Date of Award

Fall 10-26-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Miles Anthony Irving, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ann C. Kruger, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Amy R. Lederberg, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Harry L. Dangel, Ed.D.


This research sought to add to a body of knowledge that is severely underrepresented in the scientific literature, reading comprehension in secondary students. Chapter 1 examines the current state of literacy in the nation’s public schools and the consequences that arise if students leave high school with inadequate reading skills. It discusses the neurological processes involved with reading and posits that independent silent reading (ISR) combined with scaffolding techniques may prove to be an effective method for addressing reading comprehension. The review also analyzes the components believed to be essential to reading, including vocabulary development, prior knowledge and background information, inferencing and prediction, and cognitive and metacognitive strategies. It argues that technological tools may have the potential to address these components within the framework of ISR. Chapter 2 details the experiment that tested these hypotheses. The study implemented an ISR program across a 5-month semester in a public high school and included 145 participants from nine 10th grade literature classes. The control group took part in no ISR, one treatment group participated in weekly ISR read from a textbook, and another treatment group participated in weekly ISR read from a computer module designed to address the components of reading comprehension. Students were measured on multiple achievement and motivational assessments. Results indicated that students from the ISR groups made greater gains than the control group in total reading ability, reading comprehension, end-of-course reading scores, and success/ability attribution, but no differences emerged on the vocabulary assessment. The computer module ISR group performed similarly in most respects to the textbook ISR group, but students in the computer module ISR group increased in their reading motivation and scored better on the individual reading assignments, suggesting the cognitive tools assisted them in understanding specific material at hand. This research offers much needed data on secondary students’ reading achievement and motivation, and provides evidence for one method, ISR, that has the potential to address development in these areas.