Dual Route reading model

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Susan Godsland
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Dual Route reading model

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Sep 18, 2008 4:48 pm

I've been thinking and reading about the 'Dual Route reading model' a great deal over the last few weeks and have produced the following explanation for my website. Is my understanding of the theory correct? Is there anything you feel I should add -or remove? All comments appreciated.

The use of whole-language (banded) books right from the start with beginning readers is considered necessary by those who think that it is important to give students immediate and extensive practice in using a 'Direct Lexical route' to reading as this captures the behaviour of skilled readers based on the extremely popular Dual Route reading model. Supporters (Coltheart/Stuart/Ehri/A.Ellis...) of this reading model believe that there are two, independent 'routes' or pathways the brain uses to read words; a fast, lexical/semantic route (see printed word-> identify letters-> 'whole word' store-> word meaning store-> pronounce word) and a slower, sublexical/phonological route (see unfamiliar word->apply phonic 'rules' in GPC store -> sound out word -> word meaning store). According to this theory, once a word has been processed correctly a few times along the phonological route*, the sound information contained in the word is no longer necessary and the word goes into an apparently limitless 'orthographic store' in the brain, with 'all letters of the word in correct sequence' (Rose 54) The theory says that the lexical route which leads directly to the 'soundless sight words' store and then passes immediately to a 'pre-existing store of word meanings' (Rose 52), is always used by skilled readers 'under usual reading conditions' (Kerr 45). The sublexical/phonological route is, they say, only used as a back-up by the brain when the 'direct to meaning route' fails or a new word is encountered (Kerr p19-22, 44-50) The only evidence for this theory came from a study of a small group of adults who suffered brain damage and as a result acquired 'dyslexia' (Flynn&Stainthorp p41) and from studies of children with so-called 'developmental dyslexia'.

The Dual Route theory was challenged quite convincingly by Glushko back in 1979, who argued correctly that the brain automatically processes ALL the information available about the input signal from each and every word in parallel and processing is not carried out in separate pathways. Brain studies show that 'the process of mentally sounding out words is an integral part of silent reading, even for the highly skilled'. In addition, studies of the profoundly deaf (Aaron et al.'98), who have no phonological sensitivity, have found that they are incapable of learning to spell words correctly after the age of 8-9 years, because they cannot decode via the phoneme-grapheme route at all and rely on two visual processing modes: sight word memory (which has an average limit of approx. 2,000 (D.McGuinness / Mair)) and by visual matching of spelling probabilities (the repetition of visual spelling patterns in words). This latter is something the brain does automatically, and we are not aware of it. This research clearly shows that skilled readers do not read words as wholes or as a sequence of letters eschewing sound as Coltheart and others believe. Additionally, research by Share, Siegel and Geva revealed that struggling readers behave like deaf readers, relying mostly on visual information to decode words as they lack knowledge of the phonological information contained in words; the alphabet code. (see- D.McGuinness. Early Reading Instruction. Ch10)

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Post by chew8 » Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:54 pm

Susan - I'll give some thought to this but it may take a few days.

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:15 am

Susan, as far as I am aware Linnea Ehri ‘s ( 1995 ) model of “sight word” reading states that for words to become “sight words” they must go through the phonological route. Sounds are the glue that hold all words together.

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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:15 pm

Jim, the Dual Route Model appears to incorporate the thinking that all (most?) new/unfamiliar words have to go through a phonological stage where they are processed by passing along a 'slow, sublexical route that involves sounding out and using GPC 'rules' before they turn eventually into 'sight words' and can then always be processed by passing though a 'fast, direct to meaning, bypassing sound, route'.

I've now come to the conclusion that there are three different understandings of the term 'sight word':

There is the most common understanding of 'sight word' as a word which is learnt as a global whole by memorising its shape and prominent letters using flash cards.

The supporters of the Dual Route reading model have a different understanding of the term 'sight word'. It is one which is stored, they say, in a soundless, size-wise limitless, 'orthographic whole-word store' in the brain, all its letters in the correct order ready for instant processing straight to 'meaning', it having been phonologically decoded successfully in the past.

The third meaning of 'sight word' is one that a EXPERT reader has read many, many times before. As a consequence they read it so fast that they APPEAR to read it as a whole-word. The eye-movement studies show that they are still decoding all-through-the-word but this is done at a subconscious level. Only when the skilled reader comes to an previously unencountered word do the skills of phonological decoding come back into consciousness. '(R)ecent brain studies show that the primary motor cortex is active during reading, presumably because it is involved with mouth movements used in reading aloud. The process of mentally sounding out words is an integral part of silent reading, even for the highly skilled' www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/pspi/reading.pdf

I suppose that at the base of this Dual Route discussion is the question:

'Does it matter, where the evidence-based teaching of reading is concerned, that there is a wide spread belief amongst influential reading researchers that readers eventually come to read all words as whole-words with no sound involvement' and that 'readers store these 'sight words' in a soundless (but all the letters are in the correct order) word store in the brain which has no size limit'.

I think it does, but I'm finding it hard to verbalise why.

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Post by kenm » Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:49 pm

You wrote: "It is one which is stored, they say, in a soundless, size-wise limitless, 'orthographic whole-word store' in the brain, all its letters in the correct order ready for instant processing straight to 'meaning',"

I see the italicized words as a critical false belief. It may not have been incontrovertibly disproved, but I don't know of any plausible evidence for it, and I could conceive of it leading to poor teaching decisions, if indeed any teacher holds it.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:55 pm

Ken, I think this model is commonly supported by Adult Basic Skills teachers which is why so many advocate the Language Experience Approach when teaching reading:

see pages 45-50 http://www.hugokerr.info/book.pdf

It's also taught to teachers:

see Rose Report pages 86-87 http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/phonics/report.pdf

and training for L&S:

see 'Word Recognition' links http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/clld/las/cpd.html

It may be behind much of retired headteacher Eddie Carron's thinking, but I could be completely wrong on this!

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Post by chew8 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:02 pm

Is the whole of the following a quotation from researchers or is part of it Susan's wording? -

"It is one which is stored, they say, in a soundless, size-wise limitless, 'orthographic whole-word store' in the brain, all its letters in the correct order ready for instant processing straight to 'meaning',"

I myself feel as if I am reading most words as 'wholes' but also feel as if I am hearing the sounds of the whole words as I'm doing so. If 'soundless' means 'not being consciously aware of each individual phoneme', then the process feels 'soundless' to me - if it means 'not being consciously aware of the sound of the whole word', then the process does not feel soundless to me. Whether or not what I feel is happening is what is really happening is of course a separate issue.

As far as early reading instruction is concerned, I don't think it matters what researchers think is happening in the minds of proficient readers as long as they don't say that because this is what proficient readers do it's what beginners ought to do.

Jenny C.

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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:27 pm

Jenny, the wording is mine; it's a precis of my understanding of the model from my reading and some help from Diane McG.

My curiosity on the subject was raised when I read Hugo Kerr's online book -see above. Then I read Flynn and Stainthorp's The Teaching and Learning of Reading and Writing' (2006), where it came up again. I was also surprised to find it in the Rose Report (Morag Stuart's contribution) and in the L&S training (Morag Stuart again?) At that point I communicated with Diane McGuinness who agreed with my interpretation, gave me some pointers towards research and suggested that I read chapter 10 in her book Early Reading Instruction, which I duly did.

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Post by chew8 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 5:26 pm

Susan -

I had some e-mail correspondence with Morag Stuart a few months ago which may have a bearing on this. I'll see if (a) I've kept it and (b) it's relevant. If 'yes' and 'yes', I'll let you know privately as I don't like to go public on private correspondence.

Jenny C.

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Post by maizie » Fri Sep 19, 2008 5:31 pm

My curiosity on the subject was raised when I read Hugo Kerr's online book -see above.
My curiosity was aroused by this book, too, so I did some googling at the time. It seemed to me that all that I read on the primary motor cortex indicated that it was activated during 'silent' reading, thus indicating some sort of phonological processing was taking place.

I found an interesting reference to NASA investigating ways to exploit this for clear communication between astronauts during 'space walks'. That seemed to me to be a clincher for the validity of the involvement of a phonological element. After all, they surely wouldn't invest good money in trying to develop a technology based on an unevidenced 'theory'. (Or would they?) If I can find a link to the NASA stuff (it was a long time ago and I don't think I bookmarked it!) I'll post it.

I do think the danger of the 'Dual Route' theory is that it appears to give validity to 'look & say' and marginalise the importance of decoding and blending.

We discussed this at the time of Hugo's appearance on this board; I'll repeat what I said then. When I read I 'hear' every word!

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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:13 pm

Jenny, there's an interesting account of some research on acquiring a sight vocabulary carried out by Morag Stuart back in 2000, in Phonics: practice, research and policy, edited by Lewis and Ellis, page 26.

The research was 'to see how easy it is for 5yr.old beginning readers to store new words in sight vocabulary from repeated shared reading' of whole-language texts. From the description given it appears that they had had no phonics instruction. She discovered that 36 repetitions were 'not enough to guarantee that children remember a word'

I suspect that this research was an eye-opener for her and it was then that she realised that phonics was a very necessary part of teaching beginning readers.
Last edited by Susan Godsland on Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by chew8 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:21 pm

I think Morag's interest in phonics predates that particular piece of research, but I'd need to check.

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Post by maizie » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:53 pm

But haven't I seen her support the 'Dual Route' hypothesis?

I believe it was in the training lectures she gave following the implementation of the Rose Report (Susan gave us a link to them ages ago)

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Post by chew8 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:56 pm

A recent article by Morag Stuart, Rhona Stainthorp and Maggie Snowling cites Coltheart et. al. on the subject of 'sight word recognition' and a 'phonically based decoding process' and then states 'Once the reader can decode printed words using a combination of these two processes, their meanings are activated in the language system' 'Literacy 42/2, July 2008).

I don't think the authors would have put it like that if they thought that 'sight word recognition' meant going straight from printed word to meaning. Rather, they seem to believe that readers decode the written words into spoken language and 'once' this has happened they get at meaning via those spoken words. So it seems to me that these authors, at least, believe that there is 'sound involvement' even when sight word recognition' is happening.

Jenny C.

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Post by chew8 » Sat Sep 20, 2008 11:14 am

Since Susan G. raised this subject, I have re-read some of the stuff I have in my files about the dual route theories.

It's probably the case that Prof. Morag Stuart (Prof. in the Dept. of Psychology at the London Institute of Education and member of the Rose Review team) has done as much as anyone to bring these theories to people's attention in recent years. I don't feel I can do justice to her views in a brief message, but would suggest that people should read what she says in 'Psychology of Education Review' 30/2, September 2006, if they can get hold of it.

Susan started this thread on 18 Sept. by summarising what she understood the dual route model to be and asking for our comments. The next day, she raised the following as a crucial point:

'Does it matter, where the evidence-based teaching of reading is concerned, that there is a wide spread belief amongst influential reading researchers that readers eventually come to read all words as whole-words with no sound involvement' and that 'readers store these 'sight words' in a soundless (but all the letters are in the correct order) word store in the brain which has no size limit'.

I'll just say here that I don't think Morag Stuart would subscribe to the 'no sound involvement... soundless' bits - but others need to read what she says and judge for themselves.

I have been told that Morag did her PhD. under Max Coltheart. Whether or not this is so, she and Coltheart had an article published in 1988 ('Cognition' 30) which showed that she was already interested in phonics. They were looking at children in 'schools where there was no structured systematic phonics teaching at all' ('Psychology of Education Review' 30/2, p. 13), although the children 'were introduced to single letter-sounds through a weekly TV programme'. Stuart and Coltheart noticed that children who made use of this knowledge in looking at beginnings and ends of words and had good phonemic awareness made faster progress than the rest.

Jenny C.

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