VALIDATING COGNITIVE SKILL SEQUENCES IN THE BEGINNING READING DOMAIN USING LATENT TRAIT MODELS
AdvisorBergan, John R.
Committee ChairBergan, John R.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe present study was a systematic investigation of hierarchical skill sequences in the beginning reading domain. The hierarchies included skills from the traditional approach to reading which reflect bottom-up processing and skills from the conceptual area of print awareness which reflect top-down processing. Researchers supporting the bottom-up approach view reading as a process in which the child extracts information from the text to gain knowledge of the print. The bottom-up processes examined were in the areas of letter recognition and letter naming, and identification of letter sounds and phonemes. The top-down processing approach views reading as a task in which the child brings his/her past experiences and knowledge about the world to gain information about print. The top-down processes examined were in the areas of print identification, inferring a word in context, and print directionality rules. Hierarchical skill sequences were developed within each of the specific areas reflecting the top-down and bottom-up processing theories. Items were developed to reflect the skill sequences based on the cognitive processes that are necessary for correct performance. This involved varying the task demands imposing various requirements of cognitive processing. The data were from 13,189 Head Start children ranging from 3 to 6 years of age. Latent trait models were constructed to reflect the viii ix hypothesized skill sequences by allowing the aj (discrimination) and bj (difficulty) parameters to be free to vary or by constraining them to be equal to other parameters. To arrive at a preferred model, each latent trait model that represented a hypothesized skill sequence was statistically compared against alternative latent trait models. The results from the present investigation supported the hierarchical skill sequences reflecting skills within the traditional area of reading. However, some of the skill sequences from the conceptual area of print awareness were not clearly supported. While the results provide a deeper understanding of beginning reading skill sequences reflecting top-down and bottom-up processing theories, future research is needed to delineate the specific skills which promote later reading ability once the child is in formal reading instruction.