1 Using AceReader Online to Improve Collegiate Students Word Reading Speed and Comprehension Evan Ortlieb, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Reading Education Texas A&M University Corpus Christi Dr. Evan Ortlieb is the undergraduate reading program coordinator and an assistant professor at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in elementary reading and literacy research. His scholarship focuses on struggling readers and remediating reading difficulties in students of all ages. He is also very interested in literacy clinics and preservice teacher education. Most recently, he has begun publication of an international book series entitled Literacy Research, Practice, and Evaluation. Introduction Reading proficiency has remained stable over the last 20 years according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress at 4 th and 8 th grade levels despite federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Reading First. Unfortunately, without adequate remediation, students maintain non-proficient levels of reading comprehension that continue into post-secondary schooling. In 2007, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy in the United States (Department of Education) reported reading scores of American Adults of all education levels have lessened especially noted among the best educated groups. From 1992 to 2003, the proportion of U.S. college graduates who can read at a proficient level declined from 40% to 31%. In 2004, almost 42% of all freshmen enrolled in public two-year colleges were enrolled in at least one
2 developmental course (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). As the National Survey of America s College Students explains: Rapid changes in technology make it necessary for adults of all ages to use written information in new and more complex ways.... Every adult needs a range of literacy skills to achieve his or her personal goals, pursue a successful career and play an active role as a citizen. High levels of literacy also enable individuals to keep pace with changing educational expectations and technologies and support the aspirations of their families. (p. 4) These alarming trends of subpar reading performance in collegiate students and the increasing need for literacy skills in a technology-rich society provide the impetus for further research and investigation into how reading abilities can be more adequately developed to promote successful school and career readiness. Methods After a decade of low achievement in its freshmen-level reading remediation course, one four-year university in South Texas opted to investigate if their collegiate students enrolled in a remedial reading course could increase their reading speed while maintaining or increasing their comprehension levels through the utilization of AceReader Online. Ninety-four participants completed 122 modules of course work for duration of 12 weeks. These students represented varying ethnicities and countries of origin, inclusive of 13 international students. Data Analysis This investigation sought to determine the effectiveness of AceReader Online for use in a college remedial reading course to increase students reading rate while maintaining or increasing comprehension abilities. Mean scores and standard deviations from the (n = 94)
3 participants were calculated from the two measurement indicators: word reading speed (Ace Reader) and passage comprehension (Lexile Framework for Reading). A t-test was performed to compare differences between means for pre-test and post-test scores for silent reading comprehension within the group. Reported p-values indicate the probability of obtaining a result. The standard threshold, p.05, was utilized in this investigation and would indicate whether results obtained were statistically significant (below this threshold). Effect sizes were calculated when statistically significant results were found. Results Data were collected on participatory students throughout the fall 2011 semester. Baseline measures of both word reading speed and comprehension were obtained prior to the commencement of practice exercises involving the rapid serial visual presentation of words and the tachistoscopic scroll presentation of words. The online intervention program, AceReader, has assessment components within its integrated system so students were assessed in similar ways to their practices exercises. The primary investigator selected a paired t-test to compare individual words per minute scores: pretest scores (M = 176.6; SD = 8.3) and posttest scores (M = 289.8; SD = 24.2) following the 12-week intervention, resulting in t(90) = , p <.001, CI , (p =.000). Because the distributions of the data for both word reading speed were skewed, a bootstrap paired t-test was conducting, indicating similar results, p <.01 (p =.003). Paired t-test results on comprehension scores from pretest to posttest indicate statistically significant findings as well (p <.05) (p =.047). Because the distribution of the data for both pretest and posttest in reading comprehension were highly positively skewed, a bootstrap paired t-test using SPSS, netting similar results (p <.05) (p =.048).
4 Statistically significant gains were made by students enrolled in the developmental reading course at this university in word reading speed and/or comprehension. Cross-correlations between word reading speed and comprehension scores were tabulated to determine if students who improved in reading rate were also those who improved in comprehension. Results indicate a low correlation between these variables. Discussion Word reading post-test results indicated that students in the remedial reading collegiate course improved 123 words read per minute on average (as measured by AceReader Online). Students experienced significant gains in all four sections of the course regardless of factors like instructor of record, course time, or whether they were repeating the course. The transition from reading 176 words (approximately eighth grade level) to 289 words per minute varied between participants. Some improved quickly through eye training exercises while others continued to increase their word reading speed throughout the duration of the 122 modules. Word reading speed, though, is only one aspect of reading fluency; comprehension of content is also necessary for one to be considered a fluent reader (Johns, L Allier, & Johns, 2012). Comprehension developed was also targeted and thus measured via the Lexile Framework for Reading before, during, and after the skill exercises involving rapid serial visual presentation of words and using tachistoscopic scroll presentation of words. What was particularly fascinating was that students not only increased their word reading speed to a statistically significant rate, but they also increased their comprehension rates of passages included in AceReader Online. Comprehension gains are particularly salient when accounting for the increase in passage difficulty throughout duration of the exercises.
5 Further analysis resulted in a low correlation between those who made gains in word reading speed and those who achieved comprehension increases. Online sessions emphasized eye training to bolster reading word speed and comprehension. These exercises had variable positive gains depending on the learner. Moreover, it was apparent that students enrolled in a remedial course had variable needs for improvement. Limitations This investigation utilized a convenience sampling from one regional university in South Texas. Comprehension assessments included one indicator leveled passages from the Lexile Framework for Reading; students were assessed using the same program in which they progressed through 122 online modules, following precedence set in Ortlieb, Sargent, and Moreland s (in press) study that found students should be tested in the same media format in which they receive instruction (i.e., digital instruction with digital testing, or paper instruction with paper testing). Finally, three instructors were teachers of record for these 94 participants across four sections on the remedial reading course. This was also their first experience using AceReader and providing guidance to students for duration of the study. Further study Remedial reading course redesign has been needed for some time but the problem is confounded with the technological literacy needs emerging from students of all ages. Students struggle reading printed words, while others can read words proficiently but not retain the meaning of the text. Therefore, students must also be trained to improve their multifarious literacy skills in individually tailored settings where successes are cherished and consistent scaffolding prevails. Online programs like AceReader provide supplemental eye training exercises to provide an environment of learning outside of their weekly scheduled classes.
6 Literacy instruction and remediation can further advance with additional experimental research. One particular avenue of suggested research is determining ideal durations of study that are needed for specific types of reading difficulties. For instance, students identified as word callers, or those who read word by word instead of in rhythmic phrases, may be placed into several programs of remediation, where online intervention programs can yield data regarding which exercises are most effective and how much practice is needed before students can move on to another focused area of study. With revitalization in the popularity of eye movements (Samuels, Rasinski, & Hiebert, 2011), it is an ideal time to determine and disseminate successful supplementary practices in remedial reading. Conclusion Though the basic tenets of reading are generally understood as word recognition and comprehension, knowing how to develop student proficiencies in these areas is challenging. Remedial reading courses often have a two-fold mission: (1) Provide explicit instruction to develop student literacy skills, and (2) Prepare students to understand the basics of language, reading, and writing development through an array of literary experiences. Supplemental programs like AceReader Online can increase adults reading speed and comprehension rates that can then transfer to everyday reading experiences. Like an omni-directional flashlight, without well-trained eyes, content information becomes blurred to the reader. In this study, word reading strategies were selected to train remedial readers eyes to recognize words more proficiently, and with greater accuracy in word reading comes less saccades and regressions in eye movement, allowing the brain to more readily process and retain comprehension of information. Outcomes have significance in school
7 systems, tutoring programs, and other remedial courses when planning instruction for the development of remedial literacy skills at the collegiate level. Through refined research and practice, educators enhance their abilities to foster reading development through eye training exercises. Though there is no panacea when remediating reading difficulties, online programs like AceReader provide supplementary student learning opportunities based on a rapid serial visual presentation of words and using tachistoscopic scroll presentation of words aimed at reading development. Course designers, professors, and academic administrators alike should consider these findings when selecting supplementary reading programs to better address the commensurate needs of their student bodies.
8 References Johns, J., L Allier, S., & Johns, B. (2012). Making the most of informal reading inventories: Moving from purposeful assessment to targeted instruction. In E. T. Ortlieb & E. H. Cheek, Jr. (Eds.), Literacy Research, Practice, and Evaluation: Vol. 1. Using informative assessments for effective literacy practices (pp ). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group. Ortlieb, E. T., Sargent, S., & Moreland, M. M. (in press). Evaluating the efficacy of using a digital reading environment for remediation within a reading clinic. Reading Psychology. Samuels, S. J., Rasinsky, T., & Hiebert, E. H. (2011). Eye movements and reading: What teachers need to know. In A. Farstrup & S. J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (4 th ed., pp ). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2004). The Condition of Education 2004 (NCES ). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). The 2010 Condition of Education (NCES ). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from:
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