Today, half of all children in Jordan are unable to read and understand a simple text at age ten, which The World Bank and UNESCO have classified as “learning poverty” (World Bank Report, 2019). This staggering finding, which is estimated to have increased by 10% as a consequence of COVID-19, jeopardizes a child’s long-term success in school, employment, and life.
Today, half of all children in JorIn response, Queen Rania Foundation (QRF) has dedicated itself to the amelioration of this learning poverty and the improvement of literacy rates in Jordan and the Arab region through the development, distribution, and adaptation of research-based pedagogies. To this end, QRF has partnered with the UK-based Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in the translation and adaptation of a series of educational approaches known as the Teaching and Learning Toolkit (TLT).
The original adapted TLT, which QRF published in 2021, received a significant update in 2023—Some similar tools were merged to enhance interconnectedness (e.g., “Homework”), while others were allocated a separate platform (See EEF’s new evidence for the early years platform). To support the application of these tools in actual practice, QRF has started developing practice guides; first of which was the School’s Guide for Parental Engagement (2020). This Guide provides schools with practical tips and tools that help them better engage parents to support their kids' learning process despite the educational and professional backgrounds. It came out at a very critical time when distant learning was forced during COVID-19, where parental engagement was needed the most. Currently, QRF is developing two new practice guides for Feedback and Reading Comprehension Strategies, and subsequently plans to develop one for Metacognition and Self-regulation, all high-impact, low-cost tools of great significance in the teaching and learning processes.
Developing a practice guide for Reading Comprehension Strategies to support the teaching of and development of reading comprehension skills feeds into QRF’s literacy-focused efforts. Reading comprehension involves the ability to understand written text, an interactive process between the reader (including their experiences, ideas, and skills) and the written text. Effective reading comprehension strategies encourage and promote this interaction, thus enhancing a learners’ ability to understand the text.
TLT research shows that effective implementation of reading comprehension strategies has a high impact of six months of additional student progress, and with phonics, it is a key component of early reading instruction. These strategies include various techniques, such as activating prior knowledge, predicting information about the text, identifying main ideas, inferring meaning from context, summarizing; using semantic organizers; and identifying and resolving comprehension difficulties on their own. Simultaneously, these strategies enhance self-regulated learning as they support students’ development of cognitive and metacognitive skills, and feed into their motivation to complete tasks as they learn to manage reading difficulties.
To enhance their effectiveness, TLT research shows that reading comprehension strategies work involves a number of mechanisms, all focused on effectively enhancing text understanding. Effective implementation may take a host of different forms, such as:
- explicit teaching of strategies;
- teachers questioning pupils to apply key steps;
- metacognitive talk to model strategies;
- using peer and self-questioning strategies to practice the strategies (such as reciprocal questioning); and pupils monitoring their own comprehension and identifying difficulties themselves.
Thus, reading comprehension strategies should be taught explicitly and consistently, and across subjects—not just in language classes. Developing students’ language capabilities enhances their reading comprehension as well as they may struggle with different problems, such as decoding words, understanding the structure of the language used, or understanding particular vocabulary, which may be subject-specific. In addition, when choosing texts, the teacher should identify the appropriate level of text difficulty and provide appropriate context to practice the strategies learned to encourage students’ desire to engage with the text and enough challenge to improve reading comprehension. Needless to say, school support through training and provision of resources is crucial to ensure successful implementation.
Of great importance is how the findings and remarks above impact disadvantaged students, an issue of focus in the endeavors toward equal education. TLT research shows that these students may receive additional benefits from explicit training in reading comprehension strategies. Less likely to own a book of their own and read at home with family members, these students may not acquire the skills needed to read and understand challenging texts. Successful, explicit teaching of reading comprehension strategies, enhanced by school support, could help ameliorate this gap.
It is hoped that Parental Engagement, Feedback, Reading Comprehension Strategies, and Metacognition and Self-Regulation practice guides will offer resources for teachers, parents, school administrators, and policy makers to help them make more informed decisions to enhance teaching and learning, including the learning of disadvantaged students. QRF continues to develop these research-based resources toward the ultimate goal of empowering learners in Jordan and the region.