The importance of correctly characterising the English spelling system when devising and evaluating methods of reading instruction: Comment on Taylor, Davis, and Rastle (2017)

Jeffrey Bowers, Peter Bowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
305 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Taylor, Davis, and Rastle employed an artificial language learning paradigm to compare phonics and meaning-based approaches to reading instruction. Adults were taught consonant, vowel, and consonant (CVC) words composed of novel letters when the mappings between letters and sounds were completely systematic and the mappings between letters and meaning were completely arbitrary. At test, performance on naming tasks was better following training that emphasised the phonological rather than the semantic mappings, whereas performance on semantic tasks was similar in the two conditions. The authors concluded that these findings support phonics for early reading instruction in English. However, in our view, these conclusions are not justified given that the artificial language mischaracterised both the phonological and semantic mappings in English. Furthermore, the way participants studied the arbitrary letter-meaning correspondences bears little relation to meaning-based strategies used in schools. To compare phonics with meaning-based instruction it must be determined whether phonics is better than alternative forms of instruction that fully exploit the regularities within the semantic route. This is rarely assessed because of a widespread and mistaken assumption that underpins so much basic and applied research, namely, that the main function of spellings is to represent sounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1497-1500
Number of pages4
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Series A Human Experimental Psychology
Volume71
Issue number7
Early online date9 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • Language
  • Cognitive Science

Keywords

  • phonics
  • literacy
  • structured word inquiry

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The importance of correctly characterising the English spelling system when devising and evaluating methods of reading instruction: Comment on Taylor, Davis, and Rastle (2017)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this