Research project: The effectiveness of teaching methods in reading and writing
After the somewhat disappointing results of PISA for Switzerland all sorts of measures for improving reading have been suggested. Many of these can hardly be linked to the actual findings of PISA and none have empirically been tested. The research project Improving reading and writing competences focuses on two sets of teaching methods:
1. Open settings aimed at improving the motivation to read
This concept comprises a number of methods such as:
> presenting new, interesting and challenging books in reading lessons
> free reading time (at least one lesson per week): Pupils are allowed to choose freely (within certain limits) among a variety of books, magazines, newspapers, reading CDs and websites.
> Pupils are asked to write their impressions of the texts they read into a media diary. This activity is supposed to deepen their understanding and make the changes in their reading habits transparent for the teachers as well as for the pupils.
2. Instructive settings, aimed at improving literal strategies and literal skills
These include (among others):
> training skills such as eye movements, phonetic awareness, word recognition etc.
> introducing strategies: activating knowledge about the topic of a text, scanning a text for important information, summarising etc.
These sets of methods are used in a quasi-experimental intervention study. First a baseline is established for variables pertaining to motivation (eg feeling involved during reading), behaviour (eg reading time per week) and competence (eg understanding literary texts). Data for he same variables are collected one year and two years after the first data collection.
The sample consists of 1100 pupils from school years 3/4 and 6/7. First developmental results can be expeced by autumn 2006.
Research into the readability of children’s books
In the context of the research project Improving reading and writing competences the readability of children’s books is established in order to give teachers’ choice of specific books for their pupils a scientific base. In this project a classification is proposed including variables of aesthetic attractiveness (eg book cover), language structure (sentence length, word length), layout (eg centre justification vs. ragged margin), text structure (eg paragraphs, direct speech) and narrative strucure (eg chronological vs. non-chronological, stereotypical vs. unusual, restraining to essential narrative elements vs. digressive style).