The study took place in several large adult education centers in two major cities in the mid-Atlantic and southern regions of the United States.
The initial sample consisted of 300 learners. These learners scored below the 7th grade level on a word recognition test and demonstrated English proficiency if they were not a native English speaker. Sixty-seven percent of learners were female; on average, they were 36 years old. Eighty-three percent were African American, 9 percent were Latino(a), and 8 percent were White.
The Guided Repeated Reading (GRR) program provided explicit instruction on reading and was designed specifically for adult learners. It targets text fluency skills, although phonics instruction is also embedded within the GRR approach. Instruction includes teacher modeling oral reading, shared reading between learner and teacher—reading orally in unison, and learners reading orally by themselves up to three times in the same session. The reading passages are brief, contain predictable and rhythmic text to promote fluency, and are selected based on the level and interests of the adult learners. Less than 10 to 20 percent of instructional time is spent on phonics, and 80 to 90 percent or more is spent on fluency. Instructional sessions were conducted three times per week for 10–18 weeks. The goal was to complete 45 sessions of 75 minutes each.
The comparison group participated in one of two tutoring programs: either Retrieval, Automaticity, Vocabulary Elaboration-Orthography (RAVE-O), or Corrective Reading (CR).
The Retrieval, Automaticity, Vocabulary Elaboration-Orthography (RAVE-O) program provided explicit instruction on reading by supplementing phonics instruction with fluency training and a stronger focus on fluency. This approach was based on the Double Deficit hypothesis, which suggests deficits in either phonological processing or naming speed can impede reading acquisition. RAVE-O is designed to address a naming speed deficit or a double deficit and is combined with an abbreviated version of Corrective Reading, a systematic phonics program described in its own profile. Instructional time is 25 to 35 percent phonics and 65 to 75 percent fluency. Instructional sessions were conducted three times per week for 10 to 18 weeks. The goal was to complete 45 sessions of 75 minutes each.
The adaptation of the CR program provided explicit instruction on reading, using a traditional phonics instruction for treating reading disabilities that is commonly used in adolescents. Instruction focuses on strengthening and expanding the reader’s mastery of grapheme-phoneme correspondences, and on word recognition. Through CR, learners are taught the structure of words through an explicit, systematic, and sequenced curriculum that teaches decoding and spelling, with phonemic analyses that are taught in relation to syllable types. Learners progress from a phonological focus to word-level practice, and eventually to processing words quickly by recognizing patterns and reading context. Learners also read controlled (decodable) texts to gain fluency. Instructional time is 80 to 90 percent phonics, and 10 to 20 percent fluency. Instructional sessions were conducted three times per week for 10–18 weeks. The goal was to complete 45 sessions of 75 minutes each.
Support for implementation
Tutors had a bachelor’s degree and were comfortable with technology. Tutor training included a one-day (5–6 hour) workshop, two individual follow-up meetings of about 1–2 hours each with experienced tutors or trainers, and review and practice with materials, role-plays, and reviews of sample sessions. Total time spent training was 12 to 18 hours. During implementation, conferences were conducted to ensure techniques were being consistently applied.