The three articles in this issue are quite disparate, dealing with reading recovery, problems faced by international students and validity and reliability in educational assessment. However, a factor uniting all three articles is their reporting of empirical evidence to support the theoretical propositions presented as well as their use of analysis and argument to develop and defend those propositions. All three offer important new insights on old problems and add significantly to our understanding of those problems. These are important articles and it is a matter for some celebration that they are being published in this journal.
The article by Fletcher-Flynn, White and Nicholson examines the adequacy of the Reading Recovery program, an intervention program which focuses on low achieving readers at the end of their first year of schooling and which enjoys considerable international acclaim. One possible weakness of the program which the authors address is its lack of attention to metalinguistic skills, especially phonemic awareness and phonological recoding, which other studies have indicated differentiate between good and poor readers. Previous studies of the effects of the Reading Recovery have been ambiguous on this matter and this study set out to explore it further.
The study focussed on 13 six-year-olds receiving a form of Reading Recovery emphasising 'whole language' learning. Pre-tests and post-tests on a range of intelligence, language, reading and phonological measures were used. The finding that the children had made substantial gains on the language and reading measures after about 50 lessons was consistent with other research on Reading Recovery. However, the pattern of results was complex, with both the reason for moderate progress among some children and the reason for lack of progress among the others being uncertain.
The findings are discussed in relation to other studies of the effects of Reading Recovery. This discussion provides an excellent illustration of the importance of approaching the interpretation of empirical data with the intention of exploring different interpretations for the observed outcomes. Necessarily, this means that the discussion is complex and leaves many issues unresolved. These can be the starting point for further inquiry. Here, there is some support for targeting phonological skills among poor readers, but the authors rightly suggest the need for further studies.
Purdie, O'Donoghue and da Silva Rosa develop a model for the coping behaviours of international students. Their study is timely because of the increase in international students in Australian universities. They point to the need for research on international students to move beyond simple documentation of problems faced and to be sensitive to ethnic and national background. Accordingly, they anchor the study in existing theories of goal processes and coping behaviour and focus on an interpretation of the experiences of seven Indonesian students.
Their data collection involved three methods: semi-structured interviews; diary reflections; and an 'admonition test' in the form of a letter of advice to a sibling. These data are reported qualitatively with illustrative comments. More importantly, the authors then discuss a model of the goal process for international students arising out of the analysis of their data and incorporating goals, coping mechanisms, barriers and unplanned outcomes and the relationships between them. An important feature of this model is the dynamic nature of these relationships, allowing for new or modified goals to emerge from experience in dealing with barriers and developing coping mechanisms.
In this study, the students had limited goals over a short timeframe. However, longer programs of study may involve 'goal overload'. In these circumstances, they suggest, it may be better to help students develop their goal setting, coping behaviours and self-regulatory mechanisms rather than solve their problems directly through 'overhelping'. This suggestion is illustrated by the data and supported by relevant literature on self-regulation, neatly rounding off the implications of the model.
Matters, Pitman and O'Brien explore new understandings of validity and reliability in the context of a certification system which uses both internal (school-based) assessment of subject-based achievement and external (standardised) testing of general cognitive skills. The context provides the incentive to explore new approaches to validity and reliability and also provides the data for illustration and argument. Classical psychometric arguments are contrasted with newer hermeneutic interpretations. While much of the argument is technical, it is worth studying in detail. The issues strike to the heart of what we construct as the goals of education and the means by which we identify how well we are reaching them. What may appear to be technical and esoteric here is actually fundamental and practical.
This is an important article which adds to the gradually increasing recognition of an 'assessment' culture which is different from the old 'measurement' culture and accords more value to the role of judgement in interpreting evidence of educational achievement. The placement of validity ahead of reliability in this article is significant. Classical theory suggests that there can be no validity without reliability. This has led, historically, to an overemphasis on precision and an underemphasis on meaning. In the newer thinking, validity may be all, especially if it is defined as appropriate interpretation of the evidence.
|Please cite as: Maxwell, G. (1998). Editorial. Queensland Journal of Educational Research, 14(2), 1-3. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qjer14/editorial14-2.html|