|Facts||On research on
whole language education
We hear and read in various places that whole language education is not supported by research. However, that is simply untrue, even though research comparing whole language with other approaches is still in its infancy. In fact, whole language teaching and learning is supported by three different kinds of research: research into the reading and writing processes themselves; naturalistic studies of how children learn to speak their language and to read and write it; and research comparing children's learning in whole language classrooms with other, more traditional classrooms. Research in learning theory and in learning styles also supports whole language education. Here, comparative research is the focus, since that is the kind most widely understood.
Children becoming independent readers, writers, and learners
Not all of the comparative research studies include standardized tests. Though such tests are not very good assessments of children's strengths and needs, the results of studies including such tests along with a variety of other measures are generalized here (Foorman et al., forthcoming, does not meet the latter criterion). A much fuller description of most of these research studies can be found in Weaver, 1994. All the located studies involved children in preschool, kindergarten, grade one, or grade two. Three studies involved two grade levels and one involved three grade levels; three of these were longitudinal studies involving children deemed to be at risk of educational failure. So far, these studies suggest the following conclusions:
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
Calkins, L. M. (1980). When children want to punctuate: Basic skills belong in context. Language Arts, 57, 567-73.
Clarke, L. K. (1988). Invented versus traditional spelling in first graders' writings: Effects on learning to spell and read. Research in the Teaching of English, 22, 281-309.
Cunningham, A. E. (1990). Explicit versus implicit instruction in phonemic awareness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 50, 429-444.
Dahl, K. L., and P. A. Freppon. (1992). Learning to read and write in inner-city schools: A comparison of children's sense-making in skills-based and whole language classrooms. Final Report to the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. U.S. Department of Education, Grant Award No. R117E00134. Part of the data described here is reported in an article by Dahl & Freppon that is included in the 1991 Yearbook of the National Reading Conference (papers from the 1990 conference).
DiStefano, P., & Killion, J. (1984). Assessing writing skills through a process approach. English Education, (16) 4, 203-207.
Elley, W. B. (1991). Acquiring literacy in a second language: The effect of book-based programs. Language Learning, 41(3), 375-411.
Foorman, B. R., Francis, D. J., Beeler, T., Winikates, D., & Fletcher, J. M. (Forthcoming). Early intervention for children with reading problems: Study designs and preliminary findings. Learning Disabilities: A Multi-Disciplinary Journal.
Freppon, P. (1988). An investigation of children's concepts of the purpose and nature of reading in different instructional settings. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati, Ohio. This study is reported in a 1991 article by Freppon: Children's concepts of the nature and purpose of reading in different instructional settings. Journal of Reading Behavior, 23(2), 139-163.
Gunderson, L., & Shapiro, J. (1988). Whole language instruction: Writing in 1st grade. The Reading Teacher, 41, 430-437.
Kasten, W. C., and Clarke, B. K. (1989). Reading/writing readiness for preschool and kindergarten children: A whole language approach. Sanibel, Florida: Educational Research and Development Council. ERIC: ED 312 041.
Manning, M., Manning, G., & Long, R. (1989). Effects of a whole language and a skill-oriented program on the literacy development of inner city primary children. ERIC: ED 324 642.
Ribowsky, H. (1985). The effects of a code emphasis approach and a whole language approach upon emergent literacy of kindergarten children. Alexandria, VA: Educational Document Reproduction Service. ERIC: ED 269 720.
Smith, J. W. A., & Elley, W. B. (1995). Learning to read in New Zealand. Katonah, NY: Richard C. Owen.
Stahl, S. A., McKenna, M. C., & Pagnucco, J. R. The effects of whole language instruction: An update and a reappraisal. Educational Psychologist, 29, 175-188.
Stephens, D. (1991). Research on whole language: Support for a new curriculum. Katonah, NY: Richard C. Owen.
Stice, C. F., & Bertrand, N. P. (1990). Whole language and the emergent literacy of at-risk children: A two-year comparative study. Nashville: Center of Excellence: Basic Skills, Tennessee State University. ERIC: ED 324 636.
Tunnell, M. O., & Jacobs, J. S. (1989). Using "real" books: Research findings on literature based reading instruction. The Reading Teacher, 43, 470-477.
Weaver, C. (1994). Reading process and practice: From socio-psycholinguistics to whole language (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Prepared for the Michigan English Language Arts Framework project and © 1996 by Constance Weaver. In C. Weaver, L. Gillmeister-Krause, & G. Vento-Zogby, Creating Support for Effective Literacy Education (Heinemann, 1996)). May be copied.
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