Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a conversation between two or more people. This can be teachers and students or students and other students. In a narrow sense it is often referenced to reading and segments of text. However, in theory it is not that narrowly defined.

The reciprocal dialogue can have four steps:

  1. Summarizing,
  2. Question asking,
  3. Clarifying, and
  4. Predicting.

Each person or groups of people take turns sharing their ideas for each of the steps, and may repeat the steps until their ideas are in agreement with what each other is saying or claiming (reciprocating understanding).


Each group identifies the necessary and sufficient information with respect to the idea being discussed or the text or other media being explored. The process can begin with defining vocabulary or supporting information and moving to how those ideas are related or combined to create concepts and big ideas. Text can be summarized across sentences, paragraphs, and chapters or complete stories. Media can be summarized with each of the different kinds of information being analyzed and combined to a whole multimedia event. Other ideas can be reviewed based on evidence and the explanations claimed about those observations.

Question generating

All members generate question. Questions about information that may be missing or not completely understood. Information that students or teachers have about ideas, interpretations, analysis, and explanations others have made.


Each member attempts to clarify their understanding or answers of the other person or group members. This is a collective effort and not the responsibility of one person. Clarification is based on actual information. This can be with actual real life observations or citing information within media. It is essential all questions and conflicting information is resolved based on observational information. Literal interpretations are made with precise occurances that support an idea. Inferences are also supported in this manner by identification of supporting information and how that information is connected to make an inference. Similarly analysis, interpretive, and evaluative information first identifies what criteria is being used to make an analysis, evaluation, or interpetation and matching it to actual real life observations or information within media.


All members should predict how the information can generate new ideas or provide for new understandings. This can be predicting what will happen in real life events or where a plot is heading in stories or what might happen at the conclusion of a media event or other situation. This helps to confrm the power of learning and connect learning to the real world.


Palincsar and Brown (1985) have conducted a series of studies with adult tutors working with middle school students in pairs with reading comprehension. The effectiveness was evaluated based on reading passages and answering 10 comprehension questions from recall. Teatment had students complete five of these passages before reciprocal teaching instruction began and one during each day of instruction. Performance on these assessment passages indicated that all but one of the experimental students achieved 70 percent accuracy for four out of five consecutive days. Whereas the control group had no one achieve criterion performance. In addition, there was improvement of independence and summary quality: write summaries, predict the kinds of questions teachers and tests ask, and detection of incongruities in text. Finally, these improvements were reflected in social studies and science classes. Similar improvements have been shown possible with larger classes.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes