Tuesday, November 20, 2007

State-of-the-art of reading theory research - recommended reading

I just skimmed what I think is an important article re: the state-of-research re: theories of reading. The reference (and abstract) is below.

Even if you are not interested in understanding the state-of-the-art of theories of reading, the first half of the article provides a nice overview of the importance of unified theories in science, questions these theories should answer, criteria to use to evaluate such theories, etc.

The value of the article (to me) is that it made me feel less ignorant re: my ongoing unease regarding my knowledge of the extant reading research. There is soooooooooooo much reading research being published, many advocates for different positions and favorite constructs (e.g. phonological awareness; RAN; etc.), etc., that I find it hard to integrate the various pieces into a coherent understanding. I now realize that my inability to get my brain around the extant reading research is not due only to my cognitive and knowledge limitations, but also stems from the fact that theories of reading are still in a state of infancy and that no grand unified framework exists to organize all the different article-based bits of information I have been accumulating.

I found a couple of quotes in the article to be particularly enjoyable. They are below (emphasis added by the blog dictator).
  • A useful metaphor for scientific theory was suggested by Judson (1980): Scientific theories are the invisible mansions of the mind. As applied to developing fields,this metaphor implies that a theory should be a developing architecture with many rooms and a plan that is open to additions and modifications: a dynamic architecture. Larger theories encompass and unify smaller theories within their developinglarger structures.
  • Correlating reading behavior with brain areas and their activity is a growing line of research. However, as in cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience is characterized by localist and fragmented theories. Although observations from MRIs, event-related potentials, and neuron recordings proliferate, no theory as yet explains how the brain engenders the reading mind. Without a theory of how it does, all these observations float free of any interpretive mooring.

Sadoski, M., & Paivio, A. (2007). Toward a unified theory of reading. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11(4), 337-356. (click here to view)

  • Despite nearly 40 years of scientific theorizing about reading, the field remains fragmented with little progress toward unification. In this article, we (a) emphasize the privileged position of unified theories in all science, (b) compare the growth of theory in cognitive science and reading, (c) identify the phenomenal domain of a unified scientific theory of cognition in reading, (d) propose five general principles for evaluating such theories, and (e) discuss selected influential theories and their potential for contributing to a unified theory of cognition in reading. Our purpose is to extol reading theory and encourage increased attention to developing powerful, unified theories.
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Liz Ditz said...

Thanks, Kev! This is an important step, and since I'm not at a university, I miss journals.

Independent Scholar said...

I love the way information travels to me, and I thank each player:

Google News Alert
Kevin's Blogspot
Authors Mark Sadoski and Allan Paivio

Kevin said...

Liz and Independent Scholar. Thanks for you comments. As a former practitioner, I, for years, lamented the lack of access to contemporary journal articles. Making such posts is probably the main goal of my blog...to help bring contemporary research to practitioners...to help bridge the research/theory--practice gap.

IS - yes...it is interesting how information travels. I checked out your web page. Nice stuff.


The SchoolP said...

Hello. Great web site
Reading your comments that reading research lacks unity, I fail to see that. In fact, I don't see any other field in all of psychology at this time that has more unity. Reading disabilities (dyslexia) can be diagnosed and treated more accurately than anything else in the DSM I believe. I was surprised not to see this recent book posted: Proust and the Squid by Maryann Wolf, which ties all the research together. Also see Brain Literacy for Educators by V. Berninger... who also published the brilliant PAL-II test by PsychCorp.