Adaptive strategy choice in children’s early reading and spelling

Farrington-Flint, Lee and Coyne, Emily (2007). Adaptive strategy choice in children’s early reading and spelling. In: Annual British Psychological Society Developmental Section Conference, 29-31 Aug 2007, University of Plymouth.


There has been a growing interest in the application of the overlapping waves model (Siegler, 1996) to monitor developments in children’s thinking across a diverse range of educational contexts. The present work examines the extent to which this model can be applied to the context of a nonalgorithmic domain: children’s early reading and spelling using immediately retrospective self-report methodology. We examined (i) abundant variability, (ii) adaptive choice and (iii) gradual change in strategy choice in children’s reading and spelling performance on three regular intervals over a period of three months. Studying within-child performance over time revealed strong individual differences in reading and spelling performance and evidence that the children were strategically choosing relevant strategies on a trial-by-trial basis. Indeed, despite showing within-child variability across the trials, there was a general shift in children’s choice of strategies, moving away from relying on less efficient back-up strategies (alphabetic decoding, analogy) to direct retrieval methods. It is expected that these findings will help to illustrate the importance of self-reflection (or self explanation) of strategy choice as an educational tool for enabling children’s developments in reading and spelling. This may lead to a reconceptualisation of some of the current theoretical models of early reading and spelling development (Frith, 1985; Goswami & Bryant, 1990).

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