Effects of Four Electronic Text Presentation Formats on Reading

Purpose of Study:

The goal of this experiment was to determine whether the use of a particular text presentation format during reading instruction might be more effective in advancing reading development.

Study Design:

Fifth-grade students attending one of two midwestern schools were evaluated in both the fall and spring of the school year using three measures: (a) reading comprehension as measured using the Group Reading Assessment Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE); (b) comprehension-based silent reading efficiency (reading rate, fixations, and regressions) as measured by an eye-movement recording system (Visagraph); and (c) oral reading rate as measured using the Dynamic Indicator of Beginning Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).

Students matched on their GRADE scores were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups that used different text presentation formats: (a) a Static Display (pages of text with eight lines on each page), (b) a Passage Build-Up format (lines of text added to the page, one at a time), (c) a Line-by-Line Display (single lines of text displayed one at a time), or (d) a Guided Window format (text revealed and concealed by a window moving from left to right). For the three dynamic formats, the text presentation rate was calibrated to the student’s reading rate.

All students then completed about 40 fifteen-minute reading practice lessons (~10 hours) in the Reading Plus program using appropriately leveled text passages and their assigned text presentation format.

Key Results:

Significant improvements in reading comprehension and efficiency were measured in all treatment groups as a result of reading practice, but there were significant differences between groups using different text presentation formats. Consistently, students using the Guided Window text presentation format achieved the largest improvements on all learning outcome measures. The Line-by-Line Display group achieved the smallest comprehension gains, and the Static Display group achieved the smallest reading efficiency gains.

These results suggest that using the Guided Window format during reading practice can enhance the development of reading proficiency to a greater extent than practice using several other text presentation formats, including the traditional static text format. Critically, the resulting enhancements were measurable using three different nationally normed measures of reading proficiency. It seems reasonable to speculate that this outcome is a consequence of the structure and guidance provided by the Guided Window, which provides a focus for visual attention that can help students to maintain their place as they navigate their eyes across lines of text, and encourages students to stay on task, take in words sequentially, and retain word impressions in short-term memory, all characteristics of efficient readers.