There is profound and long-standing debate over the role of explicit instruction in reading acquisition. In this research, we investigated the impact of teaching regularities in the writing system explicitly rather than relying on learners to discover these regularities through text experience alone. Over 10 days, 48 adults learned to read novel words printed in two artificial writing systems. One group learned spelling-to-sound and spelling-to-meaning regularities solely through experience with the novel words, whereas the other group received a brief session of explicit instruction on these regularities before training commenced. Results showed that virtually all participants who received instruction performed at ceiling on tests that probed generalization of underlying regularities. In contrast, despite up to 18 hr of training on the novel words, less than 25% of discovery learners performed on par with those who received instruction. These findings illustrate the dramatic impact of teaching method on outcomes during reading acquisition.
Rastle, K., Lally, C., Davis, M. H., & Taylor, J. S. H. (2021). The Dramatic Impact of Explicit Instruction on Learning to Read in a New Writing System. Psychological Science, 32(4), 471–484. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620968790