How is Evidence used in the Programme?
The programme is based on a number of types of evidence. It has been designed based on evidence from research, and it is modified and updated based on evidence from assessment and evaluation.
How are Assessment and Evaluation used in the Programme?
The way in which assessment is used in the programme follows the suggestions made in the Report of the National Reading Panel (2001), and in particular Chapter Three which focuses on the issue of fluency. Briefly, the National Reading Panel suggests that a number of informal procedures can be used in the classroom to assess fluency. These include informal reading inventories, miscue analysis, pausing indices, running records, and reading speed calculations. All these informal assessment procedures require oral reading of text.
In our programme, we use an evaluation questionnaire to provide a number of indicators of reading fluency. This is then followed by more formal testing.
How are our Evaluation Questionnaires Constructed?
Our evaluation questionnaires use a number of indicators of reading fluency, and are designed to provide evidence of needs for our reading fluency programme, as well as evidence of progress and gains made by children. They focus on the following aspects of reading fluency:
- Word by word reading
- Inaccurate reading of words
- Incorrect reading of phrases
- Incorrect phrasing
- Slow rate of reading
- Hesitant reading
- Unconfident reading
- Poor reading fluency
- Poor reading comprehension owing to poor reading fluency.
We ask a number of initial questions, and this evidence is used to establish whether it is likely that a particular child has a fluency-related reading problem. If this is the case, more formal assessment using tests is conducted.
Once a child has worked been working on our programme for a few months, we then attempt to establish whether gains have been made. The aim is to establish whether there are observable differences in reading fluency. This is done through progress evaluation, using similar indicators.
What is the Aim of Assessment, and how does this link to Evaluation?
The aim of assessment is to get quantitative evidence concerning the child’s reading level relative to chronological age. This is then linked to qualitative evidence, based on observation of the way in which the child reads and spells. The level in the programme at which to start the child is based on a combination of observational, qualitative and quantitative evidence.
The quantitative evidence is based on tests of word reading, tests of sentence and paragraph reading, tests of one word spelling and tests of sequential writing and spelling. The qualitative evidence is based on fluency indicators and indices of comprehension, while the observational evidence is based on based on analysis of the child’s oral reading of text, using our evaluation questionnaires.
If you are a member of our network, copies of the evaluation questionnaires and a manual for our assessment procedures can be obtained from me free of charge, by emailing me at email@example.com
How are Assessment and Evaluation Conducted?
The purpose of assessment and evaluation is to identify children who are non-fluent readers, and to attempt to establish if the reading fluency difficulty is an isolated one, or co-occurring with other reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
The reason for this is that the proportion of fluent versus non-fluent readers in any classroom varies. As the National Reading Panel (2001) suggests, some non-fluent readers have established adequate reading skills but have not established fluency in reading as they do not enjoy the experience of reading. Others may be non-fluent readers as they have not had sufficient experience of reading. Others may not have sufficient reading material available to learn to read.
Still others may have difficulties with reading and require use of reading materials which are written in a way conducive to establishing reading fluency. Others may have more deep-seated difficulties with reading requiring specialised treatment.
The purpose of initial assessment and evaluation is to try and find the reasons for a child’s lack of fluency with reading, as well as make suggestions for methods which can be used to change this pattern of behaviour. The purpose of progress evaluation is to determine the child’s response to the programme material as well as the methods used in working with him or her, as a way of determining whether or not the programme is effective.
What does this Mean on a Practical Level?
There is a practical reason for working in this developmental way, and the reason is diagnostic. Previous research indicates that in every group or classroom of children, there is likely to be about 25% of the group who are non-fluent readers (defined as children whose lack of accuracy and speed of reading interferes with the ability to complete classroom reading tasks quickly and accurately, and whose accuracy and speed of reading are below chronological age). Among the non-fluent readers, there will be a subgroup of children who have learning difficulties affecting reading, writing and spelling.
In our programme, evidence from assessment and evaluation are thus used diagnostically to establish whether the child only has a reading fluency problem, or has a broader-based learning problem. This is done over time, through action research involving test teaching.
What is Test Teaching?
Test teaching, as used in our programme, involves the use of action research in teaching. Specifically, this means the use of our programme materials diagnostically in an action research cycle, involving:
What this means is that parents, teachers and therapists are asked to use observation when using our materials to establish whether or not improvements in fluency are taking place. Reading fluency has a number of different dimensions, and for this reason evaluation questionnaires are used to record observations of different aspects of reading behaviour. These indicators can then be linked to evidence from more formal assessment using tests, as a basis for establishing whether the programme is effective.
Why is Test Teaching Important?
Test teaching is important as not all programmes work equally well with all children. A programme may need to be changed, or implemented more or less frequently, or additional interventions undertaken.
Additional interventions may be needed with many children for the reason that previous research indicates that about 15% of all children have learning difficulties, and that about 9% will have difficulties which are intractable, requiring individual focus and specialised treatment. What this means on a practical level is that every classroom is likely to have a number of children with reading fluency difficulties, as well as a subgroup having additional learning difficulties.
Test teaching thus involves a process of diagnostic intervention, with the aim of establishing whether or not a particular child ’s difficulties respond to treatment, or whether more in-depth work is necessary. This is done through a cycle of action research, in which assessment and evaluation are central.
How are Assessment and Evaluation linked to Test Teaching?
In using our materials, there are two stages. The first stage of establish whether or not a child has a fluency difficulty. The next stage is then to establish whether the difficulty is an isolated one or is part of a more general pattern of learning difficulty.
Identification of needs for more specialised treatment is thus done through the evaluative process involved in test teaching using our programme materials. Work on the child’s reading is used to establish whether or not the child’s fluency improves, or whether the child needs more specialised treatment. Where rapid improvement does not take place, this is followed by referral for more in-depth assessment.
Our materials are designed to be used developmentally with children with reading, writing and spelling difficulties. They are used through a diagnostic process of test teaching involving:
Initial assessment and planning
Intervention focused on developing fluency
Observation based on test teaching
Evaluation of response to the intervention
Replanning, broadening the intervention, or referral for more in-depth assessment and treatment.
It will be evident from the above that the programme is evidence-based. Both assessment and evaluation are integral to test teaching, as part of a process of action research focused on establishing whether the programme is effective.
Membership of our Network
There are a number of teachers, therapists and schools already using our materials, as well as our assessment and evaluation procedures. These are focused on the use of the eighty phonically based, large print books currently in our data base.
In addition, there are manuals for teachers and therapists, indicating in detail how these materials can be used for developing reading fluency, and also for developing writing and spelling fluency. These are made available free of charge to teachers and therapists in our network.
As our aim is to make our materials available at low cost to users, membership of our network is open to parents, teachers, therapists and schools interested in using the materials in our data base. There are minimal formalities involved, and membership can be arranged by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org