Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Nicola McClung

Second Advisor

Patricia Busk

Third Advisor

Helen Maniates


Struggling readers, or students who read below grade level but have strong phonological awareness, may benefit from using instructional tools like graphic organizers (GOs) while reading. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between reading comprehension and teacher-generated graphic organizers (GOs) as they support executive function for struggling readers. The use of GOs to support reading comprehension was grounded in cognitive load theory as it combines with the construction-integration model of reading to highlight the importance and potential weakness of executive function. Although researchers have identified component parts of reading comprehension and different instructional tools for supporting working memory and reading comprehension, research has not looked for the potential support relationship between executive function and instructional tools like GOs. The study investigated to what extent do teacher-generated graphic organizers improve reading comprehension for underachieving readers and to what extent do graphic organizers influence reading comprehension when controlling for executive function (EF; student and parent ratings of executive function, working memory, and inhibition)?

In a between and within groups design, 21 ninth grade students assigned to two sections of a remedial English class (Class A n = 11, Class B n = 10) participated in a 3-week short-story unit. The dependent variable was reading-comprehension quiz score. Findings show that independent-samples t tests compared the reading-comprehension quiz scores for each quiz by treatment (GO or no GO) and found there was no statistically significant difference between classes. In addition, a partial correlation was used to correlate the use of teacher-generated GOs and reading comprehension when controlling for executive-function composite (student and parent ratings of executive function, working memory, and inhibition). Correlations did not show any statistical significance. This study combined research that is typically conducted in the lab in one-on-one testing (i.e., neuropsychological testing) and classroom testing (i.e., reading comprehension) to highlight the importance of both the individual student challenge and teacher instructional tools. Future studies may focus on increasing sample size to improve statistical power to detect statistical significance, investigating the influence of educator engagement with teacher-generated GOs, and which visual components are most useful when included in a GO.