Studying the development of word recognition using a pseudoword task

Christine E Sipala, University of Rhode Island

Abstract

Fluent reading hinges on automatic word recognition, yet little research has investigated the acquisition process with repeated exposure to novel words. In this study, elementary students in grades three to six were asked to read two-syllable pseudowords five times each (in varied sequences) during two sessions (n = 49). The goal was to study changes in speed of recognition across multiple exposures for pseudowords that were read accurately all ten times. The sample of students was divided into four groups based on scores on a standardized measure of word identification. Results indicate that although the most advanced readers in the sample read pseudowords more rapidly on all 10 exposures, the pattern of changes in speed (i.e., development of automatic word recognition for the items) was strikingly similar for normally achieving students at different reading levels. Specifically, significant improvement in speed was made at the second exposure, and speed of reading on the last trial of the first session was maintained by all groups on the first trial of the second session, despite a gap of several days. Additionally, there were no significant differences between scores on a recognition task for the trained words that was administered at the end of the second session; participants in all groups performed at high levels of recognition accuracy. A sub-goal of the study was to evaluate the performance of a group of students (n = 12) identified as Poor Readers (i.e., students from the fifth and sixth grades who earned scores of 90 or below on standardized measures of word reading skill). Because the task proved to be too difficult for this group, exploratory analyses were conducted using partial data for these participants. Performance by students in this group was compared with that of the lowest group of normally achieving students. Although Poor Readers read significantly more pseudowords incorrectly, and recognized fewer items on the recognition task, only one speed-related difference between groups in the pattern for items read correctly was observed. Poor readers demonstrated significant improvement in speed on the third exposure, rather than on the second as seen for normal readers. However, subsequent performance was similar to the comparison group of normal participants, including retention of recognition rate after the break between Session 1 and Session 2. Thus, overall, strong similarities were observed for participants in groups with different levels of reading aptitude, and the results of the study mirror prior research that has examined word recognition processes in adults. This study suggests that establishing word recognition for individual words entails comparable processes across ages and ability levels, despite the fact that reductions in absolute reading rates are evident for individuals who are older and/or are at a more advanced level of reading achievement. ^

Subject Area

Education, Reading|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Christine E Sipala, "Studying the development of word recognition using a pseudoword task" (2009). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3378091.
http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dissertations/AAI3378091

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