Whole language: the Medusa's head

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Susan Godsland
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Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:48 pm

In his pamphlet, 'Sponsored Reading Failure' the late (and great) educational psychologist, Martin Turner, described whole language as, 'A hydra-headed beast' (Turner.1990 p2) because, however much it was condemned for lacking empirical evidence of effectiveness, rather than disappearing it simply re-appeared under a new alias.
Turner listed:
real books
storybook method
emergent reading
holistic approach
osmosis
apprenticeship approach

He could have added:
Literature-based Approach,
Discovery Method,
Language Experience
and 'Acquisition of reading in authentic contexts through a progressive and invisible pedagogy' (Goouch/Lambirth p110) and so on....

The WL proponents then tried to obscure what they advocated by conceding to the addition of a tiny amount of non-systematic 'phonics' simply as one 'cue' in a range of strategies, thereby creating a whole new medusa's head of aliases:
Mixture of methods
Range of Strategies
NLS Searchlights
Three-Cueing System
Eclectic Approach
Integrated Approach
Balanced Instruction (USA)
4 Resources (Aus.)
and so on...

Professor Brian Cambourne is Australia's leading WL guru. He revealed the WL people's true intentions when he said, 'When you rely on evidence, it's twisted … We rely on the cognitive science framing theory, to frame things the way you want the reader to understand them to be true."
http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/the-crazy ... -94dg.html

In his 2006 report, Sir Jim Rose recommended that additional support in ALL the 'waves' of intervention should be fully compatible with mainstream practice (high quality, systematic synthetic phonics taught discretely) (Rose Review 2006 p70)) and he rightly rejected the NLS multi-cueing strategies. Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary at the time, accepted all the Rose report's recommendations and said she would ensure they were implemented (Kelly response to interim report 30/11/05) The DfES (now DfE) followed up by stating that, 'High-quality phonic work, as defined by the Rose review, should be a key feature of literacy provision in all the ‘waves’ of intervention' (DfES 2007 PNS)

The section of the Rose Report about intervention, and Kelly's promise to implement it, seems to have been buried almost immediately by the DCSF. Despite Reading Recovery (RR) being way out of line with report's recommendations, outrageously, the then DCSF continued to encourage and fund schools to use RR as a Wave 3 intervention for Y1 children, AND recommended that they 'layer' RR with a range of other whole language interventions, all found under the Every Child a Reader (ECaR) mantle, to make sure it was firmly embedded through out the school. Furthermore, funding (and therefore implicit support) for RR and its clones is still available, though the government's formerly ring fenced ECaR funding has now been incorporated into the Dedicated Schools Grant.

The aliases for multi-cueing non-systematic intervention programmes continued to multiply:
Reading Recovery
Better Reading Partnership BRP
Catch Up literacy
Rapid Reading
FFT wave 3
Reading Quest
and so on....

At the end of 2009, Parliament's Science and Technology committee questioned the use of Reading Recovery (and other whole language intervention programmes:
Evidence Check on Early Literacy Interventions http://www.publications.parliament.uk/p ... 4/4405.htm
Having checked all the evidence, the all-party committee said: ''Teaching children to read is one of the most important things the State does. The Government has accepted Sir Jim Rose's recommendation that systematic phonics should be at the heart of the Government's strategy for teaching children to read. This is in conflict with the continuing practice of word memorisation and other teaching practices from the 'whole language theory of reading' used particularly in Wave 3 Reading Recovery. The Government should vigorously review these practices with the objective of ensuring that Reading Recovery complies with its policy''.

At the beginning of the summer holidays the DfE released its advanced training materials for SEN, including those for 'dyslexia'.
http://www.advanced-training.org.uk/module4/M04U15.html
What is buried in there? Miscue-analysis, Reading Recovery, NLP..... :wtf:

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by maizie » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:38 pm

Susan Godsland wrote:At the beginning of the summer holidays the DfE released its advanced training materials for SEN, including those for 'dyslexia'.
http://www.advanced-training.org.uk/module4/M04U15.html
What is buried in there? Miscue-analysis, Reading Recovery, NLP..... :wtf:
A spirited comment from the splendid Philip Macmillan:

http://lists.education.gov.uk/pipermail ... 03945.html
Well well well, the DfE obviously does not pay any attention whatsoever to past and current empirical reading research based on sound data supported theory.
.................
All that taxpayers money spent on Rose et al, synthetic phonics etc. etc. Everything was going to change and the number of poor readers was going to drop, this has yet to happen and if this particular nonsense from HMG is going to be current practice then nothing much will change and 30% of our children will experience unnecessary difficulties in literacy development.

Miscue analysis, Marie Clay, Reading Recovery, what will be next Whole Language? Come back Goodman all is forgiven?

I despair.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Derrie Clark » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:52 pm

And using the term 'dyslexia' when still nobody knows what it means or how to define it. If you cannot define something how can you test for it or provide an appropriate cure/intervention. A very very disappointing document and I'm left wondering how it can be described as "advanced training materials". Every teacher should be trained how to teach reading and spelling and to recognise when a child is falling behind in the learning of basic skills - is it not the basis of education? Children falling behind with literacy need more practice (rather than more curriculum content) using effective programmes that systematically teach the mapping of phoneme to grapheme not more 'specialists' peering at and assessing the children themselves.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:59 pm

Apparently the Institute of Education (home of Reading Recovery) wrote these materials, so that explains a lot. I wonder what the various Dyslexia lobby groups make of them?

On the subject of miscue analysis:
http://www.ednews.org/articles/miscue-a ... tque-.html

and on NLP magical spelling
http://www.sunflowertrust.com/index.php Sunflower therapy consists of applied kinesiology, physical manipulation, massage, homeopathy and herbal remedies, plus 'Magical Spelling' which is based on neuro-linguistic programming.
A randomised, controlled trial of Sunflower therapy, (Bull, L. 2007), for children with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia), found that there were similar gains in test scores for clinical and control children.

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/ ... sible.html
''NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has little to do with serious neuroscience or linguistics, and is not taken seriously by academics in either field''

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by geraldinecarter » Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:32 pm

Thank you Susan for putting together all these references. This from the late-lamented Dead Reckoning:

Ken De Rosa 2007
Reading Recovery gets the WWC Treatment
The What Works Clearinghouse issued a report yesterday on the whole-language uber-expensive tutoring program Reading Recovery.

Let me quickly summarize the good news for Reading Recovery: if you allow the developers of Reading Recovery to research their own program enough times, allow them to collect their own data, and allow them to use their own non-standard measure to gauge efficacy,then you might be able to show positive results if you're willing to live with serious methodological flaws in the research.

But, the bad news is pretty devastating: The only study conducted by independent researchers found that if you add an explicit systematic phonics component to Reading Recovery, you get results that are 37% better.

As usual, the WWC report shows that the state of education research is execrable. The WWC reviewed 78 studies. Only four met the WWC's standards and one met with reservations. That means that 73 didn't meet the WWC's standards. That's a 6.4% success rate. This doesn't necessarily reflect badly on Reading Recovery, but a fair amount of that bad research was conducted by Reading Recovery affiliated researchers.

Many of the positive findings were the result of using non-standard assessments, such as the Reading Recovery created Observation Survey of early Literacy Achievement, which are biased in favor of Reading Recovery and use "predictable text, rather than text that uses authentic, natural language patterns. Children who have learned the prediction strategies of Reading Recovery will score better reading predictable text than they will reading authentic text."

Stanovich and Stanovich (1995) report that many studies have found that authentic text is not very predictable:

It is often incorrectly assumed that predicting upcoming words in sentences is a relatively easy and highly accurate activity. Actually, many different empirical studies have indicated that naturalistic text is not that predictable. Alford (1980) found that for a set of moderately long expository passages of text, subjects needed an average of more than four guesses to correctly anticipate upcoming words in the passage (the method of scoring actually makes this a considerable underestimate). Across a variety of subject populations and texts, a reader's probability of predicting the next word in a passage is usually between .20 and .35 (Aborn, Rubenstein, & Sterling, 1959; Gough, 1983; Miller & Coleman, 1967; Perfetti, Goldman, & Hogaboam, 1979; Rubenstein & Aborn, 1958). Indeed, as Gough (1983) has shown, the figure is highest for function words, and is often quite low for the very words in the passage that carry the most information content." (p. 90)

If authentic text is not very predictable, then children who read well in predictable text may not necessarily read well in authentic text. The strategies they have learned for reading may not generalize to real reading. So, much of the positive findings for Reading Recovery do not pertain to what is considered to be real reading.

Then we have the inconvenient problem that three of the studies meeting WWC studies were conducted by researchers affiliated with Reading Recovery. Note the researcher names in the following studies:

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:35 pm

Nearly every school where we are invited to provide SSP training has a resident 'Reading Recovery teacher'. :???:

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:47 am

Marlynne Grant, an LEA psychologist, has emailed us re. the DfE 'dyslexia' materials:
This set of materials obfuscates the simple, straightforward message of synthetic phonics as we know it. We are not talking about linguistics or phonetics but phonics. I see our role as making the process of teaching children how to write down the sounds of English and how to use their phonics to read words, as logical and as simple as possible. I also see our role as making this process as simple and easy as possible for teachers to understand, so that they will be confident about using it. I do not want them thinking they should leave it to the experts and regress back to using whole language, sight words and some simple phonics themselves. Why is the government now endorsing advice in terms of IPA symbols which intellectualises what should be a simple set of sound and letter correspondences? A simple set for the basic code and a wider set for the advanced code. What this set of materials says to me is : phonics is too complicated for the public to use and understand i.e. classroom teachers and parents - so children who struggle should only be dealt with by dyslexia experts. More power and exclusive power to the dyslexia lobby - who must be getting worried as they see that quality first-time teaching of SSP teaches virtually all children to read. I think this government information is confusing and damaging and risks undermining the excellent work done so far.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:29 am

More from LEA educational psychologist Marlynne Grant:

There is a definition in "Dyslexia, Literacy and Psychological Assessment" Report by a working Party of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology of The British Psychological Society, 1999:

The Concept of Dyslexia: (pp11, 18)

1. Research and practice acknowledges the working definition of dyslexia introduced in this report which separates description from causal explanations.
The working definition states that ‘dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the 'word level' and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides the basis for a staged process of assessment through teaching’.

2. The working definition provides a starting point for considering relevant research about literacy learning and different theoretical definitions which are currently stressing the central role of literacy-related phonological skills.

3. Learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature are recognised across language, culture, race, socio-economic status and gender.

The report notes the meaning of dyslexia (p18)
Derived from two Greek words
• 'dys' meaning 'difficulty'
• 'lexis' meaning 'words'
• literal meaning - 'difficulty with words'
• extrapolated to - 'difficulty with reading and spelling words'.
p20:
• in Cognitive psychology - dyslexia is short-hand for difficulty with the alphabetic script
• in popular language the emphasis is on within-child causitive factors rather than effective teaching and inclusive practice

dyslexia v specific Learning Difficulties (p20)

• not synonymous historically
• dyslexia is about diagnosis of the condition through signs and symptoms
• SpLD - more about functional analysis of what learners can and cannot do in relation to reading and writing
• The BPS working definition provides a starting point for assessing the extent to which literacy difficulties are leading to SEN that hinder access to ther curriculum."

Note the definition of dyslexia which refers to reading and spelling at word level (very focused on alphabetic code and the word decoding dimension of the Simple View of Reading). Note also there is an assumption that "appropriate learning opportunities" have occurred - we could question whether that happens. Also the definition is talking about 'severe and persistent' i.e. which suggest to me : below say 1% in achievement and which is not amenable to appropriate catch-up. So this must be very many fewer children than popular perception.

SpLD seems to me to be a complete catch-all definition - this is why in the dyslexia video clips [in the DfE teaching materials] we saw emphasis on other learning difficulties e.g. requiring exercises for fine motor co-ordination - all excellent - but the issue is poor fine motor contol. I always say to schools, if there is a co-ordination problem then children need approprate motor skills programmes and very structured handwriting programmes, if there are memory issues they need lots of overlearning, practice and repetition, if there are language issues then chidlren need access to language programmes BUT if there is a literacy decoding problem then the children need sufficient time for extra learning of the alphabetic code and applying that through blending for reading and and segmenting for spelling.

I see the dyslexia lobby as focusing in on every type of learning difficulty and talking about all these as if they were "dyslexia /SpLD".

SEN will always be with us - so they are onto a winner there. They do not acknowledge the HoC report which reviewed research showing that virtually all children can learn to read and write with systematic, synthetic phonics and extra teaching as soon as children are seen to be struggling. This can all happen within the school context and the teachers do not need to be dyslexia trained 'specialists'. Parents turn to Dyslexia Action in desperation when schools do not devote sufficient time to teaching literacy thoroughly and rigorously and giving sufficient time for the extra teaching required to tackle literacy difficulty.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Aug 02, 2012 3:39 pm

Edge Hill University: specialist dyslexia training 'drivel' provider

http://johnbald.typepad.com/language/20 ... l#comments

Do scroll down to read Karina's comments too.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Derrie Clark » Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:25 pm

Well, I believe it was a significant time before people who argued against a flat earth theory were not consider heretics.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:54 pm

Regarding the 'dyslexia' label, a heretical EP writes:
Unfortunately people want a label as they think it offers an explanation and often the label is useful as it releases extra funding and special arrangements for exams. I avoid the term where I can, referring instead to the specific gaps in code knowledge and the need for extra teaching to learn the basic or advanced code, practice with blending, segmenting, the need for modelled writing where children compose sentences orally first, the need to develop accurate letter formation through handwriting teaching and practice. Now we have identified these gaps and weak areas, I say to schools and parents, we can focus extra teaching on them. Schools and parents would be much happier, I suspect, if I just were to say with a long face, "It's dyslexia!!!". It's not an easy position to defend - there is an LEA specialist Advisory teacher for dyslexia and dyslexia friendly courses all about overlays, coloured paper, and special arrangements for accessing the curriculum, using scribes and readers and dictaphones and ICT.

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:21 pm

The Core Knowledge Blog

That Dog Won’t Hunt
by Robert Pondiscio
At Fordham’s Common Core Watch blog last week, Kathleen Porter-Magee posted a piece that deserves more attention. It’s an eye-opening look at how literacy guru Lucy Calkins is “rewriting the Common Core” to basically argue for the same old literacy practices that have largely failed our students.
http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2012/08/1 ... ge+Blog%29

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Re: Whole language: the Medusa's head

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:58 am

Yesterday, Russell Mayne gave a talk on aspects of English language teaching which have little or no scientific credibility. He examined practices such as neuro-linguistic programming, learning styles, multiples intelligences and brain gym. He also included a guide to spotting pseudo-science in education. There's an excellent ppt to accompany the video:

http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/s ... wzkPH.dpuf

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