What is it about?

This essay explains that a science of reading instruction must be chiefly reliant on studies that have actually tried out the approach in classrooms and tested their effectiveness. It provides several examples of failed attempts to generalize from psychological and physiological studies without ever trying out the innovation in classrooms to see if they work.

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Why is it important?

Educational policymakers are being pressured to adopt and promote approaches to literacy instruction based upon neurological studies or studies from the cognitive sciences that have not been evaluated for effectiveness. They are told this is the science of reading. This paper explains why that is such a bad idea. Policy should be made on the basis of research data when possible, but they need to be the appropriate research data.


I've been surprised that so few educators are willing to accept irrelevant or inappropriate studies as the basis of their actions. This would be like physicians prescribing treatments on the basis of biological studies without any human trials to see if the medication or treatment actually worked.

Timothy Shanahan
University of Illinois at Chicago

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: What Constitutes a Science of Reading Instruction?, Reading Research Quarterly, September 2020, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1002/rrq.349.
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