2

Foundations of Reading and Writing

This chapter provides an overview of the components and processes of reading and writing and the practices that develop these skills. This knowledge is derived mainly from research with K-12 students because this population is the main focus of most rigorous research on reading components, difficulties in learning to read, and effective instructional practices. The findings are particularly robust for elementary school students and less developed for middle and high school students due to lack of attention in research to reading and writing development during these years. We also review a small body of research on cognitive aging that compares the reading and writing skills of younger and older adults. From all the collected findings, we distill principles to guide literacy instruction for adolescents and adults who are outside the K-12 education system but need to further develop their literacy.

Caution must be used in generalizing research conducted in K-12 settings to other populations, such as adult literacy students. Precisely what needs to be taught and how will vary depending on an individual’s existing literacy skills; learning goals that require proficiency with particular types of reading and writing; and characteristics of learners that include differences in motivation, neurobiological processes, and cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds. Translational research will be needed to apply and adapt the findings to diverse populations of adolescents and adults, as discussed in later chapters.

This chapter is organized into five major parts. Part 1 provides an orienting discussion of the social, cultural, and neurocognitive mechanisms involved in literacy development. Part 2 describes the components and



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 24
2 Foundations of Reading and Writing This chapter provides an overview of the components and processes of reading and writing and the practices that develop these skills. This knowledge is derived mainly from research with K-12 students because this population is the main focus of most rigorous research on reading compo- nents, difficulties in learning to read, and effective instructional practices. The findings are particularly robust for elementary school students and less developed for middle and high school students due to lack of attention in research to reading and writing development during these years. We also review a small body of research on cognitive aging that compares the read- ing and writing skills of younger and older adults. From all the collected findings, we distill principles to guide literacy instruction for adolescents and adults who are outside the K-12 education system but need to further develop their literacy. Caution must be used in generalizing research conducted in K-12 set- tings to other populations, such as adult literacy students. Precisely what needs to be taught and how will vary depending on an individual’s existing literacy skills; learning goals that require proficiency with particular types of reading and writing; and characteristics of learners that include differ- ences in motivation, neurobiological processes, and cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds. Translational research will be needed to apply and adapt the findings to diverse populations of adolescents and adults, as discussed in later chapters. This chapter is organized into five major parts. Part 1 provides an orienting discussion of the social, cultural, and neurocognitive mechanisms involved in literacy development. Part 2 describes the components and 24

OCR for page 24
25 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING processes of reading and writing, and research on reading and writing instruction for all students (both typical and atypical learners). We sum- marize principles for instruction that have sufficient empirical support to warrant inclusion in a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction. Part 3 discusses the neurobiology of reading and writing development and difficulties. Part 4 conveys additional principles for intervening specifically with learners who have difficulties with learning to read and write. In Part 5, we describe what is known about reading and writing processes in older adults and highlight the lack of research on reading and writing across the life span. Throughout the chapter, we point to promising areas for research and to questions that require further study. We conclude with a summary of the findings, directions for research, and implications for the learners who are the focus of our report: adolescents and adults who need to develop their literacy skills outside K-12 educational settings.1 SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND NEUROCOGNITIVE MECHANISMS OF LITERACY DEVELOPMENT Literacy, or cognition of any kind, cannot be understood fully apart from the contexts in which it develops (e.g., Cobb and Bowers, 1999; Greeno, Smith, and Moore, 1993; Heath, 1983; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Markus and Kitiyama, 2010; Nisbett, 2003; Rogoff and Lave, 1984; Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984). The development of skilled read- ing and writing (indeed, learning in general) depends heavily on the con- texts and activities in which learning occurs, including the purposes for reading and writing and the activities, texts, and tools that are routinely encountered (Beach, 1995; Heath, 1983; Luria, 1987; Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984; Vygotsky, 1978, 1986). In this way, reading and writing are similar to other complex cognitive skills and brain functions that are shaped by cultural patterns and stimuli (Markus and Kitayama, 2010; Nisbett, 2003; Nisbett et al., 2001; Park and Huang, 2010; Ross and Wang, 2010). The particular knowledge and skill that develop depend on the literacy practices engaged in, the supports provided for learning, and the demand and value attached to particular forms of literacy in communities and the broader society (Heath, 1983; Scribner and Cole, 1 Other documents have summarized research on the components of reading and writing and instructional practices to develop literacy skills. We refer readers to additional resources for more extensive coverage of this literature (Ehri et al., 2001; Graham, 2006a; Graham and Hebert, 2010; Graham and Perin 2007a, 2007b; Kamil et al., 2008; McCardle, Chhabra, and Kapinus, 2008; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a).

OCR for page 24
26 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION 1983; Vygotsky, 1986). Thus, how people use reading and writing differs considerably by context. As an example, forms and uses of spoken and written language in aca- demic settings differ from those in nonacademic settings, and they also dif- fer among academic disciplines or subjects (Blommaert, Street, and Turner, 2007; Lemke, 1998; Moje, 2007, 2008b; Street, 2003, 2009). Recent work on school subject learning also makes it clear that content and uses of language differ significantly from one subject matter to another (Coffin and Hewings, 2004; Lee and Spratley, 2006; McConachie and Petrosky, 2010). People may develop and use forms of literacy that differ from those needed for new purposes (Alvermann and Xu, 2003; Cowan, 2004; Hicks, 2004; Hull and Schultz, 2001; Leander and Lovvorn, 2006; Mahiri and Sablo, 1996; Moje, 2000a, 2008b; Moll, 1994; Noll, 1998; Reder, 2008). Thus, as depicted in Figure 1-2, a complete understanding of reading and writing development includes in-depth knowledge of the learner (the learn- ers’ knowledge, skills, literacy practices, motivations, and neurocognitive processes) and features of the instructional context that scaffold or impede learning. The context of instruction includes texts, tools, activities, interac- tions with teachers and peers, and instructor knowledge, beliefs, and skills. Types of Text Types of text vary from books to medication instructions to Twitter tweets. Texts have numerous features that in the context of instruction can either facilitate or constrain the learning of literacy skills (Goldman, 1997; Graesser, McNamara, and Louwerse, 2004). Texts that effectively support progress with reading are appropriately challenging and well written. They focus attention on new knowledge and skills related to the particular com- ponents of reading that the learner needs to develop. They also support the learner in gaining automaticity and confidence and in applying and generalizing their new skills. To the greatest degree possible, the materials for reading should help to build useful vocabulary and content (e.g., topic, world) knowledge. Effective texts also motivate engagement with instruc- tion and practice partly by developing valued knowledge or relating to the interests of the learner. Adult learners will have encountered many texts during the course of formal schooling that are poorly written or highly complex (Beck, McKeown, and Gromoll, 1989; Chambliss and Calfee, 1998; Chambliss and Murphy, 2002; Lee and Spratley, 2010). Similarly, the texts of everyday life are not written to scaffold reading or writing skill (Solomon, Van der Kerkhof, and Moje, 2010). Developing readers need to confront challenging texts that engage them with meaningful content, but they also need texts that afford the practicing of the skills they need to develop and systematic

OCR for page 24
27 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING support to stretch beyond existing skills. This support needs to come from a mix of instructional interactions and texts that scaffold the learner in developing and practicing new skills and becoming an independent reader (Lee and Spratley, 2010; Moje, 2009; Solomon, Van der Kerkhof, 2010). Literacy Tools Being literate also requires proficiency with the tools and practices used in society to accomplish valued tasks that require reading and writing (see Box 2-1). For example, digital and online media are used to commu- nicate with diverse others and to produce, find, evaluate, and synthesize knowledge in innovative and creative ways to meet the varied demands of education and work. It is important, therefore, to offer reading and writing BOX 2-1 Literacy in a Digital Age Strong reading and writing skills underpin valued aspects of digital literacy in several areas: • Presentations of ideas Organizing a complex and compelling argument Adjusting the presentation to the audience Using multiple media and integrating them with text Translating among multiple documents Extended text n Summary n Graphics versus text n Responding to queries and critiques through revision and written follow-up • sing online resources to search for information and evaluating quality of U that information Using affordances, such as hyperlinks and search engines Making effective predictions of likely search results Coordinating overlapping ideas expressed in differing language Organizing bodies of information from multiple sources Evaluating the quality and warrants of accessed information • Using basic office software to generate texts and multimedia documents Writing documents: writing for others Taking notes: writing for oneself Preparing displays to support oral presentations SOURCES: Adapted from National Center on Education and the Economy (1997); Appendix B: Literacy in a Digital Age.

OCR for page 24
28 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION instruction that incorporates the use of print and digital tools as needed for transforming information and knowledge across the varied forms of representation used to communicate in today’s world. These forms include symbols, numeric symbols, icons, static images, moving images, oral rep- resentations (available digitally and in other venues), graphs, charts, and tables (Goldman et al., 2003; Kress, 2003). Extensive research has been conducted on youths’ multimodal and digital literacy learning, demonstrat- ing that young people are experimenting with a range of tools and practices that extend beyond those taught in school (see Coiro et al., 2009a, 2009b). Continued research is needed to identify effective instructional methods that incorporate digital technologies (e.g., Coiro, 2003; see Appendix B for detailed discussion of the state of research on digital literacy). Literacy Activities The development of skilled literacy involves extensive participation and practice using component skills of reading and writing for particular purposes (Ford and Forman, 2006; Lave and Wenger, 1991; McConachie et al., 2006; Rogoff, 1990; Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984; Vygotsky, 1986). Because literacy demands shift over time and across contexts, some individuals may need specific interventions developed to meet these shift- ing literacy demands. For example, a typical late adolescent or adult must traverse, on a regular basis, workplaces; vocational and postsecondary education; societal, civic, or political contexts; home and family; and new media. Literacy demands also change over time due to global, economic, social, and cultural forces. These realities make it especially important to understand the social and cultural contexts of literacy and to offer in- struction that develops literacy skills for meeting social, educational, and workplace demands as well as the learner’s personal needs. The likelihood of transferring a newly learned skill to a new task depends on the similar- ity between the new task and tasks used for learning (National Research Council, 2005), making it important to design literacy instruction using the literacy activities, tools, and tasks that are valued by society and learners outside the context of instruction. Such instruction also would be expected to enhance learners’ motivation to engage with a literacy task or persist with literacy instruction. Instruction that connects to knowledge that students already possess and value appears to be motivating (e.g., Au and Mason, 1983; Guthrie et al., 1996; Gutiérrez et al., 1999; Lee, 1993; Moje and Speyer, 2008; Moll and Gonzalez, 1994; Wigfield, Eccles, and Rodriguez, 1998) and thus may be important for supporting the persistence of those who have successfully navigated other life arenas despite not having developed a broader range of literacy skills and practices. Successful literacy instruction for adults and

OCR for page 24
29 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING adolescents should recognize the knowledge and experience brought by mature learners, even when their literacy skills are weak. Because the motivation to engage in extensive reading and writing practice is so important for the development and integration of component skills, we discuss the topic of motivation more extensively in Chapter 5. Teacher Knowledge, Skills, and Beliefs Literacy development, like the learning of any complex task, requires a range of explicit teaching and implicit learning guided by an expert (Ford and Forman, 2006; Forman, Minick, and Stone, 1993; Lave and Wenger, 1991, 1998; Rogoff, 1990, 1993, 1995; Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984; Vygotsky, 1986; Wertsch, 1991). To be effective, teachers of strug- gling readers and writers must have significant expertise in both the com- ponents of reading and writing, which include spoken language, and how to teach them. The social and emotional tone of the instructional environ- ment also is very important for successful reading and writing development (Hamre and Pianta, 2003). Teachers are more effective when they nurture relationships and develop a positive, dynamic, and emotionally supportive environment for learning that is sensitive to differences in values and expe- riences that students bring to instruction. Effective instructors tend to have an informed mental map of where they want their students to end up that they use to guide instructional practices every day. That is, they plan activities using clear objectives with deep understanding of reading and writing processes. Descriptions of ef- fective teachers in the K-12 system stress that they are highly reflective in their teaching, mindful of their instructional choices and how they fit into the larger picture for their students, and able to fluently use and orchestrate a repertoire of effective and adaptive instructional strategies (Block and Pressley, 2002; Butler et al., 2004; Duffy, 2005; Lovett et al., 2008b). Effec- tive teachers use feedback from their own performance to adjust and change instruction, and they are able to transfer and apply knowledge from one domain to another (Duffy, 2005; Israel et al., 2005; Zimmerman, 2000a, 2000b). Effective teachers of reading and writing also have deep knowledge of the English language system and its oral and written structures, as well as the processes involved in acquiring various language abilities (Duke and Carlisle, 2011; Moats, 2004, 2005). Beyond the requisite knowledge and expertise, literacy teachers often need coaching, mentoring, and encourage- ment to question and evaluate the efficacy of their instruction. Teacher beliefs can have a profound impact on the opportunities pro- vided during instruction to develop literacy skills. For example, both Green (1983) and Golden (1988) demonstrated how teachers’ instruction changed depending on what the teachers assumed about the literacy abilities of the

OCR for page 24
30 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION students in each group. Students who were identified as reading at lower levels were not asked to think about the texts and interpret them in the same way as those at higher reading levels (see also Cazden, 1985). Being thought of as “successful” or “achieving” or, at the other extreme, “unsuc- cessful” and “failing” can produce low-literacy learning and even, in some cases, what is identified as disability (McDermott and Varenne, 1995). As discussed further in Chapter 3, it is well known that the knowl- edge and expertise of adult literacy instructors are highly variable (Smith and Gillespie, 2007; Tamassia et al., 2007). A large body of research on the efficacy of teacher education and professional development practices for literacy instruction does not exist that could be used as a resource for instructors of adults (McCardle, Chhabra, and Kapinus, 2008; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a; Snow, Griffin, and Burns, 2005). Neither preparation nor selection of instructors in adult literacy education or developmental college courses has been studied much at all and certainly not in terms of ability to apply the practices presented in this chapter. Thus, the issue of instructor preparation for the delivery of effective instructional practices is vital to address in future research. Neurocognitive Mechanisms The field of cognitive neuroscience is opening windows on the brain mechanisms that underlie skilled reading and writing and related difficul- ties. Much of the research has focused on identifying the neurocircuits (brain pathways) associated with component processes in reading and writing at different stages of typical reading development, and differences in the progression of brain organization for these processes in atypically developing readers. It also has focused mainly on word- and sentence-level reading. More needs to be understood from neurocognitive research about the development of complex comprehension processes. In addition, because different disciplines study different aspects of literacy, much remains to be discovered about how various social, cultural, and instructional factors interact with neurocognitive processes to facilitate or constrain the develop- ment of literacy skills. Brain imaging studies (both structural and functional imaging) have re- vealed, however, robust differences in brain organization between typically and atypically developing readers (see Chapter 7). It is yet to be determined whether these observed brain differences are the cause or consequence of reading-related problems. It is possible, however, to confirm certain levels of literacy development by observing the brain activity associated with literacy function. More needs to be understood about (1) the genetic, neuroana- tomical, neurochemical, and epigenetic factors that control the development of these neurocircuits and (2) the ways in which experiential factors, such as

OCR for page 24
31 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING enriched learning environments, might modulate brain pathways in strug- gling readers at different ages and in different environments. Research on gene-brain-environment relations has the potential to inform instruction in at least three ways: (1) the development and testing of theories and models of typical and atypical development of reading and writing needed to guide effective teaching and remedial interventions; (2) development of measures that provide more sensitive assessments in specific areas of difficulty to use for instruction and research; and, though less germane to this report, (3) knowledge of neurobiological processes needed for early identification of risk with an eye toward prevention of reading and writing difficulties. The same possibilities apply for writing instruction, although neurobiological research on writing is in the early stages. In subsequent sections, we further describe what is known about the neurobiological mechanisms specific to reading and writing. A key point to keep in mind, however, is that neither the available behavioral data nor neurocognitive data suggest that learners who struggle with reading and writing require a categorically different type of instruction from more typically developing learners. Rather, the instruc- tion may need to be adapted in particular ways to help learners overcome specific reading, writing, and learning difficulties, as discussed later in the chapter. READING Reading is the comprehension of language from a written code that rep- resents concepts and communicates information and ideas. It is a complex skill that involves many human capacities that evolved for other purposes and it depends on their development and coordinated use: spoken language, perception (vision, hearing), motor systems, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving, motivation, interest, and others (Rayner et al., 2001). Reading is closely related to spoken language (National Research Council, 1998) and requires applying what is known about spoken language to de- ciphering an unfamiliar written code. In fact, the correlation between com- prehension of spoken and written language in adults is high, approximately .90 (Braze et al., 2007; Gernsbacher, Varner, and Faust, 1990). Conversely, being less skilled in a spoken language—having limited vocabulary, less familiarity with standard grammar, speaking a different dialect—makes it more difficult to become skilled at reading that language (Craig et al., 2009; Scarborough, 2002). Reading also depends on knowledge of the context and purpose for which the act of reading occurs (Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984; Vygotsky, 1978). Although reading and speech are similar, they differ in important ways that have implications for instruction (Biber, 1988; Clark, 1996; Kucer, 2001). Speech fades from memory whereas most types of text are more

OCR for page 24
32 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION permanent, allowing for reanalysis and use of strategies to comprehend complex written structures (Biber and Conrad, 2006). Skilled readers are attuned to the differences between texts and spoken language (e.g., dif- ferences in types and frequencies of words, expressions, and grammatical structures) (Biber, 1988; Chafe and Tannen, 1987), and they know the strat- egies that help them comprehend various kinds of text. Perhaps the most important difference is that people learn to speak (or sign) even when direct instruction is limited or perhaps absent, whereas learning to read almost al- ways requires explicit instruction as well as immersion in written language. The major components of reading are well documented and include decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Box 2-2 summarizes BOX 2-2 Principles of Reading Instruction Becoming an able reader takes a substantial amount of time. Reading is a complex skill, and, like other complex skills, it takes well over 1,000 hours, perhaps several times that, to acquire fully. Instruction consistent with the principles that follow must therefore be implemented and learner engagement supported at the scale required for meaningful gains. • se explicit and systematic reading instruction to develop the major U components of reading (decoding, fluency vocabulary, comprehension) according to the assessed needs of individual learners. Although each dimension is necessary to proficient reading, adolescents and adults vary in the specific reading instruction they need. For example, some will require compre- hensive decoding instruction; others may need less or no decoding instruction. Further research is needed to clarify the forms of explicit instruction that effec- tively develop component skills for adolescents and adults. • ombine explicit and systematic instruction with extended reading prac- C tice to promote acquisition and transfer of component reading skills. Learning to read involves both explicit teaching and implicit learning. Explicit teaching does not negate the vital importance of incidental and informal learning opportunities or the need for extensive practice using new skills. • otivate engagement with the literacy tasks used for instruction and ex- M tensive reading practice. Learners, especially adolescents, are more engaged when literacy instruction and practice opportunities are embedded in meaningful learning activities. Opportunities to collaborate during reading also can increase motivation to read, although more needs to be known about how to structure collaborations effectively. • evelop reading fluency as needed to facilitate efficiency in the reading of D words and longer text. Some methods of fluency improvement have been vali-

OCR for page 24
33 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING principles of instruction related to developing each of these components. Although the components are presented separately here for exposition, reading involves an interrelated and interdependent system with reciprocity among the various components, both within reading and between reading and writing. A substantial body of evidence on children shows that effective reading instruction explicitly and systematically targets each component of reading skill that remains to be developed (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a; Rayner et al., 2001). More extensive evidence for this statement is available for younger than older learners and for word identification and decoding processes than for reading comprehension and dated in children (e.g., guided repeated reading); these require further research with adolescents and adults. • xplicitly teach the structure of written language to facilitate decoding E and comprehension. Develop awareness of the features of written language at multiple levels (word, sentence, passage). Teach regularity and irregularity of spelling-to-sound mappings, the patterns of English morphology, rules of gram- mar and syntax, and the structures of various text genres. Again, the specifics of how best to provide this instruction to adolescents and adults requires further research, but the dependence of literacy on knowledge of the structure of written language is clear. • o develop vocabulary, use a mixture of instructional approaches com- T bined with extensive reading of texts to create “an enriched verbal en- vironment.” High-quality mental representations of words develop through varied and multiple exposures to words in discourse and reading of varied text. Instruction that integrates the teaching of vocabulary with reading comprehen- sion instruction, development of topic and background knowledge, and learning of disciplinary or other valued content are promising approaches to study with adolescents and adults. • o develop comprehension, teach varied goals and purposes for reading; T encourage learners to state their own reading goals, predictions, ques- tions, and reactions to material; encourage extensive reading practice with varied forms of text; teach and model the use of multiple comprehension strategies; teach self-regulation in the monitoring of strategy use. Read- ing comprehension involves a high level of metacognitive engagement with text. Developing readers often need help to develop the metacognitive components of reading comprehension, such as learning how to identify reading goals, select, implement, and coordinate multiple strategies; monitor and evaluate success of the strategies; and adjust strategies to achieve reading goals. Extensive prac- tice also is needed to develop knowledge of words, text structures, and written syntax that are not identical to spoken language and that are gleaned from extensive experience with various texts.

OCR for page 24
34 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION reading fluency, given that research has focused mainly in these areas. De- spite this caveat, this principle of reading instruction is considered to have strong research support (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a). The emphasis of instruction within and across read- ing components will vary depending on each person’s need for skill devel- opment, but skill needs to be attained in all the components. It is possible to design many ways to provide explicit and systematic reading instruction focused on the learner’s needs using methods and formats that will appeal to learners (McCardle, Chhabra, and Kapinus, 2008). Learning to read involves both explicit teaching and implicit learning. Explicit teaching does not negate the importance of incidental and infor- mal learning opportunities, or the need for extensive practice using new skills. Explicit and systematic reading instruction must be combined with extended experience with reading for varied purposes in order to promote learning and the transfer of reading skills. Thus, it is important to provide forms of reading practice that develop the particular skills that need to be acquired. Learners, especially adolescents, are more engaged when literacy instruction and practice are embedded in meaningful learning activities (e.g., Guthrie and Wigfield, 2000; Guthrie et al., 1999; Schiefele, 1996a, 1996b; Schraw and Lehman, 2001). Decoding Decoding involves the ability to apply knowledge of letter-sound re- lationships to correctly pronounce printed words. It requires developing phonological awareness, which consists of phonemic awareness (an oral language skill that involves awareness of and ability to manipulate the units of sound, phonemes, in a spoken word) and alphabetic knowledge (knowing that the letters in written words represent the phonemes in spo- ken words) (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000b; Rayner et al., 2001). Even highly skilled adult readers must rely on alphabetic knowledge and decoding skills to read unfamiliar words (e.g., “otolaryngology”) (Frost, 1998; Rayner et al., 2001). Word reading also requires being able to recognize sight words that do not follow regular patterns of letter-sound correspondence (e.g., “yacht”). Explicit and systematic phonics instruction to teach correspondences between letters and phonemes has been found to facilitate reading development for children of different ages, abilities, and socioeconomic circumstances (Foorman et al., 1998; McCardle, Chhabra, and Kapinus, 2008; Morris et al., 2010; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a; Torgesen et al., 1999). The evidence is clear that explicit instruction is necessary for most individuals to develop

OCR for page 24
59 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING task with both phonological and orthographic processing demands (Meyler et al., 2008; Shaywitz et al., 2004; Simos et al., 2002a; Temple et al., 2003). Most who struggle with reading and writing, particularly those with severe literacy learning disorders, have specific difficulties in aspects of speech or language that impact their ability to learn to read and write, such as poor phonological awareness and phonological processing skills, lags in oral language development (e.g., vocabulary, syntax), and slow naming speed (that may or may not be independent of phonological deficits) (Catts and Hogan, 2003; Liberman, 1971; Liberman and Shankweiler, 1991; Pennington and Bishop, 2009; Schatschneider et al., 2004; Shankweiler and Crain, 1986; Share and Stanovich, 1995; Vellutino et al., 2004; Wagner et al., 1997; Wagner, Torgesen, and Rashotte, 1994; Wolf and Bowers, 1999). Based on studies mostly with younger participants, it is reasonable to assume (subject to needed empirical verification with adults) that these difficulties can be remediated by increasing the time and intensity of instruc- tion that is focused on building the language skills on which fluent reading and writing skills depend. Targeted interventions also improve the performance of struggling writers. Although some who experience difficulties with writing have other difficulties with learning (Graham and Harris, 2005) or language pro- cessing (Dockrell, Lindsay, and Connelly, 2009; Smith-Lock, Nickels, and Mortensen, 2008), not all aspects of writing are necessarily affected (see, e.g., Mortensen, Smith-Lock, and Nickels, 2008). In these cases, interven- tions that target a specific component skill on which writing depends have had some success. Teaching the language skill of phonological aware- ness, for example, results in better spelling performance for those who are weak spellers (Bradley and Bryant, 1985; O’Connor, Notari-Syverson, and Vadasky, 1996). A few studies have shown that teaching vocabulary to developing writers enhances their writing performance (Duin and Graves, 1987; Popadopoulou, 2007; Thibodeau, 1964). Sentence combining, an oral language practice that often relies heavily on combining smaller sen- tences into larger ones when speaking, has improved the quality of writ- ing in adolescents (Graham and Perin, 2007b). In addition, some limited evidence with elementary school students experiencing difficulties with regulating attention shows that teaching ways to monitor attention while writing improves writing skills and increases the amount of text written (Harris et al., 1994; Rumsey and Ballard, 1985). Again, these findings must be verified with adult learners. Common to almost all effective interven- tions is that they targeted specific areas of processing as part of teaching and practicing the act of writing, instead of trying to remediate processing problems in isolation. Notably, the process-writing approach, which does not systematically target specific difficulties (Graves, 1983), has not been effective with strug-

OCR for page 24
60 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION gling writers in a recent meta-analysis of five studies (Sandmel and Graham, in press). Varied forms of the approach are often used, however, and re- search is needed to determine whether some form is effective with some struggling learners. S truggling learners benefit from more intense instruction, more • explicit instruction, and even more opportunities to practice. The most significant gains obtained in reading interventions are as- sociated with more intense, explicit, and systematic delivery of instruc- tion (Fletcher et al., 2007; Torgesen et al., 2001). Reading interventions are especially effective if they teach to mastery, include academic content, monitor progress, and offer sufficient scaffolding of skills and emotional support (Fletcher et al., 2007). Greater time devoted to literacy activities allows for the additional explicit instruction required to remediate skills; opportunities to address gaps in vocabulary and language knowledge; and the additional exposures needed to consolidate, review, and explicitly teach for the generalization of newly acquired skills (Berninger et al., 2002; Blachman et al., 2004; Lovett et al., 2000; Torgesen et al., 2001; Wise, Ring, and Olson, 2000). Similarly, almost all of the strategies that have proven to be effective in teaching struggling writers have involved intense and explicit instruction with ample opportunities to practice taught skills (see the meta-analysis by Graham and Perin, 2007a; Rogers and Graham, 2008). This research included teaching planning strategies together with genre knowledge (see the meta-analysis by Graham and Harris, 2003), revision (Graham, 2006a; Schumaker et al., 1982), handwriting and spelling (Berninger et al., 1997, 1998; Graham, 1999), as well as sentence construction (Saddler and Graham, 2005) and paragraph construction skills (Sonntag and McLaughlin, 1984; Wallace and Bott, 1989). In addition, the self-regulated strategy development model for teaching writing strategies has been more effective than other approaches for teaching writing strategies to struggling writers (Graham, 2006a). It involves explicitly teaching how to regulate the use of strategies and requires developing skills to a criterion, unlike other approaches that are time-limited. S truggling learners need enhanced support for the generaliza- • tion and transfer of new literacy skills. A majority of struggling learners do not apply and transfer newly learned literacy skills spontaneously. To be effective, instruction for all learners must attend to the generalization of new skills and knowledge and include oppor- tunities to practice these in varied tasks outside the intervention context. This

OCR for page 24
61 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING observation is particularly true, however, for those with reading disabilities. For example, children with reading disabilities demonstrate problems with transfer that are specific to printed language; these difficulties are not evi- dent on learning tasks with parallel cognitive demands but no phonological processing requirements (Benson, 2000; Benson, Lovett, and Kroeber, 1997; Lovett, Barron, and Benson, 2003). Children with severe reading disabilities also demonstrated marked transfer-of-learning failures even when instructed target words were well learned and remembered (Lovett et al., 1989, 1990). For example, in one study, those who learned to read the word bake and practiced on words with the same spelling pattern (e.g., rake, fake, lake) could not later reliably identify make (Lovett et al., 1990). A recent synthesis of intervention research with adolescent struggling readers (Edmonds et al., 2009) confirmed that older struggling readers do benefit from explicit reading comprehension strategy instruction, but these skills did not generalize well. It is possible that more explicit train- ing and scaffolding would support generalization, as might more practice opportunities. Struggling readers experience particular difficulties in acquiring self- regulatory strategies across a variety of literacy tasks (Levin, 1990; Pressley, 1991; Swanson, 1999; Swanson and Alexander, 1997; Swanson and Saez, 2003; Swanson and Siegel, 2001; Wong, 1991), and these difficulties are likely to affect the transfer and generalization failures observed among struggling learners (Harris, Graham, and Pressley, 1992; Meltzer, 1994). For example, when children with reading disabilities have received strat- egy instruction, some appear to remain novices relative to their more able peers because they fail to transform simple strategies into more efficient forms (Swanson, Hoskyn, and Lee, 1999; Zimmerman, 2000a, 2000b). Multidimensional interventions that combine explicit skills instruction with the teaching of specific strategies for reading can help those with reading disabilities to generalize strategies and skills (Lovett et al., 2003, 2005; Lovett, Lacerenza, and Borden, 2000; Morris et al., 2010; Swanson, 1999). Faster growth and better outcomes in word identification, for example, are attained when a multidimensional intervention is adopted, particularly one that combines direct and dialogue-based instruction, explicit teaching of different levels of syllabic segmentation, and teaching of multiple decoding strategies. Although most of this research has focused on word reading, the critical importance of explicit instruction for developing the flexible use of strategies to identify words and read extended text cannot be over- emphasized when it comes to achieving generalization and maintenance of remedial gains. Although the evidence base for struggling writers is smaller than for reading, it suggests that struggling writers also have difficulty maintaining and generalizing gains from instruction (Wong, 1994). The findings need

OCR for page 24
62 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION to be interpreted cautiously, however, because maintenance decrements do not appear to be severe (Graham, 2006a; Graham and Harris, 2003), and in most research maintenance of gains was assessed for no more than a month from the end of the intervention. Generalizing specific writing skills to tasks and contexts beyond those in which they were taught is not an all-or-none phenomenon, and transfer often appears to generalize to some degree (Graham, 2006a; Graham and Harris, 2003). A very small body of research with elementary and middle school students who are struggling writers shows that maintenance and general- ization of taught writing skills and strategies can be facilitated by teaching target material to mastery, having students set goals for using the skills and strategies and monitoring their progress in doing so, analyzing when and how to use the skills and strategies, and enlisting peers as a resource for reminding and helping struggling writers to apply new skills (Harris, Graham, and Mason, 2006; Sawyer, Graham, and Harris, 1992; Stoddard and MacArthur, 1993). M aladaptive attributions, beliefs, and motivational profiles of • struggling learners need to be understood and targeted during instruction. The motivational profiles of struggling and typical readers and writ- ers can be very different. Struggling learners are usually lower in intrinsic motivation and a sense of self-efficacy for reading and writing, more likely to be extrinsically motivated or unmotivated, and more likely to attribute failure to internal factors (e.g., ability) and success to external factors (e.g., luck)—all of which lead to disengagement from reading and writing activities, less reading and writing experience, and markedly lower literacy achievement (Deci and Ryan, 2002b; Graham, 1990a; Graham, Schwartz, and MacArthur, 1993; Guthrie and Davis, 2003; Harter, Whitesell, and Kowalski, 1992; Moje et al., 2000; Morgan et al., 2008; Ryan, Stiller, and Lynch, 1994; Sawyer, Graham, and Harris, 1992; Taboada et al., 2009; Wigfield et al., 2008). Specific difficulties in these domains include mal- adaptive attributions about effort and achievement, learned helplessness rather than mastery-oriented motivational profiles, immature and poorly developed epistemic beliefs, and disengagement from reading and writing activities. There is a dearth of experimental evidence on how to build adap- tive attributions and motivations for struggling adult readers and writers during the course of intervention, although research with children and adolescents with reading disabilities is emerging (Guthrie et al., 2009; Lovett, Lacerenza, and Borden, 2000; Morris et al., 2010; Wigfield et al., 2008; Wolf, Miller, and Donnelly, 2000). In other research, positive attri-

OCR for page 24
63 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING butional change has been observed for children in middle school with the effective remediation of reading disabilities. Emerging research with strug- gling adolescent readers suggests the importance of intervening directly to address the attributional and motivational correlates of literacy learning difficulties (see Guthrie, Wigfield, and You, in press). In this research, adding attributional retraining to comprehension strategy instruction was associated with better maintenance of gains (Berkeley, Mastropieri, and Scruggs, 2011). Similarly, few writing studies have examined how to address the mal- adaptive attributions and beliefs that affect struggling writers (Wong et al., 2003). Adding attribution retraining to strategy instruction in writing is a promising approach that has enhanced the compositions of struggling writers (Garcia-Sánchez and Fidalgo-Redondo, 2006; Sexton, Harris, and Graham, 1998). For example, one writing program improved struggling writers’ motivation to write by including components for enhancing mul- tiple affective factors, including self-efficacy, self-esteem, expectations, and beliefs about writing (García and de Caso, 2004). I ntervention should be differentiated to scaffold learning and • meet the individual needs of those who struggle with literacy. Scaffolding is the term used to describe teaching approaches in which the instructor or presentation of tools supports execution of a skill until the student gradually develops full mastery. Differentiated instruction is the term used for teaching that meets individual and small group needs by providing learning activities and supports for the development of skills that have not yet been acquired but that are necessary to move through an instructional sequence. With this type of scaffolded and integrated instruction and inter- vention model, learning deficits are addressed and remediated while teaching all of the necessary skills for reading and writing development that enable struggling students to participate and move through the broader program of instruction (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a). Differentiation avoids provision of extra or specialized instruction to those who do not need it, which is counterproductive and could lead learners to view literacy activity as uninteresting. One of the premises of special education, the arm of educational prac- tice that specializes in learning difficulties, is that instruction should be fur- ther tailored to meet the processing needs of individual students (Edmonds et al., 2009; Scammacca et al., 2007). As discussed earlier, to date, little evi- dence from controlled intervention studies supports the tailoring of literacy instruction to difficulties with more general processing; what seems most important is that the intervention offer explicit, systematic, and intense reading remediation targeted to develop component literacy skills in the

OCR for page 24
64 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION context of reading instruction and reading practice (Fletcher et al., 2007; Morris et al., 2010; Torgesen et al., 2001). Differentiation of instruction also appears to be effective for writing. Most of this research has focused on teaching planning strategies to strug- gling writers who spend little time systematically planning their papers (e.g., Englert et al., 1991). The instruction has a positive impact on the quality and structure of text produced by struggling writers (see meta-analyses by Graham, 2006a; Graham and Harris, 2003; Graham and Perin, 2007a; Rogers and Graham, 2008). MacArthur and Lembo (2009) also found this to be a productive strategy with adult literacy learners. Similarly, a few studies show that instruction that targets the handwriting or spelling of elementary school students experiencing difficulties with these skills im- proves these skills as well as how much the students write and their facility with constructing sentences (Berninger et al., 1997, 1998; Graham, Harris, and Fink, 2000; Graham, Harris, and Fink-Chorzempa, 2002). In addition, the writing performance of middle and high school struggling writers was enhanced when they were taught sentence construction skills (e.g., Saddler and Graham, 2005; Schmidt et al., 1988). READING AND WRITING ACROSS THE LIFE SPAN Although much is known from research about the processes involved in the development of reading and writing and effective instruction for typically developing readers and writers and those who struggle, almost no research has focused on changes in reading and writing processes from early childhood through adulthood. This research will be needed to estab- lish whether adults with low literacy have not yet achieved an asymptotic level of skill along a common learning trajectory or, perhaps less likely, whether they need truly alternative pathways to competence. A small body of research on cognitive aging has, however, examined differences in read- ing and writing processes between younger and older adults, although some studies examine change in cognitive functions from the late 30s or 40s. Most of those who receive adult literacy instruction are older adolescents and young adults (e.g., according to Tamassia et al., 2007); in the program year 2001-2002, 34 percent were 16- to 24-years old and 46 percent were 25- to 44-years old. Yet a significant portion of adult learners (18 percent) are older than 44. Thus, we review this research with older populations to identify whether adults may experience unique challenges in developing and using their literacy skills in midlife and beyond. There is a lack of research on changes in literacy (and learning processes) from young adulthood to middle adulthood because most research has focused on young populations or older adults. An important caveat to the findings reported here is that the research

OCR for page 24
65 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING has focused not on older adults who need to develop their literacy but on relatively well-educated and literate populations. The research typically compares the performance of older adults to that of college students who serve as samples of convenience. Thus caution must be applied in general- izing the findings to populations of adults who need to develop literacy skills later in life. In general, the processes involved in the component skills of reading and writing studied thus far appear mostly preserved into later adulthood, although older adults do experience declines in areas affected by percep- tion and speed of processing (Durgunoğlu and Öney, 2002; Stine-Morrow, Loveless, and Soederberg, 1996). Word recognition reappears to be funda- mentally preserved throughout the adult life span. With age, readers tend to rely more on recognizing a whole word as a unit instead of decoding it using phonics skills (Spieler and Balota, 2000), although phonics facility remains essential for reading new words. As in younger readers, eventual automatic recognition of newly learned words occurs through adulthood (Lien et al., 2006). In both spoken and written communication, aging may bring reliance on the broader discourse context to decode individual words (Madden, 1988; Stine and Wingfield, 1990; Stine-Morrow et al., 2008; Wingfield et al., 1985). Vocabulary knowledge is maintained and has the potential to grow throughout adulthood (Birren and Morrison, 1961; Schaie, 2005). For example, the ability to recognize the meanings of words in a text appears to be intact (Burke and Peters, 1986; Burke, White, and Diaz, 1987; Light, Valencia-Laver, and Zavis, 1991). It is possible, however, for vocabulary growth to decelerate later in life, perhaps because declines in working memory hinder inferring the meanings of novel words in the course of ordinary reading (McGinnis and Zelinski, 2000, 2003). Reading comprehension can become compromised in several respects with age. Sensory impairment, which becomes more prevalent in later adulthood, may require adult readers (and listeners) to allocate more at- tention to decoding the surface form, which reduces cognitive resources available for understanding the meaning of text (Dickinson and Rabbitt, 1991; Stine-Morrow and Miller, 2009; Wingfield, Tun, and McCoy, 2005). Phonological skills also may be affected by sensory acuity deficits (Hartley and Harris, 2001), presenting a barrier to comprehension. Skills in basic parsing of syntax may remain intact throughout the life span (Caplan and Waters, 1999), although age-related declines in pro- cessing capacity may reduce comprehension of syntactically complex text (Kemper, 1987; Norman, Kemper, and Kynette, 1992). The production of utterances in both speech and writing shows reliable trends toward syn- tactic simplification and reduced informational density with age (Kemper, 1987; Kemper et al., 2001; Norman, Kemper, and Kynette, 1992), so one

OCR for page 24
66 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION would assume reasonably that the ability to read more complex and dense texts might be slowed or otherwise compromised. Comprehension of com- plex constructions may require more controlled/executive processing with age (Wingfield and Grossman, 2006). For example, older adults may find it more necessary to use such strategies as making notes and rereading text elements. Decreased ability to rapidly construct meaning from language may result from age-related declines in mental processing capacity (Federmeier et al., 2003; Hartley, 1988; Hartley et al., 1994; Stine and Hindman, 1994). Aging readers also may allocate relatively less attention to the semantic analysis of sentences (Radvansky et al., 2001). With age, people usu- ally experience decreases in memory for text (Johnson, 2003; Radvansky et al., 2001; Stine-Morrow and Shake, 2009; Zelinski and Gilewski, 1988), perhaps beginning as early as midlife (ages 40-45) (Ferstl, 2006; Van der Linden et al., 1999). These declines are mitigated by routinely engaging in activities that require text memory, by having high verbal ability, and by having knowledge related to the topic of the text (Hultsch and Dixon, 1983; Meyer and Rice, 1989; Stine-Morrow et al., 2008). Older readers tend to remember information from elaborated texts that provide redundant support for key information better rather than isolated facts (Daneman and Merikle, 1996; Stine and Wingfield, 1990; Stine- Morrow et al., 2008). The ability to generate inferences about the larger situation described by a text is mostly intact (Radvansky and Dijkstra, 2007). Yet comprehension skills can be affected by decreased capacity for making inferences as a result of memory decline. For example, older adults can have difficulty with important inferences that require remembering text from one sentence to later ones. As a consequence, they may create a fuzzier or less complete representation of the text (Cohen, 1981; Hess, 1994; Light and Capps, 1986; Light et al., 1994; McGinnis, 2009; McGinnis et al., 2008; Noh et al., 2007). An important strength of adulthood is accumulated knowledge that often occurs as a consequence of literacy. The dependence on knowledge in reading may increase throughout adulthood (Meyer, Talbot, and Ranalli, 2007; Miller, 2003, 2009; Miller and Stine-Morrow, 1998; Miller, Cohen, and Wingfield, 2006). Knowledge has a variety of forms, including the ability to articulate ideas (declarative knowledge), skilled performance (procedural knowledge), and implicit processes in work and social con- texts (tacit knowledge), and encompasses the range of human experiences (e.g., cultural conventions, facts, conceptual systems, schemas that abstract essential elements of a system and their organization). Such knowledge can enhance text comprehension through a number of routes (Ackerman, 2008; Ackerman and Beier, 2006; Ackerman et al., 2001; Barnett and Ceci, 2002; Beier and Ackerman, 2001, 2005; Charness, 2006; Ericsson,

OCR for page 24
67 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING 2006; Graesser, Haberlandt, and Koizumi, 1987; Griffin, Jee, and Wiley, 2009; Miller, 2009; Miller and Stine-Morrow, 1998; Miller, Cohen, and Wingfield, 2006; Miller et al., 2004; Noordman and Vonk, 1992). Knowl- edge enables, for example, understanding relations among concepts not obvious to the novice, understanding vocabulary and jargon, abstract rea- soning (e.g., analogy), making inferences and connections in the text, and monitoring the success of efforts made to comprehend. Less research has focused on changes in writing processes with age. Although vocabulary knowledge either stabilizes or grows through adult- hood, especially if the adult continues to engage with text (Stanovich, West, and Harrison, 1995), adults may have difficulty with recalling a word, may substitute or transpose speech sounds in a word, and may make spelling errors more frequently beginning in midlife (Burke and Shafto, 2004; Burke et al., 1991; MacKay and Abrams, 1998). As people age, the speech and writing they produce has simpler syntax and is less dense with information (Kemper, 1987; Kemper et al., 2001; Norman, Kemper, and Kynette, 1992). The tendency to produce less com- plex syntax is due partly to declines in working memory (Norman, Kemper, and Kynette, 1992), but also to some extent may reflect greater awareness that simpler syntax is easier for the listener or reader to understand. There is not a universal trend, however, toward simplified writing with age. For example, although syntax becomes simpler over time, narrative storytelling becomes more complex (Kemper et al., 1990). In sum, not enough is known about the ways in which reading and writing processes change across the life span to determine whether or how instructional approaches would need to be modified to make them more effective for learners of different ages. Most research has concentrated on young children at the beginning of reading development and on older adults at the opposite end of the life span who are proficient readers benefiting from the fruition of knowledge growth but beginning to experience some declines in processing capacity. The findings available hint, however, at some of the underlying cognitive processes that are likely to remain intact in older adults. They also suggest some challenges in developing and using literacy skills later in life that may require enhanced supports. SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION A complete understanding of reading and writing development requires knowledge of the learner (the learners’ knowledge, skills, literacy practices, motivations, and neurocognitive processes) and features of the instructional context (types of text, literacy tools, literacy activities, instructor knowl- edge, beliefs, and skills) that scaffold or impede learning. Because different disciplines study different aspects of literacy, research has yet to systemati-

OCR for page 24
68 IMPROVING ADULT LITERACY INSTRUCTION cally examine how various social, cultural, and contextual forces interact with neurocognitive processes to facilitate or constrain the development of literacy. The major components of reading and writing are well documented. Depending on the assessed needs of the learner, instruction needs to target decoding and strategies for identifying unfamiliar words. Instruction should focus on depth, breadth, and flexibility of vocabulary knowledge and use. Learners also need strategies for comprehending and learning from text. Instruction should support the development of knowledge, including back- ground, topic, and world knowledge. Learners also need metalinguistic knowledge (phonology, morphology) and discourse knowledge (genre and rhetorical structure). Metacognitive skills may need to be developed to facilitate comprehension and meet goals for reading. Figure 2-1 shows the writing skills that may need to be targeted with instruction, among them sentence construction skills, planning and revis- ing, spelling, and usage (capitalization and punctuation skills). As for reading, knowledge to develop for writing includes background, topic, and world knowledge as well as knowledge of the potential audiences for written products. Writing instruction, like reading instruction, needs to develop facility with writing for particular purposes, contexts, and con- tent domains. Writing also requires mastery of tools required for writing (typing, word processing, and handwriting). Literacy development, like the learning of any complex task, requires a range of explicit teaching and implicit learning guided by an expert. Ex- plicit and systematic instruction is effective in developing the components of reading and writing and facilitating the integration and transfer of skills to new tasks and context. Full competence requires extensive practice with varied forms of text and tasks that demand different combinations of literate skill. It also requires learning how to use tools required in a society for producing and using text for communication, self-expression, and collaboration. Principles of effective reading and writing instruction are summarized in Boxes 2-2 and 2-4. Box 2-5 lists practices shown to be effective in the development of writing. Reading and writing involve many shared components and processes. Instruction that includes activities that capitalize on and make explicit the relations between reading and writing facilitates development of a better integrated and mutually reinforcing literacy system. A sizeable literature on efficacious interventions for struggling learn- ers points to additional principles for teaching reading and writing to this population that include (1) direct targeting of specific areas of difficulty in the context of explicit reading and writing instruction; (2) more intense instruction, more explicit instruction, and even more opportunities to prac- tice; (3) direct targeting of the generalization and transfer of learning; (4)

OCR for page 24
69 FOUNDATIONS OF READING AND WRITING targeting of maladaptive attributions and beliefs; and (5) differentiation of instruction to meet the particular needs of those who struggle or have diagnosed disabilities in the course of broader instruction to develop read- ing and writing skills. Several limitations in current knowledge of component processes indi- cate that research is needed to (1) develop more integrated and comprehen- sive models of reading comprehension processes, including metacognitive components, to develop more complete approaches to instruction and assessment; (2) understand the relation of fluency to comprehension and how best to develop fluency; (3) identify efficacious methods for develop- ing vocabulary and other aspects of linguistic knowledge for reading and writing proficiency; (4) develop more integrated models of writing processes and writing instruction; (5) develop methods of teaching reading and writ- ing in tandem with world and topic knowledge in academic, disciplinary, or content areas; (6) understand the neurobiology of reading and writing to test theories and models of typical and atypical developmental processes, develop more sensitive assessments, guide teaching and treatment of dis- ability, and prevent reading and writing difficulties; and (7) understand the social and contextual forces on reading and writing and the implications both for the design of instruction to develop valued functional literacy skills and the assessment of these skills as part of evaluating the effectiveness of instructional outcomes. Cognitive aging research suggests that adults may experience some age- related neurocognitive declines affecting reading and writing processes and speed of learning that might need consideration during instruction. Most research has concentrated on young children at the beginning of reading development and on older adults at the opposite end of the life span who are proficient readers beginning to experience some declines. As a result, more needs to be known about how reading and writing processes change across the life span to determine how to make instruction effective for learners of different ages. As Chapter 3 makes clear, except for a few intervention studies, the study of component literacy skills and processes has not been a priority in research with adults, nor has the research fully incorporated knowledge of the practices that develop reading and writing skills in K-12 students. The population of adult learners is highly diverse. Adults bring varied life experiences, knowledge, education levels, skills, and motivations to learning that need attention in instructional design. Research with adolescents and adults will be required to validate, identify the boundaries of, and extend current knowledge of literacy to identify how best to meet the particular literacy development needs of well-defined subgroups of learners.