What is the Science of Reading?
What criteria can be used, to ascertain if a program aligns with the Science of Reading Research?
Much of the scientific evidence is highly relevant has been examined in comprehensive government reviews of reading instruction, including those conducted in the United States (e.g., the National Reading Panel, 2000), the United Kingdom (e.g., the Rose Review; Rose, 2006), and Australia (e.g., the Department of Education, Science and Training, or DEST; Rowe, 2005).
What are the findings? ie what criteria could be used to ascertain if a program aligns with the Science of Reading, and can be added to the list of SoR Programs?
Important note: The extensive and important body of work on the complex needs of children with various kinds of learning difficulties is often beyond the scope of these inquiries. As with the Reading Wars research article below, the aim, rather, is to provide teachers with the scientific background they need to promote best practice in the classroom and so minimize the proportion of children who struggle with reading as a result of nonoptimal teaching, or “instructional casualties” (Lyon, 2005).
As concluded within the National Reading Panel, however, children at risk of reading failure especially require direct and systematic instruction in these skills, and that instruction should be provided as early as possible. Children in kindergarten and in the first grade respond well to instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics, provided the instruction is delivered in a vibrant, imaginative, and entertaining fashion. Children who experience early difficulty in reading respond well to phonics instruction through the late elementary school years.
What at the main elements of a quality SoR Program? The Six Core Skills.
The National Reading Panel found that certain instructional methods are better than others, and that many of the more effective methods are ready for implementation in the classroom. To become good readers, children must develop:
The ability to read words in text in an accurate and fluent manner
The ability to apply comprehension strategies consciously and deliberately as they read
The Panel found that many difficulties learning to read were caused by inadequate phonemic awareness and that systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness directly caused improvements in children's reading and spelling skills.
The evidence for these casual claims is so clear cut that the Panel concluded that systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness should be an important component of classroom reading instruction for children in preschool and beyond who have not been taught phoneme concepts or who have difficulties understanding that the words in oral language are composed of smaller speech sounds — sounds that will be linked to the letters of the alphabet. Importantly, the Panel found that even preschool children responded well to instruction in phonemic awareness when the instruction was presented in an age-appropriate and entertaining manner.
The Panel also concluded that the research literature provides solid evidence that phonics instruction produces significant benefits for children from kindergarten through 6th grade and for children having difficulty learning to read. The greatest improvements were seen from systematic phonics instruction. This type of phonics instruction consists of teaching a planned sequence of phonics elements, rather than highlighting elements as they happen to appear in a text.
The Panel noted that, because children vary in reading ability and vary in the skills they bring to the classroom, no single approach to teaching phonics could be used in all cases.
The take away: Make sure young children receive daily, explicit, systematic decoding instruction.
But don’t be fanatical about synthetic or analytic approaches.
Synthetic phonics can be a bit easier to catch onto, but its effectiveness can be undermined by blending problems (and some of the analytic approaches can help with that).
Analytic phonics is, in my experience — and perhaps in that small effect size difference — harder to learn, but it can avoid some of those blending problems and tends to be more consistent with what kids will need to learn about morphology.
Sometimes the right solution is “and” and it not “either/or.” Adopt a good phonics program, and make sure it works for your students — which might require that you add some synthetic or analytic instruction depending on how they are doing. Dr Timothy Shanahan
In a document entitled "Teaching Reading is Rocket Science," Louisa Moats (1999) articulated the complexities of carefully designed and implemented reading instruction. Teaching reading is far more complex than most realise. The demands of the phonologic, alphabetic, semantic, and syntactic systems of written language require a careful schedule and sequence of prioritised objectives, explicit strategies, and scaffolds that support students’ initial learning and transfer of knowledge and skills to other contexts. The requirements of curriculum construction and instructional design that effectively move children through the "learning to read" stage to the "reading to learn" stage are incredibly important, and schools should ensure that their students are receiving quality instruction in every classroom; the better the program addresses instructional priorities, the less teachers will need to supplement and modify instruction for the majority of learners.
Few programs have undergone the rigorous level of evaluation currently required to satisfy scientific standards of causal evidence (What Works Clearinghouse, 2002). Nonetheless, we know from research the critical skills and strategies that children must acquire in order to become successful readers by grade 3 (eg the National Reading Panel) and can therefore specify criteria that would be essential for teachers who are choosing a program.
Since the emergence of this body of 'science of reading research' a huge range of programs are finding their way into the marketplace; a generation of programs that holds great promise yet lacks evidence of efficacy. New programs often do not have adequate levels of evidence because large-scale, longitudinal evidence is costly and difficult to obtain, but do not simply discount them. If programs lack established program efficacy, evaluate the program carefully and thoroughly according to following elements described in this guide. A lack of program efficacy should not exclude a program from consideration, however it is essential that teachers conduct an analysis of the components of the program. It is also important that teachers themselves are making these decisions. They will want to know if the program has been tested in schools and classrooms with similar demographic and learner profiles as their school, and will be interested in whether it is likely to be enjoyable to teach and not just whether their students are likely to be engaged and interested, without needing to be extensively modified or enhanced.
It is also worth noting that, to a large degree, teacher learning takes place unconsciously and involves cognitive, emotional and motivational dimensions. Moreover, teacher learning takes place at various levels. Although these insights may be inconvenient truths to program developers and policy-makers, empirical evidence demonstrates that approaches building on the multi-level and multi-dimensional nature of teacher learning are effective at influencing teacher behaviour. (how well will they implement and use the program) Hence, in teacher learning, the connection with the person of the teacher is crucial.
So how well does the program, training, and ongoing support, facilitate a connection with the teacher?
Please visit the Six Core Skills pages to read more, and to review the program/s you are considering, but ALSO consider how well the program will meet the needs of the teacher implementing the program.
Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition from Novice to Expert
First Published June 11, 2018 Research Article Find in PubMed
There is intense public interest in questions surrounding how children learn to read and how they can best be taught. Research in psychological science has provided answers to many of these questions but, somewhat surprisingly, this research has been slow to make inroads into educational policy and practice. Instead, the field has been plagued by decades of “reading wars.” Even now, there remains a wide gap between the state of research knowledge about learning to read and the state of public understanding. The aim of this article is to fill this gap. We present a comprehensive tutorial review of the science of learning to read, spanning from children’s earliest alphabetic skills through to the fluent word recognition and skilled text comprehension characteristic of expert readers. We explain why phonics instruction is so central to learning in a writing system such as English. But we also move beyond phonics, reviewing research on what else children need to learn to become expert readers and considering how this might be translated into effective classroom practice. We call for an end to the reading wars and recommend an agenda for instruction and research in reading acquisition that is balanced, developmentally informed, and based on a deep understanding of how language and writing systems work.
The cognitive foundations of learning to read:
a framework for preventing and remediating reading difficulties
William E. Tunmer & Wesley A. Hoover
To cite this article: William E. Tunmer & Wesley A. Hoover (2019) The cognitive foundations of learning to read: a framework for preventing and remediating reading difficulties, Australian Journal
of Learning Difficulties, 24:1, 75-93, DOI: 10.1080/19404158.2019.1614081
To link to this article:
This article presents an overview of a conceptual framework designed to help reading professionals better understand what their students
are facing as they learn to read in alphabetic writing systems. The US National Reading Panel (NRP) recommended five instructional components for improving reading outcomes but presented these instructional components as a list without explicitly addressing their
interrelations, either in terms of instruction or cognitive development.
In contrast, the Cognitive Foundations Framework offers a description of the major cognitive capacities underlying learning to read and
specifies the relationships between them. The central claim of this article is that what is needed to help intervention specialists achieve
better outcomes is a clearly specified conceptual framework of the cognitive capacities underlying learning to read that provides the basis
for an assessment framework that is linked to evidence-based instructional strategies for addressing the individual literacy learning needs of
Specific (important) mention of programs.
Traditional phonics programs have been used to explicitly teach alphabetic coding skills to beginning readers. However, these programs generally suffer from two major shortcomings.
First, they tend to be strongly teacher-centered and have curricula that are rigid, fixed, and lock-step, with the same skill-and-drill lesson given to every child in the same sequence. Such an approach to teaching beginning reading conflicts with the basic principles of differentiated instruction because it fails to recognize that the individual literary
learning needs of children vary greatly depending on their specific levels of development across the set of reading component skills shown in Figure 1. Second, most phonics programs incorrectly assume that children can only acquire knowledge of letter-sound patterns through direct instruction in which the teaching of letter-sound correspondences
is explicit and systematic. The difficulty with this assumption, however, is that there are simply too many letter-sound relationships in English orthography for children to acquire by direct instruction, probably between 300 and 400 (Gough & Hillinger, 1980).
Much, if not most, of what children learning to read in English come to know about its written orthography is acquired through implicit learning, especially knowledge of context sensitive letter-sound correspondences that depend on position-specific constraints or the presence of other letters (Bryant, 2002; Tunmer & Nicholson, 2011; Venezky, 1999). In contrast, letter-sound correspondences acquired by direct phonics instruction are fewer in number and are largely context free, involving one-to-one correspondences between single letters or digraphs and single phonemes. As the reading attempts of beginning readers who have acquired basic alphabetic coding skills become more successful, the orthographic representations of more words become established in lexical memory from which additional
spelling-sound relationships can be induced without explicit instruction. As children continue to develop in reading, they begin making greater independent use of letter-sound information to identify novel printed words in text. Once this point is reached, the most effective way that children can achieve further progress in learning to read is through print exposure, as reading itself can provide practice opportunities for building fluency and for facilitating implicit learning of additional letter-sound patterns (Tunmer & Nicholson, 2011).
Although children must rely increasingly on induction to acquire the letter-sound relationships necessary for learning to read, explicit phonics instruction plays an important role in helping to “kick start” the process by which beginning readers acquire untaught letter-sound relationships through implicit learning. Phonics instruction is therefore best
thought of as a means to an end and not an end itself (Venezky, 1999).