Seminal Research


These researchers and their work have made major contributions towards our understanding of learning and teaching, especially in the field of reading.

Research-based training


Seminal Research

John Hattie on Visible Learning (researchED Magazine)

This interview from the Swedish employee magazine: educ.alla Utbildningsförvaltningen – Göteborg also appeared in the ResearchEd online magazine. Hattie is quizzed on the usefulness of effect sizes, criticisms over his calculations of statistics, and the insights research may lend to specific educational debates. Hattie’s justification for training teachers in research:

“It is certainly the case that many do not want to believe evidence as their own ‘experiences’ tell them different. Research starts from the premise of attempting to falsify your pet theories and many parents, teachers and politicians work from the premise of attempting to find beliefs and evidence to support their prior beliefs. This confirmation bias means they spend millions of dollars on the wrong issues, and thus do major damage to the learning of our children.” 

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Matthew Effects in Reading: some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy (Stanovich, K E 1986)
Keith Stanovich embarked on his research expecting to find that whole-language theories would be validated. In fact, he found that children need explicit and systematic instruction in order to ensure progress in reading. Stanovich used the term ‘Matthew Effects’ to describe the growing differences throughout schooling between more and less successful readers – differences which were apparent across a range of domains including self-esteem and confidence.

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Romance and Reality (Stanovich K E 1993) The Reading Teacher 47(4) 280-291 retrieved from

Keith Stanovich summarises much of his research and the reactions to it by different sectors of the education community. In particular, he contrasts the difference between initial expectations and what he discovered as a researcher, and argues that reality must come ahead of preferred notions.

Progress in Understanding Reading: Scientific Foundations and New Frontiers (Stanovich, K., 2000)  

A summary of 25 years of research papers authored by Keith Stanovich, whose lucid dissection of reading difficulties has challenged the assumptions and practice of the whole language movement. (NB This link will take you to Amazon.)

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What Reading Does for the Mind (Cunningham A E and Stanovich K E 2001) Journal of Direct Instruction 1(2) 137-149 retrieved from California State University, Northridge website

This paper demonstrated how reading growth improves a range of cognitive competencies and how these in turn facilitate reading growth. The converse is also sadly true.

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Beyond the Phonics vs. Whole Language Debate: What The Research Says We Should Really Be Teaching in Reading (Kame’enui E J, Simmons D C, Coyne M D, Harn B and McDonagh S Undated): retrieved from Sydney University website
This summary of research on what is required for effective teaching of reading highlights the key findings of the last quarter of a century. It forms a very helpful overview to teachers or training teachers who are beginning to explore the issues.  

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Follow Through: Why Didn’t We? (Watkins, C L 1995)

The story of Project Follow Through makes for extraordinary reading. Despite the fact that Direct Instruction out-performed every other intervention evaluated on every measure, education officials refused to endorse the findings of their own report or to apply them to American education. Watkins’ article highlights the ways in which ideology and politics often trump sound evidence.

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The cultural myths and the realities of teaching and learning – The Jean Herbison Lecture (Nuthall, G 2001)
Graham Nuthall highlights the lessons that he learned over several decades as a researcher. In particular, he contrasts the ‘folkloric’ culture of teaching with the realities of educational research.

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Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of American Children (Hart B and Risley T R 1995) Early Education for All (4th printing, January 2003)

A brief summary of Hart and Risley’s seminal paper on vocabulary differences between children of different socio-economic groups. 

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The Early Catastrophe - The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3 (Hart B and Risley T R 2003) American Educator: Spring

This important study showed that there are massive differences in the amount of language to which young children are exposed in families of different socio-economic backgrounds, resulting in proportionally large differences in vocabulary even by the age of three years.

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A Brief Critique of Hart and Risley (Nation I S P undated) LALS, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ

This concise but clear critique of Hart and Risley’s important paper raises key questions about methodology and how much weight should be placed on the findings of the study. This is an excellent example of how to ask the right questions when evaluating a research report.

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Visible Learning (Hattie J 2008) 

This landmark study draws together over 800 meta-analyses to discover the most effective ways to improve student achievement. The findings are sometimes surprising, sometimes myth-shattering and often thought-provoking. (NB This link will take you to Amazon.)

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Theory of Instruction: Principles and Applications (Carnine, D & Engelmann, S 1991 revised edition): Association for Direct Instruction

Painstakingly researched and field-tested, the principles in this book form the basis not only for Direct Instruction programmes but for any instructional design that teachers want to be efficient, powerful and long-lasting. As one reviewer put it: “The art of instruction is becoming a technology. One hundred years from now smart people will be teaching with Engelmann's methods. The chaff in current theory will be gone and student performance will be so advanced you won't know it by today's standards.”  (This links to Amazon, not the book itself.)

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Behavioral Fluency: A New Paradigm (Binder, C 1993): Educational Technology

This summary by one of the co-founders of Precision Teaching identifies key findings about the importance of fluency in achieving mastery, arrived at over decades of applied, in-classroom research. The implications for instructional design are far-reaching. 

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Effects of teacher attention on digit-reversal behavior in an elementary school child. (Hasazi, J & Hasazi, S 1972): Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 1972 Summer; 5(2): 157–162.

This single-subject study is an excellent example of how research design, and thoughtful analysis of learning problems, can reveal unexpected contingencies. What appears to be a learning problem turns out to be something entirely different. Short, readable and thought-provoking. 

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Children of the Code – Interviews with prominent experts on reading

Keith Stanovich (Chair, Applied Cognitive Science, University of Toronto, Author: Reading Matters) 

Keith Stanovich explains eloquently the evidence for his assertion that ‘reading makes you smarter’. The implications of Stanovich’s work for the priorities of education are profound.

Cognitive Science: The Conceptual Components of Reading and What Reading Does for the Mind 

Ed Kame’enui (Ex-Commissioner for Special Education Research, US Department of Education)

Ed Kame’enui discusses in-depth the key requirements for ensuring early success in reading for all students, drawing on extensive and detailed research to support a case for high-quality curriculum design and teacher practice.

Differentiated Curricula and Assessment in Reading Instruction

Louisa Moats (Reading scientist, Sopris West; Author: Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading)

Louisa Moats explains the detailed knowledge of language systems and reading development needed by teachers in order for them to deliver effective reading instruction.

Teaching Teachers to Teach Reading

G Reid Lyon (Past Chief, Child Development and Behaviour, National Institute of Child Health & Human Development at NIH)

G Reid Lyon outlines four key questions that most teachers will have when they begin their careers. The journey of answering these questions through research led him to an influential role in US education at the highest levels.

Converging Evidence – Reading Research: What it Takes to Read

Siegfried Engelmann (Professor of Instructional Research, University of Oregon; Creator of Direct Instruction)

For some, Zig Engelmann is the Darth Vader of the Instructivist Empire. For others, his lucid application of logic to curriculum design makes him a genius. There is an enormous body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of Direct Instruction, but it remains deeply unpopular with certain elements of the teaching profession. Engelmann’s contention that ‘if the learner hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught’ may have something to do with it!

Instructional Design 101: Learn from the Learners!

Research-based training