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A commentary on Bowers (2020) and the role of phonics instruction in reading

Fletcher, J; Savage, R; Vaughn, S; (2021) A commentary on Bowers (2020) and the role of phonics instruction in reading. Educational Psychology Review 10.1007/s10648-020-09580-8. (In press).

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Abstract

Bowers (Educational Psychology Review, 32, 681-705, 2020) reviewed 12 meta-analytic syntheses addressing the effects of phonics instruction, concluding that the evidence is weak to nonexistent in supporting the superiority of systematic phonics to alternative reading methods. We identify five issues that limit Bowers’ conclusions: (1) definition issues; (2) what is the right question?; (3) the assumption of “phonics first”; and (4) simplification of issues around systematic versus explicit phonics. We then go on to consider (5) empirical issues in the data from meta-analyses, where Bowers misconstrues the positive effects of explicit phonics instruction. We conclude that there is consistent evidence in support of explicitly teaching phonics as part of a comprehensive approach to reading instruction that should be differentiated to individual learner needs. The appropriate question to ask of a twenty-first century science of teaching is not the superiority of phonics versus alternative reading methods, including whole language and balanced literacy, but how best to combine different components of evidence-based reading instruction into an integrated and customized approach that addresses the learning needs of each child.

Type: Article
Title: A commentary on Bowers (2020) and the role of phonics instruction in reading
DOI: 10.1007/s10648-020-09580-8
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-020-09580-8
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10113101
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