Direct instruction confers dramatic benefits on learning to read an artificial script

Rastle, K. , Taylor, J. . & Lally, C.

Royal Holloway, University of London

Reading acquisition involves coming to appreciate the statistical regularities of a writing system. We investigated the impact of direct instruction on this process. Two groups of adults learned to read 48 novel words printed in an artificial script. One group learned the underlying print-sound and print-meaning regularities of the writing system implicitly; the other group received direct instruction on these regularities before learning the novel words. We observed dramatic benefits of direct instruction on participants' learning of the novel words, and on their ability to generalize this knowledge to untrained words. Direct instruction on the nature of the writing system also impacted on participants' oral language knowledge. These benefits persisted after 9 days of training. Findings are discussed in the context of theories of learning, and how these speak to the persistent and intense debate around methods of reading instruction.