An investigation of the effectiveness of integrating sound-field amplification and classroom-based phonological awareness intervention on the early reading development of young school children
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Audiology
Sound-field amplification systems (SFA) have proven effective in overcoming classroom listening difficulties associated with noise, distance and reverberation. However, whether improving the classroom listening environment is sufficient to enhance young children’s learning in areas critical to early reading acquisition, such as awareness of the sound structure of spoken words (phonological awareness: PA), is unclear. This study aimed to examine the effectiveness of an enhanced listening environment combined with PA intervention which aimed to specifically increase children’s PA compared to an enhanced listening environment alone. Participants were 38 children aged 5-6 years from two classes at a low-decile primary school. All children were hearing screened at baseline, pre- and post-intervention. PA, letter-sound knowledge, real and non-word decoding were measured three times over 10 weeks (Term 1) prior to SFA installation in both classrooms, as well as pre- and post-intervention. In Term 2, children in class 1 were randomly assigned to receive SFA and an eight-week class-based teacher-administered PA programme. Class 2 received SFA only. A significant learning effect for all children occurred during the first phase of the monitoring period. Yet, a plateau was reached for most children between assessment times two and three prior to intervention. Following intervention, class 1 demonstrated a significant difference compared to class 2 in one PA assessment. Other measures failed to show any differences between classes. Visual data analyses revealed particular (non-significant) improvements for poor readers in class 1. These children outperformed poor readers in class 2 on all measures. Teacher questionnaires indicated that children’s listening skills improved with SFA. The significant difference observed in one measure of PA between classes demonstrated that the combination of enhanced classroom acoustic environment and PA intervention actively improved PA development. The results of this study have implications for: (a) facilitating attention to sound structure, (b) optimal intervention for early PA development, (c) early reading acquisition in New Zealand classrooms, and, (d) the use of typical models of professional teacher development.