Studies of proficient readers have shown that the use of certain strategies (e.g., relating personal background knowledge to text, attending to headings and images, and summarizing) is important for comprehension of challenging texts (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 2017; Duke et al., 2011; Goldman et al., 2016; Shanahan, Shanahan, & Misischia, 2011). Despite advances in early identification of deafness, early intervention, and years of literacy research, on average, children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) continue to exhibit long-term language and literacy delays (Kyle & Harris, 2010; Ruffin et al., 2013). Many students, hearing and D/deaf, are limited in their use of comprehension and metacognitive strategies (Banner & Wang, 2011; Donne & Rugg, 2015; Morrison et al., 2013; Nickerson 2003, Schirmer, 2003). Although research has shown that explicit instruction can improve students’ use of strategies (Johnson Howell & Luckner, 2003; Palincsar & Brown, 1984), there are few well-designed studies that examine the efficacy of this kind of intervention with adolescents who are DHH (Easterbrooks & Stephenson, 2006; Luckner et al., 2005/2006; Marschark et al., 2009).
A multiple baseline case study was therefore developed to examine the effect of 1:1 explicit instruction of targeted strategies for reading comprehension with four DHH high school students. A verbal protocol (think aloud) procedure (Ericsson & Simon, 1980; McGuiness & Ross, 2011) was used to better understand the students’ cognitive processes as they engaged in reading aloud and to instruct students in the effective use of strategies. Data consisted of baseline vs. post-intervention analyses of: (a) type and frequency of strategies used, (b) students’ success in deriving the meaning of unknown words, (c) students’ response accuracy to short answer comprehension questions, and (d) coherence and accuracy of self-constructed written summaries. In addition to the student data, interviews and observations of four participating teachers were conducted to gain insight into existing classroom instructional practices.
Results indicate that all students began using new strategies following intervention. Students reported generalization of strategy use across contexts. However, even though some students used quite a variety of strategies, their application of a strategy did not always lead to improved text comprehension. The use of a think aloud procedure was highly valuable in shedding light on factors that challenged comprehension, such as limited vocabulary knowledge and skills. The two non-standardized comprehension measures employed in the study (i.e., short answer comprehension questions and self-constructed written summaries) did not show a clear intervention effect, but results from the standardized Gates McGinitie Reading Tests (MacGinitie, MacGinitie, Maria, Dryer, & Hughes, 2007) indicated improved reading achievement for two students. Overall, findings suggest a promising effect of explicit instruction of strategies. To ensure more robust findings, future studies would need to implement explicit instruction over a longer period of time and/or via increased frequency of instruction.