Inference Instruction for Struggling Readers: A Synthesis of Intervention Research

Skill in generating inferences predicts reading comprehension for students in the elementary and intermediate grades even after taking into account word reading, vocabulary knowledge, and cognitive ability (Cain et al., 2004; Kendeou et al., 2008; Oakhill & Cain, 2012; Oakhill et al., 2003). While research shows that struggling readers are less likely than proficient readers to make inferences when reading text (Cain et al., 2001; Oakhill, 1984), struggling readers may also benefit more from inference instruction than do proficient readers (Hansen & Pearson, 1983; McGee & Johnson, 2003; Raphael & Pearson, 1985; Yuill & Oakhill, 1988). This synthesis assessed (a) the effectiveness of inference instruction in improving reading outcomes for struggling readers and (b) the features of instructional interventions (e.g., duration, type of instruction) that were associated with improved outcomes. One single-case design and eight experimental group design studies were synthesized. Mean effect sizes for group design studies ranged from g = 0.72* to g = 1.85* for researcher-developed measures of inferential reading comprehension and from g = −.03 to g = 1.96* for standardized measures of reading comprehension. The percentage of nonoverlapping data for the study that employed a single-case design was 100% for all measures.


Hall, C. S. (2016). Inference instruction for struggling readers: A synthesis of intervention research. Educational Psychology Review, 28(1), 1–22. doi:10.1007/s10648-014-9295-x