I thought that I would bring the attention of my blog readers to the Cochrane Review at the url below where the entire review can be read.
It was referred to in a recent tweet from Dorothy Bishop.
We have an education industry which has been sort of hijacked by a ‘belief’ in phonics which it is implied originates from a robust research based model.
Phonics training for English-speaking poor readers (Review)
Implications for practice
The results of this review suggest that phonics training had a
large effect on nonword reading accuracy, a moderate effect on
word reading accuracy, word reading ﬂuency, spelling, letter-sound
knowledge, and phonological output. Preliminary evidence from
just three studies suggests that phonics training may only have a
small effect on reading comprehension. A small-to-moderate negative effect was found for nonword reading ﬂuency.
Only three of the results were statistically signiﬁcant (for nonword reading accuracy, word reading accuracy, and letter-sound knowledge).
Whether results for other outcomes were statistically signiﬁcant
or not may have depended on the amount of data from which
they were calculated. Overall, the ﬁndings suggest that teachers
and reading professionals should test poor word readers for a wide
range of reading skills to determine if they have the type of poor
reading that responds to phonics.
Implications for research
The outcomes of this review have at least eight implications for
First, there is a widely held belief that phonics training
is the best way to treat poor reading.
Given this belief, we were surprised to ﬁnd that of 6632 records, we found only 11 studies that examined the effect of a relatively pure phonics training programme in poor readers. While the outcomes of these studies generally support the belief in phonics, many more randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are needed before we can be conﬁdent about the strength and extent of the effects of phonics training perse in English-speaking poor word readers.
Second, more studies are needed to look at the effects of combining
phonics training with other reading skills. At this early stage of
research, it would be best to look at the effects of training phonics
with just one other reading skill. As our understanding of these
simple effects increases, we can start to look at the effects of training
phonics with two other reading skills, and so on.
Third, as mentioned above, this review revealed that phonics training has different effects on different types of reading skills. Most
of the studies in this review included measures of word reading
Only one study tested nonword reading ﬂuency and
no study tested letter identiﬁcation. Further, only three studies
measured letter-sound knowledge, which is surprising given that
phonics training focuses on letter-sound knowledge. Future RCTs
of phonics training would do well to include a more comprehensive range of reading outcomes to understand the true effects of
phonics training on poor word readers.
Fourth, more research is needed to understand the effect that nonreading moderator variables –
.. such as training type, training intensity, training duration, training group size, training administrator…
- have on the effectiveness of phonics training on poor reading.
In this review, we attempted to address these issues via the subgroup analyses for each outcome. However, only two outcomes
had enough studies to conduct these subgroup analyses. Thus,
more research is needed on the effects of moderator variable on
the efﬁcacy of phonics training
Fifth, the small-to-moderate effect of phonics on phonological
output, which we indexed with phoneme awareness outcome measures, was interesting because it addressed a controversial issue
regarding the strong relationship between reading and phoneme
awareness. There is a widespread assumption by many researchers
and clinicians that poor readers have poor phoneme awareness
because phoneme awareness causes poor reading. However, there
is good evidence that reading ability affects phoneme awareness
(Bishop 2004; Castles 2004).
The current review suggests that the effect of reading ability on phoneme awareness is small-to-moderate in size.
Sixth, the ’Risk of bias’ analyses in this review revealed that studies of phonics training on poor readers need to improve the reporting of their methods. While most studies in this review stated that they used randomised allocation of participants to groups, few actually described how they generated the allocation sequence or concealment in their publications, and so we had to ask for this information personally.
While double-blinding is difﬁcult to guarantee in cognitive treatment trials, few studies explained how they at least attempted to instigate double-blinding. Thus, future RCTs of phonics programmes need to explain the methods of their RCTs in more detail. The CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) 2010 guidelines may prove useful in this respect.