Background and Purpose: This paper presents a comprehensive review of the research on reading comprehension interventions for ESL learners. Although numerous reviews have reported the effectiveness of reciprocal teaching in improving reading outcomes, only few reviews focused on the use of these strategies in ESL contexts. Hence, this review identified, evaluated and synthesized relevant literature in search of the effectiveness of reciprocal teaching and the features that are associated with improved reading comprehension outcomes.


Methodology: Guided by Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA), a thorough search was performed on five major databases using the search terms “reciprocal teaching” or “reciprocal reading” and “reading comprehension” or “text comprehension”.


Findings: The comprehensive search resulted in a total of 18 articles. The analysis coded these articles  into eight main themes with four main themes concentrated on the features of the reciprocal teaching interventions: (a) purposes, (b) learning environment, (c) comprehension-monitoring, and (d) scaffolding, and another four main themes on the outcomes of the interventions: (e) results, (f) comprehension outcome measures, (g) reading strategies, and (h) conceptual change.


Contributions: Conclusively, reciprocal teaching fulfilled the key features of effective intervention as significant gains were mostly observed in the research using reciprocal teaching as intervention. The versatility of reciprocal teaching makes the technique adaptable to learners of varying backgrounds, ages and levels of education.


Keywords: reciprocal teaching, reading strategies, interventions, ESL learners, comprehension.


Cite as: Dew, T. P., Swanto, S., & Pang, V. (2021). The effectiveness of reciprocal teaching as reading comprehension intervention: A systematic review.  Journal of Nusantara Studies, 6(2), 156-184.

Author Biographies

Ting Pick Dew, Faculty of Psychology and Education, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMS, 88400, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Ting Pick Dew is currently a TESL PhD student at the Faculty of Psychology and Education, Universiti Malaysia Sabah with a passion for module development, teaching pedagogies and educational evaluation.

Suyansah Swanto , Faculty of Psychology and Education, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMS, 88400, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Suyansah Swanto is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Education, Universiti Malaysia Sabah. He holds a PhD in TESL from the University of Nottingham. His research interests are language teacher education, ESL pedagogy and, innovations and intervention in second language teaching.

Vincent Pang, Faculty of Psychology and Education, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMS, 88400, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Vincent Pang is a Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Education, Universiti Malaysia Sabah. He is also a Professorial Fellow of the School of Education, Charles Darwin University, Australia. He is also an editor of the Malaysian Journal of Learning and Instruction and has authored more than 100 academic publications.


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