Sue Cowley and speed reading

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Heather F
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Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by Heather F » Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:35 am

On Old Andrew's recent blog post Sue Cowley talks about her ability to speed read in the comments section and suggests this is impaired if children are taught through sounding out. I remember that I was taught to speed read as a teenager at school and in retrospect wonder if it was a bit of a scam as I remember other students reporting fabulous increases in speed which left me bemused and I think I remember the technique assumed you can read words by shape. I googled today and came across a forum where it was stated that if you have been taught to read with phonics this hinders your ability to speed read. It looks like speed reading training is based on some very dodgy assumptions.
I think I have read research suggesting that when you scan you simply comprehend less. Does anyone know if there is any proper research on the efficacy of speed reading training given that Sue Cowley is using it in her arguments? Am I right that the techniques contradict what we know about research on how people read?

yvonne meyer
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by yvonne meyer » Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:24 am

'Speed Reading' is one of those things that scientific researchers don't take seriously enough to bother researching. Unfortunately, this leaves the space open for dodgy snake oil merchants to make claims without any justification.

'Speed Reading' belongs in the same category as teas that make fat people thin, bracelets that cure arthritis and howling at the moon to cure cancer.

I've Googled Sue Cowley and read the biography on her website. She appears to be good at self-promoting. I don't see any research credentials. Perhaps you could ask her what evidence she has for her claims :?:

Heather F
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by Heather F » Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:52 am

Cheers. Thanks for making that clear!

volunteer
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by volunteer » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:16 am

I think it's like anything - with practice you can speed up a bit. I once used a Penguin "Teach Yourself Speed Reading" book when I was in my teens. I started it at what already was a good speed and did get faster. I don't think it would have been affected in any way with the initial method by which I had been taught to read.

When I say I got faster .... I got faster with the exercises in the book. My reading speed I am sure varies enormously depending on what I am reading, how tired I am, why I am reading what I am reading etc etc.

I think it probably did encourage me to sweep my eyes faster along the lines of print. I don't think it specifically told me to do this though. More than anything it did just show me that I could go faster and not jeopardise my comprehension so it was a confidence boost I guess.

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maizie
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by maizie » Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:50 pm

I have read somewhere (but sadly, can't remember where) that 'speed reading' gives speed at a cost of poor comprehension.

Interestingly, Frank Smith, in 'Understanding Reading' claims that a 'normal' silent reading speed is somewhere wellin excess of the 300 -400 wpm which is commonly cited. Once again, memory has failed but I recall that his figure was near to the amazing speeds quoted by the speed reading bods. I seem to recall that he says that decoding slows down reading speed. In fact, it is probably in Huey (1907) somewhere; most of the Whole Word theories seem to have originated with Huey, or earlier.

I shall have to get old Frank out again for some light bedtime reading!

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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by volunteer » Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:43 pm

Yes, commonsense would say that comprehension and retention would go down if you read "too fast". I think the key to the self-teach book I read was finding a speed at which your comprehension didn't suffer. It does of course depend on the material. It's all a bit of a vague area but I'm sure there are people who could read a bit faster than they do and not suffer for it.

I find that my reading has slowed down since I have had to read out loud to children and listen to children reading out loud. I've started lingering when I really don't need to.

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Susan Godsland
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by Susan Godsland » Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:19 pm


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maizie
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by maizie » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:06 pm

Have you tried it, Susan? It is quite interesting but doesn't go any faster than 500wpm; which is a speed that I have seen cited as probably being achievable in 'normal' reading.

You have to try the app to see what I mean by 'normal' reading as opposed to what the app does. I was well into a 'debate' with someone on twitter about it before I actually tried it. Once I had, what he was saying made more sense!

Sue Cowley continues to make the classic error of extrapolating from her own skilled reading and coming to quite spurious conclusions. :mrgreen:

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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by john walker » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:02 pm

The problem with many people's understanding of the concept of 'speed reading' is that the question of text density is rarely brought into the equation. Clearly, it is easier to read text that is less dense: i.e. sentences are short; there are few embedded, defining or non-defining relative clauses; and, the vocabulary is composed of frequently encountered, non-abstract, non-technical lexical items. The more dense the text, the harder it is to read and the slower the reading becomes if the reader doesn't want to lose meaning.
It is possible to speed up the process by, for example, using a pointer to guide eye movements and keep them focused but this becomes very tiring after a while and the sheer effort of maintaining it begins to detract from the activity of reading itself.
Of course decoding slows down reading speed if the reader is a novice. Then reading speed is slow, hesitant and sometimes stumbling. Reading is also slower when the novice reads aloud (presumably because a carer, parent or teacher wants to see how fluent the reading is and whether the child is decoding accurately). An experienced reader's reading speed is, as I maintain in my last blog posting, so rapid that it is below the level of conscious attention and it is that which gives it the appearance of words being instantly taken in as global wholes. However, as for the novice, when we come to a word that is outside our spoken vocabulary, particularly when it is polysyllabic (bachtrachophagus, for example), we become much more conscious of the work we are having to do. In such circumstances, we have to segment and blend if we want to be accurate and that inevitably slows us down.
Last edited by john walker on Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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maizie
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by maizie » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:50 pm

Oh, I thought Susan had linked to the app demo.

Here it is: http://tinyurl.com/p8db9su

Have a go!

Derrie Clark
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by Derrie Clark » Sun Mar 09, 2014 12:16 am

I shall have to get old Frank out again for some light bedtime reading!
Well at least you won't have any problems dropping off.

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maizie
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by maizie » Sun Mar 09, 2014 12:21 am

I'm afraid it keeps me awake. The idiocy of his thinking makes me so cross!

The book I have for dropping off to is called 'The neurological basis of reading'. I haven't managed 2 consecutive pages yet ;-)

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Susan Godsland
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Re: Sue Cowley and speed reading

Post by Susan Godsland » Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:19 pm

The New Speed Reading App Misses a Spot

http://weeklywonk.newamerica.net/articl ... pp-misses/

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