Effects of inference training on 6th graders’ reading comprehension

Ida Buch-Iversen & Carsten Elbro


The study investigated possible causal links between inference making and reading comprehension. The main questions were whether a brief course in gap filling inferences would have robust, positive effects on inference making during reading and even on a standard measure of reading comprehension.


A quasi-experimental training study was conducted among 236 Norwegian 6th graders. Sixteen classes were randomly assigned to either an experimental or a control condition. Students in the experimental condition received inference training in eight 30 minute sessions provided by their ordinary teachers. The training focused on gap filling inferences and used graphic organisers to highlight the students’ contribution to comprehension. The control group received ordinary teaching in language and literature during the same time.


Mixed between-within subject ANOVA’s showed large interaction effects indicating that the inference training had a considerable impact on students’ inference making skills and reading comprehension. The effects were robust across variation in gender, vocabulary, decoding, non verbal IQ, and completion of the training. Positive, delayed effects were found five weeks after completion of the training, indicating that the positive effects were maintained. No effects were found on students’ maths abilities.


The results suggest that inference making can be trained with specific effects on inference making during reading and with a sizeable impact on reading comprehension. The explicit focus on students’ contribution to inferences (using graphic organisers) appeared to be helpful and may easily be implemented in ordinary comprehension instruction.