Julia Westera, PhD, Honorary Academic, University of Auckland. This research was requested by Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee in 2014, on behalf of the Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme │ Hei Kete Raukura. Wellington: Ministry of Education. 


The purpose of this case study was to identify factors that would be critical for success when implementing reciprocal teaching as an effective school-wide strategy in New Zealand. 

In common with many other evidence-based programmes, reciprocal teaching has a history of poor implementation. To overcome this, and for sustainable impact, a multi-pronged, multi-phase implementation is suggested (Westera, 2014b). This includes an intensive coaching phase, a core teaching and learning phase, and an inclusive school-wide phase. 

This study focused on the intensive coaching phase. Participants were 124 students in five Year 4 to 6 classes, 6 teachers and 1 teacher aide in a multicultural decile 3 primary school. 

After the brief intensive coaching intervention, all students reading above 6.06 age equivalent level, irrespective of age, ethnicity, gender and reading comprehension level, showed a significant improvement on comprehension scores, with the majority scoring significant progress on both reading comprehension and accuracy scores. This finding is consistent with previous research (LeFevre et al, 2003; Westera, 2002) and aligns with the self-teaching hypothesis of Share (1995). As also noted in previous studies (Gilroy & Moore, 1998; Smith, Timperley & Francis, 2011), Pasifika students achieved exceptionally well. Further, younger year 4 students continued to maintain a higher rate of progress than year 6 students. 

Several critical success factors emerged from this study, one being a trained and skilled lead teacher and team, a second being the quality and format of the intensive coaching. The support of an expert facilitator/coach was also identified by principals as critical to the success of the sustainability of reciprocal teaching in a school.

A priority for further research and development of reciprocal teaching as a multipurpose inclusive strategy would include investigating longitudinal implementation in schools and kura, with a view to maximising the potential of reciprocal teaching more broadly and deeply across schools and all year levels, curriculum areas and key competencies.