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Focus on Interdisciplinary Research: Reading

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kate Saunders

Kathryn Saunders, PhD

A lot of people like to read and if Kate Saunders, Senior Scientist, has her way, more children and adults will benefit on their way to reading proficiency with the help of a non-speech dynamic assessment of phonemic awareness via the Alphabetic Principle.

Hugh Catts, a well regarded reading researcher, formerly the chair of the Speech-Language Department at KU, and an advisor on Kate’s recently completed RO1 that focused on the development of the alphabetic principle, made a suggestion. Kate says, ”He was familiar with the work I was doing on instructional programming, and suggested that it easily could be parlayed into a dynamic assessment of the skill it was trying to teach.”

Using an interdisciplinary approach, Kate, with her interest in reading and instructional programming, teamed with Drs. Mike Barker and Mindy Bridges. Mike is a developmental psychologist interested in individuals who use augmentative communication and recently completed his traineeship through the Postdoctoral Training in Translational Research on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Mindy Bridges, speech/language Ph.D and Assistant Research Scientist, who has interest as well as published articles in the area of dynamic assessment.

The team began work to fill an unmet need for “assessments of phonological awareness that do not require speech responses.” (Barker, Bridges, Saunders 2014). Kate says, “We could do a better job at finding out what they [students] know if we give them support and feedback during the assessment. So we can look not just at what they know at that moment without getting any feedback. We can incorporate feedback into the assessment. So instead of having a binary decision, the student has the skill or doesn’t have the skill, we have the possibility of identifying students who can demonstrate the skill with a little prompting—which certainly has implications for the kind of instruction the student will need.”

In their 2014 article, Validity of a Non-Speech Dynamic Assessment of Phonemic Awareness via the Alphabetic Principle, these colleagues introduce their ideas for a dynamic assessment that does not require speech.

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