Research into Fantastic Phonics
In 2008-2010, the American Government established a research project to determine the most appropriate reading program for developing countries.
For several years if has been known that the threshold for successful reading is 50-60 correct words per minute - any slower, and comprehension is impossible, because a reader cannot remember the first section of the text. The challenge with literacy in emerging communities is to achieve this minimum speed.
The United States Agency for International Development (through Research Triangle Institute) implemented a full scale research program across 600 schools in Liberia, Africa. The research continued for 18 months, and it was such a significant success, that Fantastic Phonics was adopted as the national reading curriculum.
You can download the research here
The researched was carefully constructed and included three groups of 200 schools (600 schools total).
- no treatment schools, which continued the traditional schooling methodology
- light treatment schools, which involved a partial implementation
- full treatment schools, which had the complete Fantastic Phonics program.
After 18 months, the results were assessed by Research Triangle Institute, and established, global organisation with deep knowledge of social research. The research was assessed according to eight different criteria, all of which were crucial to literacy.
Criteria: "Unfamiliar word fluency"
The most crucial of the eight criteria was "unfamiliar word fluency". This measure how successfully a student has been able to "decode" words that have not previously been seen.
The research showed that the Full Treatment group improved their performance by 485% (from 2.5 words per minute to 17 words a minute).
The ability to "decode" text is not useful unless the reader can achieve an increase in comprehension (which is the key purpose of reading).
The research showed that the full treatment group more than doubled their comprehension, while the other two groups experienced minimal effect.
Criteria: "Phonemic Awareness"
Prior research has shown that the most influential aspect of literacy training is "phonemic awareness", which is the skill of properly matching letters and the sounds they make.
The full treatment schools increased their awareness by 67%
Video of a Fantastic Phonics Literacy Lesson ("The Lad").
It is worthwhile to view the video of a standard "Fantastic Phonics" (full treatment) class. The teachers followed an explicit "teaching plan", developed by Fantastic Phonics, which was a daily curriculum of guided reading.