Examining the Effects of Classroom Discussion on Students' Comprehension of Text: A Meta-Analysis

P. Karen Murphy, Ian A.G. Wilkinson, Anna O. Soter, Maeghan N. Hennessey, John F. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

368 Scopus citations


The role of classroom discussions in comprehension and learning has been the focus of investigations since the early 1960s. Despite this long history, no syntheses have quantitatively reviewed the vast body of literature on classroom discussions for their effects on students' comprehension and learning. This comprehensive meta-analysis of empirical studies was conducted to examine evidence of the effects of classroom discussion on measures of teacher and student talk and on individual student comprehension and critical-thinking and reasoning outcomes. Results revealed that several discussion approaches produced strong increases in the amount of student talk and concomitant reductions in teacher talk, as well as substantial improvements in text comprehension. Few approaches to discussion were effective at increasing students' literal or inferential comprehension and critical thinking and reasoning. Effects were moderated by study design, the nature of the outcome measure, and student academic ability. While the range of ages of participants in the reviewed studies was large, a majority of studies were conducted with students in 4th through 6th grades. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)740-764
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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