Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Special Education and Literacy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Luchara Wallace

Second Advisor

Dr. Shaila Rao

Third Advisor

Dr. Wanda Hadley


Comprehension, strategies reading comprehension, teaching comprehension, strategy, learning disabilities, teaching strategies


This qualitative study identified the common reading problems that negatively impact reading comprehension of third graders with learning disabilities. It also investigated the effective reading strategies that special education teachers have utilized to improve reading comprehension levels of the students in resource room settings. For the purpose of this study, “effective reading comprehension strategies” are defined as any strategies that have been found by the special education teachers as beneficial for improving reading comprehension levels of third graders with learning disabilities in the resource room setting. Importantly, a particular reading comprehension strategy could be beneficial based on these teachers’ experiences while working with students who have learning disabilities, but it might not have been found to be an effective reading strategy in the literature. Thus, the focus of this research was on determining the effectiveness of using a particular strategy based on teachers’ teaching experiences, rather than strategies only found in the literature.

This study was conducted in five public elementary schools, in mid-size, mid-western cities. The schools met the following criteria: (a) located in the Southwest region of Michigan, (b) within 30 miles of the sponsoring university, (c) 5% or more of the student body certified as having learning disabilities, and (d) have a resource room. The participants were five special education teachers who have (a) a minimum of three-years’ experience in teaching and working with elementary students with learning disabilities, (b) a learning disabilities endorsement, and (c) a minimum of 3-year experience of delivering reading instruction to third graders in the resource room setting.

The data collection procedure involved semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The special education teachers in this research pointed out that the reading problems that negatively influence reading comprehension of their third graders with learning disabilities include: (a) issues with background knowledge, (b) trouble with fluency, (c) difficulty with informational text, (d) difficulty with making inferences, (e) issues with vocabulary, and (f) low reading level. According to the special education teachers, there are numerous reading comprehension strategies found to be effective to improve comprehension of third graders with learning disabilities. These include graphic organizers, questioning, story mapping, peer-assisted strategy, think aloud, discussing the text with students, and different grouping. The special education teachers informally assess their students’ reading comprehension through retelling, questioning, Cloze procedure, having students fill in graphic organizers, and writing activity.

Recommendations for further research include: (a) conducting a study that specifically explores the most beneficial methods to enhance the relationship between special education and general education teachers in order to create a kind of consistency in their strategies while working with students with learning disabilities in both settings, the resource room and the general class room, (b) conducting a quantitative study that investigates the effective reading strategies that special education teachers utilize to improve the students’ reading comprehension. Based on the responses of special education teachers’ in this current study, a unique survey could be developed as an instrument for collecting the data from participants. The participants could be special education teachers from multiple states or multiple regions within the same state, and (c) replicating the present study and including a larger sample size that will be collected from more than one region. The results of that replication could support the finding of this study.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access