Season 8, Episode 10

Comprehension is an outcome, with Sharon Vaughn

Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D., is an award-winning researcher and author who has advised on literacy across 30 states and 10 countries. In this episode, she joins Susan Lambert to dig into how we can build rather than just teach reading comprehension, and what it means for comprehension to be a learning outcome rather than a skill. She and Susan also touch on how to ask the right comprehension questions, how to ensure coherency in teaching background knowledge, and where it’s easy to go wrong—with knowledge building and with the Science of Reading as a whole. Listeners will walk away with a deeper understanding of which skills lead to comprehension and how to avoid strategy overload.

Meet our guest(s):

Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D.

Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D., is the Manuel J. Justiz Endowed Chair in Education at the University of Texas at Austin and Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (an organized research unit she founded with a Make-A-Wish gift from the Meadows Foundation). She is the principal investigator on multiple Institute for Education Sciences, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, and U.S. Department of Education research grants investigating effective interventions for students with reading difficulties and students who are multilingual/English learners. She has been the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Learning Disabilities and co-editor of Learning Disabilities Research and Practice. She’s won numerous awards, including the Distinguished Faculty and Research Award at the University of Texas (which she was the first woman to receive), and has authored more than 40 books and 350 research articles. She has also worked with over 30 state education departments and with educators in more than 10 countries.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Lambert is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Lambert explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Lambert is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“Comprehension is an outcome, and it's based on being able to read words accurately, know what they mean, have adequate background knowledge, and also [be] able to make inferences.” —Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D.
“I've seen things go awry. Good things get interpreted incorrectly. The Science of Reading has that potential…where people could take that and sort of start creating their own meaning about what it means and start downloading that in districts and schools in ways that are counterproductive.” —Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D.
“If you look at the early studies from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, they really were the building blocks for phonemic awareness and phonics and the way in which we have identified the foundation skills as being essential. We act like the Science of Reading is something new, and we've been building this for decades.” —Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D.