Reading Instruction Research Findings – Things May Not Be as They Seem

by | Dec 29, 2017 | Literacy Instruction, School Improvement, Students At Risk

Around every corner is someone professing to have the answer to reading instruction. There are systems, programs, well-known books, videos, step by step research, core comprehensive reading program experts…all sorts of instructional strategies and delivery methods.  How can you sort through it all, filter out the inaccurate, flawed or biased teachings? No program is perfect, nor is any specific program the best for all schools within a district. In many cases, an individualized teaching plan combining multiple programs is the best solution.

However, in order to assess the right choice for you and your students, first you must know what scientifically defines a good reading program. Every core reading program should always include these essential components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Those are just the foundational concepts, but if fully incorporated, qualify the program as “scientifically-based reading research” (SBRR) programs.­­­

A good reading program, well implemented, teaches each of the five components thoroughly, explicitly, and with planned connections to the others.
By Louisa Moats

Research Faults Happen

Here is where some have experienced issues. Just because a reading program incorporates those five pillars, doesn’t mean they truly teach the material. They may still be incorporating their own teachings or philosophy, which has been proven ineffective. Some core reading programs have significant shortcomings including failure to teach phonics, using a non-systematic approach, and having an “overly personalized, non-directive approach to reading comprehension.”

Rather than fight the five components, trendy reading gurus have placed them under the banner of “balanced instruction” and some students never learn to read at fluent and advanced levels with these approaches.  Some of these approaches focus on exposure and not mastery.
By Louisa Moats

Another method with high rates of failure is tutoring for at risk readers.  Students identified at risk for reading failure are sometimes sent to a tutor for small group instruction. There are several very high-profile tutorial approaches and statistics have shown that many students perform so poorly that they cannot maintain the required level to stay in these programs.

SBRR – The General Rule to Reading

The general rule is that SBRR programs, if available, are the most effective. However, even where available, many schools choose not to use them. Why, you might ask? These programs require aggressive practices for reading, writing and language education. Meaning…it takes work, dedication, investments, time and more hard work!

So, what next, what else can supplement current programs? There is plenty of research to be done on what the National Reading Panel recommends. There also needs to be a pool of knowledgeable teachers, mentors and coaches, as well as administrators willing to take a hard stand. Then, the right diagnostic assessments would have to be performed. This would be followed by analyzing the results and applying the knowledge by implementing the appropriate instructional strategies and reading programs. Programs that get results.

There are many options, many variations of available theories, instructional strategies and programs that have a proven track record to ensure that we don’t waste time with approaches that may not work for your students. Choosing the best or optimal program should be done with careful intention, after much research. If you would like some guidance or to simply ask a quick question about scientific research validated reading programs, instructional strategies or practices for your students, I’d be honoured to help! Send me a message or visit my website