially important for students from disadvantaged circumstances, whose only source of essential background information often is school. In contrast, children from privileged circumstances may be introduced to essential background information away from school.
Citation: Willingham, D. (2017). Cool Reading Facts 5: Reading comprehension tests don’t test reading [Video file]. National Public Radio, Science Friday Educator Collaborative.