Effectiveness of a morphological intervention for children with reading and spelling difficulties

Effectiveness of a morphological intervention for children with reading and spelling difficulties

First Author: Danielle Colenbrander -- Macquarie University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Liam Parsons; Shawna Murphy; Queenie Hon; Jeffrey Bowers; Colin Davis
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Morphological instruction has the potential to be an effective method of intervention for children with reading and spelling difficulties. In this study, we compared the effectiveness of a morphological instruction method called Structured Word Inquiry (Bowers & Kirby, 2010) to a comparison training programme.

Method: 270 children in Years 3 and 5 at 13 schools in Bristol, UK, were selected to participate in the study on the basis of their low spelling and reading comprehension scores. Children were randomly assigned to receive either Structured Word Inquiry instruction or a comparison instruction (Motivated Reading) teaching word meanings and comprehension strategies without any attention to word structure. Instruction was delivered by teaching assistants in 20 minute sessions three times per week for 24 weeks.

Results: Reading abilities were measured on a task of morphologically complex reading containing both trained and matched untrained words. Motivated Reading instruction resulted in higher post-test scores than Structured Word Inquiry instruction for children with the lowest pre-test scores. The opposite was true for children with the highest pre-test scores. The same pattern was observed on a task of morphological spelling.

Conclusions: Results suggest that Structured Word Inquiry instruction may be too challenging for children with very weak reading and spelling abilities. However, instructional fidelity was lower for Structured Word Inquiry than for Motivated Reading, and this may have disproportionately affected the weakest readers.