Tia Clasen


Summer 2021



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Jennifer Carlson

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Panayiota Kendeou

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Kristen McMaster


Results on state and national reading assessments indicate that students in the U.S. overall, and in Minnesota specifically, continue to struggle to comprehend expository texts; only one-third of fourth graders meeting grade level proficiency on state assessments designed to analyze reading achievement. Further, a significant gap persists for fourth grade students based on race, language, and socioeconomic status. Contemporaneously, technology continues to advance rapidly, demanding increased literacy skills and a better understanding of comprehension intervention. This research study aims to identify essential text characteristics of expository texts that will eventually be included in an online, automated reading strategy tutor providing instruction and practice designed to improve deep comprehension for a diverse population of struggling third and fourth grade students. Identification of essential text characteristics will further inform teacher practice as they continue to make decisions on what texts to place in front of their students. This design-based implementation and mixed-methods study explores reading comprehension and the role that texts in a digital format play in answering the research questions. Qualitative data was collected from teacher practitioners and analyzed to create texts that students in grades 3 and 4 read and paraphrased to understand their comprehension. Analysis showed that while most students struggled to read the texts, nearly half of the paraphrases generated were of acceptable quality and showed promise. The results of this study suggest that more use of expository texts is needed in explicit reading instruction beginning in the primary grades and that teachers would benefit from deeper learning of the positive effects of prior knowledge, motivation, and student efficacy.

Research Methodology

Design-based Implementation Research (DBIR) and Mixed-Methods Research


Achievement, Literacy, Reading, Online Learning Environments








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