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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)



First Advisor

Sandra Anselmo

First Committee Member

Kenneth L. Beauchamp

Second Committee Member

Elmer Clawson

Third Committee Member

Heath Lowry

Fourth Committee Member

Larry Lawson


PROBLEM: David Elkind and others have claimed that due to the complex, multiple relationships between sound and symbol in English, the process of learning to read requires logical abilities beyond simple discrimination and association. It has further been asserted that these abilities are not available to most children prior to the stage of reasoning which Piaget calls concrete operational. The purpose of this study was to examine primary grade children to determine whether a relationship existed between attainment of the concrete operational stage of reasoning and two aspects of reading performance: decoding and reading comprehension.

PROCEDURE: An elementary school located in Stockton, California served as the source of data collection. A random sample of 120 primary grade children was drawn from the school in 1976, and subjects were studied over a two year period of time. A selection of five, individually-administered Piagetian assessments was used to determine each child's stage of reasoning. Assessments tapped logical abilities in classification, seriation, and conservation. Based on their performance on the tasks, subjects were designated as either preoperational or concrete operational in their reasoning. Reading performance was measured using subtests of the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT). Analysis of variance CANOVA) and Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) were used to detect differences between preoperational and concrete operational groups in both decoding and reading comprehension.

Two years later, in 1978, the reasoning assessments and the reading measures were administered again to those subjects who still remained at the school (n = 66). Pearson Product Moment Correlation (Pearson r) was used to determine the relationship between gains in cognitive development over the two years and gains in: 1) decoding, and 2) reading comprehension. ANCOVA was used to detect differences on the MAT between subjects who had moved to the concrete operational stage of reasoning over the two year period and those who had remained at the preoperational stage over the same ~~ of time.

FINDINGS: The findings of this study did not provide definitive results regarding the questions under investigation. Hypotheses which predicted that concrete operational children would outperform preoperational children in decoding and reading comprehension were supported by data on the MAT. However, when the effects of decoding were accounted for, differences between the two groups in reading comprehension disappeared.

None of the hypotheses regarding the relationship between gains in cognitive development and gains in reading over two years were supported by data from the study. However, these particular findings should be viewed with reserve since they likely reflect random fluctuations associated with: 1) instrumentation, and 2) decreased sample sizes. Therefore, although this study was unable to provide more conclusive information regarding the relationship between attainment of concrete operational thought and reading competence, it should not be concluded that no such relationship exists.

RECOMMENDATIONS: The following recommendations for further research were made: 1) Replicate the present study with modifications which include choosing a reading test which has a decoding measure for all grade levels, using Piagetian measures which span a range of development from preoperational through formal operational, and increasing initial sample size to compensate for inevitable attrition over time; 2) Conduct more experimental studies which examine the effects of cognitive training on the reading performance of trained vs. untrained subjects; and 3) Continue to conduct studies whose goal is the creation of a precise and reliable testing instrument for the measurement of the Piagetian competencies.



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