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This manuscript is an examination of a life well lived with the professional contributions of a leader who served across the fields of educational psychology, counseling, and literacy. Francis P. Robinson was a pioneer in the development of postsecondary literacy theory, research, and pedagogy. Although he is most widely known for what is perhaps the best-known textbook study strategy in the world, SQ3R, his contributions to the field of reading and learning strategy research and praxis have gone well beyond the influence of SQ3R.
So Much More Than SQ3R: A Life History of
Francis P. Robinson
Norman A. Stahl
and Sonya L. Armstrong
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL,
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Texas State University, San Marcos,
This manuscript is an examination of a life well lived
with the professional contributions of a leader who
served across the fields of educational psychology,
counseling, and literacy. Francis P. Robinson was a
pioneer in the development of postsecondary liter-
acy theory, research, and pedagogy. Although he is
most widely known for what is perhaps the best-
known textbook study strategy in the world, SQ3R,
his contributions to the field of reading and learning
strategy research and praxis have gone well beyond
the influence of SQ3R.
Received 1 July 2019
Accepted 1 April 2020
In what has become a seminal work on narrative life histories for the lit-
eracy field, James R. King (1991) expounded on the need for each mem-
ber of a profession to have heroes who serve as models through a life of
scholarship, mentorship, and service, and who serve as a beacon to guide
one through a professional career, if not personal life. Of course, it is not
all that difficult to identify contemporary professional and academic her-
oes whose good works and dedication to the field helped form our aca-
demic worldviews. However, those farther back in the academic lineage
may be lesser known; indeed, even if the legacy of their contributions in
theory, research, and/or pedagogy may be known, rarely are the lived
lives of specific contributors known to a current generation.
Unfortunately, there is great truth in an old African proverb that every
time an elder passes, a library is lost. The purpose of this manuscript,
CONTACT Norman A. Stahl Department of Curriculum and Instruction,
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA.
!2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
then, is to examine an academic life well lived by a leader whose contri-
butions spanned the fields of educational psychology, counseling, and lit-
eracy: Francis P. Robinson. Perhaps the best-known textbook study
strategy in the world is the omnipresent SQ3R. Over the past decades
since 1946 when Robinson first introduced SQ3R, it has been a staple in
college study strategy texts, content reading texts, and even basal reading
series, whether as initially presented in RobinsonsEffective Study (1946)
or as one of the multiple adaptations or mutations (Stahl, 1983) that have
evolved in 70 years. If only as the originator of SQ3R, Robinson would
have earned a place in the pantheon of the literacy profession. However,
his contributions to the field of reading and learning strategy research
and praxis have gone well beyond the influence of SQ3R, as the following
chronology of his life and career will demonstrate.
Through this examination of Robinsons life, we aim to follow
Tuchmans(1981) sage advice in using biography as a mechanism to
encapsulate history. As a prism of history, the life history of a scholar like
Robinson not only tells the story of a person, but also promotes a greater
understanding of a larger field, which in this case is the history of postse-
condary reading and learning instruction. As Tuchman notes, One does
not try for the whole but for what is truthfully representative(1981, p.
81). In this life history, then, we adopt a largely chronological narrative
approach that begins with Robinsons early years, ends with his death,
and includes many stories of his academic legacy between
these bookends.
Robinsons Formative Years
On December 21, 1906, Francis Pleasant Robinson was born in Danville,
Indiana, to Pleasant S. Robinson and Grace Z. Huron Robinson. As was
often the custom at the time, he was named after Graces father and given
a middle name after his father. The family was not to remain in the
Midwest for long; by the time of the 1910 census, the family, including
his older brother by two years, John H. Robinson, had settled in north-
eastern Oregon in the small town of Summerville. It had been an early
commercial and trading center in the northeast section of the Grande
Ronda Valley, which lay between the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa
Mountains. At that time, agriculture and forestry were the predominant
fields of occupation in this locale, and Pleasant (38 years old) was the
owner of a sawmill. The census report implied that Grace (now 35 years
old) focused on the raising of two young boys, John (age 5) and Francis
(age 3). Pleasant and Grace had been married for nine years by the time
they moved to Oregon.
By the time of the federal census of 1920, the family had moved down
the road to LaGrange, Oregon, which must have seemed like a metropolis
to Francis at 13 years old with its population of 6,913. The family had
grown, too, with the inclusion of Graces elderly father Francis Huron
(79 years old) as well as Francisuncle and aunt, Ralph R. Huron and
Lulu M. Huron. During that time period, Pleasant was a foreman in a
logging camp, and Grace was a music teacher of both violin and piano.
Although LaGrange was to be the home of what is now Eastern Oregon
University, such was not in existence as Francis went off to college after
graduating from LaGrange High School. Hence, he spent his undergraduate
years at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The granting of the Bachelor of
Arts degree was recommended for Francis and his peers at a special meeting
of the university faculty on June 8, 1929, and based upon his achievements
in undergraduate study he was granted membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
On to Graduate School: The University of Iowa Years
Francis Robinson was to return to the Midwest in 1929 as he began his
graduate studies in psychology at the State University of Iowa in Iowa
City. There he was to have the good fortune to have been assigned Carl
Seashore as his advisor. Known as a benevolent yet firm mentor,
Seashore was the Dean of the Graduate School and the Chair of the
Psychology Department as well as an iconic figure in a number of aca-
demic fields including psychology, musicology, speech pathology, human
development, and higher education.
The University of Iowa reflected a culture where the faculty in the
behavioral sciences believed that seeking answers to the questions raised
through the scientific approach would lead to the betterment of the
human condition, particularly in promoting the opportunity for students
to have a positive and successful college experience. Hence, the know-
ledge and practices of the science of applied psychology as practiced in
laboratory settings was employed to diagnose and then remediate stu-
dentsimpediments to college success.
As all students entered the university, the diagnosis of potential prob-
lems that might impact student success was undertaken across six areas:
1. Knowledge of high school subjects and aptitude for freshman courses,
2. Speech problems,
3. Reading disabilities,
4. Personality traits,
5. Emotional stability, and
6. Physical well-being (sensory, motor, neuroses, psychoses).
Each individual had such in-depth data that it resembled a case study.
Such data would be analyzed to determine whether an issue was organic,
or was due to faulty training, lack of training, or environmental obstacles.
For the more organic problems, students would receive counseling
designed to assist them in making appropriate decisions to adapt and
overcome identified problems toward academic and social successes. In
the case of the latter situations, remediation using the best scientifically
formulated methods and instrumentation then available in the laboratory
would be utilized in a training protocol. For instance, those with a diag-
nosed reading problem would have their eye movements photographed
with an eye camera, which was then considered to be cutting-
edge technology.
The goal of the diagnostic intake procedure was, on one hand, to sup-
port the creation of new scientific knowledge and resultant technology;
on the other hand, the goal was to promote the applied use of this know-
ledge and technology to better the retention and academic success of
It was within this environment that Robinson was introduced to the
extant theory, research, and practice of postsecondary reading and
studying. Yet, such an academic path was not exactly what he expected
for his graduate school training. Indeed, as Robinson (1971)confided
to those in attendance at the sixth meeting of the North Central
Reading Association, he had already crossed the Rubicon on his first
day at the university although he did not know it. Exactly how this
came about was relayed as he described his first meeting with
Carl Seashore:
So, I went in for my first thesis conference with some typical experimental
topics in mind, which I could suggest. He listened appreciatively but said,
Since Ive appointed you as graduate assistant to set up a Reading Clinic
for college students, you ought to do research on reading.I told him that
was the first Id heard of that job assignment and that I didnt know
anything about reading. He said, Thats all right, you can learn.
And learn he did as he completed a masters thesis (1930) and, follow-
ing graduation in 1930, went on for doctoral study in psychology.
The Early Research and Influence of University of
Iowas Program
One learns about the philosophical underpinnings of the program at the
University of Iowa in Robinsons(1931) early work titled Can College
Freshmen in the Lowest Tenth in Reading Be Aided Scholastically?As
previously noted, the institution took the stance that the creation of new
knowledge in the behavioral sciences and the delivery of cutting-edge
pedagogy should have a synergistic relationship. Robinsons earliest
attempt at promoting this marriage focused on whether clinical analysis
and treatment of college studentsreading comprehension problems as
evidenced by performance of the Iowa Silent Reading Examination might
benefit them. The training group for the investigation was comprised of a
random sample of 42 freshmen in the target cohort and 95 freshmen in a
control group. The training was delivered via a clinical design, which pro-
vided each student with an individualized instructional experience. The
rationale for this model was that an individual demonstrating poor read-
ing skills in college likely did not respond positively to group instruction
in the earlier grades. Hence, the learner required an individualized ana-
lysis and the targeted treatment of all the possible factors underlying the
problem(s) with intellectual ability, emotional stability, sensory difficulties,
faulty eye movements, and either perceptual or comprehension difficul-
ties. To determine the root cause(s), the students medical, social, peda-
gogical, and developmental histories were analyzed so that any identified
problems could be treated and overcome. The individualized training pro-
vided to students included a focus on how to employ advanced reading
competencies for mastering difficult texts and the various structures of
reading materials as well as skills for reading to answer questions and
determining main ideas, increasing reading rate, and skimming to find
information. The delivery of instruction required each clinician to hold
two 30-minute sessions per week for eight weeks with each student in the
training cohort. To promote the transfer of the skills learned in the lab
into their academic routines, the students were directed to employ the
reading techniques with their regular class assignments. Tests were given
to the students in both groups after the training treatment was completed
to determine gains in reading ability.
Robinson found that students in the lowest tenth in reading compre-
hension ability showed improvement in both reading competency and
academic success. With comprehension, the groups ranking moved from
the 5
to 29
centile. The gain in reading rate was more robust, going
from the 27
centile to the 70
centile. As for academic success, there
was an 18% increase in grade point average beyond those in the
control group.
Robinson next asked which students benefited to the greatest degree
from the training regimen. Using the scores of the institutions intelli-
gence measure, the University of Iowa Qualifying Examination, as well as
a cooperation index based on student participation in the training ses-
sions, Robinson arrived at two conclusions. Intelligence was highly related
to improvement except with the variable of reading rate. Further, the
overlapping variable of cooperation was of importance. Hence, he postu-
lated that students who are willing to participate readily should be
selected in rank order from those with the highest intelligence downward
until the programs capacity was filled up.
Finally, the question was raised as to whether the clinical system or
course method was more efficient in training students found to be in the
lowest tenth on a reading measure. Using his findings, and taking into
account those from other studies, Robinson concluded that a clinical
approach dealt with a greater number of factors that might account for
students in this cohort meeting academic success. It was also suggested
that the clinical approach was also far more flexible for implementing an
intervention. Yet having taken this stance he did state that, for the aver-
age college student, a How to Studycourse was sufficient as it led to
being a more efficient learner given that such a student was not in need
of in-depth intervention services to remain in college.
Eye Movement Research
It was at the University of Iowa, as a graduate student and graduate
assistant (19291932), that Robinson began the development of what was
to be a research and publication agenda of major importance and influ-
ence in the fields of psychology and literacy. His initial work followed the
road his doctoral advisor Dean Carl Seashore sent him down at the time
of their first meeting. To understand the direction his academic travels
took him, one must realize that many of the psychologists and educators
with interest in the process and pedagogy of reading and learning held a
strong interest in research on eye movement, perceptual span, reading
rate, and comprehension with applied possibilities for the improvement
of reading pedagogy (see Leedy, 1958; Taylor, 1937; Tinker, 1965). Much
later Robinson (1971) noted the influence of this research track upon his
early research endeavors.
Robinsons first publication is this area (1932) along with coauthor
Paul Murphy focused on the validity of the direct observation method of
counting the number of eye fixations made by a student while reading as
opposed to the number identified by photographing the fixations with the
Iowa Eye Movement Camera.
The experimental procedure led the two investigators to photograph
the eye movements of two groups of college students (n ¼31 and n ¼38)
deemed to be poor readers (this classification was not explained) and at
the same time each researcher counted the number of fixations made by
each of the readers using the direct observation method. Students read
200-word paragraphs from the widely used Van Wagenen Reading Scales
[see Harris and Sipay (1975) for a discussion of informal measures of
determining the number of eye fixations made during reading and Strang
(1938) for coverage of standardized tests used with college students].
Three scores were computed for each subject: the number of eye move-
ments photographed, the number of movements counted by direct obser-
vation, and reading rate as determined by the photographic process.
The researchers concluded that reading rate was a stronger measure of
the number of eye movements made by a student than the number
counted with the direct observation method. In using the direct observa-
tion approach the researchers usually did not approximate the number of
eye movements made by the students. Hence, even though both methods
can be used in practice, it was concluded that the photographic approach
needed to be employed for an accurate judgment of eye movements.
Stepping into Academic Life: The Wisconsin-Stout Years
With the fall semester of 1933, as the nation was deep into the Great
Depression, Robinson was a newly minted Ph.D. (1932) and newly mar-
ried to Carolyn G. Bostwick (August 15, 1931). He was serving in the
Department of Education at the Stout Institute on the shores of Lake
Menomin in the town of Menomonie in western Wisconsin. One might
expect that Robinson was right at home in small-town Menomonie as it
was a center for the lumber industry, much like his boyhood home in
eastern Oregon.
The Stout Institute began as a privately endowed training school that
was dedicated over time to training teachers for the industrial and house-
hold arts. In 1911 it became a state institution now known as the
University of WisconsinStout. By the time Robinson joined the staff as
an assistant professor (19331934) the school was delivering a Bachelor
of Science degree that led to a life-teaching certificate after two years of
successful teaching. The Institute served a population of some
500 students.
As a member of the faculty, Robinson delivered four courses to under-
graduates in either the School of Home Economics or the School of
Industrial Education: Psychology 209A: Psychology I, Psychology 209B:
Psychology II, Psychology 350: Adolescent Psychology, and Education
222: Principles of Secondary Education.
In addition to teaching responsibilities, he served on a faculty commit-
tee each year generally focusing on admissions, curriculum, and student
loans. Institutional records show that he held the rank of professor and
served as a department chair from 1934 to 1937 (an interesting note is
that no evidence of promotion to associate professor en route to full pro-
fessor is found for his trajectory at Stout). On March 6, 1934, Francis
became a father with the birth of his first daughter, christened
Mary Francis.
During these early days in the professoriate he was to have a number
of articles published in highly respected journals. One of the articles, for
better or worse, was to have particular impact on college reading practice
for many decades to come. This short work titled, An Aid for Improving
Reading Rate(1934a), evolved from Robinsons dissertation (1932) and
his corresponding monograph, The Role of Eye Movements in Reading
with an Evaluation of Techniques for Their Improvement from the
University of Iowa Studies: Series on Aims and Progress of Research
(Robinson, 1933).
The purposes of this (1934a) article were to share a method for
increasing reading span (defined as the average number of words per-
ceived with each reading fixation) as well as to discuss the findings of a
study in which the technique was used in training college students at the
University of Iowa. In that study, students were trained over ten weeks to
read text in longer and longer phrase units to lessen the number of fixa-
tions made per passage. This training was based on the postulation that
the greater the number of fixations made per passage, the greater the
inefficiency of the reading process. Further, as the training progressed
normally printed text passages were interspersed across the phrase-read-
ing activities. The subjects were also directed to approach their course-
oriented reading assignments at the most efficient rate appropriate.
Robinson provided an example of an initial line of phrases
for practice:
Whether note taking is good or evil
As well, he included an example of a line of phrases for practice pre-
sented at the end of the training period:
For the reader of your paper to know what you have read
At the completion of the investigation, based on four reading tests of
the era, it was determined that reading rate increased by 58% while com-
prehension showed a 5% improvement. Eye movement measures suggested
that rate gains were a 62% increase in width of fixation, a 5% reduction of
duration of fixation, and a 67% reduction in regressions. The analysis of
the results for matched control groups lead Robinson to conclude that
gains were not due to either maturation or training in comprehension.
Robinson then went on to propose that with variation in the training
sequence and in the instruction, the phrase-reading technique might have
effectiveness in teaching students in lower grades, including those catego-
rized at the time as remedial readers,to become more efficient in proc-
essing text. These learners would start the training with materials
formatted in the manner used in Robinsons work and then transfer to
more typically formatted text.
Robinsons University of Iowa Studies monograph, The Role of Eye
Movements in Reading with an Evaluation of Techniques for Their
Improvement (Robinson, 1933), based on his actual dissertation was the
first of his works to receive a formal published review. The work was
reviewed by no less than Miles A. Tinker (1933), an individual known as
one of the nations preeminent literacy scholars and an acknowledged
expert on eye-movement research. Tinker stated that Robinsons work
was sound as well as worthwhile for the clinical psychology field as far as
the findings that were presented. On the other hand, Tinker felt that an
invalid hypothesis led to Robinsons interpretations of the data and as a
result, his conclusions were unwarranted. Furthermore, Tinker deter-
mined that Robinsons conclusions were unsupported by the related
research literature. According to Tinker (1933), It appears, therefore,
that the authors inference that eye-movements are causes of reading pro-
ficiency and that their improvement results in increased reading efficiency
must be rejected as invalid(p. 556). Rather, Tinker believed that extant
research supported the notion that eye movements were merely symp-
toms, rather than causes, of reading proficiency or disability.
Two additional related articles that evolved out of Robinsons time at
the University of Iowa appeared in the year of 1934. His interest in the
relationship of eye movements to reading rate and comprehension accur-
acy led him to evaluate the design, function, and use of the tachistoscope
in measuring the development of reading perception (Robinson, 1934b).
In a two-stage experiment, Robinson first measured (photographed) the
eye-movements of 51 college students to determine width of fixation and
perception span while they read a simple passage using the common
protocol for such experiments, that being multiple presentations of unre-
lated sentences. The conclusion he reached after reviewing the data was
that perception span should not be employed as the measure for predict-
ing reading span.
Perhaps of greater importance was that the findings led Robinson to
ask whether a tachistoscopic task that more closely resembled a typical
reading passage would promote a stronger correlation. Hence, the sub-
jects were presented sentences in a meaningful sequence of a typical para-
graph. Furthermore, to undertake this procedure Robinson had to
augment the standard tachistoscope to present the passage in this new
manner. Hence, the article had a secondary purpose of providing a
description of the design and the mechanics of the new tachistoscope.
The findings from the second component of the experiment led to the
conclusion that the revised tachistoscopic procedure produced a more
accurate assessment of reading perception. Yet, Robinson felt that the
new approach still did not provide a good measure or prediction of read-
ing span (i.e., eye-movement behavior).
A second work that appeared (Robinson & McCollom, 1934) followed
the same line of research that came from the reading laboratory at the
University of Iowa. Robinson and his colleague wished to evaluate the
relationship of reading rate and comprehension accuracy scores on read-
ing tests. Once again, the research focused on college freshmen, which in
this case consisted of a group (n ¼37) considered superior readers (i.e.,
the top 15% on the Iowa Silent Reading Test, ISRT, battery) being com-
pared to a second group of freshmen (n ¼33) considered to be poor
readers (i.e., the lowest 15% on the ISRT).
A scoring procedure where the number of questions attempted served
as the rate measure and the percent of questions attempted and answered
correctly served as a comprehension accuracy measure. The superior
readers outperformed the poor readers in both categories. However, by
using the critical ratio statistic in evaluating the data the researchers con-
cluded that the difference between the groups was greater in reading rate.
Yet, the researchers were aware that the ISRT was a speeded test, which
might have promoted results different from those that might be found
with a power test.
Hence, in the second facet of the experiment, the subjects were given
two untimed, scaled-by-difficulty power tests from the Van Waggensen
Scales for English Literature (VWSEL): one to measure ability to compre-
hend text and another to measure ability to interpret text. The superior
readers had a mean time to completion of 20 minutes while the poor
readers had a mean completion time of 39 minutes. In both the case of
rate and comprehension the superior readers demonstrated more robust
results than the poor readers with greatest difference between groups
being reading rate.
In the next phase of the analysis, the researchers examined the per-
centage of poor readers who placed in the range of scores evidenced by
the superior readers on each instrument. Forty-two percent of the poor
readers placed in the range of scores for the superior readers on the
speeded ISRT, 100% of them placed in the superior readersrange on
the comprehension measure of the VWSEL, and 94% of them placed in
the superior readersrange of scores on the interpretation of text
measure. Yet, as noted, few of the poor readers read as quickly as the
superior readers.
The researchers concluded that individuals who scored highly on a
timed test excelled in both comprehension and rate, but rate is the greater
determinant of performance of the measure. Further, superior readers
demonstrated greater depth of comprehension of items associated with
more difficult test passages than did poor readers. Finally, Robinson and
McCollom (1934) posited that the then-current reading instruments did
not measure depth of comprehension to any great degree.
A Scholars Trajectory: The Ohio State Years
During the summer of 1937, Robinson returned to the Pacific Northwest
for an appointment as an assistant professor in the Psychology
Department of the University of Oregon. Yet this return to his under-
graduate alma mater was but a short layover on the road to Columbus,
Ohio, and a position as assistant professor in the Department of
Psychology at the Ohio State University (OSU). Given the nature of these
institutions as scholarship-focused, it is not surprising that Robinson
stepped back in his academic rank in making these moves.
With Robinsons appointment to a tenure-track position at OSU, he
extended his scholarly agenda with the regular publication of works in
impactful journals of the era. He demonstrated greater breadth of topics
as he moved beyond his focus on eye-movement research that defined his
research agenda in the 1930s.
In 1940, three articles appeared in print. One publication (Robinson,
1940a) evolved from a movement in the literacy field that sought to
improve readerscomprehension through the simplification of vocabulary
load in passages. The convergence of four divergent societal or peda-
gogical movements led Robinson to ask whether the simplification of text
would have negative effect on the literary or inspirational value of text.
These four movements were 1) the recommendation for the use of basic
English with the nations immigrant population, 2) the desire to improve
the reading competency of the nations children, 3) the development of
more readable texts for readers with disabilities, and 4) the desire to
make the Bible more readable to the masses.
In the conduct of the three studies covered in this article, he employed
a paired comparison technique in which readers read passages of equivalent
meaning, theme, genre, inspirational value, length, and location as in the
original text. In the first study, individuals (n ¼693) read passages from
the King James Bible and the simplified Goodspeed Bible. In the second
study, a sample of college students and in-service teachers (n ¼143) were
given the preamble from the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact and a version writ-
ten in basic English. Finally, in the third study, a group of junior high stu-
dents and college students (n ¼251) were both requested to read intact
and simplified passages from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Based on the findings from each experiment Robinson posited three
major conclusions. First, a well-written simplification of a text did not
lessen its inspirational value or its worth as an indication of the authors
knowledge of the presented topic. Secondly, well-written simplifications
of original texts for many texts should lead to greater comprehension by
readers. Finally, he warned that teachers might develop different biases
about the simplifications of content in text presentations.
With a second scholarly work that year Robinson (1940b) expanded
his range of research with the coverage of spelling instruction through a
content review of teacher-training methods texts. At that time, teaching
methods textbooks advocated that in teaching spelling the key was to
properly arrange the lesson delivery with little regard to the problems
encountered by the pupils or the errors they made with words. The eras
recommended lesson procedures called for frequent repetition of the ver-
balized, correct form of the word generally by rote learning. Few of the
principles presented in the method texts dealt with the individual learning
processes unique to each student. Robinson felt that this problem existed
because the authors of methods texts failed to draw upon the research on
the psychology of learning.
Building upon the extant literature in psychology, Robinson made the
case that methods texts should be revised to draw upon research that
examined the reasoning processes used by spellers. In doing such he felt
that four basic principles would be presented: 1) students would draw
upon reasoning skills when learning to spell, 2) spelling is a series of
approaching approximations, 3) spelling difficulties are predictable, and
4) examining spelling errors has diagnostic value. His overarching recom-
mendation to both text writers and teachers was that spelling is a
dynamic process composed of numerous learner actions, and it is not an
outcome of the students passively making connections based upon a
teachers arranging and leading of a spelling lesson.
The Development of the Robinson-Hall Reading Tests
It was in 1941, as Robinson earned promotion to the rank of associate
professor at OSU, that he along with writing partner Prudence Hall pub-
lished an article (Robinson & Hall, 1941) discussing three aspects of
mature college reading ability: 1) studentsreading rate and comprehen-
sion ability across various content field passages, 2) the qualitative differ-
ences between good and poor readers as they read varied disciplinary
passages, and 3) studentsuse of chapter and section headings in con-
tent texts.
They began the article with a premise based on their review of past
research (e.g., Gates, 1921; Pressey & Pressey, 1921) that it is inaccurate
to talk of a students unified reading ability when a reader demonstrates
multiple reading abilities. More so, they felt that past research was some-
what flawed in that the researchers used instrumentation that employed
multiple sets of short passages followed by questions. Hence, the design
did not reflect the typical reading demands encountered by col-
lege students.
This situation led the authors to develop a test series comprised of
lengthy passages that were drawn from a common editorial source. The
Robinson-Hall Reading Tests (Robinson & Hall, 1940,1944) consisted of
five instruments covering four content fields (art, geology, history (n ¼2),
and fiction) and ran from 3,000 words to 4,500 words in length. The
nonfiction texts were taken from the Compton Pictured Encyclopedia and
the fiction passage was selected from Colliers Magazine. Each line of text
was numbered in order.
At standard points of time (3 minutes, 6 minutes, 9 minutes) each stu-
dent was directed to circle the number corresponding to the line of text
just read in the passage. Upon reaching the nine-minute point, the stu-
dent was instructed to answer the questions that covered text up to and
only up to the number of the line circled at the nine-minute point.
The findings from the three components of the investigation laid
important groundwork for both postsecondary reading and content area
reading fields. First, studentsreading rates and comprehension scores
across the four content areas were not highly correlated. On the other
hand, reading rate and comprehension scores observed with the two his-
tory measures were consistent. These findings led to the premise that col-
lege students actually had multiple reading abilities, which varied across
content areas. Furthermore, in discussing the findings the authors pre-
sented an early use (if not the first use) of the construct of reading
In sum, the researchers found that those they referred to as good
readersread in a flexible manner while poor readersshowed limited dif-
ferentiation in rate of reading immaterial of reading difficulty of the text.
Good readers adjusted rate based on complexity of the content particu-
larly with the content measures. As for the fiction passage, good readers
used their understandings from the earliest stages of the narrative to pro-
mote comprehension of the later stages. Another conclusion associated
with rate was that using short passages to measure rate (words per
minute) was inappropriate as such measures did not reflect varying rates
demonstrated in longer passages encountered in more typical col-
lege settings.
The authors were also curious as to whether college students used
headings in texts to promote their mastery of text. Within the publishing
field the previous decade had seen a greater use of headings and subhead-
ings in college texts. Their conclusion based on studentsreading of his-
tory passages both with and without headings was that the inclusion of
headings did not promote greater rate or comprehension scores. In other
words, they felt that few college students used headings to promote con-
tent learning.
The research findings in and of themselves were of importance.
However, so much more came from this study. For one, the Robinson-
Hall Reading Tests (Robinson & Hall, 1940) presented the field with an
alternative to the eras common reading measures that featured rather
short passages followed by questions. Furthermore, these tests appear to
have had influence on the design of widely assigned college reading
workbooks in the GI Bill era and early years of the developmental edu-
cation movement (e.g., Gilbert, 1959; Miller, 1964). Finally, the construct
of reading flexibility would gain great interest during the second half of
the 20
century as a research topic (Rankin, 1974) and as a design for
reading improvement for college students (Braam & Sheldon, 1959),
adult readers (Sheldon & Braam, 1959), and secondary students
(Thomas & Robinson, 1972).
Also, in 1941 Robinson was listed as a contributor, along with 60 col-
leagues from the OSU College of Education, for a text that presented its
philosophy of pedagogy along with the programs of study and student
services offered by the college (Klein, 1941). Robinson was listed as a col-
laborator on four different chapters pertaining to the colleges evolving
educational program, the laboratory approach to teacher training, the
development of the research mindset, and the evaluation of teacher edu-
cation programing. Even though it is not possible to determine exactly
the extent of Robinsons contributions, the book provides an in-depth
analysis of the college as it entered the decade of the 1940s. It can be
noted, however, that the contents contained a thorough discussion of the
colleges student services component including Robinsons study skills
laboratory and allied study skills course.
Study Methods Work: The OSU Course and The Origins of
Effective Study
RobinsonsDiagnostic and Remedial Techniques for Effective Studies
(1941) as published by Harper Brothers was a college reading and work
study skills text that was quite unique for the era. This text was designed
to serve as the assigned book for Psychology 411 at OSU as taught by the
author. The course description for Psychology 411 as presented in the
19401941 college catalog for the OSU College of Arts Science follows:
411. Psychology of Effective Study and Individual Adjustment. Three credit
hours. One Quarter. Autumn, Winter, Spring. Lectures, readings, reports,
individual conferences. Registration by permission of the Secretary of the
College, the Junior Dean, or the instructors. Mr. Robinson.
The course will give attention to student problems of two kinds. The
psychological principles of effective learning will be not only taught but
also demonstrated and applied under the supervision of the instructor.
Students who feel themselves handicapped by poor habits of study are
urged to enroll in this course.
The psychological problems involved in the transition from control by
adults to self-management will be considered. The resources of clinical
psychology will be made available for the solution of difficulties of
individual adjustment. (p. 145)
With knowledge of the curriculum and the instructional procedures
that defined the study methods course at OSU, one is able to see how
this text integrated nicely within the curriculum. Furthermore, up to this
point the class had no traditional text assigned as mimeographed materi-
als were used on a regular basis (Daniels, 1962). The text included diag-
nostic tests and instruction (practice) for the remediation of either the
deficiencies students brought to college coursework or the personal prob-
lems they encountered once in the college environment. Indeed, this was
one of the first sophisticated attempts at a diagnostic/remedial text for
the postsecondary student population.
Beyond measuring aspects of the reading process, additional instruments
were included for note taking, library skills, writing skills (i.e., grammar,
punctuation, and sentence structure), mathematics content (i.e., arithmetic,
algebra, and geometry), and finally issues associated with health, motiv-
ation, vocational orientation, recreation, and social adjustment.
The heavy emphasis on diagnosis fit the OSU model for a study meth-
ods course, as from its earliest days under the direction of Luella Cole
Pressey (1927,1928) probationary students underwent rigorous diagnostic
activity to determine what factors might be hindering college success. The
model lead to the student addressing the identified problems so that these
might be remediated in the laboratory/class or, if necessary, upon a stu-
dents referral to other services on campus (e.g., counseling, medical cen-
ter). Hence, the sheer breadth of the diagnostic and associated
instructional components in the text was central to the individualized
model for the class (a full description of Psychology 101 follows at a later
point in this manuscript).
If one was asked to identify the strengths of the text at the time, it
would have been its strong diagnostic or self-evaluation strand. The
instruments were comprehensive and could have been considered the
state of the art based on the then-current research and theory. In fact,
measures such as the Robinson-Hall Reading Test with its disciplinary
orientation and lengthy passages might have value as a model for current
test design for the college population in the 21
century. The vocabulary
measures as influenced by the works of the Presseys from the first deca-
des of the 20
century certainly demonstrated an understanding
(although not with todays theoretical underpinnings) of the importance
that the languages of the disciplineswith their underlying thought-
waysplay in learners succeeding in general education courses.
It is a fair question to ask how the professionals in the postsecondary
literacy field received this pioneering text. Two published reviews of
Diagnostic and Remedial Techniques for Effective Study were located. Bear
(1942) stated that the college reading and study skills texts of the era
tended merely to list recommendations on how to study and only a lim-
ited number of books provided practice exercises. He proposed that the
major contribution of Robinsons work was that it included diagnostic
measures with some suggestions for remedial actions. Bear felt that the
text would be most useful in a study laboratory as was found at OSU. He
went on to propose that the instructor desiring to individualize a how to
study class through the use of the diagnostic measures should use the
text. Yet as part of a critique he noted that while the range of students
problems covered by Robinson was adequate, greater attention might
have been focused on writing papers and spelling. Nevertheless, Bear
concluded the review by stating that the text had promise for showing
learners their academic weaknesses along with procedures for remedy-
ing them.
A second short review (Gentry, 1941) did not mince words when the
author stated, This is the best book on the topic of improvement of
study the reviewer has seen(p. 718). It was noted in the review that the
psychological principles in the text were in nontechnical language,
instructions were clear, directions for the instruments lead to ease of use,
and finally answer keys were easy to employall of which permitted the
student in the classroom, study hall, or across campus to potentially bene-
fit from the text.
World War II Comes to OSU
Ask individuals in higher education what was the greatest impact of the
Second World War on higher education, and it is likely that the response
will be the passing of the Servicemans Readjustment Act of 1944 or, as it
is best known, the GI Bill of Rights. This would be a logical answer. Still,
it is to be noted that the field of college reading and study skills sup-
ported the war effort throughout the conflict. It was during this period
that Robinson was to have an experience that greatly influenced his per-
spective on college reading and study skills programing.
As the nation geared up for war from a state of unreadiness at the
time of the declarations of war, it did have at least a draft system. The
efficiency of the system begged the question of what to do with so many
young men until they could be deployed. Robinson and other colleagues
in higher education were part of a unique solution. The men were sent to
college to participate in accelerated learning programs. Robinson and his
assistants provided study skills instruction to soldiers in the Specialized
Training and Reclassification (STAR) Unit at the Ohio State University
under the auspice of the U. S. Army Specialized Training Program. These
solider-students participated in a concentrated and accelerated program
where the average class load was comprised of 29 hours. Furthermore,
these individuals were found to be highly intelligent and academically tal-
ented as demonstrated by having maintained A grade averages during
their civilian education experiences.
As Robinson and his team (Robinson, 1943) worked with these sol-
diers who first arrived at OSU in April of 1943 (Kublansky, 1943), it was
found that they did not employ sophisticated methods of study and learn-
ing. This led Robinson to conclude that they had achieved academically
in the past because of native intelligence rather than effective and efficient
study routines. Whereas such an approach would be acceptable in normal
times with normal credit loads, when these servicemen were enrolled in a
highly concentrated, accelerated curriculum along with keen competition
among the enrollees, higher-level study methods were required if aca-
demic success was to be achieved.
Given the context, a program focusing on higher-level study methods
was designed. The program began with a thorough assessment of each
solider. Students responded to the items of the Pressey Study Habits
Questionnaire, completed a lengthy social science lesson, listened and
responded to a standardized lecture, and undertook an informal assess-
ment of table/graph reading. Through such an intake assessment, it was
determined that, on average, the soldiers 1) demonstrated a greater num-
ber of negative study habits than did regularly admitted freshmen, 2)
achieved a reading with note-taking work rate with social science text of
only 83 words per minute (wpm) with the lowest quintile demonstrating
work rates of fewer than 50 wpm, 3) composed both text and lecture
notes that were evaluated as less sophisticated than regularly matriculated
OSU freshmen, and 4) encountered difficulties when analyzing both
graphs and tables.
The instructional program was deemed to be a success at least for
those men who completed the instruction (some were shipped out during
enrollment) as it improved work rate while reading and taking notes (by
19%), comprehension (by 10%), note taking skills (16 points on a 100-
point scale), and table/graph analysis skills (30 percentile points). Perhaps
the greater impact for the field was the position that Robinson espoused
after working with these students. Based on both the data and his per-
sonal experiences, Robinson believed that all students, not just those on
probation, could benefit from study method instruction that focused on
higher-level work habits.
Robinsons endeavors during the war years were not limited to the
postsecondary milieu. During this time, he served as the Chairman of the
Ohio Conference on Reading (19401942), which was a coalition of five
Ohio public universities with the common goal of assisting teachers and
administrators in overcoming problems encountered in the teaching of
reading in the schools. The consortium issued a set of bulletins focusing
on reading instruction, and Robinson, along with William E. Hall from
the Eastern Washington College of Education, coauthored the third bul-
letin titled Concerning Reading Readiness Tests (Robinson & Hall, 1942).
This work was a literature review that examined the reliability of six
widely used reading-readiness instruments, discussed the effectiveness of
the tests along with their relationship to both intelligence tests and
teacher-developed rating scales, and finally suggested criteria for selecting
a measure and using the data in planning an instructional program. The
work was designed to be friendly to the typical classroom teacher and
administrator of the era.
This particular monograph demonstrated Robinsons ability to cross
pedagogical borders within the field of reading, particularly in the field of
tests and measurement as he would regularly do in his texts for training
both teachers and counselors.
Sidney L. Pressey (Pressey, 1933) released what might be called a pio-
neering, if not the first moderneducational psychology textbook as it
focused primarily on psychological topics concerned with the intersection
of students, learning, and pedagogy. Psychology and the New Education
was a success such that a revision was issued in 1944, and with this
second edition, OSU associate professor Francis P. Robinson joined
Pressey as the junior member of the authorship team (Pressey &
Robinson, 1944). This revised edition was a thorough rewriting of its pre-
decessor, and Robinson was the author of eight chapters comprising part
2 of the text as titled, The Guidance and Fostering of Learning.In this
section Robinson covered theory, research, and practice associated with
the cognitive, affective, physical (hygiene), and pedagogical conditions
that influenced learning and teaching as well as methods of both appraisal
and diagnosis of studentsprogress in the learning environment. He also
discussed the role of transfer of training across school subjects and its
impact beyond the schoolyard and the school years. Specific attention was
directed at methods of work and study in the promotion of both the mas-
tery of content and the transfer of knowledge and competency.
Reginald Bell (1947) reviewed this second edition of Psychology and
the New Education (1944) and in doing so he opined that the work was
stimulating, yet challenging. Furthermore, the text was comprehensive in
the coverage of problems of development, learning, and guidance (much
of the contributions from Robinson). As a critique Bell felt that the text-
book led the student to know what to think about theory and research,
but it failed in leading the learner to reach personal conclusions on why
the content was of importance.
The OSU How to Study Program
The How to Study courses curricular and instructional model was well
established at OSU when Robinson joined the faculty in 1937. Luella Cole
Pressey (1927,1928) had described it on several occasions in professional
sources by the time of the Second World War. It was not until the end of
the war that Robinson (1945) authored his influential article, Two
Quarries with a Single Stone,which detailed how an individualized
remedial program for college students with far-ranging academic and
social needs might also serve as the platform for a supervised internship
experience for preservice counselors who would serve eventually in col-
lege personnel programs as the GI Bill population with its unique needs
stormed higher education.
Dr. Robinson was firm believer that future personnel workers required
practical experiences that included giving students diagnostic measures
leading to effective remedial interventions, managing therapeutic proce-
dures, building ones self confidence as a professional counselor, and
developing competencies of practice that went beyond mere factual know-
ledge. Furthermore, he understood that future counselors in internship
experiences required supervision, and such supervision was an expensive
proposition for a training program. Hence, the combining of the services
of the how to study program and the supervised internship program of
the counseling psychology program provided the perfect marriage.
The labs layout was that of a rather typical classroom environment
with 18 small tables and a library of diagnostic measures and instruc-
tional resources. Connected to this room were several small conference
rooms each wired for sound along with a resource room where counse-
lors-in-training might have meetings, write reports on studentsprogress,
or use resources housed in the room.
The course, The Psychology of Effective Study and Individual
Adjustment (3 credits), would enroll 20 students per section (16-21 sec-
tions offered per year) and would meet daily for 60 minutes. Each class
would be under the direction of an instructor such as Robinson along
with the support of up to five interns who were enrolled in a graduate-
level counseling practicum called the Psychology of Remedial Counseling.
The course model followed the one initially laid out by Luella Cole
Pressey (1927,1928) as individualized instruction and counseling focused
on an individuals identified problems. The daily class sessions focused on
higher order work skills (an early term for reading and learning strat-
egies) such as academic reading, note taking, exam preparation, and time
management; the diagnosis and remediation of what were referred to as
literacy deficits associated with grammar, spelling, writing, vocabulary,
reading rate, notes; and other personal concerns hindering college pro-
gress such as social problems, health issues, vocational plans, lack of
interest in coursework, and so on.
The individualized instructional scheme was formulated during the ini-
tial class meetings as a student underwent diagnostics that provided the
learner with an understanding of the strengths and the weaknesses
brought to the academic arena. The individualized intervention that fol-
lowed would assist students in studying their assigned content area texts
and in preparing the respective course assignments under the direct
supervision of the counselors in training. Every week each student would
have an individualized session with a counselor to discuss personal
approaches to study, confer on other problems both academic and per-
sonal, and learn of new approaches to further the students individualized
success plan. As the end of the term approached, each learner would
evaluate the progress made to date, identify those issues yet to be covered,
and make plans for succeeding in the college environment in the quar-
ters ahead.
Robinson stated that the key to the programs success was based on
the use of actual schoolwork under the periodic supervision of the coun-
selor. The emphasis was thus placed on the students playing an active
part; the counselor acted as checkerand suggesterand not as a
preacher.According to Robinson, Since no two students have the same
problems or entirely similar curricular programs, the entire program
tends to be individualized(1945, p. 203).
The focus of the article then turned to the role played by the counselor
in training. By overseeing the work of 2-4 students, the intern gained dir-
ect experience with the problems faced by college students. The course
supervisor would listen to each of the individualized counseling sessions
between the student and the intern and then offer critiques of the ses-
sions at regular face-to-face meetings and once again in twice-weekly
practicum sessions. Counseling interns were expected to keep a running
record of the work undertaken by each student as mentored as well as to
write a thorough summary evaluation to be submitted to the students
respective college across the campus at the cessation of the quarter.
A review of RobinsonsFaculty Members Annual Reportsduring
this period of time showed that he faced many of the same problems
encountered by other college reading and learning professionals in the
early decades of the 21
century. From his report for the 1943 calendar
year we learn of concerns pertaining to faculty load for remedial instruc-
tion and role of remedial services in the campus shared-govern-
ance structure:
Practicums in supervised counseling require much more time than lecture
courses, but have been counted on the same credit-hour basis in
determining faculty load. Lack of contact with university committees on
personnel activities makes it difficult for we in the Psychology Department
who are doing remedial personnel work with students to coordinate our
work with other personnel activities in the university.
This led him to recommend that a representative of the remedial per-
sonnel services offered by the Psychology Department should be
appointed to the Junior Council or the Personnel Council or to both of
them.These points would again be voiced in the report for the period
covered from the first of January 1944 through September of 1945.
Although we cannot directly query Robinson as to whether he saw the
program has having a marginalized status at the Ohio State University,
such a premise might at least be postulated for consideration.
The Evolution of Effective Study
Effective Study (1946) was considered the second edition of Diagnostic
and Remedial Techniques for Effective Study (1941); however, in reality it
featured such a degree of revision that it could be considered a new text.
Indeed, Robinson had moved well beyond the remedial/diagnostic focus
of the first edition. He had been particularly influenced by the disserta-
tion work of James W. Sherburne (1938) at OSU in the evolvement of
the belief that higher-level skills were of benefit to high-ability students as
well as probationary students.
In Effective Study Robinson presented four premises that should serve
as the cornerstones of a how to study program even to this day. Indeed,
these viewpoints demonstrated fully how his mindset had evolved across
the period of the war.
First, a program should take into consideration an individual students
needs as each person is enrolled in different majors and different courses,
and each person has different abilities and ways of learning. Hence, each
student must be taught to assess ones strengths and weaknesses to over-
come problem areas. For this reason, instruction should resemble individ-
ual coaching.
Second, training to promote effective learning must be more than
informing a student what is wrong and then simply providing study skills
training via reading assignments and class lectures. Effective training
requires supervised practice until a best level of skill is achieved and then
fixed in practice.
Third, to develop a high level of motivation and promote transfer of
skills to the learning needs in courses, the training sequence must be
aligned with the content and assignments in each students courses. The
use of artificial exercises might produce a gain on tests, but this work is
highly unlikely to transfer to actual learning tasks and conditions. As
quickly as possible after its introduction in text or in class, practice and
application with that higher-level work/reading skill must be carried out,
preferably with the actual textbooks assigned in the students courses.
Finally, how to study training with higher-level work skills is valid at
the point when a learner accepts its importance and believes it has inher-
ent value. This requires that the student is willing to put forth the neces-
sary effort to better oneself in the academic environment. To insure such
will happen, the individual should be allowed to self-select areas for per-
sonal improvement. In order to promote such personal growth, the
instructor should serve as an academic coach or mentor.
Beyond these four premises, the study technique of Survey Q3R, the
formal acronym for SQ3R, was unveiled to the higher education commu-
nity in Effective Study. In the text Robinson presented the research foun-
dation for each of the components of this approach to studying.
Although authors of other study methods texts from across the first half
of the 20
century book included a smattering of research studies as a
foundation for recommendations, Robinsons inclusion of research ration-
ales and references in the texts various editions took the field to a new
level of scholarship. Robinson would go on to provide updated rationales
for the textbook study method in the years to follow (1950, 1961, 1970).
Although it is beyond the scope of this manuscript to cover the history
of this textbook study system, two points are of interest. First, across the
years that followed its publication, the field began to view the Recite step
as an oral recitation while Robinson envisioned it to be a combination of
oral recitation followed by its inclusion in a written outline as a perman-
ent source promoting retrieval in the Review step of the system.
Secondly, Robinson did not invent a radical new approach to studying,
but rather integrated a number of established practices into a package
and provided an acronym that carried it to a prominence that has been
maintained for decades. For more extensive coverage of the history of
textbook study systems the reader is referred to Pauk (1999), Stahl
(1983), and Stahl and Henk (1986).
One review of the 1946 edition of Effective Study (Bentley, 1947)
begins with a strong critique of how to study books with their trite list of
rules for learning that had inundated the field of psychology. Bentley
then went on to review two texts: A Guide to College Study (Frederick,
Kitchen, & McElwee, 1947) and Effective Study (1946). This reviewer felt
that Robinsons contribution was a serious examination of study methods
as opposed to the many books comprised of simple lists of rules and pre-
scriptions from the previous decades. The one suggestion for revision in
the future was for the inclusion of a section on the improvement of a stu-
dents diction.
A second review (Gerken, 1948) suggested that the text could be used
in both how to study classes and college-orientation classes, which were
being offered in a growing number of colleges across the nation. Gerken
stated that the text was for the serious student who appreciated the logic
underlying doing a job right. Furthermore, it was felt that for instruction
with the text to be successful there required the guidance of a competent
instructor. The reviewer went on to state that acceptance of his previous
position would require the teacher to a plan of action which may,
indeed, reorient the instructor and school as well as the students(p. 98).
Post-World War Two with New Paths to Follow
With the end of the Second World War in sight, the GI Bill swung open
the doors to the Ivy Tower to a new population of nontraditional stu-
dents. Robinson voiced his concerns about how this legislation had
impacted the how to study program at OSU in his Faculty Members
Annual Reportfor the period from October 1945 to January 1947:
At no time during the past several years have we been able to offer enough
sections of Psych. 411 The Psychology of Effective Study and Individual
Adjustmentto take care of the students who wanted to enroll. During this
past quarter we were able to take only one-third of those registering for the
course. The difficulty arises because enrollment in each section is limited to
20 students due to the individualized nature of the work. Extra instruction
obtained in the department has gone to staff other classes, which can take
more students per section. Eighty percent of the enrollment in this course
consists of returned veterans from every undergraduate college on the
campus; it would seem most worthwhile to increase the staff available for
this work.
With the coming of the 1950s, Robinson had moved fully into the field
of counseling psychology. Ever since his earliest days at OSU he had
worked with graduate students in this specialization, but as he noted in
1982, his interest in educating future counselors had jelledin the 1940s.
It was in this period that a formal graduate practicum, The Psychology of
Remedial Counseling was offered, facilities for recording interviews with
students became available, and a new major in Student Personnel Work
was offered by the Psychology Department.
With the recorded interviews undertaken by his graduate students
with OSU undergraduates, particularly those enrolled in the how to study
classes, Robinson possessed an extensive bank of research data to serve as
the backbone for his text Principles and Procedures in Student Counseling
(1950). This work was rich in research-driven theory and best practice for
individuals working for a career in counseling whether in a college or a
high school setting.
As an example of the valuable content, Robinson discussed seven com-
mon errors associated with the process of measurement (often labeled as
assessment in the 21
1. More students demonstrate assessment scores lower than their
actual abilities than students who make scores that are above their
actual ability/achievement levels. Hence, in measurement learning
specialists or evaluators must be cognizant of the likelihood of the
effect of regression to the mean by those who underperform on
the particular measure.
2. A method of intervention may appear on the surface to promote
improvement, but the individual attention provided by the coun-
selor (learning specialist or college reading instructor) may be
what promotes student growth. Hence, the intervention may not
be any more effective than another treatment.
3. Change in the learners attitude or motivation may lead to a
greater performance on a second undertaking of an assess-
ment measure.
4. Gains made by students immediately after a training program may
not persist if new behaviors are not habitual. Hence, the use of
multiple delayed measures of growth/change including qualitative
measures such as interviews should be employed in assess-
ing growth.
5. Multiple assessment measures should always be used in determin-
ing student growth/change. Furthermore, measures of success
should not be limited to change in behaviors such as course
grades, grade point average, job success, etc. as so many uncon-
trolled variables impact the selected criterion.
6. Evaluators should not rely too greatly on studentsreactions to
services provided as the yes-saying effector the good-bye effect
might be at play.
7. In reviewing the extant literature, it is important to remember that
negative results of research (i.e., non-significant) do not tend to
get published. Hence, available publications may give a false
impression of uniform success for an intervention.
Throughout this text, Robinson continued to make the case for a
counseling approach in a laboratory setting for assisting all students to
overcome study and reading problems through the use of research-driven,
higher-level learning skills as opposed to self-taught methods. In addition,
Robinson continued to promote the concept of contextualized training
that promoted motivation to learn effectively and to transfer newly
learned higher-level competencies through the use of materials from the
studentsactual coursework. He noted that the traditional lecture
approaches to training students as found in the orientation course model
and workshops did not lead to self-insight, maturity, or effective adjust-
ment of the skills required for individuals to recognize and self-correct
inadequacies in learning and motivation. Even more so, he suggested that
such approaches to training were likely to be rejected, viewed as being
preachy in nature, and simply viewed as something that was an extra step
that had to be taken. Robinson suggested that administration on cam-
puses might believe that such lecture/group approaches should cover all
of the studentsneeds based in part on economics of delivery but that
given research on the lack of positive outcomes with the model (McCaul,
1942) such an approach might be actually more expensive in the
long run.
RobinsonsPrinciples and Procedures in Student Counseling (1950)
received two lengthy reviews along with a shorter summary in the profes-
sional literature. These reviews were primarily positive with Osborne
(1951) declaring that it was a comprehensive review of the research with
particular attention to the work undertaken at OSU by Robinson, his col-
leagues, and the graduate students in the Counseling Psychology program.
Holton (1951) echoed Osbornes thoughts as it was said that the text pre-
sented a good background in the literature serving as a concise refresher
course or reference work. Axelrod (1951) continued down the same path
as he felt that Robinson had been successful in presenting a balance of
research and problems and solutions. Furthermore, he proposed that the
text was most effective in coverage of non-emotional adjustment and the
skill problems, which was not surprising as Robinson believed that coun-
seling was more than emotional adjustment. Hence, Axelrod saw the
chapter on higher-level skills of adjustment as a most positive
The Marriage of Reading and Counseling Psychology in
Robinsons Later Work
In 1959 Psychology in Education (Pressey, Robinson, & Horrocks, 1959)
was released as the third edition of the earlier titled Psychology and the
New Education (Pressey, 1933; Pressey & Robinson, 1944). The text fol-
lowed the basic outline of the previous editions by providing coverage of
child/adolescent development, the nature of learning as related to school-
ing, and guidelines for the individualization of education. Robinson was
primarily responsible for the section on educating the individual student.
Editions of this text were released in Turkey, Japan, and Sweden (Mirror
of the Campus, 1959).
The first of Robinsons chapters covered the field of reading. He pre-
sented a foundational discussion on what was known about the role of
reading in 1950s society, the then-current issues impacting the curriculum
and instruction for teaching reading, the positions taken on approaches
to teaching reading, the nature of reading materials available for instruc-
tion, the importance of reading readiness, the conditions supportive of
efficient study, and the psychological processes underlying reading. The
material presented the future teacher the breadth of what was known
about the field based upon impactful research from across the previ-
ous decades.
The chapters that comprised part 3 of the text were concerned with
individual differences, a topic of some importance at the time. Robinson,
through his lens as a counseling psychologist, initially discussed how one
might study individuality via a case study approach. Next, he turned to
the principles underlying diagnosis and remediation. He presented three
fundamental principles that likely were drawn upon his experiences with
college reading and study skills work at the OSU. First, any skill to be
mastered should be meaningful and realistic to the learner. Second, the
student must desire to improve competency with the given skill. And,
third, the instructor must accept that there will be a decline in the level
of performance over time after the initial point of mastery.
No doubt further based on his OSU experiences, he felt that the case
study approach with its search for the cause of the problem, followed by
the use of pragmatic methods and materials to overcome identified defi-
cits, and the emphasis on building student motivation was the appropri-
ate approach to assisting disabled readers/learners. Of course, as such the
approach was taught to countless numbers of reading instructors from
that time onward.
The following chapter detailed the role of counseling and the coun-
selor in the process of leading learners to overcome personal problems
while promoting mental hygiene. This discussion, which we would see
again in the upcoming edition of Effective Study, was followed by an
examination of approaches for serving students who did not face substan-
tive problems. Topics included planning and decision making, increasing
maturity, and utilizing higher-level work skills.
Robinsons final contribution to the book was a chapter on the hygiene
of work that was an extension of his chapter on the topic in the previous
edition of the book. Topics included physical maladies, factors of fatigue
and boredom, emotional strain, and efficiency in learning. The chapter
ended with a presentation of physical and affective problems that a future
teacher could encounter in the teaching environment.
Another Edition of Effective Study and the Birth of
Effective Reading
With the coming of the new decade, Harper & Row released the third
edition of Effective Study (Robinson, 1961a). It had been 15 years since
the second edition had been issued and by current standards such would
be considered a very long period between editions. The number of read-
ing and study skills courses/programs had grown during the period of the
GI Bill and throughout the 1950s. The how to study program at OSU was
one of the oldest programs in the nation as well as an acknowledged
model for other postsecondary programs. The research conducted within
it as well as the lessons learned in the design of both training procedures
and instructional materials served as the foundation for the revisions
found in this edition of the text. Robinson believed it would be appropri-
ate for use in how to study classes and in the counseling sessions between
students and student affairs personnel.
Robinson believed that it was the responsibility of an institution of
higher education to do more than to simply provide a set of class offer-
ings; the obligation was extended to training students on how to take full
advantage of the college experience. How to study courses and associated
training had been seen as a penalty for those students on probation in
the preceding decades. Based on his work since WW II, Robinson came
to believe strongly that research-driven how to study instruction was an
important component of the postsecondary experience leading to the
mastery of higher-level reading and study skills required for college suc-
cess. As noted previously, through his work with units during the war he
had learned that even the best and the brightest students utilized less-
than-efficient approaches to studying. Nothing in the interceding years
had changed his perspective. Robinson continued to believe that the sci-
entific management theory (Seashore, 1939) held promise for pedagogical
practice, and as such it influenced the content found in third edition of
the text.
SQ3R continued to play a major role in the text, and in fact, the dis-
cussion of SQ3R as a method to learning in varied content areas was
expanded beyond the previous text. Since the use of underlining in text
was becoming more popular with students, a new strategy of using SQ3R
along with underlining was given attention. The inclusion of remedial
instruction was continued from the previous editions as well as coverage
of issues associated with a students study environment. The topic of
motivation as related to student success was given greater prominence, as
was the discussion of overcoming personal problems in college. Finally,
Robinson included an extensive bibliography of theoretical works and
research on the field from the late 1920s through the 1950s.
By the time the third edition of Effective Study (1961a) was released
Robinsons scholarly agenda from across the previous decade had shifted
primarily to the field of counseling psychology. Yet in 1961 The Reading
Teacher published an article (Robinson, 1961b) in which Robinson advo-
cated for the teaching of higher-level reading and study skills to second-
ary school students who were either enrolled in early college courses or
planning to enroll in college upon graduation from high school.
Robinson employed impactful research from the immediate postwar
period to make the case that college-bound high school students pos-
sessed inefficient reading and study skills, and he then cemented his point
by covering similar research pertaining to college students who had been
products of the secondary education system.
He then went on to put forward two preliminary propositions. First, it
was noted that while textbooks in the early 1960s were now written to
better facilitate learning, there was still great need for further design work
to make texts, as called in the latter decades of the century, more consid-
erate or friendly (e.g., Schumm, Haager, & Leavell, 1991; Singer, 1992).
He then posited as a second point that superior students would not be
likely to benefit from well-organized or facilitative texts unless they were
given instruction in higher-level reading and study skills methods. In
echoing what had become essentially his mantra across three decades,
Robinson stated that mastery of higher-level skills came from a training
regimen that employed supervised practice delivered through a coaching
approach as opposed to a student simply reading a description of an
approach or listening to a lecture about a method.
The article then went on to advocate the use of the SQ3R method in a
manner abridged from the extensive discussion in the recent edition of
Effective Study. The work concluded with a brief discussion that inte-
grated his interests in learning strategies with his higher education coun-
seling background through coverage of the transitional issues encountered
by students as they moved from the secondary school to a very different
learning environment of college.
Robinson believed that a book focusing on reading was needed for
another category of the market. Hence, in 1962 Robinsons publisher
released a paperback text titled Effective Reading. This text was comprised
of three slightly revised chapters on SQ3R and the diagnosis and remedi-
ation of reading problems as found initially in the third edition of
Effective Study. The Effective Study text was designed to be used along
with the instruction in a how to study course as exemplified by the class
at OSU. The new book, however, was targeted at schools where English
courses or orientation courses were offered with specific units of instruc-
tion on reading skills as was a common delivery model at the time.
Furthermore, he believed that the text had a place in the growing second-
ary reading field when teachers desired to train students to use higher-
level reading skills so as to promote content mastery in subject matter
classes as well as to prepare students to be ready for the demands
of college.
Three reviews demonstrate the fields response to Effective Reading.
The review in the School Counselor (Felix, 1962) proposed that the text
would be of use to counselors who were tasked with assisting learners
with reading problems. Duker (1963) posed the question of whether the
profession needed an additional text on reading improvement for the sec-
ondary and postsecondary markets, to which he answered in the affirma-
tive. He noted that Robinsons new text presented a flexible, clearly
understandable, and well-reasoned description of usable techniques for
the improvement of reading effectiveness(p. 121). He felt that the book
would benefit any student regardless of ones reading competency.
Finally, in a third review (Spache, 1962) the question was once again put
forth of why a teacher would want such a text when the material is cov-
ered in so many how to study texts? Spache suggested that Robinson
might be attempting to reclaim ownership of SQ3R. He followed that
point by noting that the text was not as interesting nor reflective of the
realism found in other manuals such as the first edition of Pauks(1962)
How to Study in College.
The Journal of Counseling Psychology and a Fulbright
The 1960s solidified Robinsons stature in the field of counseling psych-
ology in part due to his role with The Journal of Counseling Psychology,
which began its publishing history as a privately sponsored quarterly
journal supported by a group of stockholders, one of whom was Francis
Robinson. The mission of the journal was to be a vehicle for the publica-
tion of articles on research about theory and practice for the field of
counseling. The audience was drawn from psychologists and counselors
in educational settings as well as those from public and private agencies,
industry, business, and the military.
As the journal reached the decade milestone in 1964 Robinson stepped
forward to fill the shoes of C. Gilbert Wrenn, long recognized as a leader
in the college study skills field, who after long service as the editor was
stepping down from the position as of Volume 11. Robinson would serve
as the editor of the journal across six volume years through volume 16 in
1969. Throughout this period the journal maintained its quality and
influence (Robinson, 1966a) while growing in size and then with volume
15 its transition to a bimonthly APA journal (Robinson, 1966b).
During the volume years 11, 12, 13, and 14, Robinson would author
an occasional one-page editorial as an introduction to a particular issue.
Topics fell into two categories: 1) the bully pulpit on issues facing the
counseling psychology field, and 2) editorial issues pertaining to the pub-
lication of the journal. With the former he covered topics that included
counseling and individual development (Robinson, 1965a), counselors or
orientations and associated labels (Robinson, 1965b), the productive years
for counselors as academics (1964), and finally a rationale for the inclu-
sion of counseling psychology as a field worthy of a literature chapter in
the Annual Review of Psychology (1966c).
Robinsons international activities (OSU psychologist, 1967) would take
him to the University of Keele in the United Kingdom as he was awarded a
four-month Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in 1967. His charge was to help
the institution design a graduate program for training school counselors.
The Changing Needs of a Field and a Final Edition of
Effective Study
The fourth and last edition of Effective Study appeared in 1970 as still
another new cohort of students previously outside the college-going
population was entering college in response to factors such as federal
legislation tied to the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights movement,
the expansion of the open-door policies, and the growth of the commu-
nity college movement. This was also the period in the history of higher
education when the modern developmental education programs and the
Educational Opportunity Programs took their initial first steps.
In the nations four-year colleges and universities students, oft times
on probation, would be concurrently enrolled in both content field classes
and study methods classes. Such a practice permitted the use of a compe-
tency transfer model as had existed at the OSU since the 1920s. Indeed,
to be successful books like Effective Study demanded that students have
textbook readings and coursework assigned from content classes to serve
as the sources for practice with the varied reading and study methods
presented in this book. The new students enrolled in the community col-
leges were often taking a set of developmental education courses in isola-
tion, and without the concurrent enrollment in a content class, and such
a model made the direct transfer of competencies rather difficult.
To meet the particular need to promote transfer within this new
approach, the simulation model was born with the release of How to Succeed
in College: A Student Guidebook (Gerow & Lyng, 1975), a text that contained
a chapter from a psychology textbook, a recorded lecture covering the
content of the chapter, and a chapter test. Students would employ study
methods presented in the text to master the simulation materials. Within a
short period of time a groundswell of texts using the simulation model (e.g.,
McWhorter, 1980; Smith, 1981; Nist & Diehl, 1985) would appear.
In a sense, the federal and state-level policies driving higher education
access in the 1970s sounded the death march for Robinsons text. This
new edition of Effective Study did not stray greatly from the successful
design that had appeared in the second and third editions of the text,
including its focus on students at four-year institutions. It simply did not
fit the needs of developmental reading and study strategy courses in com-
munity colleges where students were not concurrently enrolled in credit-
bearing courses as found with the OSU model.
On the other hand, the growth of study methods texts promoted
Robinsons stature in the field based on his being the father of SQ3R
since it was to appear in most of these texts either in its original form or
as a clone (Stahl, 1983). Furthermore, perhaps along with the second edi-
tion of Walter PauksHow to Study in College (1974), the fourth edition
of Effective Study served a purpose beyond teaching study methods to col-
lege students. The field was growing as new programs opened or
expanded across the country. Faculty new to teaching developmental
reading and study methods required scholarly oriented texts to instruct
them in the theory, research, and pedagogy serving as the fields founda-
tion. Professional development texts for the field of college reading and
study skills were simply not available. So, in a de facto manner these two
texts filled a problematic void.
Retirement and Death
Retirement from the Ohio State University came for Robinson in 1971
with Professor Emeritus status granted as of January 1, 1972. From the
time Robinson arrived at OSU in 1937, his institutional contributions
beyond his extensive scholarship included the establishing one of the
nations first training programs in counseling psychology and then serv-
ing as its Director for two decades. Even more so, his mentorship influ-
enced future generations of leaders in the field as he advised nearly 100
candidates in their preparation and defense of theses and dissertations
focused both on literacy and counseling psychology.
During his retirement years Robinson was to settle in Leesburg,
Florida, where he combined a love of travel and an artistic ability with
photography that lead to award-winning exhibitions for local and national
photographic societies. On September 2, 1983, the Board of Trustees of
The Ohio State University issued a Resolution in Memoriam expressing
sorrow upon the death of Francis P. Robinson on August 6, 1983.
A Life Well Lived
This life history is, in one part, the record of an individuals impact on
the fields of postsecondary reading and study strategies and counseling
psychology. More so as proposed by noted historian Barbara Tuchman
(1981) the biographic study of Robinsons life with its many and varied
contributions provides us entry into a prism of history that permits each
of us to more fully understand and value the roots of the fields in which
Robinson undertook impactful scholarship and provided nationally
important service. Well beyond the contributions of SQ3R, throughout
his entire body of scholarship, current members of these fields are sure to
recognize glimpses of what are today considered foundational principles
or best practices. We conclude this life history by challenging current
professionals with seeking out opportunities for such insights by reading
the present through the past and not overlooking the academic contribu-
tions of heroes past (even academic ones), including Francis P. Robinson.
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... The SQ3R is considered a strategy for absorbing written information. Stahl and Armstrong (2020) stated that (Robinson, 1946) was the pioneer in developing the SQ3R strategy in reading, which SQ3R is most widely known. Moreover, Robinson (1946) stated that SQ3R is efficient because it makes the students read faster, get the crucial points, and memorize the content in their minds. ...
Full-text available
This study aimed at investigating the effect of active learning strategies on Jordanian EFL tenth-grade students' readingcomprehension. A sample of 50 male students were distributed randomly into an experimental and a control groups of 25students each. Four active learning strategies (viz., SQ3R, brainstorming scaffolded instruction, and snowballthrowing)were used to instruct the experimental group whereas the control group was taught by the teaching strategies inthe teacher’s book. The data were collected using a quasi-experimental approach design through a pre-post-test for bothcontrol and experimental groups. In terms of data analysis, One-way MANCOVA and One-way ANCOVA were used toanswer the research question. The findings revealed significant differences between the two groups' performance in thepost-test in favor of the experimental group. Therefore, the researcher recommends using the selected ALSs on differentEFL skills and different levels of students (20) (PDF) The Effect of Active Learning Strategies on EFL Tenth-Grade Students' Reading Comprehension. Available from:'_Reading_Comprehension [accessed Sep 11 2022].
Full-text available
“College reading” is applied on two parallel levels: a description of a professional field, and a descriptor for academic literacy expectations and demands required throughout the postsecondary experience. The field has a long history, from the roots of higher education in the US, when college admission was considered proof of students' literacy. Increasing access to college resulted in institutions' “reading problem,” creating both course-based and non-course-based interventions to support students' reading development. In practice, college reading curriculum, instruction, and assessment, have evolved through multiple models. Lacking a comprehensive theoretical model for college reading, eight theoretical accounts provide the framing for theory-development.
Full-text available
Frequently college reading experts have voiced claims about the effectiveness of textbook-study systems such as SQ3R. Even with substantial literature on this subject, no definite understanding or consistent consensus about the effectiveness of such systems has existed. Hence, two objectives guided the current study. The first objective was to trace the growth of textbook-study systems through the development of SQ3R in four steps: (1) textbook-study systems were traced to the early study-skills movement and the formulation of the scientific management theory, (2) the initial research foundation for SQ3R was analyzed, (3) over 100 current systems were examined and summarized, and (4) SQ3R’s structure was discussed in light of current research. The second objective of the investigation, a comprehensive examination of the SQ3R research literature, led to the identification of 27 studies categorized into seven distinct groups. Based on recognized standards for acceptable research, these studies were analyzed critically to determine what is “known” or “not known” about the effectiveness of textbook-study systems. The research shows that SQ3R can produce learning, but it does not support SQ3R as more effective than the simpler study methods favored by collegians. SQ3R shows most promise as an effective framework for guiding instruction of younger students. With either age group, the key to effective mastery appears to be long-term training with adequate practice. The exact effectiveness of textbook-study systems within study-skills “packages” is unknown, but this approach may lead teachers to adopt an integrated curriculum of long-term instruction, practice, and peer support.
This open letter to the Annual Review of Psychology presses for an an adequate annual review of the literature of counseling psychology in this accepted handbook of psychology, citing the lack of current annual reviews. The field of counseling psychology has a large literature that is distinct from traditional rubrics covered in the Annual Review. A large corps of counseling psychologists and guidance workers need this more frequent summarization.
A study of a group of good readers and a group of poor ones leads to two conclusions: (1) "although good readers are superior to poor readers in both rate of reading and accuracy of comprehension, efficiency in the former is the greater determinant of their reading test superiority," and (2) "good readers show a greater degree of superiority to poor readers on questions covering more difficult comprehension levels than on questions concerning verbal memory. It is to be noted, however, that reading tests probably do not tap depth of comprehension very much. These conclusions represent criticisms of present reading tests and not a description of the most valuable type of reading."
The primary objective of this study was to determine the extent to which postsecondary reading textbooks provide an awareness of and strategies for the use of both considerate and inconsiderate text features in the reading of content area textbooks. Forty‐six postsecondary developmental reading textbooks were analyzed to ascertain the presence or absence of such strategies. Results demonstrated that substantially more strategies in these texts concern considerate text features than inconsiderate text features. This suggests that postsecondary reading textbooks are providing strategies for reading text that is easy but not for reading text that is difficult. Discussion includes an analysis of relative strengths and weaknesses of the texts in their provision of strategies for both considerate and inconsiderate conditions.