An investigation into the effectiveness of Smart Starts perceptual motor programme on children’s reading ability
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
Perceptual Motor Programmes are implemented in more than 300 junior schools around New Zealand (Cropp, 2008). When implemented, many teachers believe the programme improves learning including reading abilities, increases physical activity, and enhances social skills (Broadley & Litterick-Biggs, 2005). Despite continued use of the programme there is very little research to support claims of improved academic readiness, and as a result concerns are raised around the use of a non-validated approach to improve children’s literacy learning and learning in general.
This study aimed to examine the effectiveness of a Perceptual Motor Programme on the reading abilities of year one and two children. Participants were 37 year one and two children, aged 5-6 years, from two classes at a low-decile primary school. Children were tested three times over ten weeks of the study using running records and sight word testing as well as non-word reading. One class acted as the control group and did not receive the programme.
Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed a significant time effect over the three time plots for both groups. This time effect is consistent with what you could expect in education where children generally improve over time. However using scores from pre, mid and post testing in all tests, the overall difference between the two groups was non-significant. This result alone clearly disproves the claims of improved reading abilities through the implementation of Smart Starts perceptual motor programme. Sight word testing showed only a marginal time effect due to the scores being high at pre testing creating a ceiling effect where maximum scores had already occurred leaving little room for improvement over time.
When asked to observe one child, teacher observations suggested improved attitudes towards learning and some risk-taking occurring later in the study. This was the case for both children observed, therefore cannot be attributed to the participation of the perceptual motor programme but rather part of the developmental process and current teaching and learning programmes.
The results of this study have implications for the implementation of non-validated interventions in schools. This study outlines the importance of educators using evidence-based practice and research. It explores the purpose, benefits and need for the Smart Starts perceptual motor programme. The use of non-validated approaches take time, money, resources, staffing and energy away from proven practices that improve children’s reading abilities.