Effective Teaching of Inference and Deduction Skills for Reading: Literature Review

Anne Kispal

01 May 2008

Research report available to download from DfE

Research brief available to download from DfE

A literature review to uncover what is known about the reading skills of inference and deduction was conducted in late 2007, under contract to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The specific purpose was to distil implications for teaching from academic research. Much of the literature concerned the nature of inference and the taxonomies of different types of inference that various researchers had identified. However, practical suggestions for teachers also emerged.

Key Findings

  • Inference skills pre-exist reading skills. This means that teachers can practise activities to develop inferencing abilities outside the literacy classroom. Developing inference skills in all domains will help pupils in drawing their own inferences during reading. This finding is especially useful for reluctant readers, who may be discouraged when faced with extended pieces of text and for early readers, who may not have built up reading stamina. It is suggested that teachers should make use of listening activities and story tapes to develop the inference skills of young pupils.
  • Teachers should know and nurture the key characteristics of good inferencers. These are:
    • being an active reader who wants to make sense of a text;
    • monitoring one’s own comprehension and resolving misunderstanding as one is reading;
    • having a rich vocabulary;
    • having a good working memory.
  • Teachers should model how to draw inferences. For years, teacher modelling of good writing has been common practice in classrooms. The research shows that teachers need to model how they themselves draw inferences by:
    • thinking aloud their thoughts as they read to pupils;
    • asking and answering the questions that show how they monitor their own comprehension;
    • making explicit their own thinking processes.
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