Importance of Background Knowledge in Reading Comprehension

Hello colleagues, Every teacher understands how important background knowledge is in being able to comprehend what we read. I'll share a personal example to make the point. When I'm reading a complex article discussing the details of epidemiology-- as I've done a few times during this pandemic--, I don't always understand everything I'm reading. That's because I don't have much background knowledge about epidemiology. We know the same is true for learners when they read material on topics they don't know much about.

A recent blog post by Holley Korbey discusses the importance of building background knowledge and claims that planning instruction to build background knowledge and assessing learners on that content is more effective in improving learners' comprehension than focusing on certain reading skills such as finding the main idea. The author cites some research that supports this claim.

Right away, I thought, "but our assessments require students to be able to find the main idea." What are your thoughts about this author's argument? 

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP