Back in 2012, did a dyslexia assessment on a young man who I shall call John. John was in his second year of sixth form and applying to university to study history. John’s exam grades the previous year were below his predicted ones. As a result of the assessment, John had extra time in his module exams (and subsequenctly went to university!).
John’s reading profile is interesting. He came out above average for word recognition and comprehension (using WIAT-II-UK-T) but his reading speed of 127 words per minute (wpm) is below average for his age. His scores in CTOPP were all average, as was his reading of non-words (TOWRE-2). I concluded that he did not have any significant problems with phonological processing, though he did show some signs of challenge with focus and attention (his speed of writing was also adversely affected by having to think abut what to write, rather than because of any difficulty with manual dexterity).
What was also notable was that John invariably chose to read aloud (to the annoyance of some of his classmates). I was intrigued about why he had got into this habit and volunteered a few hours of support during half term to look into this more.
Between the feedback on the assessment and our support session, John actually decided to go for reading silently and was happy with the result! Issue sorted? Maybe yes, maybe no. I carried on.
I decided to use an experimental method with a pre-test, post-test format, even with just 3 hours of intervention between. Using passages deemed to be A level standard (one from Klein 2003 and one of my own devising, measured to be of similar readability), John read at 153 wpm – already an improvement from reading silently – but his comprehension and recall was limited (I predicted this might be a spin off of not getting the auditory feedback loop to hold attention).
In the post-test, three hours later John achieved a reading speed of 182 wpm,and his recall covered a wider range of the passage… so what did I do in between? What would you have done? Press “read more” after you have had a think!
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Back in 2011, at a meeting of Dyslexia Positive we discussed the pros and cons of assessing readers when they read silently and when they read aloud. Clearly these are two different processes. The former may be the preferred mode of reading for competent readers, but not always for readers with dyslexia who may like an auditory feedback loop. Reading aloud requires an additional skill in articulation on top of the regular reading skill.
The assessment issue comes when you want to measure reading speed and reading comprehension. Reading silently will almost certainly (though not invariably) be faster than reading aloud. Reading comprehension depends on so much else, but the extra burden on working memory when articulating words to read aloud may skew the score.
Those of us who use the WRAT 4 sentence comprehension sub-test (with all of its flaws) to get a standardised score for reading comprehension will have observed some candidates reading silently and others aloud, with some readers using a mixed strategy. What bearing does this have on the score and its validity?
In an ideal world we would want to assess the reader with equivalent texts both silently and aloud and make a close comparison between the findings for the two. Even better would be throw in a third passage to test listening comprehension and try to build up a full profile of the differences in performance. Against this is the very real threat of test fatigue.
Jocelyn from Dyslexia Positive observed that some readers think they have to read silently, because they have been taught that is the best way, even though they might not want to and it might not suit them.Yvonne liked getting the people she assessed to read silently, if they can, as it tells her about their potential for effective study. Melanie used the Adult Reading Test (ART) for assessment, trying to get a sample of reading aloud and reading silently, but is really concerned about over-testing (the ART is particularly exhaustive and exhausting!). Clearly you can’t do miscue analysis unless you hear the learner read aloud…
All of this argues for a more extended period of assessment and observation, so as to build up an extensive profile of reading ability, without the dangers of test stress. With reading, it may be important for each learner to develop different strategies depending whether they want to speed read silently, read and recite (to their children or to hear a particular effect, say when appreciating poetry) or any other purpose.
This debate on assessment practice for reading is still relevant, although in 2017 there is more pressure to cram even more assessment tests into a diagnosis, and to explore co-occurring conditions as well as dyslexia. Something has to give!Leave a comment or ask a question »