Education Endowment Foundation:FFT Reciprocal Reading (2023/24 trial)

FFT Reciprocal Reading (2023/24 trial)

Project info

Independent Evaluator

Behavioural Insights Team logo
Behavioural Insights Team

Trial to test the impact of Reciprocal Reading, a 12-week, targeted, structured approach to teaching reading comprehension.

Pupils: 3600 Schools: 300 Grant: £942,150
Participating settings: 300

This project was recruiting, but is now full.

Reciprocal Reading is a structured, discussion-based approach to the teaching of reading comprehension designed and delivered by FFT. It aims to develop children’s understanding of a text and teach them important strategies for making sense of what they read. These strategies – predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising – are used repeatedly on small sections of the text, to deal with any comprehension difficulties as they emerge. Through repeated use of the strategies, readers become more confident in dealing with misunderstandings and start to apply the strategies to their own independent reading. As a targeted intervention, reciprocal reading is used to address the reading difficulties of children who can decode a text but struggle to understand it.

Reciprocal Reading involves trained teaching assistants (or teachers) delivering two 20 – 30-minute sessions a week, for a minimum of 12 weeks, to pupils in year 5 and 6 identified as having reading comprehension difficulties using FFT’s screening tool. At least 12 children should receive the intervention, in groups of 4 – 8, in addition to normal reading/​English lessons.

Programme delivery should be overseen by a teacher who can coordinate the trained staff. The teacher coordinator attends a pre-briefing and joins up to two colleagues for two face-to-face training days. There are two online support sessions following training, to support implementation. Schools receive story books, dictionaries, and guidance materials.

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As part of the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund, the EEF is commissioning a number of trials of programmes that show promise for increasing pupil attainment.
The EEF previously funded an efficacy trial of FFT’s Reciprocal Reading programme involving 98 schools and 5,222 pupils. This tested a whole-class approach in Year 4 and a targeted approach for students struggling with reading comprehension in Years 5 and 6. The independent evaluation found that children in the targeted intervention made an average of +2 months’ additional progress in reading comprehension and overall reading, compared to the control group. Further exploratory results showed that the intervention had an even larger positive impact on children who were eligible for free school meals.

This project will evaluate whether the impacts of Reciprocal Reading seen in the efficacy trial can be maintained when the project is delivered at scale, to a large number of schools across England. We are particularly interested in whether the potential for closing the attainment gap is sustained.

Reading comprehension strategies, which focus on the learners’ understanding of written text, are rated as high impact on the EEF Toolkit. Comprehension strategies specifically are more effective than phonic or oral language approaches at KS2, leading to high impact on pupil learning. Reciprocal reading has been used widely in English-speaking countries, but is less common in the UK.

There is broader evidence of promise from previous evaluations of reciprocal teaching, including a meta-analysis of 16 studies, which showed an average impact equivalent to around +4 months’ additional progress.

Reciprocal Reading is being independently evaluated at an effectiveness level. This means that it will be delivered to a large number of schools under everyday conditions. The evaluation will be a two-armed cluster-randomised controlled trial, with 300 schools randomly allocated to either receive Reciprocal Reading or act as a business-as-usual comparison group.

The evaluation will have two primary outcomes looking at the impact of reciprocal reading on overall reading and reading comprehension using the NGRT. Reading accuracy assessed using the NGRT and KS2 reading scores for year six pupils, will be investigated as secondary outcomes. The evaluation will also look at the impact specifically for pupils receiving free school meals, and explore reasons why the intervention may be a gap closer.

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2025.