Thursday, December 7, 2017

Developing a Phonological Awareness Curriculum: Reflections on an Implementation Science Framework


Evidence-based practice refers to the integration of best research evidence with clinical practice and patient values. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that having research evidence available does not always lead to practice change, and we need to understand why. Implementation Science focuses on the process of adopting evidence-based practices and sustaining intervention fidelity in everyday settings. The focus of this paper was to outline the development and implementation of a Tier 2 curriculum focusing on phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge in public pre-school settings.

The authors describe the evolution of their work around four phases. During the exploration phase, researchers collaborated with classrooms teachers who would be implementing the intervention to create an intervention that was low cost, and user friendly. In the preparation stage, materials and instructions were designed to align with the evidence. After an initial implementation phase, however, the expected treatment effect was not observed and another 4-phase cycle was initiated. In the second exploration and preparation phases, lesson plans were created to allow greater flexibility and modelling related to the evidence-based strategies but that also fit the setting better. Subsequent small-scale and large-scale implementation phases revealed significant gains as expected. Afterwards, teachers were asked to complete a survey and take part in a focus group in order to contribute to plans for the final, sustainment phase.

Implementation science has been identified as one way to bridge the researcher-clinician gap. Especially in the field of communication sciences and disorders where clinician friendly, evidence-based practices are needed, implementation research could be encouraged for the development of sustainable interventions.


Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald. Meghan’s research examines the effectiveness of school-based clinician-researcher partnerships as a means to close the practice-research gap.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The impact of recent and long-term experience on access to word meanings: Evidence from large-scale internet-based experiments

Many English words have more than one meaning. We often need to quickly decide which meaning is correct in the language that we hear or read. The series of studies reported in this paper examined whether our ability to quickly and accurately retrieve a word is shaped by experience. The studies used the ‘word-meaning priming’ paradigm to assess meaning preference. In this task, participants would hear prime sentences that included a word with many possible meanings (e.g., FAN – a cooling instrument or someone that cheers on a favourite past time) however, the intended meaning of the word was always made clear in the sentence (e.g., The star was cheered loudly by the FANS). After this, the participant completed a word association task where they saw a word and were asked to give a word with a related meaning. For words that were primed like ‘FAN’, the participants would be more likely to say a word related to the meaning from the prime sentence if that meaning was made more accessible by the priming.
Experiments 1 and 2 examined short-term priming effects. In experiment 1, after hearing the prime paragraphs read during a radio program, participants completed the word association task online. Results revealed an effect of time and age. Priming was stronger when the experiment was completed within the first day (and rapidly delayed within the first hour) and younger participants were more readily primed. The purpose of Experiment 2 was to systematically compare the time course of priming (i.e., 1 min, 20 min, and 40 min) in a controlled setting. Results replicated Experiment 1 in that priming was strongest at the 1 minute delay and reduced by the 20th and 40th minute (which didn’t differ). Together, these results confirm that relatively recent experience can influence meaning selection.
Long-term priming effects were explored in Experiment 3 and 4. The focus was on how rowers—due to their rowing experience—might easily access rowing-specific meanings for relatively common words (e.g., “square” meaning the position of the oar). Experiment 3 found stronger effects for rowers who had rowed for a long time and by those who started at a young age. Experiment 4 found that rowing-related meaning was influenced by the most recent rowing experience; increase in rowing responses was particularly driven by participants who had rowed on the same day.
These experiments show that your recent experience influence word learning. The findings could suggest that activating background knowledge of a specific meaning prior to task completion could facilitate access to the needed meaning during the task. Furthermore, the rapid decay of priming effects might mean that repeated exposure within a short time window is necessary to maintain the accessibility of word meaning.


Blogger: Theresa Pham is a student in the combined MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald. Theresa’s work examines the learning of phonological (speech sound) and semantic (meaning) aspects of words.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Implicit learning and statistical learning: One phenomenon, two approaches

Perruchet, P. & Pacton, S. (2006) Implicit learning and statistical learning: One phenomenon, two approaches. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(5).

People have a distinct ability to detect patterns and this ability has been explained using two theories: implicit learning and statistical learning. Implicit learning theory suggests that after sufficient exposure to a pattern one automatically deduces a rule regarding the formation of that pattern which can then be accessed consciously. In contrast, statistical learning suggests no explicit rule learning is necessary and rather, that our brains perform statistical computations to predict the likelihood that a certain stimulus will occur given the occurrence of another stimulus. These theories have huge implications in the world of language acquisition, where words and grammatical structures must be intuited from continuous sequences of syllables.

In the present paper, Perruchet and Pacton (2006) make it clear that while the origins of implicit and statistical learning theories are vastly different, they have converged to a single goal: to explain general learning through domain-general processing. Further, Perruchet and Pacton (2006) suggest two explanations which attempt to integrate the two theories.

The first explanation suggests all levels of learning are done with chunks based on the frequency with which they occur. This model claims that statistical patterns, which statistical learning theory predicts are used to acquire information about a pattern, are only a byproduct of the frequency with which different chunks occur. The plausibility of this theory is supported by competitive chunking models like PARSER (Perruchet & Vinter, 1998, as cited in Perruchet and Pacton) which posits that chunks which maintain cognitive representation are those which are most frequent.

The second theory suggests that statistical computations are carried out to form the chunks and then these chunks are used in a competitive model. As Perruchet and Pacton explain, this explanation has the benefit of explaining why the stimulus preceding and following a string can impact the way it is remembered, a fact not well explained by competitive chunking models of learning like PARSER. The paper concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the superiority of either the pure chunking or the statistical chunking model of learning. It is suggested the distinction between statistical and implicit learning is important in determining the involvement of consciousness in learning, as implicit learning theory suggests chunks are manipulated consciously whereas statistical learning theory would indicate that chunk knowledge would be held in the unconscious.

Blogger; Braxton Murphy is an undergraduate research student working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald

Monday, May 8, 2017

Design-Based Research: Putting a Stake in the Ground


Learning sciences refers to the study of learning and instructional methodologies. One approach to this work is design-based research, the goal of which is to create new theories, and practices impacting learning and teaching in a real-life setting. In this approach, researchers systematically asses the impact of changes to the learning context. Barab & Squire (2004) outline seven differences between design-based research and traditional methodology. Some of these distinctions include: the location of research, complexity of variables, focus of research, and role of participants. These differences emphasize that design-research often occurs in a real-life setting, that measurement is challenging due to the continuously changing context, and that some researchers may be both designing and participating in the study.  A large distinction between traditional research and design-research is that design-research requires change at a local level and this change is used as evidence to support the theory behind the design.

The authors consider how to measure overall change in this approach and they pose the question - what counts as credible research? In a design-based research approach, the terms trustworthiness, credibility, and usefulness capture the study’s reliability, validity, and generalizability/external validity. Some critics of design-based research believe problems arise when the effectiveness of design-based research is evaluated. This is because it is the researcher who is determining the effectiveness that is also the designer and participated in the interactions assessed. However, other researchers argue that design-research can be adaptable to uniquely fit a local dynamic, and thereby the goal is to develop flexible theories applicable to the current and new contexts.  

Creating design-research that is usable and sustainable when implemented in real-world contexts may be an important facilitator of researcher-practitioner collaboration. Design-researchers work together to provide credible, trustworthy, and useful evaluation of instructional methods in a real-world environment.


Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP MSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Lisa Archibald.