Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) and Reading Acquisition A by jlq11305


									           Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) and Reading Acquisition:
                          A Synthesis of the Literature

                                      By Patricia S. Tillman

               Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) and Reading Acquisition

         Although it may not seem true in a world in which there is a high focus on television and
movies, reading is more important in today’s society than in the past. Children who have
trouble reading transfer this difficulty into content areas, such as social studies, science, and
math word problems. Learning to read is crucial for a child’s future social and economic
advancement (Hamilton, 1995; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). The U. S. Department of
Education (2002) reports “evidence strongly suggests that students who fail to read on grade
level by the fourth grade have a greater likelihood of dropping out of school and a lifetime of
diminished success” (para. 3). According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 40%
of all 9- year-olds in the United States are below the national average in reading ability (U.S.
Department of Education, 1998). Because of this literacy crisis, President George W. Bush
signed the No Child Left Behind Act on January 8, 2002, which proposes funding of up to five
billion dollars “to ensure that every child in America can read well by the end of the third grade”
(U.S. Department of Education, 2002, para. 7).
         The increased use of computer technologies to deliver instruction is a trend noted in
research (Ely, 1991; Najjar, 1996). Computer use in the classrooms has boomed since the
1980's, fueling a debate over whether or not computer-assisted instruction (CAI) is an effective
means of improving student achievement. CAI generally consists of drill and practice,
simulation tasks, instructional games, and tutorials; instruction can contain new material, and can
be used alone or as an enhancement to traditional instructional methods (Bitter & Pierson, 1999;
Cotton, 2001; Kadiyala & Crynes, n.d.; Soe, Koki, & Chang, 2000). Studies within the past 15-
20 years have focused on the relationship between CAI and achievement in many different
subject areas, such as math (Bedell, 1998; McCollister, Burts, Wright, & Hildbreth, 1986; Rha &
Richardson, 1986), probabilities (Hsiao, 2001), science (Chang, 2002), and reading (Bedell,
1998; Peak & Dewalt, 1993). Technology can be very expensive to school districts, leaving
many stakeholders questioning if the achievement results justify the cost (Ross, Hogaboam-
Gray, & Hannay, 2001). Chaika (1999) indicates that only 1/10 of 1% of the U.S. education
budget is spent on researching educational techniques, but that a large amount of money is spent
on technology for classroom use. Drake (2001) found that CAI is one of the six best practices,
which support literacy learning at the elementary school level. Because there are specific
conflicts in the literature about the effects of CAI on reading achievement, the challenge for
educators is to utilize the literature to make changes in instruction that will impact student
         Though a large body of work exists pertaining to CAI, a much smaller amount of
research has been dedicated to the impact of CAI on reading instruction. This review examines
the claims of both the broad research about CAI and the limited research on CAI and reading
instruction. The larger body of research has implications for the relationship between CAI and
reading instruction. First, the motivational benefits of using CAI to attempt improvement of
general achievement are discussed. Second, other research trends connected to the use of CAI,
such as age, time, and population are analyzed. Subsequently, the connection between reading
achievement and CAI is examined. An overview of phonological awareness, the auditory
recognition of the sounds of language, is provided prior to this section, as phonological
awareness has been highly touted in research as key to the process of learning to read and as a
reliable predictor of later reading skill. This literature review will conclude with a summary and
considerations for future research.
        Not many researchers dispute the idea that computer technology in the classroom
enhances teaching and learning; however, there is a debate as to whether or not a direct link
between motivation and academic achievement exists. Advocates of CAI (Chaika, 1999; Chang,
2002; Cotton, 2001; Garcia & Arias, 2000; Reeves, 1998; Schacter, 1999) claim that using CAI
enhances learning through the overall positive motivational factors associated with technology
integration into the curriculum. These CAI supporters indicate that CAI improves achievement
through increased motivation. Cotton (2001) and Roblyer, Castine, and King (1989) claim in
their extensive research reviews that CAI boosts positive attitudes of students toward learning.
Similarly, in a meta-analysis of 500 studies, Kulik (1994) found that CAI increased the positive
attitudes of students toward learning, which resulted in increased learning. Other researchers note
that CAI improves school attendance (Cotton). Only a few researchers, such as Ashton, Bland,
and Rodgers (2001), report conflicting research on student motivation and CAI. It appears that
more researchers conclude that positive motivation toward learning results from CAI. Does this
increase in motivation toward learning actually translate into an increase in reading
achievement? A report by the Software and Information Industry Association (2000) indicates
that the motivation effects are strongest for language arts and writing instruction areas of the
Trends in Research
        Are there other factors of CAI in the research that affect the outcomes of CAI in reading
instruction? Several trends are noted in the large research base pertaining to CAI. Frequent
findings in the literature about the use of CAI include studies related to student age, time, and
population. These general factors have the potential to impact the use of CAI in reading
instruction and should be investigated. First, the amount of benefit a student receives from CAI
appears to be related to the age of the student. One study (Roblyer, et al., 1989) found
significant effects at all age levels, but greater ones at the college level. Many studies (Cotton,
2001; Soft ware & Information Industry Association, 2000) found the most positive effects of
CAI on students of elementary school age; however, it should be noted that the software
manufacturer who conducted some of these studies did not report any negative results.
        Another trend frequently addressed in the research is the potential for technology to
decrease the time it takes for students to learn material and the time for instruction of the
curriculum objectives (Reeves, 1998). Najjar’s (1996) literature review indicates a time savings
of 36% when CAI is used in the classroom. Cotton’s (2001) synthesis of 59 research reports
yields mixed results in time savings. Based on the research reviewed, Cotton notes that students
learn material in either the same time or less time when CAI is used. One study indicated by
Cotton (2001) determined that students learn up to 40% faster when taught using CAI, as CAI
increases student time on task. Kadiyala & Crynes (n.d.) supports the time saving research
claims in the conclusion to their meta-analysis that CAI yields a time savings of approximately
30% in instructional time.
         Population studies appear to concentrate on the gender of the learner, socio-economic
status of the learners, students who are second- language learners, and students with disabilities,
such as learning disabilities in reading. Effectiveness of CAI does not appear to be linked to
gender (Cotton, 2001; Roblyer et al., 1989). Kadiyala and Crynes’ (n.d.) meta-analysis of
fifteen years of research supports the use of CAI with disadvantaged students. Although
Kadiyala and Crynes’ analysis does not specify the criteria for a student to be labeled
disadvantaged, lower socio-economic status is implied. Likewise, Cotton’s (2001) literature
analysis indicates that students of lower socio-economic status benefit more from CAI than do
students who are from a more advantaged environment.
         Reviewers present opposing views about the efficacy of CAI with second- language
learners. Garcia and Arias (2000) compare the motivation levels of elementary and intermediate
level second-language students learning English through print and through CAI, concluding that
CAI increases motivation for learning English in students whose primary language is not
English. However, Roblyer, et al. (1989) present an opposite view in their research review, in
that they claim that CAI in English does not appear to benefit Hispanic students.
         There is general consensus in the literature that students who have disabilities or students
at-risk for literacy benefit from CAI (Kim & Kamil, 2001). In a report from the Software &
Information Industry Association (2000), 311 research reviews and original research studies
were analyzed. The software association correlates positive achievement results of CAI to
special needs populations. Similarly, Najjar (1996) asserts that there is empirical support for the
notion that when computer instruction is accessible to learners with low prior knowledge or
aptitude in the area being learned, it is more likely that the information will be learned.
Correspondingly, in a literature review of fifteen years of research on CAI to teach or support
literacy for students with mild disabilities (MacArthur, Ferretti, Okolo, & Cavalier, 2001), all
studies support the use of CAI to improve decoding skills and phonological awareness in these
students. Many other literature reviews support the use of CAI in the area of reading instruction
for students with mild to moderate disabilities (Cotton, 2001; Fitzgerald & Koury, 1996),
students with learning disabilities (Hall, Hughes, & Filbert, 2000; van Daal & van der Leij,
1992), and students who struggle in the development of reading skills (Byrd, 2001; Hook,
Macaruso, & Jones, 2001). All of these trends in the research about CAI have the potential to
impact student achievement in reading.
Phonological Awareness
         Prior to proceeding to a discussion of computerized instruction and reading instruction
and achievement, it is practical at this juncture to describe an overview of phonological
awareness skills and a synopsis of the findings of phonological awareness research.
Phonological awareness is a term employed to describe one of the many building blocks of early
reading development. Compelling scientific and educational research has documented the fact
that phonological awareness is key to the process of learning to read and is a reliable predictor of
later reading skill. Phonological awareness training is only one dimension of reading instruction
that facilitates the connection between oral language and written language (Ball, 1997; Foorman
& Torgesen, 2001; Gillet & Temple, 2000; Gillon, 2000; Rasinski & Padak, 2000; Smith,
Simmons, Kameenui, n.d.; Torgesen, 2002). Researchers also appear to agree that carefully
planned ins truction causes success in later reading skills. However, there is currently debate as
to whether CAI can be employed as a method of planned reading instruction to promote literacy.
         Most often defined as the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds of language,
phonological awareness involves an understanding that the sounds can be broken down into
smaller components and then manipulated (Gillon, 2000; Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002;
Smith, Simons, & Kameenui, n.d.; Torgesen & Wagner, 1994; Yopp & Yopp, 2000).
Phonological awareness is auditory, but phonological awareness skills are crucial to the
connection between spoken and written language (Ball, 1997; Gillon 2000; Norris & Hoffman,
2002; Torgesen, 2002). Phonological awareness involves detecting, matching, moving,
combining, and deleting speech sounds (Ball, 1997; Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002; Smith,
Simons, & Kameenui, n.d.; Yopp & Yopp, 2000).
         Rhyming, segmentation, blending, and phonemic awareness are all components of
phonological awareness (Ball, 1997; Torgesen, 1998; Yopp & Yopp, 2000). Rhyming is learned
along a continuum of stimulus tasks. A child must first be aware that two words sound the same
to be able to rhyme. Then, the child should be able to discriminate rhyming word pairs from
non-rhyming words. Finally, a child should be able to generate a rhyming word, even a
nonsense rhyming word. Rhyming skills help early readers understand that several phonemes
can function as a unit and by changing one phoneme, a new word can be created (McCormick,
1999; Norris & Hoffman, 2002). Segmentation includes recognizing the number and type of
different sounds heard in a word, such as being able to identify three different sounds in the word
“pig.” It also involves deleting sounds from words and counting the number of sounds in a
word. Blending employs combining, in oral language, isolated sounds into a word, such as being
able to state “pig” when given the sounds “p” “i” and “g” in isolation (McCormick, 1999;
Torgesen, 1998).
         Phonemic awareness and phonological awareness are terms that are often confused.
Phonemic awareness is “the ability to hear and identify individual sounds in spoken words” (U.S.
Department of Education, 2002, para. 5). Because a phoneme is the smallest individual unit of
sound, phonemic awareness is an awareness of individual phonemes (Hook & Haynes, 2002;
Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002; Smith, Simons, & Kameenui, n.d.; Yopp & Yopp, 2000).
Within the field of reading research and instruction, some authors consider phonemic awareness
a precursor to learning phonics and writing (Hook & Haynes, 2002; McCormick, 1999; Rasinski
& Padak, 2000; Torgesen, 2002). Phonological awareness, on the other hand, is a broader term
that encompasses both small and large oral sound units from the phoneme level to the word level
(Ehri, Nunes, Willows, Schuster, 2001; Hook & Haynes, 2002; Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan,
2002; Smith, Simons, & Kameenui, n.d.; Wood & Terrell, 1998; Yopp & Yopp, 2000).
         The body of literature about phonological awareness appears to center on phonological
awareness as an early predictor of later reading ability or on the training effects of phonological
awareness instruction. According to a literature review of 28 studies on phonological awareness
by Smith, Simmons, and Kameenui (n.d.), phonological awareness is critical to success in
reading ability. These authors claim that the research shows that phonological awareness ability
is a reliable predictor of later reading skill for children in preschool to the sixth grade. Larivee
and Catts (1999) indicate from their study of 57 kindergarten students that phonological
awareness ability in kindergarten affects first grade reading achievement. Likewise, Holopainen,
Tahonen, and Lyytinen (2001) note in their study of 91 preschool children that early
phonological awareness ability can be used to determine the difference between students who
can read at school entry, those who learn to read within four months of school entry, and those
who read after nine months of instruction. Catts, Fey, Zhang, and Tomblin (2001) note in their
study of 604 children that phonological awareness ability is one of five variables that can be used
to estimate future reading difficulties in kindergarten children. Smith, Simmons, and Kameenui
(n.d.) and Larrivee and Catts (1999) conclude that students who demonstrate poor phonological
awareness skills will have difficulty with coding, word storage, and word retrieval as they learn
to read. Similarly, students who demonstrate good phonological awareness skills during the
early stages of reading development are more likely to become successful readers. Others in the
field of reading development and instruction corroborate the conclusions drawn in these studies
(Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Torgesen, 1998).
         Much of the phonological awareness training research indicates that phonological
awareness training can prevent future reading difficulties. Schneider, Ennemoser, Roth, and
Kuspert (1999) report positive long-term effects of phonological awareness training in at-risk
kindergarten children in a study using 346 students containing an experimental group with
phonological awareness training and a control group with no training. After six months of
phonological awareness training, the experimental group scored significantly higher on posttests.
Long-term, the experimental group students scored higher than the control group students on
tests of reading and spelling given at the end of second grade. Furthermore, students who scored
low on the initial phonological awareness pretest were considered to be at-risk for future reading
difficulties. Although the control group students scored higher on initial phonological awareness
ability measures, the at risk experimental group students scored higher than the control group
students on reading and spelling posttests and second grade transfer tests. Finally, this study
indicates that phonological awareness training reduces later diagnosis of dyslexia in at-risk
kindergarten students.
         Similarly, other studies and reviews examine the training effects of instruction in
phonological awareness. The National Reading Panel (2000, April), Ehri, Nunes, Willow, &
Schuster (2001), Gillon (2000), Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan (2002), and Smith, Simmons, and
Kameenui (n.d.) report the positive effects of phonological awareness instruction on later reading
development, spelling ability, and further phonological awareness development. The Gillon
(2000) study indicates that children with spoken language impairments who receive phonological
awareness training will improve their phonological awareness skills, reading development, and
speech articulation as a result of the training. Yet others in the field of reading instruction report
that the effective components of phonological awareness training include using a simple to
complex hierarchy of stimulus tasks (Foorman & Torgesen, 2001; Smith, Simmons, &
Kameenui, n.d.), oral modeling by the teacher (Smith, Simmons, & Kameenui, n.d.),
complementing phonological awareness training with a letter-sound correspondence component
(Ball, 1997; Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 2001; Holopainen, Ahonen, & Lyytinen, 2001;
National Reading Panel, 2000, April; Schneider, Ennemoser, Roth, & Kuspert, 1999; Smith, et
al; Torgesen & Wagner, 1994), and concentration on detection of sounds, segmentation, and
blending (Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002; Smith, Simmons, & Kameenui, n.d.).
         A few researchers have a different perspective on phonological awareness. Wood and
Terrell (1998) claim from their study of 30 preschool children that rhyme detection ability
assessed prior to initial reading instruction is the most reliable predictor of initial reading
success. Olofsson & Niedersoe (1999) suggest from their study of 481 children that early
receptive and expressive language skills at age three directly relate to reading ability at age
eleven, indicating other factors that can be used when predicting future success in reading. In a
brief synopsis of the phonemic awareness training literature, Moustafa (n.d.) declares that
literacy causes phonemic awareness, not the reverse, and cites a few studies in which the
research disputes phonemic awareness as a predictor of later reading achievement. In another
study, Holopainen, Ahonen, and Lyytinen (2001) indicate that phonological awareness skills can
be used to predict later reading skills in some children; their study indicates that early measures
of phonological awareness do not predict the later reading ability of students who are late
decoders, i.e., those who cannot read in second grade. Finally, Flax, Realpe, Hirsch, Nawyn, and
Tallal (2000) suggest from their study of over 200 participants that phonological awareness
abilities can only be used to predict later reading ability in males, rather than females.
         The literature on phonological awareness overwhelmingly indicates that a child who has
not developed phonological awareness skills will have reading difficulties (Catts, Fey, Zhang, &
Tomblin, 2001; Foorman & Torgesen, 2001; Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002; Larrivee &
Catts, 1999; McCormick, 1999; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Furthermore, children who have
developed phonological awareness skills appear to become more successful readers. The
literature also reveals that carefully designed reading instruction that includes phonological
awareness training causes success in later reading skills (Ball, 1997; Ehri, Nunes, Willows, &
Schuster, 2001; Foorman & Torgesen, 2001; Lane, Pullen, Eisele, & Jordan, 2002; Mathes &
Torgesen, 1998; Torgesen, 2002). Computer assisted instruction in reading is a method that is
currently being explored as a viable method of teaching necessary reading skills (Bentz &
Magnus, 2002; McCormick, 1999; National Reading Panel, 2000; Torgesen, 2002).
Reading Achievement and CAI
         While there are mixed reviews about the motivational benefits and other factors related to
CAI, there is also considerable debate as to the effects of CAI on reading ability. In the past few
decades, studies in which there has been a positive relationship between CAI and reading
achievement are noted more often than negative or neutral relationships. Some of the research
compares traditional reading instruction with instruction assisted by computers through computer
software programs. USA Today (Henry, 1999), reports both positive and negative studies on the
effects of technology on achievement, stating that only 3% of U.S. schools have the technology
in place to make a difference in achievement.
         Literature within the fields of reading instruction and CAI yields several landmark studies
that indicate a positive link between the use of CAI and reading ability. Soe, Koki, and Chang
(2000) summarize statistics from 17 studies during the period of 1982-1997 on the effect of CAI
on reading achievement of K-12 students. The authors conclude that CAI has an overall positive
impact upon reading achievement. Kluger and DeNisi (1996) declare that CAI in which
feedback is provided to the learner increases student performance through heightened
motivation, but student performance decreases without the feedback. Singhal (1999) describes
an independent study of elementary school students in which traditional reading instruction is
compared to intensive CAI in reading for a period of one school year. CAI group scores are
reported as significantly higher on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills than are the scores of the
students in the control group. The Software & Information Industry Association (2000)
describes increases in reading achievement through CAI methods in the areas of phonological
awareness, reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, and spelling. Some individual studies of
the effectiveness of a particular software program on reading instruction show favorable results
for achievement, such as Success-Maker Comprehensive Courseware System (Byrd, 2001),
WiggleWorks (Ross, Hogaboam-Gray, & Hannay, 2001), and RITA (Lynch, Fawcett, &
Nicolson, 2000).
         Many researchers report mixed or negative effects of CAI on general achievement and
reading achievement. One of the most well-known researchers, Kulik (1994), uses the meta-
analysis procedure in his studies to examine and summarize data from research, with mixed
results of the effects of CAI on reading achievement. Roblyer, et al. (1989) indicate in their
meta-analysis of the literature that CAI has greater effects on mathematics instruction than on
reading. Other researchers indicate that there is a negative or neutral relationship between CAI
and reading achievement (Kadiyala & Crynes, n.d.; Parr, 2000). In a longitudinal study of the
effectiveness of the Fast Forward software program for reading instruction, Hook, Macaruso, and
Jones (2001) find that Fast Forward produces no significant improvement of word identification,
word attack, or phonemic awareness as compared to the control group. Furthermore, short-term
gains in syntax are not continued long-term. It is apparent that the research concerning the
impact of CAI on reading achievement is still under debate.

         In summary, there is clearly a great need for a solution to improve the reading ability of
the nation’s students. Technology, particularly CAI, has been a trend in the literature for the
improvement of achievement in varied subject areas. More researchers conclude that a positive
motivation toward learning is a result of the use of CAI than imply a neutral or negative result.
CAI appears to increase motivation; however, motivation has not been conclusively linked to
increased achievement. Research about CAI frequently focuses on age, gender, time savings,
socio-economic status, students with disabilities, and speakers of other languages. No concrete
conclusions could be drawn from the available literature about the efficacy of CAI in reading
instruction; however, this review does provide convincing evidence that CAI can enhance
reading instruction to promote increased achievement.
         Implications of this literature review are numerous. In the research review supported by
the Texas Center for Educational Technology (Ashton, et al., 2001), readers are cautioned to
consider the biases in the research, because research studies that report that a certain technology
increases attainment of skills or achievement are often studies conducted by the publishers of the
technology. The Software and Information Industry Association’s (2000) report is potentially
biased because the authors are involved in the software industry. Only positive findings about
the use of educational software are noted in this report.
         Many authors cited in this review indicate that the research quality found in the available
body of literature is uneven or not well designed (Kim & Kamil, 2001; MacArthur et al., 2001).
More research is needed with controls for the technology, area of focus, and teaching style
variables. Also, individuals have different motivators, and the available literature does not
control motivation-related variables. Soe, et al. (2000) report that many reviews do not use
research studies that are exact replications of each other. Studies that are not replications
produce questionable results and conclusions. Most of the authors of the meta-analysis studies
selected for this review admit that there is a wide range in the procedures, materials, and findings
among the studies included in their research. Further research in the area of technology
effectiveness in educational outcomes for the teaching of reading is needed in which procedures
and materials are the same to increase accuracy of findings. Since phonological awareness is
considered in the research to be a building block of early reading development, further research
on the effectiveness of CAI to facilitate phonological awareness skills could be useful to
educators and parents.
         The No Child Left Behind Act proposes funding of up to five billion dollars to improve
reading achievement in U.S. public elementary schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2002).
Many school systems are using funds for software programs to increase reading achievement.
Despite the limitations in the research, CAI appears to be a powerful teaching tool for reading
instruction, though the use of CAI alone is not sufficient for reading acquisition. Many questions
still remain unanswered. Which software focuses on the improvement of reading achievement
for elementary age students? What is the role of the teacher in the effective use of CAI for
effective reading instruction? Can pencil and paper tests accurately assess reading skills gained
through CAI? Until the research is conclusive, CAI can be seen as an effective instructional tool
to supplement traditional reading instruction to improve the reading skills of America’s children.
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