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Reading of a Research Article

Part I:

Complete the following information and questions as you read the Research Article.

Title of Article

Efficacy of Structured Literacy instruction


Is the article considered recent?

__X_Yes (2017)

______ No

Topic of study

Effectiveness of Structured Literacy Instruction

Authors of Study

Who wrote conclusions based on study (studies)?

· McCandliss

Subjects in Study

Who are the participants in the study? Age? Grade level?

Type of Readers in Study

Below grade level?

On grade level?

Above grade level?


What is the study trying to prove or document?

· The effectiveness of Structured Literacy

Summary of Findings

Is the hytpothesis proven or supported by the research?

If not, what are the findings?



Can this research inform your teaching practice?

If so how? If not, why not?

Part II:

Answer the question based on the reading of the research article.

What evidence from neuroscience supports the idea that students who learn reading strategies focusing on grapheme-phoneme associations are more likely to become successful readers than students who focus on memorizing whole words?

Research Article #1

Efficacy of Structured Literacy Instruction

Methods for teaching reading in an alphabetic language, beginning with the methods used by teachers in ancient Greece, have traditionally included direct teaching of the links between speech sounds and symbols and symbols and speech sounds (graphemes and phonemes) (Matthews, 1966). Prior to 2000, several comprehensive reviews concluded that direct, systematic teaching of phonics for beginning and remedial readers, along with practice in text reading and direct instruction in various comprehension skills, were necessary components of effective instruction if all students were to become successful readers (Adams, 1990; Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985; Chall, 1967, 1983). The studies reflected a variety of research methodologies., including small, well-controlled laboratory experiments and large-scale, multiple classroom research. All of these comprehensive evaluations of research in reading instructional methods concluded that is necessary for elementary reading instruction.

In 2000, the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) reported that meta-analysis of research experiments, undertaken between 1970 and 2000, that studied the following components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, teacher education, and technology. Although results of the NRP study indicated that systematic phonics instruction produced better growth in reading than all types of nonsystematic or nonphonics instruction, the NRP report indicated no significant difference in results between different methods of systematic phonics instruction (Brady et al, 2011).

In a review of post-2000 studies exploring the effects of various types of phonics instruction, Brady and colleagues (2011) found that developments in research had confirmed and extended the findings of the NRP. The sizeable body of research conducted in the intervening decade indicated that how phonics is taught matters. Brady and colleagues stated that these “findings build a case for the benefits of teaching phonics systematically and explicitly, with advantages evident for complete analysis of the grapheme-phoneme composition of one-syllable words” (Brady et al, 2011, p.80). Furthermore, these advantages were found “beyond the beginning of first grade and not just for struggling readers” (Brady et al, 2011, p. 80). In the research that has accrued, normally achieving students, students at risk, and readers with severe disabilities all have been shown to benefit from systematic, explicit instruction, with variations in the intensity required (e.g., variations in sessions per week, minutes per session, or sized of instructional group). Brady and colleagues (2011) also emphasized the positive effects of classroom instruction that integrates phonics with other aspects of language structure (e.g., morphology, syntax) and language arts activities.

Galuschka, Ise, Krick, and Schulte-Korne (2014), conducted a meta-analysis, involving 22 randomized controlled trials with 49 comparisons of experimental word-reading and spelling performance of elementary school students and adolescents. Their research showed that phonics

instruction is not only the intervention most frequently investigated, but also the only approach (in the 2014 meat-analysis) with a statistically significant impact on reading and spelling operformance in children and adolescents with reading disabilities. Adding strength to their findings, Galuschka and colleagues noted the consistency of their results with those reported in previous meta-analysis (Ehri, Stahl, & Willows, 2000; McArthur et al, 2012). They concluded,

At the current state of knowledge, it is adequate to conclude that the systematic instruction of letter-sound correspondences and decoding strategies, and the application of these skills in reading and writing activities, is the most effective method for improving literacy skills of children and adolescents with reading disabilities (2014, p.8, only version).

In conclusion, the consensus of educational researchers is that systematic phonics approaches with a focus on grapheme-phoneme associations generally result in better reading skills (i.e., word identification, passage comprehension, and spelling) than instruction that does not teach phonics at all or instruction that does not teach phonics systematically. The effects are even more positive when systematic phonics approaches are integrated with instruction focused on either systems of language structure (e.g., phonology, morphology). These results were found when studying children who do not struggle with learning to read and children who do struggle – as well as children learning to read in languages with either opaque (Ehri, et al, 2001) or more transparent (deGraaff, Boseman, Hasselman, & Verhoeven, 2009) orthographies. An orthography is a set of conventions for writing a language, including spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, and punctuation. A transparent, or shallow, orthography has a one-to-one relationship between its graphemes and phonemes, so both word identification and spelling of words are very consistent. In contrast, an opaque, or deep, orthography is one that has a more complex system of phoneme-grapheme and phoneme-grapheme correspondences. There are multiple pronunciations (phonemes) associated with a single grapheme (e.g., oo is pronounced differently in moon, book, and blood); likewise, there are multiple spellings (graphemes) that represent a single phoneme (e.g., ai, ay, a_e, and a are all common spellings or graphemes, that represent /a/). English is one of the most opaque languages.

Evidence From Neuroscience

Studies of neuroscience also support the efficacy of using Structured Literacy approaches to teach reading. Results of meta-analyses of behavioral cognitive psychology studies indicated that strategies focusing on sublexical units (e.g., grapheme-phoneme associations) yield reading acquisition outcomes superior to approaches that promote memorization of whole words (Rayner et al, 2001; Taylor, Davis, & Rastle, 2017; Yoncheva, Wise, & McCandliss, 2015). Despite strong consensus across the reading research community that instruction focusing on grapheme-phoneme relationships is essential for learning to read alphabetic languages, reading instruction continues to vary across and within English- speaking countries, as Taylor and colleagues described, “from intensive phonic training to multicuing environments that teach sound-and meaning bases strategies” (2017, p.22).

Taylor and colleagues investigated what they describe as the “behavioral and neutral consequences of different methods of reading instruction for learning to read single words in

alphabetic writing systems” (2017, p. 22) with known oral vocabulary; they were taught to read novel words over a period of 8 days. Trainings in one language was biased toward print-to-sound mappings, whereas training in the other language was biased toward print- to- meaning mappings. Results of the study demonstrated that use of systematic print-sound instruction produced marked advantages in accuracy and rate of oral reading, generalization (application) of learned print-sound associations to accurate and faster reading of untrained words, and more accurate comprehension of single vocabulary words earlier in the training cycle. Taylor and colleagues noted,

These data therefore imply that learning focusing on arbitrary associations between print and meaning may not promote use of direct print-to-meaning associations, and instead hinders use of print-to-sound relationships… Alongside broader oral language teaching, this means embracing phonics-based methods of reading instruction, and rejecting mutlicuing or balanced literacy approaches which, our results suggest, may hinder the discovery of spelling-sound relationships essential for reading aloud and comprehension. (2017, p.22)

Wong (2015) reported in the Stanford News Service about a study by Yoncheva, Wise, and McCandliss (2015). Results of the investigation confirmed that instruction designed to explicitly teach students to focus on grapheme-phoneme associations during learning to read unfamiliar words “can impact the circuitry subsequently recruited during reading” (Yoncheva et al, 2015, p 23). Wong wrote that words learned through explicit grapheme-phoneme instruction “elicited neutral activity biased toward the left side of the brain” (2015, p. 30) – primary regions for visual and language processes. Wong also reported, “In contrast, words learned via whole-world association showed activity biased toward right hemisphere processing” (2015, p.30). Dominant left-hemisphere activity during acquisition of early word recognition skills is a hallmark of skilled readers and is frequently absent in those who struggle with learning to read (Yoncheva et al, 2015). This 2015 study by Yoncheva and colleagues trained literate adults to read scripts made up of words written in “glyph” (i.e., an artificial orthography). In one condition, learners linked letters to corresponding sounds, and in another condition entire words has to be memorized. After training, event-related potential (ERP) responses were recorded as subjects from both conditions read the words – both the words they had been “taught” and the words that were decodable but had not been “taught”. An ERP is the measured brain response that is the direct result of a specific sensory, cognitive, or motor event. Reported reaction-time patterns suggested that both trained and transfer words were accessed via sublexical units, yet a left-lateralized, late ERP response showed an enhanced left lateralization for transfer words relative to trained words, potentially reflecting effortful decoding. These findings collectively show that selective attention to grapheme-phoneme associations during learning drives the “lateralization of circuitry” (Yoncheva et al, p. 23) that supports later word recognition. In other words, brain responses to the newly learned words, and the transfer words, were influenced by how subjects learned the words – based on how the words had been taught to them.

McCandliss explained the implications of this study and emphasized how brain functioning can be affected by the instructional choices a teacher makes (as cited in Wong, 2015).

The results underscore the idea that the way a learner focuses their attention during learning has a profound impact on what is learned. It also highlights the importance of skilled teachers in helping children focus their attention on precisely the most useful information. (Wong, 2015, p. 30)

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