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Toward an Interactive – Compensatory Model of Reading Fluency The Interactive Compensatory Model The University of Toronto’s Keith Stanovich, Professor of Human Development and Applied Psychology is an education researcher whose primary field of inquiry is understanding the processes through which we learn and understand text. His investigation of reading and fluency began with his review of Frank Smith’s 1971 book, Understanding Reading. He posited that reading fluency is measurable, quantifiable and can be predicted and explained. Stanovich reviewed the research surrounding reading fluency and discovered gaps in the scholarship. His later work more clearly explained the process through which readers arrive at fluency. Stanovich’s seminal research into language, learning and reading fluency has proven its staying power. He examined the cognitive processes underpinning reading fluency. In the article Toward an Interactive – Compensatory Model of Individual Differences in the Development of Reading Fluency, Stanovich and his colleagues, LaBerge and Samuels, agree that the mind cannot focus on two demanding cognitive processes like decoding and comprehending at the same time; therefore, the reader has to have mastered the decoding skill in order for comprehension to be successful. Stanovich’s Interactive Compensatory Model claims poor readers rely on other reading cognitions to help them interpret orthographic and lexical knowledge. The model’s interactive portion indicates the reader is simultaneously engaging the lower and higher cognitive processes to make sense of text. These lower (smaller units of information including letters and words) and higher (predictive reading, word identification) cognitive processes aid the reader with predicting meaning and identifying words. Stanovich defines reading fluency as the efficient, effective use of word recognition skills permitting a reader to construct a text’s meaning. Fluency is manifested in accurate, rapid, expressive oral reading applied while reading aloud and making comprehension possible. Reading aloud allowed for the transmission of important information in and among social groups. The recitation, memorization and regurgitation of knowledge were, for many years, a bedrock principle of American education. Compulsory education is a recent phenomenon. Instruction focused on elocution and correct pronunciation. Stanovich asserts that differences in reading fluency not only distinguish good readers from poor, but a lack of reading fluency is also a reliable predictor of reading comprehension problems. Torgesen further argues once struggling readers learn sound–symbol relationships through intervention and become accurate decoders, their lack of fluency emerges as the next hurdle they face on their way to reading proficiency Additionally, Stanovich argues that being able to quickly and accurately decode words influences a reader’s ability to read with fluency. If a reader is taking too much time decoding
and heavily relying upon contextual clues to “figure out” words and word meaning, comprehension begins to break down or the reader never achieves understanding of text. Ehri (1995, 1998) posited that readers progress in stages to achieve fluency, in line with a “deep,” developmental concept of fluency. The development occurs in four stages: • Pre-‐Alphabetic Stage Readers have no appreciation of the alphabetic principle – the idea that, in languages like English, there is a systematic relationship between the limited number of sounds in the language and the language’s letters • Partial Alphabetic Stage Readers have learned that letters and sounds are related and begin to use that insight • Fully Alphabetic Stage Readers think about letter sounds and blend them together to arrive at pronunciations (sight words) • Consolidated Alphabetic Stage Readers recognize whole words instantly Fawcett and Nicholson speculate that the eye’s inability to see a word or a few words in a single eye fixation helps explain automaticity deficits. Struggling readers and students with dyslexia often have to re-‐read a word or passage to self-‐correct insertions and omissions. In contrast, fluent readers’ placement and overlap of eye fixations are more efficient than less skilled readers, and fluent readers make shorter fixations, longer jumps between fixations and fewer regressions (Hudson F., Lane H., Pullen P, 2005). Furthermore Hudson, Lane, and Pullen assert that if a reader fails to read words accurately the reader loses the author’s intended message. The ability to decode words quickly and accurately is important to achieve fluency and comprehension. The article goes on to discuss readers’ reading rate and prosody. Readers move through connected text with fluidity and at a fairly decent speed, with proficiency. Educators measure reading rate either by counting the number of words read correctly or the length of time it takes for the reader to read the passage. A slow reading rate can result in weakened comprehension. On the other hand, research has shown a correlation between reading rate and comprehension. Students who read at a decent rate comprehend text better. The objective is not just to read fast but read with accuracy and expression. Reading with prosody is another component to fluency and comprehension. Prosody refers to reading rhythm and tone of speech—the music of oral language. Prosody has various pitches (intonation), stress patterns (syllable prominence) and duration (length of time) that contribute to expressive reading of text (Hudson R., Lane H, and Pullen P., 2005). Reading with expression involves signaling questions, surprises, exclamations and meanings beyond semantics. Reading with expression also aids in keeping the reader engaged in the reading. There is no evidence that reading with prosody (expression) helps with comprehension as reading rate does.
The article also asserts that regular assessment is necessary for readers to improve reading expression and reading rate. Teachers should listen to students read aloud to judge their progress in reading fluency. Assessment should be systematic and consider word reading accuracy, rate and prosody. Reading accuracy should also be assessed and can be accomplished by listening to reading and counting errors per 100 words, for example. A running record is also helpful in assessing accuracy. A careful examination of error patterns can determine which strategies a reader is failing to use and could be useful for comprehending passage. To further explain this concept, Stanovich believes struggling readers depend upon context clues to decode unfamiliar words and to “figure out” word meaning. This strategy slows down the reading process (the ability to read words automatically) leaving limited cognitive space for comprehension. “The conscious-‐expectancy process uses attention capacity and thus leaves fewer cognitive resources left over for comprehension (Stanovich 1980). ” Moreover, while good readers have superior strategies for comprehending and remembering large units of text, poor readers lack similarly sophisticated comprehension strategies. Though Stanovich doesn’t explicitly call out these superior strategies he infers their importance in helping poor readers become better, more fluent readers. Some of the strategies under discussion include background, or preexisting knowledge, contextual connections, mental imaging and the reader’s questioning the text as a means to make sense of the literature. Overall, Stanovich believes that phonological and phonemic awareness and orthographic and lexical knowledge form the foundation for reading acquisition. These skills help readers read with fluency. The focus of his study was to look at what poor readers do to compensate when there is a deficit. As mentioned earlier in the report struggling reader resort to using other cognitive process to help read words and make meaning. My student did not read with fluency (accurately and reasonably quickly). I noticed her struggling to navigate the text. She seemed both unable to discern the meaning of words and to form the larger associations necessary to understand, interpret and explicate the text as a unified document. I feared for her ability to sustain any appreciable gains in fluency while simultaneously deriving a clearer understanding of the strategies necessary to ensure the gains held. How, then, to make the lesson self-‐reinforcing, as in the Matthew ideology of learning? The Matthew model says the more one practices and is engaged with a task, the better one becomes at a task. The converse, however, is also true: the less one practices a skill and the less one engages with a task, the less likely one is to pursue and become skilled at said task, like reading. Ultimately, how did Stanovich’s Interactive Compensatory Model impact my ability to tutor more effectively and ensure my student sustained the gains she made? Stanovich’s Toward an Interactive-‐-‐Compensatory Model of Individual Differences in the Development of Reading Fluency does not provide teachers with instructions on how to aid
students in becoming fluent readers; however, his study explains how the mind understands language and narrative and how readers compensate for their reading deficiencies. Guided reading allows educators to see and assess the strategies readers use to compensate for their weaknesses as described in Stanovich’s Interactive Compensatory Model. Guided reading is an excellent assessment tool in an educator’s tool belt. I consulted Stanovich’s colleagues including Ehri, McCormick, LaBerge and Samuels to address Rachael’s fluency issues. Stanovich and his colleagues point out that fluency is not just the ability to read with prosody and elocution but also involves comprehending what one is reading. Struggling readers will often use other strategies to help them understand passages such as context clues to figure out word meaning; young readers looking for picture clues; and readers using punctuation to gage characters’ feelings such as exclamation points, quotation marks and bold words to discern what happens in the story. Decoding is a prerequisite to reading with fluency and fluency aids with comprehending text. According to the research, the mind cannot process decoding and comprehending at the same time. Rachael’s decoding skills within text and out of text were fair According to the research the following strategies can aid with correcting fluency and comprehension difficulties: • Timed Repeated Reading Consists of (a) selecting a short passage at a student’s instructional level; (b) setting a rate criterion; and (c) having the student read and reread until the time rate criterion is reached • Repeated Reading with Recorded Models Using audiotaped text to support repeated readings • Poetry Reading Reading poetry to teach meter and word groupings • Listening to Literature on Tape Aural repetitive listening accustoms readers to the rhythms and cadences of the spoken word. These strategies can help the student improve her fluency and develop and sustain a love for reading.