Unravelling reading : evaluating the effectiveness of strategies used to support adults' reading skills

Partridge, Susan Eunice (2012). Unravelling reading : evaluating the effectiveness of strategies used to support adults' reading skills. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000bfda


This thesis reports on research into ways of evaluating the effectiveness of strategies to improve adults' reading skills. It explores what counts as an improvement in reading skills for adults; examines practical and ethical issues in measuring improvements in reading skills; considers Kruidenier's (2002) categorisation of reading into components (alphabetic, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension); evaluates how far individual differences impact on an adult reader's capability to improve; identifies features of good support for adults' reading skills; and recommends changes in policy and practice.

The research paradigm is eclectic, exploring approaches for an interventionalist practitioner-researcher. In the tradition of action research, the study seeks to bring about positive change on an individual level for each learner, improvements in practice at a pedagogical level for teachers and, at a policy level, recommendations for more effective teaching and learning. The research is framed as a multiple case study based on Yin (2009).

In an initial study, tools for assessment and support were piloted and evaluated. The main study extended the methodology, using 5 fellow practitioners as collaborator researchers. A total of 10 adult learners completed a one-to-one support programme with materials and approaches tailored to each learner's interests and needs. Techniques included work to extend vocabulary, word recognition skills, fluency and comprehension, based on a series of original guidance sheets, linking findings from research to practice.

Analysis of results included quantitative measures of changes in accuracy, reading speed and comprehension. Qualitative analysis stemmed from detailed profiles of learners' progress, detailed observational records and evaluation of emerging trends, 'leading to a discussion of key themes for future policy and practice.

The key findings include: an increase in individuals' reading skills following even a short period of individualised support; the identification of effective strategies like vocabulary development and paired reading; the importance of taking into consideration the characteristics of learners, their social setting and sources of motivation; the positive impact of one-to-one support; and considerable light cast on assessment practice.

The thesis ends with recommendations for: further work on the assessment and support of comprehension skills; using detailed learner profiling as an assessment technique; supporting a claim for the effectiveness of one-to-one support in adult literacy; and guidance for practitioners on implementing a wider range of strategies to support adults' reading.

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