Individual Differences in Reading Development: A Review of 25 Years of Empirical Research on Matthew Effects in Reading

Professorship/Faculty: Lehrstuhl für Empirische Bildungsforschung 
Author(s): Pfost, Maximilian ; Hattie, John; Dörfler, Tobias; Artelt, Cordula
Title of the Journal: Review of Educational Research
ISSN: 0034-6543
Publisher Information: Thousand Oaks : Sage
Year of publication: 2014
Volume: 84
Issue: 2
Pages / Size: 203 – 244
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.3102/0034654313509492
Document Type: Article
The idea of Matthew effects in reading-the widening achievement gap
between good and poor readers-has attracted considerable attention in
education research in the past 25 years. Despite the popularity of the topic,
however, empirical studies that have analyzed the core assumption of
Matthew effects in reading have produced inconsistent results. This review
summarizes the empirical findings on the development of early interindividual
differences in reading. We did not find strong support for the general
validity of a pattern of widening achievement differences or for a pattern of
decreasing achievement differences in reading. The inclusion of moderating
variables, however, allowed a clearer picture to be painted. Matthew effects
were more likely to occur for measures of decoding efficiency, vocabulary,
and composite reading scores when the achievement tests were not affected
by deficits in measurement precision. Furthermore, moderators such as the
applied analytic method or the orthographic consistency of the language
were of less importance for the emergence of Matthew effects in reading. An
additional meta-analysis of studies reporting correlations between a baseline
level and a growth parameter yielded a small, negative mean correlation
(r = −.214), which again was moderated by properties of the measures.
Possible explanations for the reported findings are discussed.
Keywords: Matthew effects, reading development, primary school, reading difficulties
Release Date: 29. July 2014

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