Scientific Based Reading Research (SBRR): Definition & Purpose

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Scientifically based reading research (SBRR) safeguards against programs that are low quality and could potentially slow student learning. Understanding SBRR is the best way to identify scientifically based reading programs.

Scientific Based Reading Research

As a teacher, you need to work out what reading programs to use to help your students develop their reading skills. How do you know what is scientifically based and what is not?

Scientific based reading research (SBRR) uses the scientific method and rigorous data analysis to establish the value of reading programs for students. Results of scientifically based studies should replicate and be generalized, be peer reviewed, and reveal convergent findings.

The purpose of requiring reading programs and interventions to be scientifically based is to help teachers identify quality programs and strategies. Doing so eliminates untested ones that might interfere with academic progress and even slow learning.

Rigorous Methods and Analysis

So what are the rigorous methods and analysis used to determine a SBRR? Experiments and correlation studies.

Experimental methods use several measurements or observations. The researcher uses a treatment, in this case the reading program or strategy, and a control. Using controls means you give the treatment to some, while not to others. Simply done, this could mean using a reading program in some schools and not in others. If you experiment, you are researching the effect of an added variable.

A correlation study, which suggests relationships between two variables, can be used if an experimental method is not appropriate. Correlation studies identify variables and look for relationships without manipulation. You can never say for sure that one variable has a relationship to another, but results can suggest connections.

For example, results may suggest that when a school used a certain reading program, test scores were raised, as opposed to the year before when the program was not in use. If you conduct a correlation study, you don't mess with variables but instead use data that is available to make such associations.

The Scientific Method

Use of the scientific method is required for a study to be deemed scientifically based. SBRR must start with a hypothesis - a proposed explanation a researcher makes to start an investigation.

Say one researcher's hypothesis posits that a particular reading program increases fluency, for example. The experimental study would test the hypothesis by applying the program and using controls. The correlation study would use fluency assessment data in schools where the program was used to make the correlation. The outcome of the study will either support or disprove the hypothesis.

Requirements of Results

Using the scientific method is not the only layer required to deem research as scientifically based. Findings must also meet these requirements:

  • Results must be easily replicated, meaning that multiple repetitions of the same study with a different set of students should reveal similar information.
  • Information revealed in the study should generalize. Generalizable findings are valid for a large population of students versus just for a classroom, or particular demographic.
  • The study should be peer reviewed, which means a rigorous scientific review and approval by experts in the same field of study.
  • Results should converge or have common findings that agree with several other similar studies.

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