Linking Root Words and Derived Forms for Adult Struggling Readers: A Pilot Study
Posted by Jennifer Vecchiarelli on September 03, 2019 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryAdvocacycategoryMember Tips

Linking Root Words and Derived Forms for Adult Struggling Readers

Get ready for another great article from the ProLiteracy online research journal, Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy.

The free peer-reviewed journal will be available twice per year and publishes research on adult basic and secondary education and transitions into the workplace and higher education. Discover great and in-depth research that reflects best practices in adult education to inform practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders.

An excerpt from this week’s article in the spotlight, “Linking Root Words and Derived Forms for Adult Struggling Readers: A Pilot Study”, by Susan H. Gray, is highlighted below.

You can download the full article here.

The goal of this pilot study was to investigate the effects of morphological instruction on component literacy skills of adult struggling readers. Sixteen adults, most with decoding and encoding deficits, were randomly assigned to tutoring in either morpheme or syllable analysis to learn academic vocabulary and increase component literacy skills. Those taught semantic connections between Latin and Greek root words and their derived forms outperformed those taught syllable types on a standardized test of word recognition, though both groups demonstrated large gains for learning target words. Results support connectionist theories that promote teaching morphological links in literacy instruction.

Ninety million adults in the United Stated have low literacy skills according to the National Research Council (2012). Given the number of people directly affected, and the associated costs to public health and employment, there is a serious lack of rigorous research studying interventions for adult struggling readers (Greenberg, 2008; Kruidener, 2002; Tighe & Schatschneider, 2016). Adults seeking alternative high school credentials like the General Education Development (GED) diploma, and those in Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs have a wide range of reading skill deficits (Perin, Flugman & Spiegal, 2006; Greenberg, Ehri & Perin, 1997). Surprisingly, despite promising results of morphological instruction with both children and adults, there is little evidence that adult literacy studies are taking advantage of the potential of teaching morphemes, including prefixes, root words and suffixes (Alamprese, MacArthur, Price & Knight, 2011; Deacon, Parrila & Kirby, 2006; Fracasso, Bangs & Binder, 2015; Law, Wouters & Ghesquiere, 2015). Randomized pilot studies such as this one, are “those in which a future definitive clinical trial involving randomized study groups or its components are investigated on a miniature scale” (Kaur, Figueiredo, Bouchard, Moriello & Mayo1, 2017, p. 1243). This study tests the feasibility of providing instruction in morphemes to increase component literacy skills of adult struggling readers.


Theoretical Underpinnings

According to Perfetti and Hart’s (2002) Lexical Quality Hypothesis, the process of reading is essentially about knowledge of words. Being able to reliably identify the pronunciations, argue that “multiple encounters with a given word tend to produce a common core representation consisting of a nexus of orthographic, phonological and semantic information” (p. 190). Skilled readers tend to have tightly connected internal representations of words’ spellings, pronunciations and meanings. In contrast, struggling readers tend to have poorly specified lexical representations of words’ core constituents such as their orthographic, phonological and semantic (with syntactic) identities. Low quality lexical representations result in poor word analysis and word identification skills, impeding access to higher level skills like fluency and comprehension. Simply put, readers are not likely to comprehend passages containing words they cannot decode or recognize. Increasing the quality of lexical representations ought to lead to greater word reading, thereby reducing obstacles to comprehension (Perfetti, 2007).

Like Perfetti, Ehri (1978, 1999, 2005) argues that readers must clearly specify words’ phonological, semantic (with syntactic), and orthographic identities to read words fluently. Ehri (1999, 2005) theorizes that readers progress through various levels of linguistic awareness in learning sight words, which are defined as any words that readers can identify instantly. These levels of linguistic awareness include the pre-alphabetic, partial alphabetic, full alphabetic and consolidated alphabetic phases. In the first three phases, readers learn to map graphemes with phonemes with increasing proficiency. In the final stage, readers learn to read larger, “consolidated” linguistic units, such as morpheme and syllable units, which facilitates complex word reading by reducing the memory load (Ehri, 2005).

Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy





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