Back in 2012, I was doing a lot of dyslexia assessments and thought I would share some reflections about reading comprehension. I used WRAT 4 for word recognition and sentence level comprehension, TOWRE2 to get insight into processing visual and auditory patterns at speed and miscue analysis when I wanted something a little more in depth.
I set a “brain teaser” to stimulate discussion about problem solving reading assessment results:
“Mary” came out in the average range for word recognition and comprehension from WRAT. Her score for nonsense words was also just average on the TOWRE (see an earlier post for my views on non-word tests), though her lower score for real words at speed brought her overall word reading efficiency down below average. She read extended text at 142 words per minute and with 98% accuracy, so miscue analysis was not possible, there being so few errors.
The big surprise came when she could only recall 40% of the detail of what she had read. Even more intriguingly, this score did not improve when I read her an equivalent level passage for listening comprehension.
I might have gone along with Kate Cain and said she had a specific problem with comprehension, but on reflection I thought….
Well why don’t I let you think about it and comment back… ? I posted some discussion points and revealed my analysis, but you might want to think about this too, so only “read more” when you have had a think!
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What can the WRIT vocabulary subtest tell us about reading ability?
by Alison Earey
The Vocabulary subtest depends upon the participants’ understanding and production of oral language. Therefore, the Vocabulary subtest is inappropriate for individuals unfamiliar with English.
Vocabulary tests are among the best predictors and commonly demonstrate the highest correlation with total IQ at any subtest within a given ability battery (WRIT manual, p60).
STEC Guidelines (SASC 2005) tell us that WRIT is a measure of underlying ability.
So,the question re-phrased is – What does being able to define words orally tell us about reading ability?
The Vocabulary subtest tells us whether a person knows what word means or not. It doesn’t tell us whether they have learned the word from reading or from conversation. Continue reading this article… »
CREVT-3 Comprehensive Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test, Third Edition
What do you think this test measures? If there were a U.K. version would you use it?
notes by Sue Partridge
What it measures:
- Receptive vocabulary
- Expressive vocabulary
- But only for spoken language, not necessarily for reading
- Receptive = matching a spoken word to a picture (multiple choice). It is like naming as in rapid naming tests.
- Expressive = being able to give a meaning of a word and talk about that meaning in some detail. So, this is like the WRIT Vocabulary subtest.
- A general vocabulary index is calculated by combining the two sub scores
- It compares scores for ages 5 – 89, so giving a standardised score, based on an overall sample of 1535 subjects, USA, 2011.
This was the first question… does anyone have anything to add? Please leave a comment.
What is the difference between receptive vocabulary and expressive vocabulary?
Discuss this in relation to both speaking & listening and reading & writing.
by Julie Baister
In terms of definitions, Receptive language skills are the ability to understand information. This involves understanding words, sentences and the meaning of what others say or what is read.
Expressive language skills are the ability to put thoughts into words and sentences, in a way that makes sense and is grammatically accurate.
At the vocabulary level, Receptive Vocabulary refers to all the words that can be understood by a person, including spoken, written, or even manually signed words.
In contrast, Expressive Vocabulary refers to the words that a person can express or produce, for example, by speaking or writing them in a grammatically acceptable manner. Continue reading this article… »
There were some really big names at the BDA conference in 2016, many of them world experts on reading (though still no one who talks specifically about adults). Here are a few highlights, one “so-what” and one lowlight for me:
- In a recent study, Susan Gathercole had been looking at underlying factors that might explain difficulties with reading, vocabulary and maths, concentrating on executive function, working memory and inattention. Perhaps surprisingly she found that poor working memory is not a good predictor of reading difficulty. However, good working memory may be a protective factor for problems with reading and maths.
- Karin Landerl, researching German speaking children was surprised to find a link between problems with reading and maths but not between reading and spelling. She was still not sure of the reason for this. Relevant to my work with adults, a longitudinal study showed that reading difficulties are persistent through childhood, despite support. Even more reason for us to find new approaches for adults!
- Tom Nicholson was speaking to the converted in urging us to combine phonics with real reading. He did however drop in a controversial point. Phonological awareness may be a consequence of reading acquisition, rather than a requirement for reading. His keynote address gave a historical overview about the impact on phonological awareness training on success in acquiring reading skills, with little input from more recent studies. He comes from the point of view of “liking phonics and enjoying giving phonics instruction.” However, in his last but one slide he cited research from Castles and Coltheart (2004), Ehri (1998), Johnston and Watson (2005) to say that this could be an issue of chicken and egg. Maybe we see good phonemic awareness in successful readers, not because they have been specifically trained in this, but because the process of learning to read itself gives a degree of phonemic awareness. He reminded us of studies denying the effect of phonemic awareness training, though these are well outweighed by the studies that show a positive effect. Finally, he made the remark (without a formal reference) that phonemic awareness training should be combined with reading of text to help improve letter-sound awareness.
- Don Compton has investigated more about comprehension and found a positive link between reading/listening comprehension and prior knowledge. Is this surprising?
- A new version of the Adult Reading Test (ART) was due out soon, with improvements. Rob Fidler pleased me by mentioning not just their extensive validation data, but also case study findings that highlight the strength of a diagnostic problem solving approach to reading support, using qualitative observations from testing.
- I have to confess to having been very excited at the prospect of hearing Elena Grigorenko speak for the first time (having heard her co-author on the Dyslexia Debate, Joe Elliott previously). I was less excited at the prospect of Maggie Snowling, as I have heard her many times and been disappointed in her narrow stance on reading and dyslexia. At the BDA international conference in March 2016, however, I was proved wrong. Grigorenko was boring and uninspiring, spending far too long on the historical context and then whizzing through some rather difficult information from her latest research about mapping the phenotype of reading difficulty to specific points in the genome. We were told of exciting news coming out in a journal soon… (too hush, hush for her to share it)
- By contrast, Maggie Snowling brought well-reasoned insights into her now more balanced view of dyslexia, as broader phenotype that includes underlying language difficulties and possible co-occurring difficulties in motor and executive function (including attention and concentration). Her account of longitudinal studies (so far from age 3.5 to age 9) was fascinating. I do hope she and her group carry on to see those children into early adulthood!.
Supporting parents to support their children’s learning
It is well documented that an increasing emphasis on synthetic phonics in schools will cause problems for children learning to read (Davis 2013). Reading is not only a process of identifying and blending the sounds of letters to make a word, it is about, gathering the meaning imparted by the text and learning to enjoy reading. Experienced primary school teachers have a number of teaching strategies which enable them to teach a wide range of learners to read. However, the former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has been determined that all children in England, whatever their regional accent, or learning style, should learn to read by using synthetic phonics. As yet there have been no indications that the current Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, will change this policy.
Teachers recognise that a single, synthetic phonics approach to reading may benefit learners whose learning strengths match this teaching method; children with good auditory processing and good listening skills; children with a sequential, step by step, ‘bottom up’ approach to learning. Other children may be slower to learn by a method which does not directly match their learning style, but they may learn to adapt. Children who have strong visual skills and a holistic learning style, well suited to a ‘big picture’, ‘top down’ approach to learning will struggle and may fail to learn if this method is the only one offered. Will children, who fall into the latter category, be labelled as a child with a specific learning difficulty, possibly dyslexia, rather than one with a specific learning difference? If they are then offered additional support, will it be more of the same, as if they were a slow learner or will other learning methods be offered? It is widely recognised (British Dyslexia Association) that 10% of the population is dyslexic. Will reliance on Synthetic Phonics to teach reading cause this figure to be reviewed upwards or downwards?
While working at a FE college in the Midlands, the author of this article developed an accredited programme entitled Family Dyslexia, which ran at a local FE college, 3 times a year for over 12 years. The course was aimed at parents with children aged 7 to 10. The children did not require a diagnostic assessment to attend but many had been experiencing a pattern of strengths and weaknesses associated with dyslexia. During that time, almost 400 families attended the course, many recruited by recommendation.
When parents were asked what they gained from the Family Dyslexia course, they listed a range of benefits:
• Knowledge of their child’s learning style and strategies which enabled them to help their child to improve memory, reading, spelling, writing and mathematical skills.
• A greater knowledge of assistive technology and how it may help with tasks their child found difficult
• Many felt that this knowledge enabled them to communicate more effectively with their child’s school and teacher.
• A better understanding of different ways of learning improved relationships both with their child and the school.
• A greater sense of optimism about their child’s educational future.
• Their child was meeting other children who had similar educational experiences.
• Meeting other parents whose children had similar educational experiences.
As a result of the course, parents formed local BDA (British Dyslexia Association) groups, worked as volunteers in the classroom and on the Family Dyslexia course; some trained to be classroom assistants.
More recently, the author has been approached to provide 1:1 out of school coaching for children. This presents a dilemma. Children, who are finding it difficult to gain some skills in school, often work harder than their peers during the school day. Is one hour’s weekly support by a specialist teacher offered to a tired child the ideal solution?
Recognising the benefits of family learning, the author has developed a model built on the past success of the Family Dyslexia course.
• Initial meeting with the parent to identify the child’s learning strengths and weaknesses.
• Analysis of child’s work, provided by the parent, to gain further information.
• Discussion with parent, to help them understand why their child may be experiencing difficulties in specific areas.
• An individual programme is devised that will complement school work and allow the child to use their learning strengths to overcome previous difficulties.
• The child, parent and tutor begin with an individual spelling programme. This allows:
o The child to have fun while learning to spell
o the tutor to quickly confirm learning styles
o The child to have immediate success
o The parent to learn how to help their child at home, in short ten minute sessions, when the child is most receptive.
• E mail is used to communicate with the parent, to check on the success of the strategy and support them to help their child. If necessary, strategies can be adapted or changed to meet individual needs.
• Further meetings are arranged to introduce strategies to help with other topics, which may include:
o Finding the most appropriate method for putting words on paper
o Writing – analysing the subject, planning, writing and editing
o Reading and comprehension – approach to complement school approach and link to child’s learning strengths
o Developing an enjoyment of reading
o Mathematics – finding alternative ways of working
o Exploration of assistive technology, which may help with specific tasks
• Regular support is available for parents as they develop the skills to help their child.
• The tutor is quite happy to meet with representatives from the child’s school to discuss any methods used.
Parents from Family Dyslexia reported that being included in their child’s learning journey, improved their relationship with their child and their child’s school and reduced tensions in the household.
As a result of this feedback, the author firmly believes that this model is empowering for the family and offers a route to long term success as a learning family.
Jocelyn Gronow MA ADDS SpLD (Patoss) FIfL QTLS
Davis, A. (2013) ‘To read or not to read: decoding Synthetic Phonics’ Journal of Philosophy of Education No.20, pp 1-38.
British Dyslexia Association. not dated. An Overview of Dyslexia. bdadyslexia.org.uk (accessed 07 07 2014)
Elliott, J.G. and Grigorenko, E.L (2014) The Dyslexia Debate, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
I have just finished reading this book, which, it is fair to say, has caused and possibly courted some controversy in the media as well as in academic circles and among practitioners. Even before it was published, there were two excellent commentaries on it by academics who had clearly obtained advance copies:
Dorothy Bishop of St John’s College Oxford
Anne Castles, Kevin Whedall and Mandy Nayton from universities in Australia
They are both well-reasoned arguments for why we should read the book and respect its evidence base, though not necessarily agree with its ultimate conclusion that the term dyslexia should no longer be used.
Here are my thoughts.
- The first thing to say about this book is that it provides a really comprehensive review of the literature, both historical accounts and up to the minute research in this field. I haven’t ever seen such an extensive list of references in a book that is targetted at a lay audience as well as academics. It will form an excellent resource. I wish I had had such a good list of sources when I was completing my doctorate!
- It also has a useful reminder of how the notion of dyslexia as a discrepancy between high IQ and reading ability is “largely discredited.” (p 69) This cannot be said often enough, both on ethical grounds, and also for practical reasons, as “the use of the IQ test as a proxy for cognitive potential is itself highly contested. ” (p 101) Intelligence tests are such blunt instruments for coming to any diagnostic conclusions.
- The authors use this point to bolster their argument for abandoning the term dyslexia, since some individuals and their parents seek to claim dyslexia, if linked to high IQ, erroneously, as a way of showing they or their children are not just slow at learning. However, in my mind, this is stretching the logic. If people have false beliefs about the nature of dyslexia, then put them right! No need to discard the term, just because peole use it incorrectly.
- This book gives a really thorough account of the different theories of the aetiology for dyslexia. In particular, it is refreshing that the authors note that “phonological awareness appears to be rather less important for older poorer readers than it is for children… ” (p 196). This is certainly something that I have said all along from my experience and research with adults.
- There is a great discussion about the relationship of working memory to reading (pp 233 – 239), and in particular some insights into the role of phonological memory as opposed to phonological awareness. Elliott and Grigorenko draw on the research of Wagner, one of co-authors of the CTOPP and TOWRE tests we use, which actually casts doubt on the influence of phonological memory on word recognition, except when dealing with multisyllabic words. They also question ” the value of digit span tasks as the particular tasks may not generalise well to tasks such as reading” (p 234). I have always said that the three composite scores and their subtests in CTOPP measure different things and can give rise to really discrepant scores in adults.
- On a more general level, Elliott and Grigorenko make the useful point that there are vast differences in the research literature in the way dyslexia is assessed, and the cut-off points (in terms of standard deviations below the norm) that are chosen to define subjects who are dyslexic. This makes it very difficult to generalise from research findings.
- They also point out how difficult it is to compare the different intervention tools used and their effect sizes in the research literature, for a similar reason; we are not comparing like with like.
- The concluding chapter of this book is convincing in many aspects… why stop to worry about whether it is dyslexia or not if you could spend your time more efficiently as an assessor and/or practitioner in making recommendations for more effective support. The authors remind us of the need to go beyond just word reading when assessing an individual’s reading ability, yet they seem wary of profiling as a strategy for assessment of need and appear particularly resistant to the notion that dyslexia can confer strengths.
- So finally their overall message…they seem to say that the term dyslexia is not useful because no one can agree what it is. They want it to be somthing to do with a reading disorder and are resistent to the idea that it could encompass anything else. They are wary of all of the divergent theories of aetiology. They want practioners to concentrate their efforts on effective intervention…
- In addition to the counter arguments raised by the blogs mentioned above, I have one further point.: How do you account for the experience of adults assessed as dyslexic, where we often discover it is more than a reading disorder? Adults with dyslexia (whether diagnosed as children or newly as adults) usually have a history of idiosyncratic acquisition of literacy skills including reading. They may no longer manifest any problems with word recognition, but there are residual effects, which it useful to profile. So I would commend Elliot and Gregorenko to ponder more on the field of adult dyslexia and also look at specialist teacher assessment reports for adults are really rich in unique profiling and detailed recommendations for support. High quality asessment and individualised interventions, which impact on success in FE, HE and employment, might convince them that the term dyslexia is a useful one.
One Comment »
I’ve been reminded of the BUG method for reading assignment questions (Price & Maier, 2007):
Box the action word
Underline the key (important) words
Glance back (check that you have read it correctly).
Discuss what you understand by the term dyslexia by reference to a critical review of research literature.
Box the word ‘discuss’ – that’s what you have to do.
Underline ‘dyslexia’ – that’s what you are talking about.
Glance back over question to make sure that you know what other information you need. Which of it is also important?
Leave a comment or ask a question »
I am at the 8th International Conference of the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) this week in Harrogate.
I gave a short talk on my reading research. You can download the powerpoint if you click here, though it doesn’t do justice to some of my off the cuff remarks! Sue Partridge BDA conference
A few random thoughts…
1. Why is the majority of the research on dyslexia I have heard presented so far based on a a narrow definition of dyslexia as phonological processing difficulties and reading deficits; related to children or higher achieving university students; and based on large sample quantitative findings…? Do they miss something on individual differences?
2. Do researchers pay too much attention to statisitical significance in reporting their findings and not enough on validity and test error in the assessments they use?
More tomorrow from Day 2 of the conference.One Comment »
As a pre – school child in the late 1950s, some of my fondest memories are of waiting for the arrival of the Warwickshire mobile library van. Before it arrived my mother and I enjoyed a cup of tea at a neighbour’s house whilst they discussed the books they had read. I can still remember every detail of the van and how the driver always helped me to find suitable books. This experience really helped to foster a love of reading.
Mobile libraries are now a thing of the past and most public libraries have been re -branded as information points. This is a far cry from my own memories in which books were the focus, but it is still alarming that such facilities are under threat.
I am heartened that an article in the Independent highlights growing opposition to threats to close local libraries and describes recent action taken in Northamptonshire:
‘The genteel protest is part of a National Day of Action in which thousands of supporters attended events in 95 libraries across Britain, in an attempt to stop what they fear is a mass cull that could see one in five libraries close during the next four years.’
The article can be found at the link below:
As practitioners we often see that difficulties with reading prevent dyslexic learners from engaging with written materials. This in turn impacts upon their written and spoken vocabulary and can be a real barrier as they progress to Higher Education. Howewer, with reading support strategies in place, many of my learners have been encouraged to read for pleasure. It seems such a shame that they may now be robbed of that opportunity.
Please share your views.Leave a comment or ask a question »