Morphological Instruction in the Elementary Classroom
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In recent years the role of morphology has gained a great deal of attention regarding research on vocabulary and literacy learning. An attendant literature investigating morphology as a potentially rich context for instructional innovation has grown as well. Chapter 1 of this dissertation presents a critical review of that research. Its focus is on ways that this growing interest in morphology builds on lessons from previous decades of research on the relative effectiveness of instruction which targeted phonological features of words (sub-lexical features) compared to those which targeted learning to read words from context. A detailed description of the linguistic account of how English orthography operates to represent morphology and phonology is also presented. Two studies investigating the role of morphology and morphology instruction in relation to literacy learning and theories of reading are reported. The first study is an intervention using experimental and control classes (Grade 4 and 5) to investigate the effect of instruction about morphology on vocabulary learning. Hierarchical regression analyses controlling for initial vocabulary showed that the experimental group gained in measures of vocabulary compared to a control group and that the morphological treatment group made better use of existing vocabulary knowledge in learning new vocabulary. The second study is a quantitative synthesis of instructional studies assessing the effects of morphological instruction on sub-lexical, lexical and supra-lexical outcomes. Positive effects were found for morphological treatments compared to the 10 studies that used typical classroom instruction controls and effects equal to alternative treatments that mostly used well-established research-based instruction. Less able students and younger students generally exhibited greater gains than undifferentiated and older students. The results of these studies are discussed within the context of previous instructional research and established theories of reading and literacy instruction. It is suggested that the findings from these studies support the view that instruction should encourage learners to explicitly attend to the ordered lexical/sub-lexical morphological and phonological features of how oral and written words work as a means to foster generative word learning and greater literacy.