Science of Reading (SoR) Driven Approaches to Teaching Reading
Reading is a remarkably complex activity involving most of our mental and neural capacities. As such it has been the focus of a massive amount of research by scientists from numerous disciplines who study human behavior and its brain bases. This interdisciplinary body of research constitutes what is sometimes called the science of reading (for reviews, see Castles, Rastle, & Nation, 2018; Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, & Seidenberg, 2001; Seidenberg, 2017; Snowling & Hulme, 2005). Many scientists who conduct this research have long believed that it could be used to improve educational practices and literacy outcomes (e.g., Adams, 1990; Stanovich & Stanovich,
2003). That would be valuable, given persistently low literacy levels in the United States and other countries, especially among groups for whom factors such as poverty create many additional obstacles (Reardon, 2013; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Previous efforts to connect this research and educational practice have failed for a variety of reasons
(Seidenberg, 2017). The lack of improvement in literacy outcomes over many years has led to new pressure to incorporate the science of reading in curricula, instructional practices, and teacher education (Gewertz, 2020; Hurford, 2020)
Also from 'Lost in Translation?'
Reading science does not come with educational prescriptions attached. Science is one kind of thing (empirical findings and explanatory theories), and educational practice is another (activities that promote learning in real-world settings). Connecting the two is the function of translational research. Given what is known about how reading works and students learn, what should be taught, when, and how? Which approaches are effective? For which students from which backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstances?
Much has been learned from studies that used scientific theories and methods to investigate components of effective reading instruction (e.g., Vellutino, Tunmer, Jaccard, & Chen, 2007), devise effective interventions (e.g., McGinty, Breit-Smith, Fan, Justice, & Kaderavek, 2011; Morris et al., 2012), and identify factors that predict reading outcomes (e.g., Y.-S. Kim, Petscher, Schatschneider, & Foorman, 2010).
Our concern is that although reading science is highly relevant to learning in the classroom setting, it does not yet speak to what to teach, when, how, and for whom at a level that is useful for teachers.
Phonics is a translational issue. There has been research relevant to developing effective phonics instruction,
demonstrating the advantage of direct instruction over indirect methods, for example (e.g., Foorman, Francis,
Fletcher, Schatschneider, & Mehta, 1998; Stuebing et al., 2008). However, the research literature does not provide
detailed guidance about which spelling–sound patterns to teach; how many to teach; whether patterns should be
taught in isolation, such as all the pronunciations of the vowel o or in disambiguating contexts (e.g., words such as
cot, cold, cost, doll, off); or other issues that have to be adjudicated for instruction to proceed. The market is filled
with phonics curricula that fill the translational gap but vary greatly in assumptions about what to teach, when, and
how, and thus are unlikely to be equally effective. Programs are motivated by science—students need to learn these
mappings, which requires instruction, ergo phonics—but research has not validated specific solutions. Yet, that is
what educators ask us: Which program does reading science say we should use?
In the absence of sufficient translational research, almost every reading curriculum can claim an equally
loose connection to the “science of reading.” The risk, of course, is that such programs will prove ineffective, not
because the basic science is wrong but because the translation was poor.
It might be thought that the science-to-practice translation would be achieved via the educational publishing
industry that produces curricula and other materials for teachers. Popular curricula (e.g., Reading Wonders: McGraw-
Hill Education, 2014; Journeys: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014; Units of Study in Phonics: Calkins, 2019; Fountas &
Pinnell Literacy Continuum: Fountas & Pinnell, 2016) were produced by teams of experts in education and science.
Determining how science can be incorporated in such materials is presumably one of the tasks of such teams.
Commercial curricula do not accomplish this because they are compromised by the need to appeal to a broad market
and to local authorities caught up in debates about best practices.
We can again illustrate using phonics. Skilled readers use their knowledge of the correspondences between print
and sound to generate the phonological codes for words in silent reading. What is this knowledge and how is it
acquired? Given the properties of written English, logic suggests that two types of information must be involved: rules to produce patterns such as save–pave–gave, which are also used in sounding out unfamiliar words (or, in research studies, pseudowords such as mave), and exception or sight words whose pronunciations violate the rules (e.g., have, said, bear) and must be memorized. For generations, dating back at least as far as the use of phonics methods in the early 19th century (Emans, 1968), this was the only account of how we manage to read words aloud. It is the core idea underlying the dual-route theory of reading (Coltheart, Davelaar, Jonasson, & Besner, 1977; Coltheart, Rastle, Perry, Langdon, & Ziegler, 2001). The instructional implications of the theory are straightforward: Teach students the rules (or enough to allow them to “break the code”; Gough & Hillinger, 1980) and help them memorize the exceptions. Although rules plus sight words remains the basis of phonics instruction, the approach is inadequate in several respects. What are the rules for pronouncing written English? No one knows. There are many ad hoc lists
of rules varying in number and coverage, and there is little evidence that readers employ specific rules, such as
those proposed by Coltheart et al. (2001) and Vousden, Ellefson, Solity, and Chater (2011). Beyond simple cases
such as the pronunciation of vowels in consonant-vowelconsonant syllables, it is not clear what the rules are or
even which words are rule governed. Is spook an exception because of book and look, or rule governed because
of spoon and spool (Seidenberg, 2017)? Worse, it is unclear how students master the rules given that only a subset of
them can be explicitly taught. Given these uncertainties, what should a teacher teach? The answer will depend on
which phonics curriculum is being used or which instructional materials are downloaded from the internet.
Source : Lost in Translation? Challenges in Connecting Reading Science and Educational Practice
Also recommended reading
How the Science of Reading Informs 21st-Century Education
The science of reading should be informed by an evolving evidence base built on the scientific method. Decades of basic research and randomized controlled trials of interventions and instructional routines have formed a substantial evidence base to guide best practices in reading instruction, reading intervention, and the early identification of at-risk readers. The recent resurfacing of questions about what constitutes the science of reading is leading to misinformation in the public space that may be viewed by educational stakeholders as merely differences of opinion among scientists. The authors’ goals in this article were to revisit the science of reading through an epistemological lens to clarify what constitutes evidence in the science of reading, and to offer a critical evaluation of the evidence provided by the science of reading. To this end, the authors summarize those things that they believe have compelling evidence, promising evidence, or a lack of compelling evidence. The authors conclude with a discussion of areas of focus that they believe will advance the science of reading to meet the needs of all students in the 21st century
How the Science of Reading Informs 21st-Century Education
Publishers were recently invited to submit completed self-assessments of their systematic phonics programmes. The self-assessment criteria focus on what is deemed to be ‘high-quality provision’, as defined in the Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading chaired by Jim Rose. The programmes whose self-assessments were judged to be accurate by small panels of independent evaluators have been subsequently listed on a central government website.
Research results and teaching practice indicate that the best instruction is explicit, systematic, sequential, active, and engaging. Effective teaching emphasizes discovery and understanding and is aided by frequent opportunities to practice spelling, writing, and reading skills in meaningful contexts.
Teachers must be given a foundation of the theoretical and scientific underpinnings for understanding literacy development. Teachers must understand the content of instruction, the linguistic units of speech and print, and be able to apply the content to designing teaching activities and giving students corrective feedback.
Therefore, teachers must be taught the structure of the English writing system and its relationship to sounds and meaning. They must learn the English speech sound system, including how speech sounds are produced. They must have a knowledge of semantic patterns (or morphemic patterns) such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots, as well as knowledge of grammatical and text structures.
Teachers need supervised experience with one-on-one instruction and with larger groups. They should have experience with learners who are diverse in age and level of proficiency, and opportunities to observe peer models at work. Teachers must practice translating the knowledge of how children learn to read into relevant activities. They need opportunities to team teach, to consult with a mentor, and to participate in dialogues with fellow professionals.