Measures and References: Background Knowledge

Return to Background Knowledge factor page.


Numerous measures exist to gain a full picture of a student's learning strengths and challenges. Following are examples of measures used to assess this Learner Factor. These measures should be administered and interpreted by experienced professionals.

Background Knowledge Evaluations (Hirsch, 2003): Assesses Background Knowledge by testing students' knowledge of a chosen topic


Alexander, P., Kulikowich, J., & Schulze, S. (1994). How subject-matter knowledge affects recall and interest. American Educational Research Journal, 31(2), 313-337.

Carey, S. (1985). Conceptual development in childhood. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Connor, C. M., Radach, R., Vorstius, C., Day, S. L., McLean, L., & Morrison, F. J. (2015). Individual differences in fifth graders' literacy and academic language predict comprehension monitoring development: An eye-movement study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 19(2), 114-134.

Crumpler, M., & McCarty, C. (2004). Diagnostic reading analysis. London, UK: Hodder Education.

Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1991). Tracking the unique effects of print exposure in children: Associations with vocabulary, general knowledge, and spelling. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(2), 264-274.

Currie, N. K., & Cain, K. (2015). Children's inference generation: The role of vocabulary and working memory. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 137, 57-75.

Dunn, L. M., Dunn, D. M., Styles, B., and Sewell, J. (2009). The British Picture Vocabulary Scale III (3rd ed.). London: GL Assessment Limited.

Elbro, C., & Buch-Iversen, I. (2013). Activation of background knowledge for inference making: Effects on reading comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17(6), 435-452.

Ericsson, K. A., & Kintsch, W. (1995). Long-term working memory. Psychological Review, 102(2), 211-245.

Floyd, R. G., McGrew, K. S., & Evans, J. J. (2008). The relative contributions of the Cattell‐Horn‐Carroll cognitive abilities in explaining writing achievement during childhood and adolescence. Psychology in the Schools, 45(2), 132-144.

Gelman, S. A., & Coley, J. D. (1990). The importance of knowing a dodo is a bird: Categories and inferences in 2-year-old children. Developmental Psychology, 26(5), 796-804.

Hirsch, E.D. (2003). Reading comprehension requires knowledge - of words and the world: Scientific insights into the fourth-grade slump and stagnant reading comprehension. American Educator, 27(1), 10-22, 28-29, 48.

MacGinitie, W. H., MacGinitie, R. K., Maria, K. & Dreyer, L. G. (2000). Gates MacGinitie Reading Tests. Rolling Meadows, IL: Riverside.

MacGinitie, W. H., MacGinitie, R. K., Maria, K., & Dreyer, L. G. (2002). Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests, Fourth Edition Technical Report for Forms S & T. Itasca, IL: Riverside.

McCutchen, D. (2000). Knowledge, processing, and working memory: Implications for a theory of writing. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 13-23.

McNamara, D. S., Ozuru, Y., & Floyd, R. G. (2011). Comprehension challenges in the fourth grade: The roles of text cohesion, text genre, and readers' prior knowledge. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 4(1), 229-257.

Moje, E. B., Ciechanowski, K. M., Kramer, K., Ellis, L., Carrillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and discourse. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(1), 38-70.

Neuman, S. B., Kaefer, T., & Pinkham, A. (2014). Building background knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 68(2), 145-148.

Olinghouse, N. G., Graham, S., & Gillespie, A. (2015). The relationship of discourse and topic knowledge to fifth graders' writing performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(2), 391-406.

Pickering, S., & Gathercole, S. (2001). Working Memory Test Battery for Children. London: Psychological Corporation.

Price, L. H., Bradley, B. A., & Smith, J. M. (2012). A comparison of preschool teachers' talk during storybook and information book read-alouds. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(3), 426-440.

Shapiro, A. (2004). How including prior knowledge as a subject variable may change outcomes of learning research. American Educational Research Journal, 41(1), 159-189.

Taboada, A., Tonks, S. M., Wigfield, A., & Guthrie, J. T. (2009). Effects of motivational and cognitive variables on reading comprehension. Reading and Writing, 22(1), 85-106.

Was, C. A., & Woltz, D. J. (2007). Reexamining the relationship between working memory and comprehension: The role of available long-term memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 56(1), 86-102.

Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III tests of Cognitive Abilities. Itaska, IL: Riverside Publishing.