Over the past several years, much attention has been paid to the role of the speech-language pathologist (SLP) in planning and implementing meaningful programs to help children, adolescents and young adults with reading and writing (American Speech Language Hearing Association, 2001; Catts, 1991; Ehren & Ehren, 2001; Nelson, Van Meters, Chamberlain, & Bahr, 2001; Roth & Baden, 2001; Scott & Brown, 2001; Staskowski & Craighead, 2001).
While there are many resources available for professionals wishing to address literacy needs of individuals across service delivery settings, there is an ongoing need for clarification of specific interactive procedures that serve to support individuals with literacy-learning difficulties.
The primary purposes of this article are:
- Briefly discuss theoretical frameworks that underlie interactive procedures and activities for individuals experiencing reading and writing difficulties
- Discuss the collaboration between SLP's, reading specialists and other special education teachers (and their support staff) in designing and implementing literacy-learning activities for children, adults and adolescents.
- Present a case illustration of a collaborative approach used with a child experiencing significant literacy-learning difficulties.
Theories Underlying Interactive Competence in Literacy Instruction:
In her book Apprenticeship in Thinking: Cognitive Development in Social Context, Rogoff (1990) described a range of theoretical frameworks related to cognitive development. She suggested that literacy acquisition is a process connected to a variety of theoretical orientations. While she discussed a number of major learning theories including constructivism (Piaget, 1926, 1952, 1972), social constructivism (Bruner, 1958, 1983; Luria, 1976; Vygotsky, 1962, 1978) information processing (Mayer, 1996; Shuell, 1986) and social learning theory (Bandura, 1986), Rogoff emphasized the importance of social constructivism as represented in the work of Vygotsky, Bruner, and Luria. Her central theme was that learning occurs through interaction between a more experienced and competent individual (i.e., a master craftsperson) and a less competent individual (i.e., an apprentice). Simply stated, interaction is the conduit through which knowledge is constructed, to help the learner internalize specific language or literacy-related concepts through the process of externalizing thought processes.
Wilhelm, Baker, and Dube (2001) asserted that teachers, regardless of their awareness of theory, apply teaching strategies that can be traced to any number of learning theories. This approach has strong appeal and allows connections to be made between abstract theoretical constructs and real people.
In Piagetian models of learning, the learner is provided opportunities to integrate new knowledge or concepts into his/her existing knowledge base through assimilation or by creating new constructs or knowledge concepts to add to existing knowledge structures (i.e., through accommodation). For example, a teacher might bring a student to a point in an activity in which the student must then independently bridge the gap between existing knowledge and new knowledge, without additional interaction.
Information processing (Mayer, 1996; Shuell, 1986) is another theoretical framework within literacy acquisition. Central to this framework is that children, adolescents or adults learn through activation and use of a complex mass of internal cognitive processes. Crowder & Wagner (1992), and others (e.g., Adams, 1996; Stanovich, 2000) offered viewpoints related to internal processes in learning to read and write and made connections between internal processes and practical approaches to literacy instruction.
Cognitive processes, as described by Mayer (1996), Pressley (1995; 2001) and Schuell (1986) included; memory-related processes (e.g., endcoding, decoding, storage, retrieval, etc.), language-organizational processes (e.g., lexical organization, word-concept associations, word-sound associations, word-world associations, etc.) and executive system functioning (e.g., attention, problem solving, planning, goal setting, self-evaluation, self-monitoring, self-regulation, etc.). This list provides a glimpse into the levels of abstraction or domains within which researchers or educators might operate within an information processing framework.
Anyone wishing to understand the nature and acquisition of literacy across the lifespan must consider, at least on some level, cognition and its many processes. From a socio-cultural perspective, some researchers (e.g., Alvermann, Moon, & Hagood, 1999; Bell, 1997; Dyson, 2003) might disagree with the need to engage in examination of the cognitive processes associated with learning to read and write. Rather, they might suggest; discourse structures, social indexes, or other data that would yield greater understanding of the contexts in which literacy-learning takes place.