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.

Content specific knowledge tests and activities (Stahl, et. al 1991): Students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge on a particular topic through a variety of methods, including writing and multiple choice questions.


Coiro, J. (2011). Predicting reading comprehension on the internet: Contributions of offline reading skills, online reading skills, and prior knowledge. Journal of Literacy Research, 43(4), 352-392.

Cook, A.E. & O'Brien, E.J. (2017). Fundamentals of inferencing during reading. Language and Linguistics Compass, 11(7), 1-16.

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.

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

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2013). Background knowledge: The overlooked factor in reading comprehension. New York: McGraw Hill Networks.

Graham, S., Gillespie, A., & McKeown, D. (2012). Writing: Importance, development, and instruction. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 26(1), 1-15.

Klauda, S. L., & Guthrie, J. T. (2008). Relationships of three components of reading fluency to reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(2), 310-321.

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.

Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31(2), 132-141.

O'Reilly, T., Wang, Z., & Sabatini, J. (2019). How much knowledge is too little? When a lack of knowledge becomes a barrier to comprehension. Psychological Science (0956-7976), 30(9), 1344-1351.

Park, J.Y. (2012). A different kind of reading instruction: Using visualizing to bridge reading comprehension and critical literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(7), 629-640.

Recht, D.R. & Leslie, R. (1988). Effect of prior knowledge on good and poor readers' memory of text. Journal of Educational Psychology 80(1), 16-20.

Reisman, A., & Wineburg, S. (2008). Teaching the skill of contextualizing in history. The Social Studies, 99(5), 202-207.

Rex, L. A. (2001). The remaking of a high school reader. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(3), 288-314.

Stahl, S. A., Hare, V. C., Sinatra, R., & Gregory, J. F. (1991). Defining the role of prior knowledge and vocabulary in reading comprehension: The retiring of number 41. Journal of Reading Behavior, 23, 487-508.

van den Broek, P. , Virtue, S., Everson, M. G., Tzeng, Y., & Sung, Y. (2002). Comprehension and memory of science texts: Inferential processes and the construction of a mental representation. In J. Otero, J. A. Leon, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), The psychology of science text comprehension. (pp. 131-154). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

van den Broek, P., White, M. J., Kendeou, P., & Carlson, S. (2009). Reading between the lines. Developmental and individual differences in cognitive processes in reading comprehension. In. K. Wagner, C. Schatschneider, & C. Plythian-Sence (Eds.), Beyond decoding: The behavioral and biological foundations of reading comprehension, 107-123.

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.

Wells Rowe, D. & Rayford, L. (1987). Activating background knowledge in reading comprehension assessment. Reading Research Quarterly, 22(2), 160-176.