The importance of reading the research to understand the conditions and conclusions transparently

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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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The importance of reading the research to understand the conditions and conclusions transparently

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu May 05, 2016 12:37 am

It's not uncommon for different interpretations of research to be presented in the media but the contrasiting responses to a recent piece of research purportedly about 'synthetic phonics' has been a classic example of different interpretations and responses.

Jenny Chew illustrates, via the UK Reading Reform Foundation message forum, the need to really understand the conditions and content of the research itself, and in this case the reader needs to know what a high-quality, content-rich systematic synthetic phonics provision really 'looks like' - in order to be equipped to consider carefully the 'findings' of the researchers.

In other words, it is important to be able to research the research - and, yes, research doesn't always show what one at first might think or what the researchers conclude.

You can view the RRF thread here:

Research supports use of SP for initial teaching of reading

http://rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6275
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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Joined: Sat May 23, 2015 4:42 pm

Re: The importance of reading the research to understand the conditions and conclusions transparently

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu May 05, 2016 12:45 am

The contrasting responses in different newspapers to the reporting of a new literacy study in England are quite extraordinary - illustrating that the devil is not only in the detail but in the reporting of the detail! I have already collated a few different media 'headings' via another forum but I've copied it here:

http://schoolsweek.co.uk/inexpensive-ph ... ign=buffer

Compare for example ....


An “inexpensive” trial policy improved all pupils’ literacy in the early years and had long-term effects on children who struggle with reading, a major new study has found.



....with the Times newspaper's headline:



“The phonics system used in all schools to teach children to read has no long-term benefits for the average child, a major study finds today. The universal benefit of the programme is called into question in a large-scale study, which tracked the progress of more than 270,000 pupils. It shows that, while phonics can help disadvantaged children or those without English as a first language, it makes no difference by age 11.”


And here is the actual study:


CEP Discussion Paper No 1425
April 2016

“Teaching to Teach” Literacy

Stephen Machin
Sandra McNally
Martina Viarengo


http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1425.pdf


And here is the misleading headline and article written by Emma Plackett who skews or disregards the important issues around reading instruction and this latest study:


The LSE is right: the phonics reading method doesn't work for every child

EMMA PLACKETT


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04 ... -for-ever/

Is this more about self-promotion than the actual findings of the study?

Here is another report about the same study:


Synthetic phonics can improve reading skills, study claims

Using synthetic phonics to teach children how to read can have considerable long-term benefits for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who do not have English as a first language, according to a new study by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP).


http://www.capitaeducation.co.uk/news/s ... ims-17936#


If Jenny Chew's suggestion is correct - that the content of the training and teaching of the study (the 'synthetic phonics' provision) does not really match up to high-quality, content-rich systematic synthetic phonics provision, then the study itself is in danger of misleading everyone with regard to the full potential of systematic synthetic phonics provision.
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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Re: The importance of reading the research to understand the conditions and conclusions transparently

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu May 05, 2016 10:02 am

This study has now been flagged up via the ACER site:

https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/arti ... ic-phonics

ACER: Australian Council for Educational Research
Dick Schutz

Re: The importance of reading the research to understand the conditions and conclusions transparently

Postby Dick Schutz » Fri May 06, 2016 10:13 pm

At times the "conditions and conclusions" of a study are muddy and muddled rather than transparent, and so it is with this research report.

The title of the study is “Teaching to Teach” Literacy . The variable of concern was the provision of funds to a Local Education Authority to hire a consultant who had responsibility for at least 10 schools. What the consultants were to do and/or did is unknown, but as Jenny Chew has noted, whatever it was occurred a long time ago and has little or nothing to do with the current National Curriculum or the current status of Systematic Synthetic Phonics reading instruction in England.

The provision of consultants had little or no practical consequence, but "we already know that." The large scale, long term Reading First study in the US found that "Coaching/Professional Development" changed the way teachers talked, but not what they did. Similarly, the "Matched Funding" for SSP Training in England did not consistently effect the hoped-for consequence.

We also "already know" that if there is variability in the instructional performance of an age-cohort at one point in time, the variability will only increase at a future point in time--even more so when a different measure of performance is used.

Likewise, it doesn't take "research" to conclude that changing instructional matters costs less than changing class size; the question is what to change, but this research has nothing to say about that.

The arcane statistics conform to standard econometric reporting practice, but they are closer to gobbledygook than transparency. What they boil down to is great variability and weak practical effects--at most--from providing consultants to "teach teachers to teach literacy."

The statistics have no pertinence to present-day instruction. In fairness to the researchers, they make no claims beyond what they report. The researchers do, however, set up straw-man distinctions about "phonics" and gloss over matters that have led journalists to spin the results variously. That happens in the "fog of education."

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