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Several national reports have suggested the usefulness of systematic, explicit, synthetic phonics instruction based on English word structure along with wide reading of quality literature for supporting development in early reading instruction. Other studies have indicated, however, that many in-service teachers are not knowledgeable in the basic concepts of the English language. They may be well versed in children's literature but not know how to address the basic building blocks of language and reading. The authors hypothesized that one of the reasons for this situation is that many instructors responsible for training future elementary teachers are not familiar with the concepts of the linguistic features of English language. This hypothesis was tested by administering a survey of language concepts to 78 instructors. The results showed that even though teacher educators were familiar with syllabic knowledge, they performed poorly on concepts relating to morphemes and phonemes. In a second study, 40 instructors were interviewed about best practices in teaching components and subskills of reading. Eighty percent of instructors defined phonological awareness as letter-sound correspondence. They also did not mention synthetic phonics as a desirable method to use for beginning reading instruction, particularly for students at risk for reading difficulties. In conclusion, providing professional development experiences related to language concepts to instructors could provide them the necessary knowledge of language concepts related to early literacy instruction, which they could then integrate into their preservice reading courses.
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392
Why Elementary Teachers Might Be
Inadequately Prepared to Teach Reading
R. Malatesha Joshi
Texas A&M University
Emily Binks
University of Hull
Martha Hougen
The University of Texas at Austin
Mary E. Dahlgren
Private Consultant, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Emily Ocker-Dean
McMurry University
Dennie L. Smith
Texas A&M University
Several national reports have suggested the usefulness of systematic, explicit, synthetic phonics instruction based on
English word structure along with wide reading of quality literature for supporting development in early reading instruction.
Other studies have indicated, however, that many in-service teachers are not knowledgeable in the basic concepts of the
English language. They may be well versed in children’s literature but not know how to address the basic building blocks
of language and reading. The authors hypothesized that one of the reasons for this situation is that many instructors respon-
sible for training future elementary teachers are not familiar with the concepts of the linguistic features of English language.
This hypothesis was tested by administering a survey of language concepts to 78 instructors. The results showed that even
though teacher educators were familiar with syllabic knowledge, they performed poorly on concepts relating to morphemes
and phonemes. In a second study, 40 instructors were interviewed about best practices in teaching components and subskills
of reading. Eighty percent of instructors defined phonological awareness as letter-sound correspondence. They also did not
mention synthetic phonics as a desirable method to use for beginning reading instruction, particularly for students at risk
for reading difficulties. In conclusion, providing professional development experiences related to language concepts to
instructors could provide them the necessary knowledge of language concepts related to early literacy instruction, which
they could then integrate into their preservice reading courses.
Keywords: teacher knowledge; literacy constructs; teacher education
Recent reports by agencies such as the National
Reading Panel (NRP; 2000), the RAND Reading
Study Group (2001), and Partnership for Reading (2003)
have noted that the reading achievement of the population
is a major concern of the United States. According to these
reports, more than 8 million American students in Grades
4 to 12 are not fluent readers (U.S. Department of
Education, 2001). More than 3,000 students drop out of
high school every school day (Partnership for Reading,
2003), poor reading and writing skills being one of
the contributing factors. Speaking at a House of Represen-
tatives hearing on measuring success, Lyon (2001) called
reading failure a national public health problem because a
lack of adequate literacy skills affects individual lives as
well as society at large. Furthermore, only 2% of the stu-
dents who receive remedial instruction for reading diffi-
culties complete a 4-year post–high school degree, and of
the approximately 15% of students who drop out of
school, over 75% report difficulties learning to read.
Finally, at least half of the adolescents with criminal
records or histories of substance abuse reportedly have
reading problems. A report by the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (2007) highlights the following
points: (a) Among fourth graders nationally, 33% are
Journal of Learning Disabilities
Volume 42 Number 5
September/October 2009 392-402
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Joshi et al. / Teacher Educators 393
reading below the basic level, and 26% of eighth graders
are reading below the basic level, which means that these
students cannot perform at minimum academic expecta-
tions. (b) Equally distressing is the observation that the
percentage of children showing proficiency in handling
demanding material is only 33% at the fourth grade level
and 31% at the eighth grade level. (c) Furthermore, since
2003, there has been no significant closing of the racial
and ethnic and gender gaps in reading performance.
Interestingly, math scores have increased at both the
fourth and eighth grade levels, and the gap between the
performance of White students and that of Black and
Hispanic students in math is narrowing. Illustrating the
discrepancy between White and minority students, a
National Center for Education Statistics (2001) report
notes that more than one third of all students and about two
thirds of minority students cannot read with clarity and flu-
ency. These discouraging statistics have aroused many
agencies to make recommendations for improving literacy
skills in children. In addition to the NRP (2000) report
mentioned above, several other organizations, such as the
American Federation of Teachers, the National Council of
Teachers of English, the International Reading Association
(2003), and the American Speech, Language, and Hearing
Association, have produced reports outlining best practices
in literacy instruction to prevent or reduce reading failure.
Although various reasons have been postulated for the
literacy problems, Vellutino, Scanlon, and Jaccard (2003)
mentioned environment and instruction as the two basic
reasons for literacy problems. Environmental reasons
include poor oral language development, the number of
books available at home, parental attitudes, and parental
models. Instructional factors include the lack of a suitable
literacy environment in schools, ineffective instructional
methods, and the lack of knowledge teachers have about
English language and structure. Various research studies
have shown that reading and writing difficulties are due to
inefficient and inaccurate language processing (Moats &
Foorman, 2003; Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, &
Seidenberg, 2001), and when children are identified early
and instructed on the basis of the language structure
of literacy, the results have been consistently positive
(Blachman, Tangel, Ball, Black, & McGraw, 1999;
Brown & Felton, 1990; Foorman, Francis, Fletcher,
Schatschneider, & Mehta, 1998).
The NRP (2000) identified training in phonemic aware-
ness, systematic phonics instruction, fluency, vocabulary,
and strategies for comprehension as necessary compo-
nents of quality reading instruction. Furthermore, the
National Research Council concluded that “quality class-
room instruction in kindergarten and the primary grades is
the single best weapon against reading failure” (Snow,
Burns, & Griffin, 1998, p. 343). In addition, recent
national reports on effective reading instruction have
stressed the importance of teachers’ knowledge in break-
ing the code (McCardle & Chhabra, 2004; National
Reading Panel, 2000). However, a recent report by the
National Council on Teacher Quality (Walsh, Glaser, &
Wilcox, 2006) concluded that many schools of education
may not be teaching their preservice teachers the basic
knowledge required to teach literacy skills. In one of the
earlier studies of teachers’ knowledge of the linguistic
concepts necessary to teach literacy skills, Moats (1994)
administered a survey to 89 reading teachers, special edu-
cation teachers, and speech-language pathologists. The
items included in the survey were related to locating or
citing examples of phonic, syllabic, and morphemic units
as well as analyzing words into speech sounds, syllables,
and morphemes. Responses to the survey indicated an
inadequate understanding of language concepts and per-
sistent weaknesses related to the concepts of the very
skills needed for direct, language-focused reading instruc-
tion. Furthermore, few of these individuals could identify
consonant digraphs, even fewer could explain under what
circumstances ck is used in spelling, nor could they tell the
number of sounds in the word ox. This led Moats to con-
clude that regarding spelling rules and conventions,
“Ignorance was the norm” (p. 93). A later study (Moats &
Lyon, 1996) again revealed that teachers have “insuffi-
ciently developed concepts about language and pervasive
conceptual weaknesses in the very skills that are needed
for direct, systematic, language-focused reading instruc-
tion, such as the ability to count phonemes and to identify
phonic relationships” (p. 79).
Since the initial study by Moats (1994), several other
studies have been conducted along the same lines. For
instance, Bos, Mather, Dickson, Podhajski, and Chard
(2001) examined the linguistic knowledge of preservice
and in-service teachers. Bos et al. administered two
questionnaires. One questionnaire dealt with teachers’
perceptions about explicit and implicit early reading and
spelling instruction, and the other dealt with linguistic
knowledge. These two questionnaires were administered
to 252 preservice educators and 286 in-service educa-
tors. The results showed that 53% of preservice and 60%
of in-service educators were unable to correctly answer
half of the questions regarding “knowledge of language
structure.” Educators with more than 11 years of teach-
ing experience did demonstrate greater knowledge of
language structure than educators with 0 to 5 years of
teaching experience. However, all groups had scores that
fell below the 33rd percentile. Furthermore, even though
in-service teachers believed that poor phonemic aware-
ness contributed to early reading failure, two thirds of
394 Journal of Learning Disabilities
the participants believed that phonological awareness
was “a method of reading instruction that begins with
individual letters and sounds” (p. 112). However both
preservice and in-service educators indicated that they
strongly believe that K–2 teachers should know how to
teach phonics, but their scores on the items related to
phonics indicated that they lacked the basic knowledge.
Interestingly, no significant difference in actual knowl-
edge was found between teachers who believed that they
had high levels of linguistic knowledge and those who
believed that they had low levels of linguistic knowledge
(Cunningham, Perry, Stanovich, & Stanovich, 2004).
Additionally, they found that not only did teachers know
very little about children’s literature, phonemic aware-
ness, and phonics, but also, teachers overestimated their
knowledge of reading and were unaware of what they
knew and did not know.
Studies have shown, however, that when teachers are
taught the specific linguistic knowledge required for
teaching synthetic phonics, they acquire knowledge of
the concepts. The reading scores of the children taught
by these teachers also increase. For instance, McCutchen
et al. (2002) selected 20 comparison and 23 treatment
classrooms consisting of 492 kindergarten and 287 first-
grade students. All the children were administered stan-
dardized measures of phonological awareness, listening
comprehension, word reading, reading comprehension,
spelling, and fluency. The teachers in the experimental
group were trained in a 2-week instructional program in
which the principles of systematic explicit instruction in
phonological and orthographic awareness were intro-
duced. The initial survey of teachers showed that there
was no significant difference between the treatment and
comparison groups as to their knowledge of language
structure. However, after 2 weeks of training, the teach-
ers in the treatment group began applying the principles
of systematic explicit instruction in their classrooms,
which resulted in increased reading levels of their stu-
dents. This study yielded three significant findings: (a)
We can deepen teachers’ knowledge of the role of pho-
nological and orthographic information in literacy
i
nstruction, (b) teachers can use that knowledge to change
classroom practice, and (c) changes in teachers’ knowl-
edge and classroom practices improve students’ learning.
Similar results have been obtained by other researchers
(Moats & Foorman, 2003; Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2004).
Through scientifically based reading research, it has
been shown that the direct teaching of linguistic struc-
ture concepts is of great importance to both beginning
and struggling readers (Moats, 1994). Adams (1990)
demonstrated in her synthesis of research on beginning
reading the importance of teaching children explicit
instruction in English orthography. Adams suggested
that to become a good reader, different types of literacy
experiences, such as familiarity with explicit phonics
instruction, exposure to rich vocabulary, and practice in
reading varied and interesting texts, are required. To
effectively teach reading, writing, and spelling, teachers
“need to understand the relationship between speech and
print because these basic language processes are often
deficient in cases of reading failure . . . teachers also
need to be knowledgeable in this area to benefit from
psychologist and specialist reports” (Fielding-Barnsley
& Purdie, 2005, p. 65). Reports by psychologists and
specialists often include assessment results of phono-
logical abilities, automatic naming, working memory,
letter knowledge, alphabetic principle, sight word knowl-
edge, pseudoword decoding, orthographic ability, oral
vocabulary, listening comprehension, and reading com-
prehension. If teachers do not understand the role each of
these skills plays in reading and the links between these
skills that either enable or disable the reading process,
the extensive assessments in these reports are virtually
useless, because teachers will be unable to decipher, and
therefore likely not deliver, the individualized remedia-
tion children need.
In addition to the NRP (2000) report, in England, the
House of Commons Select Committee on the Teaching
of Reading, established in 2004, as well as the commit-
tee that conducted the National Inquiry Into the Teaching
of Literacy, established in Australia in 2004, have rec-
ommended the use of synthetic phonics instruction to
teach reading at early grade levels (Coltheart & Prior,
2007). Furthermore, the report from Australia also found
that many preservice and in-service teachers were not
familiar with the linguistic knowledge necessary for
improving the literacy skills of students. Coltheart and
Prior (2007) also reported that many teacher training
institutions were not providing the necessary informa-
tion to new teachers, thus reinforcing the question raised
by Sweet (2004): “Why is it that the colleges of educa-
tion do not arm our teachers with this vital information
before they enter the classroom to teach our children?”
(p. 14).
If preservice and in-service educators do not have the
knowledge of effective literacy instruction, it is likely that
they did not acquire the concepts in their reading educa-
tion courses or from the prescribed textbooks. Furthermore,
we hypothesized that perhaps instructors of reading edu-
cation courses themselves may not be knowledgeable of
the basic concepts of language structure relating to literacy
acquisition. In this article, we report an analysis of the
knowledge of teacher educators; an analysis of the content
of textbooks used in reading education classes is reported
Joshi et al. / Teacher Educators 395
in a separate article in this issue (Joshi, Binks, Graham,
et al., 2009).
Study 1
Instrument: Survey of Language Constructs
Related to Literacy Acquisition
To measure the linguistic knowledge of teacher edu-
cators, we developed a survey of language constructs
consisting of 68 items based on tools similar to the ones
developed by other researchers (McCutchen et al., 2002;
Moats, 1994). The items in the survey included questions
regarding how well university instructors felt prepared to
teach typical readers as well as struggling readers the
skills of reading (Items 1–8). Other items in the test
asked for definitions of terms such as phoneme (Item 9)
and morpheme (Item 37), as well as identification of the
number of speech sounds in words such as box and moon
(Item 12) and of the number of morphemes in words
such as observer and heaven (Item 19). In the question-
naires administered by previous researchers, the items
referred mainly to decoding and children’s literature. In
contrast, we also included questions relating to the
teach
ing of vocabulary, comprehension, and metacogni-
tion.
These questions were intended to assess the knowl-
edge of teachers about concepts such as types of
vocabulary, methods such as semantic mapping, and the
self-evaluation
ability of children. The reliability of the
instrument, assessed using Cronbach’s α, was .918. A copy
of the survey can be found in an online appendix (avail-
able at
http://journaloflearningdisabilities.sagepub.com/
supplemental). (Although the survey items are num-
bered from 1 to 43, there is a total of 68 items when
subquestions of each main question are considered.
Eight items assessed self-perception of preparation to
teach various reading components and skills, and 60
items assessed knowledge and ability.) Details regarding
item difficulty, item discrimination, and the reliability of
the instrument are explained below.
Item Difficulty
Item difficulty involves the proportion of participants
who answer an item correctly. Item difficulty has a pro-
found effect on both the variability of test scores and the
precision with which test scores discriminate among dif-
ferent groups of examinees (Thorndike, Cunningham,
Thorndike, & Hagen, 1991). According to Thompson
and Levitov (1985), the ideal difficulty level for a five-
alternative multiple-choice item should be about .60. No
item on the basic language constructs survey used in the
present study had a difficulty coefficient of 0.0 (low) or
1.0 (high). This means that no item was completely use-
less at measuring individual differences. The overall
mean of the difficulty coefficients for all of the knowl-
edge and ability items on the basic language constructs
survey was .63, almost an ideal difficulty level.
The item difficulty coefficients ranged from .21, for
the item regarding the number of morphemes in the word
spinster, to .95, for the item on the number of syllables
in the word pedestal. That is, more participants correctly
identified the number of syllables in the word pedestal
than any other item on the survey, and the number of
morphemes in the word spinster were correctly identi-
fied by the fewest participants. The means of item diffi-
culties for items relating to phonemes, phonics, syllables,
and morphemes were .70 (range = .35–.93), .60 (range =
.39–.90), .78 (range = .31–.95), and .38 (range = .21–.61),
respectively. In general, participants on this survey
answered items relating to syllables better than items
relating to morphemes.
Item Discrimination
Theoretically, a good item discriminates between par-
ticipants who do well on a test or survey and those who do
poorly. The discrimination index, D, can be used to deter-
mine the discriminating power of an item by comparing the
number of participants with high test scores (the top 27%)
who answered an item correctly with the number of par-
ticipants with low scores (the bottom 27%) who answered
the same item correctly (Wiersma & Jurs, 1990). As a gen-
eral rule, Ebel and Frisbie (1986) suggested that items with
discrimination indexes of .40 and greater are good items,
and those with indexes of .30 to .39 are reasonably good
but possibly subject to improvement. Those with indexes
of .20 to .29 are marginal items and need some revision. An
item with an index below .19 is considered poor and pos-
sibly should be eliminated. The discrimination indexes for
the knowledge and ability items of the present basic lan-
guage constructs survey ranged from .12 to .78, with a
mean of .46. Fifty-two of the 60 knowledge and ability
items on the basic language constructs survey had dis-
crimination indexes ranging from .30 to 1.00 (good range),
while most of the syllable-counting items (within Item 19)
ranged from .12 to .20, which means that they were easy
items and did not discriminate well between good perform-
ers and poor performers on this test.
Participants
The Survey of Language Constructs Related to Literacy
Acquisition was administered to 78 college and university
instructors who were responsible for teaching reading
education classes to prospective reading teachers. Of the
instructors, 68 had doctoral degrees, and 10 were working
396 Journal of Learning Disabilities
on their doctoral degrees; all had previously taught in
elementary schools. The instructors were currently teach-
ing two to four courses in reading education to preservice
elementary education teachers and were from approxi-
mately 30 different universities and community colleges
from the southwestern United States. The instructors rep-
resented various departments, including educational psy-
chology, curriculum and instruction, special education,
English as a second language, bilingual education, read-
ing, educational administration, and educational leader-
ship. The instructors’ teaching experience ranged from 1
to 20 years. There were 42 women and 26 men. All
instructors believed that they were well prepared to teach
reading.
The survey was administered to the instructors in
groups of approximately 20, and sufficient precaution
was taken to ensure that there was no discussion of ques-
tions with others. They were instructed that responses
would remain anonymous, and no form of identification
of the instructors was obtained. They were specifically
requested not to write their names. There was no time
limit, but most of the instructors completed the survey in
less than 45 minutes. Each item was scored right or
wrong, and the total number of correct items was recorded
for final analysis. The items were further grouped as pho-
nology based, phonics based, morphology based, and
comprehension based depending on their criteria. A ques-
tion such as “How many speech sounds are there in the
following words?” is an example of a phonology-based
item (Item 12 on the survey); “What is a combination of
two or three consonants pronounced so that each letter
keeps its own identity?” (Item 11 on the survey) is an
example of a phonics-based item; a question asking for
the number of morphemes in a word (Item 19) is an
example of a morphology-based item; and “Combining
background knowledge with text information to create a
response describes which of the following” (Item 28) is
an example of a comprehension-based item. (We recog-
nize that the item categorization was subjective at times;
e.g., counting speech sounds was considered a phono-
logical task, although participants actually had to read
words, and therefore it was not purely spoken language,
as a true phonological task should be.) There were 22
items in the phonology-based category, 10 in the phonics-
based category, 18 in the morphology-based category,
and 10 in the comprehension-based category. (There were
more phonology- and morphology-based items than
phonics- and comprehension-based items because the
phonology and morphology items assessed ability with
multiple word examples, e.g., counting phonemes and
morphemes, as in Items 12 and 19.)
Table 1
Mean Scores and Standard Deviations of
the Self-Perceptions of Participants
Survey Item Mean Score (SD)
Phonemic awareness 2.561 (0.806)
Phonics 2.515 (0.864)
Fluency 2.889 (0.583)
Vocabulary 2.889 (0.471)
Comprehension 3.056 (0.639)
Children’s literature 2.803 (0.808)
Teaching literacy skills to 2.042 (0.849)
English-language learners
Using assessment to inform 2.813 (0.790)
reading instruction
Total 2.716 (0.710)
Table 2
Mean Percentages and Standard Deviations for
Phonology-, Phonics-, and Morphology-Based Items
Category of Items Mean Percentage of Items Correct (SD)
Phonology 78.97 (13.24)
Phonics 56.47 (19.67)
Morphology 34.36 (12.63)
Comprehension 57.5 (19.5)
Results
The means and standard deviations of the scores on
each item of the survey are presented in Table 1. Items 1
to 8 asked participants to rate their ability to teach vari-
ous reading skills, as well as children’s literature,
English-language learners (ELLs), and using assessment
to inform instruction. These queries were answered on a
Likert-type scale: 1 = minimal, 2 = moderate, 3 = very
good, and 4 = expert. Items 9 to 43 were ability and
knowledge items that were scored as either right or
wrong. The average scores for Items 1 through 8 ranged
from 2.04 (for teaching literacy skills to ELLs) to 3.06
(for teaching comprehension). This reflects that instruc-
tors, on average, felt moderately confident to teach lit-
eracy skills to ELLs but felt more positive about teaching
comprehension skills. It is interesting to note that a
majority of the studies conducted with ELLs have shown
that what is helpful for becoming a good reader in one’s
first language is also helpful in teaching literacy skills in
a second language (Dressler & Kamil, 2006). The mean
scores and standard deviations for each of the 8 measures
of self-perceptions are also presented in Table 1.
The mean percentages of correct responses along
with the standard deviations in each category of the sur-
vey are presented in Table 2. In general, participants
Joshi et al. / Teacher Educators 397
performed better on phonology-based items (highest)
than morphology-based items (lowest), while items
relating to phonics and comprehension were answered
correctly about half of the time on average (middle).
A paired t test was computed to find the significant dif-
ferences among the four types of items. There were statis-
tically significant differences between the phonological-
and phonics-based items, t(1, 59) = 7.422, p < .0001,
Cohen’s d = 1.342; between phonics- and morphology-
based items, t(1, 59) = 8.084, p < .0001, Cohen’s d =
1.338, and between phonology- and morphology-based
items, t(1, 59) = 11.509, p < .0001, Cohen’s d = 3.449.
A further analysis revealed that a number of partici-
pants were not fully familiar with certain linguistic
constructs necessary to teach literacy skills. Although
all of these constructs may not be used for teaching all
grade levels, we felt that these were foundational infor-
mation about which all teacher educators should be
knowledgeable. According to Moats (2000) and Spear-
Swerling and Brucker (2004), teachers knowledgeable
in these concepts have been found to provide successful
instruction. Some of the striking information was that
only 54% of the participants could correctly recognize
the definition of phonemic awareness (performance
was lower on phonemic-only items [70.24%] than on
other phonology-based items [91.15%]). It is notewor-
thy that a large number of studies have shown the
importance of phonemic awareness in becoming a good
reader not only in English but also in several other
alphabetic languages (Bertelson, 1987; Blachman,
1988; Cossu, Shankweiler, Liberman, Tola, & Katz,
1988; Defior, Martos, & Cary, 2002; Lundberg, 1988).
However, many instructors did not know the correct
definition of phonemic awareness. Furthermore, this
was not a recall task but a recognition task, in which the
correct response was selected from multiple choices.
Another finding was that only 50% of the instructors
could correctly recognize the principle governing the
use of the letter c for /k/ at the initial position (Item 34;
c is used for /k/ in the initial position before a, o, u, or
any consonant, as in cat, coal, cute, and clock), and
only 21% of the participants could correctly identify
the principle governing the use of the letter k for /k/
(Item 35; k is used for /k/ before e, i, or y, as in key, kite,
and sky). As noted in Table 1, the performance on
morphology-based items was poorer than on phonology-,
phonics-, and comprehension-based items. Examination
of the individual items showed that the percentages of
participants correctly identifying the number of mor-
phemes in words such as observer (three), frogs (two),
Table 3
Results of Performance on Similar Tasks in Different Studies
Study Phonemic Knowledge Syllabic Knowledge
Moats (1994): 25% (number of phonemes in ox) 19% knew all six syllable types
n = 89 IS teachers
Bos et al. (2001):
n = 252 PS teachers,
n = 286 IS teachers Box: 8% and 15% Definition of a syllable: 53% and 64%
Mather, Bos, & Babur (2001):
n = 293 PS teachers, n = 131 IS teachers Box: 2% and 19% Definition of a syllable: 52% and 66%
Fielding-Barnsley & Purdie (2005):
n = 93 PS teachers, n = 209 IS teachersa,
n = 38 IS teachersb Box: 15%, 26%, and 37% 47%, 53%, and 76%
Cunningham et al. (2004):
n = 720 IS teachers
(30% with master’s degrees) 4% Entire sample: 46.5%
High-perceiving kindergarten
teachersc (n = 490): 44.8%
Low-perceiving kindergarten
teachersd (n = 207): 48.5%
Joshi et al. (2006): 42% >90%
n = 118 IS teachers
Note: IS = in-service; PS = preservice.
a. Without special education backgrounds.
b. With special education backgrounds.
c. Teachers who perceived themselves as very knowledgeable in teaching.
d. Teachers who perceived themselves as not very knowledgeable in teaching..
398 Journal of Learning Disabilities
and spinster (two) were 26%, 29%, and 19%, respec-
tively (Item 19). Additionally, only 38% of instructors
were able to correctly identify the basic constituents of
reciprocal teaching (Item 31). The results of the present
study are compared with the findings of similar studies
and are shown in Table 3.
On the basis of the data in Table 3, the following gen-
eralizations can be made. Participants in most previous
studies have performed better on items relating to syl-
labic knowledge than on items relating to phonemic
knowledge. Among preservice and in-service teachers,
those teachers with special education backgrounds per-
form better on items of both phonemic knowledge and
syllabic knowledge. A study by Cunningham et al.
(2004) found that those teachers who perceived them-
selves as not very knowledgeable performed better than
those who perceived themselves as very knowledgeable
on syllabic knowledge items. In the present study,
instructors performed better than preservice and in-
service teachers. However, whereas the first five studies
listed in Table 3 used recall questions, the present study
used multiple-choice format, in which the chances of
getting the correct answer are higher. The instructors in
the present study also performed better on the syllable-
counting items than on the morpheme-counting items
(Table 4).
The questions were further classified into knowledge-
based and ability-based items. Knowledge-based items
are typically related to knowledge of relevant terminol-
ogy, patterns of the English language, or research-based
teaching strategies, such as the definition of a phoneme
(Item 9). Ability-based items assess a participant’s abil-
ity to actually perform a skill, such as the ability to count
the number of speech sounds in a word (Item 12). There
were 27 items in the knowledge-based category and 33
items in the ability-based category (again a somewhat
subjective categorization in some instances). The mean
percentages of correct responses along with the standard
deviations in each category are presented in Table 5.
Although there was no statistically significant differ-
ence between instructors’ performance on knowledge-
based versus ability-based items, it is interesting to note
that their performance followed a trend similar to that of
preservice teachers on the same survey (Binks, Joshi,
Ocker-Dean, Graham, & Boulware-Gooden, 2007; Joshi,
Binks, Dean, Hougen, & Graham, 2006), in which preser-
vice teachers also scored lower on knowledge-based
than ability-based items (36.29% and 54.56%, respec-
tively), and the discrepancy was statistically significant,
t(1, 117) = 5.163, p < .0001, Cohen’s d = .672). We
believe these statistics illustrate the fact that although
individuals might be able to use reading strategies and
Table 4
Percentages of Teacher Educators Correctly
Identifying the Number of Syllables
and Morphemes in Given Words
Number of Number of
Syllables Morphemes
Word Correctly Identified Correctly Identified
Heaven 92% 40%
Observer 96% 26%
Teacher 92% 48%
Frogs 88% 29%
Spinster 90% 19%
Table 5
Mean Percentages and Standard Deviations for
Knowledge- and Ability-Based Items
Category of Items Mean Percentage of Items Correct (SD)
Knowledge based 63.8 (18)
Ability based 72.34 (23.17)
skills in their own reading at an implicit level, they may
not have an explicit understanding of some reading-related
concepts that govern the ability to apply the strategies.
However, an explicit knowledge of such critical reading
strategies and skills is necessary for teaching others these
same skills, because one cannot teach something one
cannot express explicitly. For example, one may read a c
that comes before a, o, u, or a consonant as /k/ but may not
be able to recognize the pattern that governs the pronun-
ciation of initial c as /k/. Liberman and Liberman (1990)
estimated that 40% of children will not internalize such
patterns without explicit instruction.
The instructors performed well in certain areas:
greater than 90% defined and counted the number of syl-
lables correctly, 98% correctly recognized the definition
of a phoneme, and 92% correctly recognized that chef
and shoe begin with the same sound. Moderate weak-
nesses seemed to lie in some areas: correctly recognizing
words with two closed syllables (napkin), correctly rec-
ognizing words with open syllables (bacon), knowing
the definition of phonological awareness, correctly rec-
ognizing the definition of phonemic awareness, correctly
counting speech sounds in words such as through, and
correctly identifying the definition of a morpheme.
Severe weaknesses were seen in other areas: 42% cor-
rectly counted the speech sounds in words such as box,
27% could correctly recognized words with final stable
syllables (paddle), 50% recognized the pattern that gov-
erns the use of c in the initial position for the phoneme
Joshi et al. / Teacher Educators 399
/k/, and 21% correctly recognized the pattern that gov-
erns the use of k in the initial position for the phoneme
/k/. Even though counting the number of syllables in
words seemed to pose little problem, identifying the
number of morphemes in words appeared to be an area of
weakness for the instructors. The results of the instructors
counting of syllables and morphemes are presented in
Table 4.
Study 2
To replicate the study, an attempt was made to contact
instructors who teach reading courses at the university
level in a different state in the United States. The
instructors preferred to have the survey in advance
rather than completing it as part of a group. To comply
with this request, a different survey with 12 questions
relating to the causes of reading disability, general phi-
losophy of teaching reading, and best practices in teach-
ing the five components identified by the NRP
(phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary,
and text comprehension) was mailed to the instructors.
After receiving the survey, 40 instructors from 12 uni-
versities in a midwestern state agreed to participate in
the study. All participants had doctoral degrees (PhDs or
EdDs), had previously taught in elementary schools, and
believed that they were academically well prepared to
teach reading. The number of years of teaching experi-
ence at the university level since receiving their doctor-
ates ranged from 1 to 26. The sample consisted of 35
women and 5 men. One of the authors traveled to all 12
universities and asked the same 12 questions from the
survey that was sent earlier. The participants were met
at their respective universities in their offices, and the
responses of the participants were taped for further
analysis.
According to the participants’ responses, the three
most common factors associated with the high incidence
of reading disability were socioeconomic status (69%),
family background (60%), and English as a second lan-
guage and ELL status (55%). The percentages do not
add up to 100% because some participants cited two
reasons for the high incidence of reading problems.
Even though all of these reasons are generally respon-
sible for reading problems, it is also recognized that an
important reason for failure in learning to read is the
quality of reading instruction provided in elementary
schools (McCardle & Chhabra, 2004; Snow et al., 1998).
This reason, however, was not mentioned by any of the
instructors.
Regarding the reading methodologies, 75% of the
instructors identified the balanced approach as their phi-
losophy of teaching reading, followed by the whole-
language approach (25%) and the language experience
approach (15%). The balanced approach of teaching
reading, if applied properly, may be a good instructional
strategy. However, as Moats (2000) and Vaughn, Moody,
and Schumm (1998) observed, under the disguise of
“balanced reading instruction,” many teachers rely on
the whole-language philosophy and neglect systematic
decoding instruction or use it incidentally.
Other results of the survey follow. Regarding the
definition and instruction of phonological awareness,
only 20% of the instructors correctly defined phonologi-
cal awareness, and the remaining 80% of the participants
defined it as letter-sound correspondence. Phonics
instruction was suggested as the best method to teach
decoding and phonological awareness by the majority of
the participants (n = 32 [80%]). Even though phonics
instruction was mentioned as an effective method of
instruction, instructors’ responses in Study 1 indicated
that teacher educators were not knowledgeable about the
steps involved in systematic and explicit synthetic pho-
nics instruction. Similar observation has been made by
others as well (Cunningham et al., 2004; Moats, 1994,
2000; Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2003).
Ninety percent (n = 38) of the participants cited exten-
sive reading and repeated reading as the techniques for
improving vocabulary and fluency. Even though these
methods are useful, many experts have also recom-
mended knowledge of morphemic patterns; exposure to
Tier 1, 2, and 3 words; and familiarity with methods such
as semantic feature analyses and cluster analysis as
being helpful in improving vocabulary and comprehen-
sion (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002).
Professional Development for Teacher
Educators: Addressing the Challenge
To increase the knowledge of teacher educators teach-
ing preservice reading courses, the Texas Reading First
Higher Education Collaborative (HEC) was established
in 2000. The Texas HEC was formed to support teacher
educators of reading education in the state in integrating
scientifically based reading research into their teacher
preparation courses. The HEC began with 15 members
from 5 institutions that certify teachers. As of 2007, the
HEC had approximately 300 members representing over
100 institutions. The HEC provides ongoing professional
development and collaborative opportunities for teacher
educators and educational administration faculty mem
bers
400 Journal of Learning Disabilities
teaching reading in university undergraduate teacher
preparation programs, postbaccalaureate programs,
programs in community colleges, and alternative certifi-
cation programs. The HEC provides financial support for
members to attend seminars and for collaborating with
colleagues. In addition, an online forum, HEC Online,
facilitates collaboration, communication, and the sharing
of scientifically based reading research findings and
instruction among the HEC members. HEC staff mem-
bers as well as expert HEC members provide on-site
technical assistance to the teacher educators, model
evidence-based teaching instructional strategies in their
college classes, and provide resources and materials to
facilitate the integration of evidence-based research into
the syllabi and courses. In a recent study of linguistic
knowledge, it was found that preservice teachers instructed
by teacher educators trained by HEC programs performed
significantly better than preservice teachers instructed by
teacher educators not affiliated with HEC (Binks, 2008).
Summary and Discussion
Reading is an essential skill, and individuals in early
grades who experience difficulties in learning to read con-
tinue to struggle in school and in life. Evidence-based
reading practices are available, but unfortunately, many
classroom teachers have not received adequate or current
professional development to apply this knowledge, and as
the results of this study indicate, instructors at many
teacher training institutions may also not be knowledgeable
about the basic linguistic constructs needed for literacy
development. If the role of teacher educators is to make
“abstruse knowledge potentially usable” (Snow, Griffin,
& Burns, 2005, p. 12), who is ensuring that teacher
educator have a solid grasp of the sometimes “abstruse”
and often controversial new research? It would seem,
as Spear-Swerling and Brucker (2003) and Cunningham
et al. (2004) concluded, that we need to turn our atten-
tion to improving teacher education and teacher devel-
opment at the early grade levels by providing intensive
instruction on the linguistic features of the English lan-
guage. One way to accomplish this goal is to provide
ongoing professional development and collaborative
opportunities for preservice reading instructors.
Moreover, to foster greater knowledge of and improved
performance in literacy instruction, it seems imperative
that the topic of how to ensure that teacher educators
remain competent and current in their knowledge base
be addressed not only at local institutions but also at
higher policy levels.
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... When using the letter "g," the vowel that follows is either e, i, or y, and when using the letter "j," the vowel that follows is either a, o, or u. For a more detailed list, see Joshi et al. (2008Joshi et al. ( /2009). ...
... The theoretical framework for developing Part 1 of the survey was based on the idea that children's spelling develops through stages (Ehri, 2000;Moats, 1996) and that development is necessary to reach conventional spelling. The survey was developed using the spelling knowledge and patterns outlined in Moats (), Carreker (2002), Birsh and Carreker (2019), Henry (2010) and Joshi et al. (2008Joshi et al. ( , 2009). Green (2002) was referenced for the AAE phonology features and Honig et al., (2018) for the Spanish phonology features. ...
... Overall, teacher educators indicated they felt somewhat prepared to teach the patterns of English spelling explicitly and systematically; yet their teaching philosophy responses suggest that, in general, they value the teaching of English spelling as only moderately important in the first place. Studies indicate the value of explicit and systematic instruction in spelling as relates to both reading and writing (Joshi et al., 2009), but it appears teacher educators may often not realize the importance and value of spelling themselves (e.g., participants mostly disagreed with the statement that spelling is a higher literacy skill than reading). This finding corroborates with studies of teacher knowledge and perceptions at the preservice and inservice educator level, which found teachers generally underestimated the value of explicit knowledge and teaching of the structure of the English language, including spelling (e.g., Adoniou, 2014;Bos et al., 2001;Cunningham et al., 2004;Moats & Lyon, 1996;Spear-Swerling et al., 2005). ...
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Purpose: The purposes of this study were: (a) to compare speech-language therapists’ (SLTs’) and general education teachers’ perceived skill for providing early reading and writing instruction and (b) to compare SLTs’ and teachers’ knowledge of early reading and writing skills. Method: SLTs (n = 28) and general education teachers (n = 25) participated in this study. Participants completed a self-assessment of their own skill level for providing early reading and writing instruction and an objective measure of their knowledge of early reading and writing skills. Results: There was a significant difference between groups in self-assessment of current skill for delivering early reading and writing instruction; SLTs rated their own current skill as lower than teachers rated their own current skill. There was not a significant difference in knowledge of early reading and writing skills between SLTs and teachers. Conclusions: SLTs and teachers can benefit from continued professional development related to providing evidence-based reading and writing instruction. Because of their different perceptions of their own skills, professional development may need to be approached differently for SLTs and teachers. Future research will examine specific areas of knowledge strength and weakness for SLTs and teachers.
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Israel is one of many countries in which English is not the spoken language. In these countries, it is of the utmost importance for students to acquire literacy in English as a foreign language (EFL) to support their entry into higher education and enhance their social and business opportunities. However, many students do not acquire adequate literacy skills by the conclusion of their elementary school years. To obtain these skills, the curriculum as reflected in EFL textbooks must include extensive and accurate content related to the constructs of the English language. This study aimed to explore to what extent literacy instruction components, as defined by research, are incorporated into textbooks that are commonly used for teaching EFL in elementary schools in Israel according to teacher self-reports. The textbook examination was based on the research-based literacy components aligned with the Science of Reading for English as a first language and on additional EFL literacy instruction components. The findings indicate that textbooks inadequately cover theory-based instructional materials for each of the literacy components. The conclusions of this study can be used to raise awareness regarding how EFL literacy instruction in Israel may be improved by providing theory-based textbooks.
Article
Content acquisition podcasts (CAPs) are a popular tool in special educator preparation but little is known about their application to communication disorders. This quasi-experimental study investigated the effectiveness of two instructional methods: lecture plus video and a content acquisition podcast (CAP). Participants were undergraduates in early childhood education and special education programs (N = 62). Participants were assessed on their knowledge and application of communication development and disorders at four time points. Results indicated that the lecture plus video condition was more effective at producing knowledge gains compared to the CAP condition, but both conditions were equally effective at producing gains in application ability at posttest. Neither group maintained their knowledge gains 8 weeks after instruction. Learning condition did not affect participants in the two education programs differently. Implications for teacher preparation are discussed.
Chapter
One basic assumption concerning developmental dyslexia is that the underlying deficit is specific to the reading task. Thus, one would expect to find reading disabled children with perfectly normal intellectual functions and linguistic abilities. Their only problem would specifically be related to the very act of reading and spelling. However, when reading disabled and normal children are compared all sorts of cognitive differences have been found indicating that dyslexic children actually suffer from quite general cognitive deficits. This is in fact a serious undermining of the assumption of specificity (Stanovich, 1986).
Book
Peggy McCardle and Vinita Chhabra, have partnered with 30 other well-respected figures in the field of literacy for a clear, comprehensive exploration of reading research--and the methods used to obtain it. The result is a one-of-a-kind resource that helps teachers and school administrators make sense of the controversy over evidence-based reading instruction, assess the quality of reading research, and make their own sound decisions about using research to shape instruction. The book's first section sets the stage for the rest of the book by outlining the importance of using research evidence to guide practice. Section II clarifies the definition of scientific research, examines three types of research studies (longitudinal research, meta-analysis, and clinical trials), and provides simple guidelines for determining the quality of a study. Section III takes a fresh look at the milestone National Reading Panel report on teaching children to read (April 2000) and introduces important additional findings on phonemic awareness and phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In Section IV, the focus is on classroom issues educators face every day, such as professional development, student motivation, time allocation during literacy instruction, and interventions for students who struggle with reading. Section V explores neuroimaging's role in revealing the relationship between brain function and reading ability. The final section turns the spotlight on educational policy--how it develops, how reading research has affected it, and where reading research is headed. Intended for any educator, administrator, or parent committed to nurturing students' literacy, this landmark resource will help readers understand the value of scientifically based reading research, form educated answers to their complex questions, and shape reading instruction that leaves no child behind. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Reading instruction and grouping practices provided for students with learning disabilities (LD) by special education teachers in the resource room were examined Fourteen special education teachers representing 13 schools were observed three times over the course of 1 year and interviewed in the beginning and end of the school year. Results indicated that teachers primarily provided whole group reading instruction to relatively large groups of students (5 to 19), and little differentiated instruction or materials were provided despite the wide range (3 to 5 grade levels) of reading abilities represented. Most teachers identified whole language as their primary approach to reading, and little instruction that addressed word recognition or comprehension was observed.
Article
Research on the nature of reading and spelling disability (dyslexia) indicates unequivocally that most dyslexic individuals do not process language accurately or fluently at the level of phonology and that they may experience disorders in syntax and semantics as well. Simultaneously, intervention research clearly demonstrates that individuals who are taught language structure explicitly progress more readily than those who are not. Given the consistency of research findings, the paucity of teachers skilled in teaching language explicitly to dyslexic children is of more concern than ever. Surveys of teacher knowledge, reviews of the literature on teacher education, and policy statements indicate that many teachers are underprepared to teach language content and processes to children whose learning problems are language based. Even motivated and experienced teachers typically understand too little about spoken and written language structure to be able to provide sufficient instruction in these areas. A new approach to teacher education is needed that emphasizes the importance of language knowledge for literacy instruction, as well as its skilled application to instructional planning.
Article
Reading research supports the necessity for directly teaching concepts about linguistic structure to beginning readers and to students with reading and spelling difficulties. In this study, experienced teachers of reading, language arts, and special education were tested to determine if they have the requisite awareness of language elements (e.g., phonemes, morphemes) and of how these elements are represented in writing (e.g., knowledge of sound-symbol correspondences). The results were surprisingly poor, indicating that even motivated and experienced teachers typically understand too little about spoken and written language structure to be able to provide sufficient instruction in these areas. The utility of language structure knowledge for instructional planning, for assessment of student progress, and for remediation of literacy problems is discussed. The teachers participating in the study subsequently took a course focusing on phonemic awareness training, spoken-written language relationships, and careful analysis of spelling and reading behavior in children. At the end of the course, the teachers judged this information to be essential for teaching and advised that it become a prerequisite for certification. Recommendations for requirements and content of teacher education programs are presented.
Article
Research on the nature of reading and spelling disability (dyslexia) indicates unequivocally that most dyslexic individuals do not process language accurately or fluently at the level of phonology and that they may experience disorders in syntax and semantics as well. Simultaneously, intervention research clearly demonstrates that individuals who arc taught language structure explicitly progress more readily than those who are not. Given the consistency of research findings, the paucity of teachers skilled in teaching language explicitly to dyslexic children is of more concern than ever. Surveys of teacher knowledge, reviews of the literature on teacher education, and policy statements indicate that many teachers are underprepared to teach language content and processes to children whose learning problems are language based. Even motivated and experienced teachers typically understand too little about spoken and written language structure to be able to provide sufficient instruction in these areas. A new approach to teacher education is needed that emphasizes the importance of language knowledge for literacy instruction, as well as its skilled application to instructional planning.
Book
As this publication is a full book, it cannot be freely shared. If you wold like to purchase a copy, you can do so at https://www.guilford.com/books/Bringing-Words-to-Life/Beck-McKeown-Kucan/9781462508167
Article
Discusses features of a microcomputer program, SCOREIT, used at New Orleans' Loyola University and several high schools to score and analyze test results. Benefits and dimensions of the program's automated test and item analysis are outlined, and several examples illustrating test and item analyses by SCOREIT are presented. (MBR)