What Constitutes a Science of Reading Instruction? by Timothy Shanahan

Recently, the term science of reading has been used in public debate to promote policies and instructional practices based on research on the basic cognitive mechanisms of reading, the neural processes involved in reading, computational models of learning to read, and the like. According to those views, such data provide convincing evidence that explicit decoding instruction (e.g., phonological awareness, phonics) should be beneficial to reading success. Nevertheless, there has been pushback against such policies, the use of the term science of reading by “phonics-centric people”, and their lack of instructional knowledge and experience. In this article, although the author supports pedagogical decision making on the basis of a confluence of evidence from a variety of sources, he cautions against instructional overgeneralizations based on various kinds of basic research without an adequate consideration of instructional experiments. The author provides several examples of the premature translation of basic research findings into wide-scale pedagogical application.

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Originally published in Reading Research Quarterly, 0(0) pp. 1–13 | doi:10.1002/rrq.349 © 2020 International Literacy Association.

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