The following are extracts of a research report by Prof. James Chapman and Prof. William Tunmer in 2019 and my comments. I was sent this as an attachment in an email from James Chapman a week ago, on 6.12.2021.
Chapman and Tunmer are researchers attached to Massey University
The wealth of scientific evidence does not support the view that dyslexia is present at birth, that it can involve numeracy and musical notation, and that the skills may not “match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities” (Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014).
The U.S.-based International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has retained the term dyslexia:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. (IDA; retrieved from http://eida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/ )
Elliott’s definition and that of IDA appears to clash. If it is not present at birth (Elliott) then it cannot be neurobiological in origin, can it? But, this is not our concern.
The IDA definition appears to say that any and all kids unable to decode are dyslexic. This, I don’t agree as a majority of kids who are unable to read are instructional casualties.
I don’t expect IDA to change its definition as dyslexia is big business.
I have argued since 2010 that phonological awareness deficit is not the cause of kids being unable to read. I wrote to Chapman, Tunmer and Elliott and many others on this back in 2010. I believe that that theory was debunked around 2017 by students who had visited my blog in 2011. I don’t have the research reports but I base this on Timothy Shanahan’s blog post in 2017.
Definitions of dyslexia typically refer to difficulties in reading and spelling, despite children having received “effective classroom instruction” (e.g., IDA: https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/ ). Few, if any, studies of dyslexia include a systematic and robust analysis of “effective classroom instruction”.
The probability that many children who struggle with reading do so because of inappropriate or poor teaching seldom seems to be considered. Yet it is likely that many children diagnosed as being dyslexic may be teaching casualties. This situation is likely to be especially prevalent for children whose classroom reading instruction is based on the multiple cues, whole language approach.
What does IDA and these two researchers mean by "effective classroom instruction"?
Why has few or no studies been done on ‘effective classroom instructions’?
I have observed and interviewed my students since 2004 and discovered the defective classroom instructions. Why is this not being studied by these researchers? Why are they brushing off what I have discovered as anecdotal? Why do these researchers still say ‘may be’ teaching casualties?
The fact that most of these students are instructional casualties or teaching casualties as stated above has been repeated numerous times. But what is it that is being taught/instructed wrongly has hardly been stated.
These two researchers have taken the easy way out by blaming whole language. As researchers they ought to know the percentage of kids who had left school as functional illiterates in all the different periods. Tunmer and Chapman are blaming whole language because they don’t know the real reason and are unwilling to think as thinking is one of the most difficult things to do. This reminds me of Charlie Munger’s quote ‘the human mind is like the human egg.’
Despite the UK using systematic synthetic phonics for more than 10 years I understand that the reading levels has remained about the same. So, we need to examine the reasons why kids are leaving schools as functional illiterates instead of blaming whole language as the culprit.
Why are researchers not thinking about what Thorndike had said, more than a century ago, about the importance of Initial Learning?
Many children who, for whatever reason, do not possess sufficient levels of essential reading-related skills when they start school, tend to develop ineffective word identification strategies that are encouraged in the whole language approach. For example, teachers often get children to work out unknown words by using multiple cues: picture cues, guessing from the context, semantic and syntactic cues, and sometimes saying one or two letters of the unknown word (beginning or ending letters). These strategies are ineffective for many children (Tunmer, Greaney, & Prochnow, 2015). The ongoing use of such ineffective strategies usually continues to such an extent and for such a long time that the strategies become entrenched and difficult to unlearn (Prochnow, Tunmer, & Arrow, 2015)
Let me repeat for the umpteenth time, the problem is not whole language nor is it phonics but the way pronunciation of sounds of consonants are taught. The more than 70 students I have taught had all been taught phonics. You may listen to one of the videos on how many schools in Malaysia teach phonics. How are kids to blend sounds represented by letters? LINK.
Don’t laugh at the above video clip as most schools around the world are teaching sound this way albeit not in this sing-song manner. Here is one such video that has been heard by more than 5 million viewers around the world.
Many children around the world who listen to TV programmes such as Baby TV would shut down when they go to kindergarten or school. I had warned of this a few years ago. Read my post here.
Weakness in word recognition skills usually stems from insufficient explicit instruction in alphabetic coding skills or lack of opportunities to practice and receive feedback on using alphabetic coding skills while reading. If alphabetic coding skills are still weak despite explicit instruction and practice, it is usually because students have inadequate knowledge of the alphabetic principle, letter knowledge, or phonemic awareness. All of these skills need to be explicitly taught to those children who lack them, regardless of the reasons.
Again, this is what is repeated by all these researchers for decades. There is nothing new in the statement above. Are the skills above not been taught explicitly by teachers around the world? Of course, they are. BUT they are teaching the wrong pronunciation of sounds represented by letters. They then blame it on inadequate knowledge of the alphabetic principle and/or phonemic awareness. What would it take to educate these researchers into thinking for a change instead of repeating whatever has been said for decades?
As children learn word patterns, they must also learn how to use the word patterns for attempting to read and spell new words (Tunmer et al., 2015). This strategic use of word patterns should be explicitly stated and explicitly taught so that children learn how to use this knowledge on a spontaneous basis. Teaching word patterns (or phonic patterns) is seldom done systematically in many Australian and New Zealand schools.
Thank goodness that using word patterns is an innate ability. As mentioned in my posts, if not for kids learning using patterns and analogies, a much higher number of kids will be leaving school as functional illiterates.
I teach my students how to use word patterns but I believe this will be learned by them implicitly and we should thank mother nature for this innate ability.
Unless children with initial reading difficulties receive specialist instruction, up to 75% of students who struggle with reading in their third or fourth year of schooling will remain poor readers at secondary school (Francis et al., 1996), and on into adulthood (Chapman, Greaney & Prochnow, 2015). For this reason, we argue that it is important that all students receive early reading instruction that includes explicit instruction in the phonological aspects of the English language.
However, this is not likely to occur unless the teachers themselves have a good working knowledge of these necessary language elements.
Again, nothing new in the statement above. Most teachers around the world do not appreciate that the problem is with teaching the incorrect sounds represented by consonants.
“… it is important that all students receive early reading instruction that includes explicit instruction in the phonological aspects of the English language.” Is Tunmer saying that this is not being done in NZ and in Australia?
Official use of the term dyslexia is as much a hindrance to change, as a rallying point for more effective reading instruction and resources for intervention. Instead, we argue that the focus ought to be on effective classroom instruction and remedial intervention for all students who experience reading difficulties, regardless of the assumed causes. In taking this viewpoint we acknowledge that the term dyslexia may meet the psychological, social, political, and emotional needs of many stakeholders. However, the needs of stakeholders must take into account reliable scientific evidence, as well as the political and social reality that the dyslexia category, as currently defined, will cause inequity and injustice. Reading difficulties is a concept that can be based on scientific evidence, and can be far more inclusive and appropriate.
In conclusion, we assert that policies and practices must change to develop an approach to literacy education that ensures all children who go to school, regardless of their circumstances (biological or environmental), have approximately the same probability of success in learning to read and write; that is, an approach that does not continue to contribute to inequality in society.
What does ‘effective classroom instruction and remedial intervention for all students who experience reading difficulties, regardless of the assumed causes’ mean? Has this not been repeated for decades? We won’t need intervention if kids are taught correctly from the onset.
Both Tunmer and Chapman should come down from their high horses and ponder on what I have discovered instead of repeating what researchers have said for decades.
Stop the nonsense of asking me for empirical evidence on why consonants should not be taught with extraneous sounds as asked by our ‘education guru’ Timothy Shanahan and instead use the God given brains to THINK.
Stop this nonsense about requiring research reports and empirical evidence and start thinking for a change.
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