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Krashen (Out of his element)

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There I was minding my own business enjoying the latest issue of Language magazine over my lunch when I took notice of Stephen Krashen’s regurgitating the KS Goodman’s antiquated construct of reading as a “psycholinguistic guessing game.” For those of you who aren’t into reading and literacy research, the idea of reading being a psycholinguistic guessing game is best explained as making inferences and checking those guesses as we read. In his own words, “Reading is a selective process. It involves partial use of available minimal language cues selected from perceptual input on the basis of the reader’s expectation. As this partial information is processed, tentative decisions are made to be confirmed, rejected, or refined as reading progresses” (Goodman, 1967).

The idea that reading is a psycholinguistic guessing game as KS Goodman stated in 1967 has been proven wrong by years of actual data. Literacy, and specifically reading researchers have spent the last couple of decades accumulating evidence for a few theories of reading, how we read, and how we learn to read. All of the evidence points away from Goodman’s Psycholinguistic Guessing Game Model. William Grabe (2009) goes into great details about not only the theories that have amassed evidence, but he dedicates a significant section of text on how Goodman’s theory has been wrong, citing no fewer than 18 studies by myriad researchers when presenting his case. On the other hand, Krashen cites a total of 9 articles, 5 of which are authored by himself.

Cognitive science also has something to say when it comes to the ideas presented in Krashen’s article. In the past 10 years, researchers come forward with plenty of evidence to show that phonemic awareness and phonics skills are important components when learning the skill of reading. These studies include data from MRI scans and eye tracking software for a much firmer picture of how humans read.

Yet, even after being presented with overwhelming evidence, here we are in 2021 and Stephen Krashen is still publishing articles supporting this outdated, and frankly outlandish idea. It’s especially ironic to me that this article immediately proceeds an article that tells the readers that phonics instruction should be used in schools to help bridge the reading gap.

  • Reading in a Second Language Moving from Theory to Practice Cambridge University Press. 2009

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