The Effects of a Speed Reading Course and Speed Transfer to Other Types of Texts
By: Tran Thi Ngoc Yen
Professors at colleges and universities are teaching speed-reading courses to students to help improve their reading speed. Yen conducted this research to determine the effects speed-reading courses have on reading rate improvements of students in, and outside, of the classroom. According to Yen, there are three fundamental indicators of speed-reading: automaticity, accuracy, and reading speed for silent reading or prosody for oral reading. Researchers suggest students need to maintain a reading comprehension rate of at least 75 percent to have speed-reading be efficient. Normally in a speed-reading course, students maintain a graph of their speed in words per minute (wpm) as well as their reading comprehension score to track progress.
Yen used first year students at a Vietnamese university as participants. The 116 participants were placed “into four groups: two experimental groups, hereafter called group A (31 students) and group B (30 students); and two control groups, hereafter called group C (26 students) and group D (29 students).” Participants in groups A, B, and C were English majors, while the participants in group D were not. Groups A and B took the speed-reading course with additional English classes. The control groups ,C and D, did not follow the speed-reading course, but group C followed the English program at the university and group D attended an English course at a language center.
Participants in groups A and B were required to reach a desired vocabulary level of 1,000 to attend the speed-reading course. In addition, all participants had to read pre and post-test texts from a 1,000 reading level and answer ten reading comprehension questions. Participants read the texts and answered the questions on a computer program. According to the study, the “texts differed from those in the course by being longer, being read on a computer screen rather than in hard copy, and involving different topics from those in the course.” The researchers told the participants to read the texts normally and not as quickly as possible. Researchers distributed 20 texts at 550 words to ensure that few participants were reading the same texts. To score the participants and make the results more reliable, researchers used four scoring methods: the 20th minus 1st scoring method, the average scoring method, the extreme scoring method, and the three extremes scoring method. In addition, “participants’ comprehension accuracy was measured by counting the number of correct answers they made on each of the 20 texts in the speed reading course.”
Participants used progress charts to track their development. There were four main types of charts that participants plotted: gradual increase, erratic increase, plateau increase, and mixed increase. As seen in table 4, groups A and B had an 82 percent gradual increase in their speed change.
With respect to the speed increase transfer from the speed-reading course to other types of texts, the control groups increased an average of 15 wpm and the treatment groups averaged an increase of 48 wpm. In addition, the treatment groups outperformed the control groups on comprehension; most of the treatment groups increased their comprehension accuracy while most of the participants’ in the control groups did not. This research concluded that speed-reading courses helped participants maintain or increase their comprehension while also increasing their reading speed. In addition, “there may be a link between comprehension and reading speed improvement in that participants who greatly increased their speed tended to improve their comprehension accuracy while it was less likely that participants who marginally increased their speeds would improve their comprehension accuracy.” Results also concluded that speed-reading courses were beneficial to the participants because it helped them increase their speed on other types of texts by at least 30 wpm.
Although the author did a very thorough job throughout the study, I would have liked to see if there were any differences in other majors besides English in speed-reading, especially since English was not their first language. In addition, the way the author scored the speed-reading was very subjective depending on which one of the four different methods were used. As the results show, taking a speed-reading course could be beneficial. Being able to read and produce more work in the same amount of time would allow analysts to increase their work output.
Yen, T. T. N. (2012). The Effects of a Speed Reading Course and Speed Transfer to Other Types of Texts. RELC Journal, 43(1), 23–37. doi:10.1177/0033688212439996