A comparison of primer-level pupils' competence in phonetic decoding when automated instruction: is substituted for teacher presentation in a diagnostic phonetically oriented basal reading program



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The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of automated instruction with teacher instruction in increasing first-grade pupils1 skill in phonetic decoding. Both approaches used the phonetic decoding materials in the primer-level text Green Feet, published by the Economy Company. The sample consisted of eighty-one pupils from the three highest of five ability groupings in the Marlin Elementary School in Marlin, Texas. Each group was divided into control and experimental subjects based on race, sex, and the letter rating of the Metropolitan Readiness Tests. The experimental program consisted of 35mm slides and audio cassette tape presentations of the phonetic decoding skills in the thirty-three plans of Green Feet. A Singer Caramate was used to present the synchronized slide-tape presentations to the experimental group. The control group was taught by the teacher. The experiment lasted seven weeks. The Metropolitan Achievement Tests, Primary I, Forms F and G, and the Competency Skills Test for Green Feet were the measurement instruments used in the study. Based on the findings of the study the following hypotheses were not rejected: (1) there would be no significant differences between the mean gain of the phonetic decoding skill attained by primer-level teacher-instructed pupils and that of primer-level pupils instructed by an automated instructional program; (2) there would be no significant differences in achievement between the control and experimental groups for each of the ability groupings represented in the instructional organization; and (3) there would be no significant differences in the competency levels between the control and experimental groups as measured by four subtests on the diagnostic test accompanying the basal reading program. The two remaining hypotheses — (1) there would be no significant differences in achievement gains within the control and experimental groups related to ability grouping in the instructional organization, and (2) there would be significant relationships for the control and experimental groups between the measures of achievement and the Metropolitan Readiness Tests letter ratings and the selected demographic variables: ability grouping, free lunch, kindergarten, race, and sex — were not decisively rejected. Based on the study's findings the following conclusions were made: 1. Primer-level pupils can learn phonetic decoding skills through automated instruction as well as pupils who receive teacher instruction when each approach follows the same sequence and utilizes the same instructional aids. 2. The effectiveness of automated instruction as compared to teacher instruction of phonetic decoding skills is not affected by ability grouping at the first-grade primer reading level. 3. Achievement gains may be attributed to innate pupil ability rather than the result of either automated instruction or teacher instruction. 4. The phonetic decoding skill competency levels of pupils tend to be similar whether automated instruction or teacher instruction is used to present the skills. 5. Potential biases such as race and socioeconomic status tend to be reduced by the use of automated instruction. The following recommendations were based on the findings of this study: 1. This study needs to be expanded on a longitudinal basis, beginning with the primer-level reader and continuing through the second grade, to determine the long range effects of automated instruction on pupils mastery of the phonetic decoding skills. 2. A study should be conducted using various sized groups in both homogeneous and heterogeneous settings to determine the most advantageous grouping arrangement for automated instruction. 3. This study should be replicated using different populations. 4. Studies concerning the impact that variables such as race and socioeconomic status have on pupil performance under automated instruction and teacher instruction need to be conducted.