Issue BriefsIssue briefs

Issue briefs are short summaries of research surrounding a particular issue or problem. UW LRCC faculty and graduate students will discuss a recent journal article or topic and provide an issue brief to stimulate discussion throughout the state.

What Constitutes a Science of Reading Instruction?

Dr. Timothy Shanahan | Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S235-S247

Parents want what’s best for their children with respect to reading instruction. Teachers and administrators want what’s best for their students with respect to reading instruction. Researchers, teacher educators, and policy makers want what’s best for students with respect to reading instruction. Wanting what’s best for children is the easy part of the reading instruction situation. Knowing what’s best is considerably more complicated. This issue brief provides a summary of Shanahan’s key ideas in this article, which is one of a host of scholarly papers in a 2020 RRQ themed issue about the science of reading. Continue reading.

It's Time to Be Scientific About Dyslexia

Julian Elliott | Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S61-S75

Distilling a complex idea down to a single term, while efficient in the short run, can lead to unintended difficulties. Clarity and precision are part and parcel of academic discourse. This clarity and precision allows scholars from across disciplines to understand what is being discussed, and for those within a specific field to efficiently communicate on multi-faceted ideas or concepts. However, distilling a complex set of ideas and factors into a single term often leads to a siloing effect, wherein the tenets or expectations of a definition being used in an academic community begin to mean more to insiders than to outsiders. Continue Reading.

The Science of Learning to Read Words: A Case for Systematic Phonics Instruction

Linnea C. Ehri | Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1) pp. S45-S60

Ehri (2020) offers a rationale for implementing systematic phonics instruction to help students learn essential skills for reading words. Research has shown that readers enhance their memory of sight vocabulary words through spellings attached to how a word is pronounced and what it means. This process of associating sounds (i.e., phonemes) to corresponding letters or letter combinations (i.e., graphemes) and a word’s meaning contributes to key foundational reading skills such as fluency and comprehension. Implementing systematic and explicit phonics instruction where students can engage in storing written words from memory and recalling these words from memory to help with future reading is considered a principal aim of beginning reading instruction. Continue Reading.

What Research Has Revealed About Readers’ Struggles With Comprehension in the Digital Age: Moving Beyond the Phonics Versus Whole Language Debate

Patricia A. Alexander | Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1) pp. S89-S97

To expand the conversations on the “science of reading,” Alexander notes that the language used to debate reading instruction is often restrictive, describing a view of reading that is constrained, or focused on only small parts of reading that do not fully explain the full reading process. To counter this, Alexander redefines reading with a more complete idea, describes some of the issues related to reading in the digital age, and provides a path forward for educators, researchers, and teacher educators alike. Continue Reading.

Rethinking the Role of Knowledge in the Literacy Classroom

Courtney Hattan and Sarah M. Lupo | Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), pp. S283-S298

In recent years, policy discussion of reading in K-12 education has focused on building students’ content knowledge—narrowly defined as “knowledge related to a particular field of study” (Alexander et al., 1991). This emphasis on content knowledge is connected in part to declining literacy scores in the U.S. (NCES, 2017), and has resulted in many knowledge-based curricular initiatives (e.g., Core knowledge, Achieve the Core, EL Education, UnboundED, and Wit & Wisdom). Yet, teachers may feel pressure to address content knowledge in curriculum without understanding the full picture of what thoughtful knowledge development means to students’ backgrounds and familiar cultures. Hattan and Lupo offer three key principles of teaching content knowledge for K-12 teachers desiring to support students’ funds of knowledge and prioritize the question: “Whose knowledge matters?” Continue Reading. 

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