Dr Claire McDowell (Ulster), Prof Julian Leslie (Ulster) and Dr Catherine Storey (QUB) –
Despite a nationwide understanding that reading well is essential to tackling the effects of poverty, Northern Ireland still has one of the highest percentages of children failing to reach the lowest literacy benchmark. Past research has shown that if children do not learn to read well, they can form a disaffection with the education system and get fewer qualifications leading to potential unemployment or low-paid work. It also has shown that investigating remedial action suggests that explicit, systematic phonological training is the most effective method of increasing reading accuracy and fluency. The National Reading Panel has also outlined the effectiveness of supplementary computer assisted instruction (CAI). The results in 2000 of an analysis of 59 studies found that the use of CAI, alongside conventional instruction, produced greater results than conventional instruction alone, and that students learn material faster with CAI than conventional instruction alone. However, not all commercially available CAI packages are equally effective, as found in 2016. One commercially available CAI programme that shows promising results is Headsprout Early Reading©. This online instructional program targets each of the 5 sub-skills identified by the National Reading Panel (2000) through intensive systematic phonics training. Headsprout© claims to bring a beginning reader to a proficient level of reading in 80, 20-minute episodes (30 hours of instruction), with an additional 50 episodes to target Reading Comprehension. For nearly two decades, experimental evaluations of Headsprout© have shown clear efficacy and efficiency, in improving reading skills of individuals with autism, typically developing learners, and looked after children when compared to conventional instruction, and to other commercially available programmes.
Drawing on the findings of these evaluations, this presentation discusses ways to work collaboratively to empower schools and parents in NI to better recognise evidence based approaches, and to use these effectively to remediate literacy difficulties and increase attainment of children most in need.
This seminar took place on 25th April 2018