Connecting Research and Practice
Judith R. Birsh
In the midst of many cultural treasures, reading is by far the finest gem.
—Stanislas Dehaene (2009)
To describe the importance of aligning the
science of reading with best practices for instruction
2.To outline the essential components of reading and elements of effective instruction
3.To explain scientifically based reading research and how it has informed the understanding of dyslexia
4.To summarize the reasons for delivering evidence-based reading instruction to all students
5.To interpret the relationship between teacher preparation and student achievement
Teachers rarely remember how they learned to read, unless they met with difficulty. Some remember they learned by looking at the words and the pictures and putting them together early in first grade. Yet, understanding the complex linguistic
tasks involved is crucial to their ability to succeed as exemplary teachers of literacy. To many, reading seems a natural act, whereas it is anything but natural. Listening and speaking are hardwired into the brain, but written language has to be acquired through instruction.
This book discusses Structured Literacy instruction, an approach grounded in scientific research for acquiring all literacy skills emphasizing direct, explicit, sequenced, systematic, cumulative, and intensive lessons, while incorporating multisensory instructional strategies. The dissemination of the relevant science of reading is a priority so that committed and motivated teachers receive appropriate information and training in this foundation in how reading works and how children learn (Seidenberg, 2017). New in this edition is a chapter focused on developing pre-kindergarten preparation for literacy; one on the importance of executive function, especially attention and memory, when planning lessons; and another on specific methods, techniques, and activities for the understanding of mathematical thinking and dyscalculia. The underlying premise of all the chapters is to promote the use of student data to drive and differentiate instruction based on specific techniques and activities to develop mastery.
The term multisensory strategies
means the use of direct instructional strategies involving visual, auditory, and tactile–kinesthetic sensory systems to learn
the phonological, morphemic, semantic, and syntactic layers of language along with the articulatory–motor aspects of language. Listening, speaking,
reading, and writing are directly involved while the student sees, hears, says, and writes during brief and varied lesson routines (Birsh, 2006).
of the details within words, sentences, and paragraphs evolves from exposure to expert
teachers who have the knowledge and skills to deliver top-notch instruction from elementary school through high school. To be ready for such high-level tasks, teachers need to undergo extensive preparation in the disciplines inherent in literacy: language development, phonology
and phonemic awareness,
alphabet knowledge, handwriting, decoding,
spelling, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension,
composition, testing and assessment,
lesson planning, behavior management, history of the English language, use of technology, and the needs of older struggling readers.
spotlight on literacy is intense due to several developments. One major concern is the movement toward data analysis and research to improve instruction. For example, following the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (PL 107-110)
legislation and the subsequent Reading First initiative were several changes that affected multiple aspects of education, including literacy. These included 1) response to intervention (RTI)
(Gersten et al. 2008) as a way of assessing risk of failure, benchmarking progress, and providing differentiated instruction
to struggling students, including those who struggle with literacy; 2) the
creation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: Preparing America’s Students for College and Career (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO] & National Governors Association Center for Best Practices [NGA Center], 2010); and the adoption of The International Dyslexia Association’s (IDA; 2018) Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading.
Using research-based information, each “movement” is an attempt to bring high-level content and best practices to schools to improve the delivery of equable instruction and to uphold high standards for administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Along with these efforts, organizations were formed to change states’
licensure for teaching reading and to influence how teachers are prepared in schools of education and through
professional development in alternative pathways models of effective instruction, with the help of coaching and mentoring to ensure consistent translation into good practice. Parents organized to improve understanding and ensure better provision of services. Appendix 1.2
lists organizations dedicated to these purposes.
Teachers who have a wide range of experience and a strong foundation of knowledge enhanced by scientifically based reading research from which to make judgments about what to teach, how to teach it, when to teach it, and to whom to teach it, increase the chances of a successful outcome when working with all students but especially with students at risk of failing to learn to read or with those who have already fallen behind (Aaron, Joshi, & Quatroche, 2008; McCardle, Chhabra, & Kapinus, 2008). When an individual struggles with written language, none of the myriad layers of language processing can be taken for granted. Differentiated instruction is language based—intensive, systematic, direct, and comprehensive. Each individual is different and brings unique cognitive and linguistic strengths and weaknesses to the task. Therefore, teachers who work at prevention, intervention, or remediation require a foundation based on scientific evidence and need to be informed about the complex nature of instruction in reading and related skills.
Since the early 1980s, a broad range of individuals have made major contributions to research on the component processes of learning to read, reading disabilities, language disabilities, and models of effective instruction. More research is needed, but teachers must work with what is already known.
This keen interest in the newly acknowledged science of reading (Kilpatrick, 2015; Seidenberg, 2017) has involved general and special educators, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists, geneticists, speech-language specialists, parents, and children with and without reading difficulties. Since the previous edition of this book, reading instruction is no longer based on opinion; rather, it is informed by science in an orderly progression of research data that shows what works. This book focuses on
scientifically based instruction in reading and related literacy skills. In this chapter, five major concerns from research are explored so that teachers have ways to think about and apply relevant theory and substantiated practices:
1.What is scientifically based reading research, and why is it important?
2.What has scientifically based reading research explained about the components of reading?
3.How has scientifically based reading research advanced understanding of dyslexia?
4.How can teachers deliver evidence-based reading instruction with fidelity of implementation so that students learn to read with accuracy, fluency, and comprehension?
5.How does scientifically based reading instruction correspond to the Common Core State Standards and other state standards in furthering reading proficiency and preparing students for college, career, and life?
DEFINITION AND IMPORTANCE OF SCIENTIFICALLY BASED RESEARCH
Scientifically based research, also referred to as evidence-based research, gathers evidence to answer questions and bring new knowledge to a field of study so that effective practices can be determined and implemented. Scientific research is a process.
A scientist develops a theory and uses it to formulate hypotheses. A study is designed to evaluate the hypotheses. The methods used in the study depend on the hypotheses, and these methods result in findings. The scientist then integrates what is found from this particular study into the body of knowledge that has accumulated around the research question. As such, scientific research is a cumulative process that builds on understandings derived from systematic evaluations of questions, models, and theories (Fletcher & Francis, 2004). Lyon and Chhabra (2004) underscored that good evidence is derived from a study that asks clear questions that can be answered empirically, selects and implements valid research methods, and accurately analyzes and interprets data.
Using randomized controlled trials
is a critical factor in establishing strong evidence for what works (causation) in experimental research.
This means that individuals in an intervention study are randomly assigned to experimental and
control groups. With randomized controlled trials, all variables are held constant (e.g., gender, age, demographics, skill levels) except the one variable that is hypothesized to cause a change. This allows the researcher to show a causal relationship between the intervention and the outcomes
; in other words, the intervention caused a change, thus establishing what does and does not work. Quasi-experimental research
attempts to determine cause and effect without strict randomized controlled trials and is valid but less reliable. The meta-analysis
done by the National
Reading Panel (NRP; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000) reviewed both experimental and quasi-experimental studies of instructional practices, procedures, and techniques in real classrooms. The NRP’s criteria closely followed accepted practices for evaluating research literature found in other scientific discipline...