Effectiveness of Educational Reform Movements – Research Paper Example

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The paper "Effectiveness of Educational Reform Movements " is a wonderful example of a research paper on history. The literacy efforts of William Scott Gray redefined reading in U. S. schools in the twentieth century. He conducted and analyzed numerous studies covering various aspects of the field of reading for the aim of improving reading instruction. "He authored more than 500 publications that examined the characteristics of all ages of readers, from young children to adults, as well as teaching procedures appropriate for the characteristics … developed a standardized reading test in 1915 … [and] pioneered the diagnostic/remedial approach to reading difficulties" (state university, 2010).

His most popular series was Basic Readers featuring Dick and Jane. Gray was influenced by Herbartianism. This was a set of learning principles based on a scientific approach that appeared about a century ago. Gray adopted these principles and learned other scientific techniques as well. His main interest in applying these approaches was in reading assessment, and he advocated the sight method for reading. As Gray was able to observe reading instruction in practice, his own literary efforts, therefore, had a strong foundation in scientific principles, empirical measurement, statistical methods, and his own experience.

In short, he developed tried and tested techniques, and these were characterized by three components: (1) selection of interesting/significant content, (2) development of word-recognition skills and phonetic analysis, (3) phonics system. Moreover, his experience included reading difficulties faced by students and he understood the need to provide instruction appropriate to them.   A revised version of Grays standardized reading test (Oral Reading Paragraphs for Grades 1-8) is still used today, and his experience in treating reading difficulties led to the creation of the book Remedial Cases in Reading: Their Diagnosis and Correction", which became very influential as a diagnostic-prescriptive tool.

Grays literacy efforts furthered scientific approaches to teaching literacy and have had a significant impact in schools worldwide. However, it was not the only method in use. Several literacy initiatives have been touted as a panacea (Robinson, 1998) yet it is also the case that poor literacy remains a problem to this day. According to The National Right to Read Foundation (Sweet, 1996), the pure phonics method as devised by Blaise Pascal has proven to be more effective than the various whole language approaches.

In fact, they point out the methods introduced by Gray and others, are very harmful due to "their rigidly controlled vocabulary, and emphasis on memorizing whole words before the letter sounds are learned". However, one of the difficulties in advocating for basic reading programs is that many other seemingly sophisticated instructional programs such as Grays basal reading series are a big business.

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