chapter  7
26 Pages

The “Word Factors”: A Problem for Reading Comprehension Assessment

BySteven A. Stahl, Elfrieda H. Hiebert

If we were to ask experts on reading comprehension, such as the contributors to this volume, how they define “reading comprehension,” answers might range from making meaning from text to thinking critically about the text. Our guess would be that none of these scholars would mention word recognition, even in elaborated definitions. Many models of reading comprehension, such as those of Kintsch (1998) and Anderson and Pearson (1984), begin once words are recognized, as in “supposing the reader recognizes the words in the text, here is how comprehension proceeds…”

Yet, from a psychometric perspective, word recognition plays an important role in reading comprehension. Studies that include both measures of word recognition and reading comprehension (which were surprisingly difficult to find) find strong correlations between the two variables, not only in the primary grades, but also through the higher grades (e.g., Carver, 2000). This was found for both word recognition in and out of context, in paragraphs and in lists.