Student 'belief effects' in remedial reading.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study investigated the word recognition difficulties, the strategies used for word recognition and the self-beliefs about their ability to read and their reading behaviours, of six severely reading disabled Year Nine and Year Ten adolescents in a New Zealand coeducational, secondary school. Each student was given a year long, individualised, one-on-one reading programme, which taught phonological processing skills, letter-sound knowledge and the strategies to apply and monitor the application of their letter-sound knowledge. The programme also encouraged the students to adopt or maintain very positive self-beliefs about their ability to decipher words and the effectiveness of applying the strategies they were being taught consistently, persistently and with the flexibility to change if their initial attempts were unsuccessful. Reading disabled adolescents who experience continual failure are said to come to believe that they do not have the ability to succeed; do not have control over their progress. As a result they do not believe that with effort they can achieve. They become passive learners with a range of avoidance behaviours. They become learned helpless. As a consequence they fail to generalise the skills, knowledge and strategies they possess to new tasks. When they entered the programme the participating students had difficulty deciphering most words of two or more syllables. They used incomplete and inaccurate letter information both in their attempts to decipher unfamiliar words and when deciphering one and two syllable, high frequency words that they had read correctly on previous occasions. In addition each had difficulty integrating contextual meaning with letter information as they read. The study has shown that each student had their own particular pattern of beliefs about their ability to read and the reading strategies they used. Some students held a mastery pattern of beliefs. They made accelerated progress of up to three age equivalent years in word recognition in the year. They were very optimistic about their ability to read and would tackle text that was, for them, very difficult to decipher. They were consistent and persistent in applying the strategies. Those students who made the most progress learned to be flexible and change their strategy use if they were initially unsuccessful. The students who held maladaptive patterns of beliefs made progress of only one age equivalent year or less. The learned helpless students increased their beliefs in the effectiveness of the programme teaching as the year progressed. But they formed and changed their beliefs about their ability to decipher as a result of their classroom experiences. When they changed their beliefs about their ability, they changed their reading behaviours in terms of the programme teaching, because they believed in its effectiveness. They became more consistent and persistent in their use of the strategies they were being taught. One student with a maladaptive pattern of beliefs was not learned helpless but instead held too high a belief in the effectiveness of his reading strategies. This led to a dysfunctional pattern of repeatedly reapplying them. The study concluded, first, that the severe reading problems the participating students had resulted from their difficulties with using accurate and complete letter-sound information and their difficulties with integrating this information with the use of contextual meaning to decipher words. These students were capable of using strategies successfully. Whether each student's achievement gains were accelerated or more limited depended on their reading self-beliefs about their ability and their strategy use. Second, the study concluded that it is effective to teach a comprehensive programme for word recognition which includes teaching letter-sound information and the strategies to apply this letter sound knowledge and encourages the students to hold positive self-beliefs about their ability to decipher words and their strategy use. It is important that such a programme is run for sufficient time to allow changes in ability beliefs and beliefs about strategy use, time for these changes in beliefs to result in changes in strategy use and time for the changes in strategy use to result in changes in rates of achievement. It is suggested that good liaison between the classroom teacher and the remedial teacher, encouraging students to believe they had control over their learning and using stimulating reading material can be used to hasten changes in ability beliefs and motivation to read.