Reciprocal Teaching

Palincsar (1986) describes the concept of reciprocal teaching:

"Definition: Reciprocal teaching refers to an instructional activity that takes place in the form of a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of text. The dialogue is structured by the use of four strategies: summarizing, question generating, clarifying, and predicting. The teacher and students take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading this dialogue.

Purpose: The purpose of reciprocal teaching is to facilitate a group effort between teacher and students as well as among students in the task of bringing meaning to the text. Each strategy was selected for the following purpose:

In summary, each of these strategies was selected as a means of aiding students to construct meaning from text as well as a means of monitoring their reading to ensure that they are in fact understanding what they read.

Research Base: For the past five years, Palincsar and Brown (1985) have conducted a series of studies to determine the effectiveness of reciprocal teaching. The initial studies were conducted by adult tutors working with middle school students in pairs and by Chapter 1 teachers working with their small reading groups averaging five in number. The students were identified to be fairly adequate decoders but very poor comprehenders, typically performing at least two years below grade level on standardized measures of comprehension. Instruction took place over a period of 20 consecutive school days. The effectiveness was evaluated by having the students read passages about 450 to 500 words in length and answer 10 comprehension questions from recall. The students completed five of these passages before reciprocal teaching instruction began and one during each day of instruction. Performance on these assessment passages indicated that all but one of the experimental students achieved criterion performance, which we identified as 70 percent accuracy for four out of five consecutive days.

These results were in contrast to the group of control students, none of whom achieved criterion performance. In addition, qualitative changes were observed in the dialogue that occurred daily. For example, the experimental students functioned more independently of the teachers and improved the quality of their summaries over time. In addition, students' ability to write summaries, predict the kinds of questions teachers and tests ask, and detect incongruities in text improved. Finally, these improvements were reflected in the regular classroom as the experimental students' percentile rankings went from 20 to 50 and above on texts administered in social studies and science classes.

When the same instructional procedure was implemented in larger classes with groups ranging in size from 8 to 18, 71 percent of the students achieved criterion performance as opposed to 19 percent of the control students who were involved in individualized skill instruction. Furthermore, teachers observed fewer behavior problems in their reciprocal teaching groups than in their control groups." (pp. 19-20)

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