Speed reading courses and their effect on reading authentic texts: A preliminary investigation
This study is just a preliminary investigation into speed reading and the effect it has on those who are attempting to gain reading fluency in a foreign language. The article states that reading rate is one of the four dimensions of reading fluency. The others are automaticity, accuracy, and prosodic structuring. The article also considers fluency in reading to be vital to the enjoyment of reading and for long term success in mastering a foreign language.
There are three principle approaches to increasing reading speed according to the author, these are easy extensive reading, repeated reading, and speed reading. Extensive reading is accomplished by assigning a large amount of material that is not challenging in content to the reader. A set duration of time or number of pages read can be assigned to ensure that proper volume is achieved. Repeated reading involves reading the same passage over and over again either silently or aloud. Speed reading training in the authors words, “usually consist of a set number of texts of a fixed length, written within a restricted lexicon, followed by several multi-choice questions. The presence of the questions encourages learners to read the texts for understanding”
The question of whether or not reading gains made during a speed reading course are maintained when switching to material not designed specifically for speed reading is central to the remainder of the article. The author refers to these normal texts as “authentic texts”. The study conducted to test this involved four classes of a university preparation course at a New Zealand university. The author is the first to point out that methodological rigor was not the focus, rather it was on getting the ball rolling on the topic.
The results of this study show that overall taking a speed reading class overall improved the student’s ability to read authentic texts fluently in a foreign language. The author draws these conclusions in conjunction with earlier texts:
1. Students who take a speed reading course will likely increase their reading rate.
2. Participants in a speed reading course tend to show greater gains from the beginning of a language course to the end than those that don’t.
3. Students that take a speed reading course are likely to get quicker at reading authentic articles by both the end of the speed reading course and ultimately the language course as a whole.
The author of this study is his own biggest critic. He points out that, ”the small size of the sample, the lack of comparability between the two groups, and the use of only one measure of reading speed transfer,” are all limitations to the study. I agree with him that this is a topic deserving of further study. It would seem that recommending speed reading to all students of a foreign language is premature since most of the speed reading students who got worse were from the same class. This is just points to the greater rigor required by a more professional attempt at such a study.
Macalister, J. (2010). Speed Reading Courses and Their Effect on Reading Authentic Texts: A Preliminary Investigation. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(1), 104–116.