- What is PREP? What does it do?
- Who is most likely to benefit from PREP?
- Why do children fail to read?
- What are the cognitive processes that support reading?
- Is PREP effective?
PREP (PASS Reading Enhancement Programme) was developed by Dr. J. P. Das and his colleagues at the University of Alberta. The programme is based on the PASS Theory of Intelligence (Planning, Attention, and Simultaneous and Successive Processing). Understanding the programme's underlying theory is an important aspect of its use. What follows is a series of questions that have been commonly asked during educational conferences and workshops on PREP. The responses are intended to provide an introduction to understanding reading disabilities and remediation in relation to the PASS Model. Further reading is highly recommended and a list of references is included at the end of this manual. PREP is due for release in October of 1998 and will be published in South Africa and distributed in North America.
What is PREP? What does it do?
The PASS Reading Enhancement Programme (PREP) is based on well-accepted theories of child development and cognitive psychology. It aims at improving the information processing strategies namely, simultaneous and successive processing that underlie reading, while at the same time avoiding the direct teaching of word reading skills. PREP is also founded on the premise that the transfer of principles can be facilitated through inductive, rather than deductive inference (Carlson & Das, 1996). Accordingly, the programme is structured so that tacitly acquired strategies are likely to be used in appropriate ways. Attention and planning are also aspects of each task. Specifically, attention is required and used in performing each task, and planning is augmented by encouraging the children to engage in discussions, both during and following their performance.
An integral part of the structure of each task is to develop strategies such as rehearsal, categorization, monitoring of performance, prediction, revision of prediction, sounding, and sound blending. Thus, children develop their ability to use these strategies through experience with the tasks. Rather than being explicitly taught strategies by the tutor, children are encouraged to become aware of their use of strategies through verbalization. Growth in the ability to use strategies and be aware of appropriate opportunities for their use is expected to develop over the course of remediation.
The programme consists of ten tasks that vary considerably in content and the requirements of the student. Each task involves both a global training component and a curriculum-related bridging component. The global component includes structured, non-reading tasks that require the application of simultaneous or successive strategies. These tasks also provide children with the opportunity to internalize strategies in their own way, thus facilitating transfer1 (Das, Mishra, & Pool., 1995). The bridging component involves the same cognitive demands as its matched global component, and provides training in simultaneous and successive processing strategies, which have been closely linked to reading and spelling (Das, Naglieri, & Kirby, 1994).
The global tasks begin with content that is familiar and non-threatening so that strategy acquisition occurs in small stages (Das, et. al., 1994). Complexity is introduced gradually and only after a return to easier content. Through verbal mediation (occurs through specific discussions of strategies used), the global and bridging components of PREP encourage children to apply their strategies to academic tasks such as word decoding. The global and bridging components are further divided into three levels of difficulty. This allows the child to progress in strategy development and, for those who already have some successful processing strategies in place, to begin at an appropriate level.
A system of prompts is also integrated into each global and bridging component. The series of prompts creates a scaffolding network that supports and guides the child to ensure that tasks are completed with a minimal amount of assistance and a maximal amount of success. A record of these prompts provides a monitoring system for teachers to determine when material is too difficult for a child or when a child is able to successfully progress to a more difficult level. A criterion of 80% correct responses is required before a child can proceed to the next level of difficulty. If this criterion is not met, an alternate set of tasks, at the same difficulty level, is used to provide the additional training required.
PREP is a reading enhancement program that aims at improving the information processing strategies that underlie reading, while at the same time avoiding the direct teaching of word reading skills.
Who is most likely to benefit from PREP?
Research has revealed that among children who have reading difficulties despite good motivation, family support, and emotional well-being two types of difficulties are present. The larger group are the "garden variety" poor readers and a much smaller group are the dyslexic readers. Both groups are similar in that neither is able to read at a level that would be expected for their particular grade. We use the word read to mean the ability to identify written words that most other children in the child's grade group can identify. More specifically, when a word is unfamiliar (for example, "analogy") or is a "made-up" word that has no meaning (for example, "pardet"), children with reading difficulties will be unable to read such words.
How do we know which child belongs in each group and why is it important to know this? The "garden variety" poor reader may also be poor in other subjects that do not require a great deal of reading, and he or she may perform poorly on a wide variety of intellectual tasks. In contrast, the dyslexic has specific cognitive processing difficulties that are related to converting spelling to speech (phonological coding). This ability is present in the majority of children, and by age nine, most of them are able to read well.
Kirby (1988) has argued that the cognitive processing associated with reading progresses through eight distinct levels of abstraction that involve increasing complexity: (1) features (components of letters), (2) letters, (3) sound or syllable units, (4) words, (5) phrases, (6) ideas, (7) main ideas, and (8) themes. At each level, items of information are recognized (simultaneous processing) and ordered (successive processing) so that higher-level units can be comprehended (simultaneous processing). In other words, both simultaneous and successive processing are required at each level of the hierarchy.
When a young child fails to learn to read, however, the failure is largely due to a deficit in successive processing, which is the process that helps the child to sequence different items or letters and words (Das, 1988). A child cannot read "friend" or "tongue" if he or she cannot remember the exact sequence of letters in each word and then convert these words into speech. Difficulties in successive processing may cause difficulties in acquiring and/or using phonological coding2. This may, in turn, lead to an inability to effectively decode words, which ultimately leads to reading failure (Martinussen, 1995).
Poor performance in either simultaneous or successive processing may be due to (a) a decreased ability to use the process, (b) barriers to the use of the process that can be overcome by training, or (c) an inclination not to use the process when it is the optimal method (Kirby & Williams, 1991). It is important to note, however, that no cognitive task requires one process alone: It is a matter of emphasis. A child may use either process, depending on the task requirements (for example, the use of successive processing in spelling or decoding words phonetically) or his or her habitual mode of information processing. PREP provides (a) alternatives for children who cannot use the processes very well, (b) experience and practice for children who have not developed one or both processes, and (c) specific training in recognizing when the method applied is the most efficient approach (Kirby & Williams, 1991).
Research has shown that most children who have reading difficulties , despite good motivation, family support, and emotional well-being, will benefit from PREP. The programme has been particularly beneficial for children with phonological coding problems.
Why do children fail to read?
For children who are learning to read, the inability to engage in phonological coding has been suggested as the major cause of reading disability (Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1994). In fact, many reading researchers agree that poor phonological coding skills are the "bottleneck" for children with reading disabilities (Martinussen, 1995; Stanovich, 1988). In one of the most frequently cited articles in the field, Torgesen, Wagner, and Rashotte (1994) argue that phonological coding abilities are causally related to normal acquisition of reading skills. Support for this claim can also be found in the relationship between prereaders' phonological coding scores and their reading development one to three years later (e.g., Bradley & Bryant, 1985). A recent review by Share and Stanovich (1995, p. 9) concluded that "there is virtually unassailable evidence that poor readers, as a group, are impaired in a very wide range of basic cognitive tasks in the phonological domain."
The inability to engage in phonological coding has been suggested as the major cause of reading difficulties.
What are the cognitive processes that support reading?
Earlier approaches to remediating learning and reading difficulties often focussed on improving memory through control processes (e.g., rehearsal and chunking). A number of later investigations (Belmont & Butterfield, 1971; Borkowski & Cavenaugh, 1979; Palinscar & Brown, 1984; Paris & Oka, 1986) demonstrated that while specific strategies for children with reading disabilities could be improved through instructional intervention, only marginal gains occurred in children's ability to transfer learning from an original situation to a new one. Problems that are typically displayed by children with reading disabilities include difficulties in recognizing words (Lovett, Ransby, Hardwick, Johns, & Donaldson, 1989), learning incidentally (through experience, without formal instruction), and transferring learning such as phonological coding (Das, et. al., 1994).
In a review of reading disabilities, Frith (1986) identified four stages in reading development: preschool, pictorial, alphabetic, and orthographic. At the preschool stage the child considers all printed words to have a symbolic quality: "a magical combination of strokes, circles, and lines that somehow results in a word that people read" (Das, 1993, p. 159). A child at the pictorial stage views all letters and words as pictorial representations of sounds. It is at this second stage that sight reading begins. The third stage is referred to as the alphabetic stage. At this stage, the child must develop an understanding of letter-sound correspondences, which is essential to reading printed matter. The final stage in reading development is the orthographic stage. This stage, which continues through adulthood, enables us to understand the intricacies of phonics and spelling, such as in the words bough and tough (Das, 1993).
According to Frith, it is at the alphabetic stage that many children with reading disabilities experience difficulties. In order to read a printed word, it must be coded in either of two ways: (1) visually, as a pattern, or (2) phonologically, as a speech sound. The cognitive process that is emphasized in visual coding is simultaneous processing, whereas in phonological coding, it is successive processing. To say a word, the speech sounds that correspond with the printed word must by arranged in the proper order. Pronouncing a printed word is predominantly a successive process and this is often one of the most difficult aspects of reading for children with reading disabilities (Das, 1988).
The majority of studies that have focussed on improving reading by exposing children to letter-sound rules have had limited effects on reading achievement (Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 1994). This suggests that unlike normally achieving readers, children with reading disabilities do not learn appropriate reading strategies through direct rule learning or incidentally. This may be a primary reason why the direct teaching of reading skills has only been partially successful with children with reading disabilities (Chall & Curtis, 1990; Feitelson, 1988; Share & Stanovich, 1995).
In order to read a printed word, it must be coded in either of two ways: (1) visually, as a pattern, or (2) phonologically, as a speech sound. The cognitive process that is emphasized in visual coding is simultaneous processing (understanding the relationship among the parts), whereas in phonological coding, it is successive processing (ability to work with things in order). To say a word, the speech sounds that correspond with the printed word must by arranged in the proper order. Pronouncing a printed word is predominantly a successive process and this is often one of the most difficult aspects of reading for children with reading disabilities.
In our view, children with reading disabilities require a method of instruction that is based on specific elements of information integration that are fundamental to reading and constitute a main source of their reading difficulties. Unless the cognitive processes (simultaneous and successive processing) underlying reading are the focus of remediation, remediation will not be successful (Das, et. al., 1994). In other words, the teaching of basic phonetic skills or general strategies and tricks alone are inadequate for the remediation of children with reading disabilities. The PASS Reading Enhancement Programme (PREP) offers an alternative that has been used successfully to remediate these difficulties.
Is PREP effective?
The effectiveness of PREP is well established. Some of the most recent studies are summarized here. Additional studies are included in the reference list.
Carlson and Das Study (1996)
The PREP programme was used by Carlson and Das for underachieving students in Chapter 1 programmes in Hemet, California. In this study, students were instructed during two 50-minute sessions per week for three months. Both the PREP (22 students) and control (15 students) groups continued to participate in the regular Chapter 1 programme. Word Attack, Letter-, and Word Identification subtests of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests - Revised (WRMT-R) were administered at the beginning and end of the study. The results showed raw score improvement in pre- to post-test performance following training in PREP, as well as significant interaction effects. That is, the students who received PREP remediation gained significantly in word identification and word attack. This study provides strong support for the utility of PREP in improving word reading by teaching students to use appropriate processing strategies.
The Hemet school has continued to use PREP over the last five years and has shown consistently an improvement in reading that is equivalent to 1 standard deviation. In other words, the underachieving children in this study moved significantly closer to what would be considered average performance in reading for their age group.
Das, Mishra, and Pool Study (1995)
Das, Mishra, and Pool (1995) used PREP with a group of 51 fourth-grade students with reading disabilities in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The study involved students, aged 8 to 11 years, from four public schools. Students in the experimental group (31 students) were exposed to PREP, whereas students in the control group (20 students) were not. The experimental group was divided into groups of four and PREP was administered approximately twice a week for a total of 15 sessions.
Pre- and post-test results of the PREP group were compared to the control group on word decoding as assessed by the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test - Revised. The PREP group improved significantly more in word identification and word attack than did the control group (who received no intervention), even though both groups experienced the same amount of additional instructional time.
In the second phase of the same study, the children who had previously been in the "control group" were given either the global part or the bridging part of PREP for the same length of time. The was no significant improvement in word identification or word attack; thus, PREP training that involved both the global and bridging components was found to be superior to PREP training that involved only the global or bridging component. Therefore, the Das, Mishra, and Pool study also provides empirical support for the efficacy of PREP.
Boden and Kirby Study (1995)
The effectiveness of a modified PREP (for an older group) was studied by Boden and Kirby. A group of fifth- and sixth-grade sstudents were randomly assigned to either a control or an experimental group. The control group received regular classroom instruction and the experimental group received PREP. The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of instruction in successive processing and phonological coding on reading. Poor readers were identified from the overall sample based on their average grade equivalent scores on the Gates-MacGinitie Comprehension and Vocabulary tests. Two instructors taught the remediation programme to the students. Half of the students received the programme from one instructor and half from the other. Each group, which consisted of four students, received remediation for approximately 3 hours a week over about a 7-week period. This provided each student with an average of 14 hours of remediation.
The results show differences between the control and PREP groups on the Word Identification and Word Attack subtests of the WRMT-R after treatment. In relation to the previous year's reading scores, the PREP group performed significantly better than the control group. These results suggest that the poor readers had difficulty in applying successive processing to reading, and that the intervention programme (PREP) provided instruction to address this problem. Boden and Kirby's study provides evidence that the PREP instruction in phonological decoding and successive processing was effective for poor readers.
The PREP's use in Spain
A Spanish adaptation of PREP was made at the University of Zaragoza and then administered to elementary school children with reading disabilities. The group that received PREP showed significant improvement in word reading, comprehension, and dictation-taking.
The PREP's use in South Africa
PREP is currently being used in private and government schools throughout South Africa. The children in these schools are from a wide variety of cultural and economic backgrounds. Improvement in word reading ability has been strongly evident.
The investigations by Carlson and Das (1996), Das et al. (1995), and Boden and Kirby (1996) indicate that word attack and word decoding improved after completion of PREP. These results suggest that PREP appears to be effective with elementary school-aged students who have reading decoding problems that are related to successive processing difficulties. Its success in Spain and South Africa also indicates that the programme can be effectively adapted to various cultural contexts.
Belmont, J. & Butterfield, E. (1971). What the development of short term memory is. Human Development, 14, 236-248.
Boden, C. & Kirby, J. R. (1995). Successive processing, phonological coding, and the remediation of reading. Journal of Cognitive Education, 4(2&3), 19-32.
Borkowski, J., & Cavanaugh, J. (1979). Maintenance and generalization of skills and strategies by the retarded. In N. R. Ellis (Ed.), Handbook of mental deficiency: Psychological theory and research. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bradley, L. & Bryant, P. (1985). Rhyme and reason in reading and spelling. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
*Carlson, J. S. & Das, J. P. (1996). A process approach to remediating word decoding deficiencies in Chapter 1 Children. Quarterly Journal of Reading Disabilities. in press.
Chall, J. S. & Curtis, M. E. (1990). Diagnostic achievement testing in reading. In C. R. Reynolds & R. W. Kampaus (Eds.), Handbook of psychological and educational assessment of children: Intelligence and achievement. New York: Guildford.
Das, J. P. (1988). Simultaneous and successive processing and planning. In R. Schmeck (Ed.), Learning Styles and Learning Strategies (pp. 101-129). New York: Plenum.
*Das, J. P. (1993). Neurocognitive approach to remediation: The PREP model. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 9(2), 157-173.
*Das. J. P. & Abbott, J. (1995). PASS: An alternative approach to intelligence. Psychology and Developing Societies, 7(2), 155-184.
Das, J. P., Kar, B. C., & Parrila, R. K. (1996). Cognitive planning: The psychological basis of intelligent behavior. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
*Das, J. P., Mishra, R. K., & Pool, J. E. (1995). An experiment on cognitive remediation or word-reading difficulty. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28(2), 66-79.
*Das, J. P, Naglieri, J. A., & Kirby, J. R. (1994). Assessment of cognitive processes. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Feitelson, (1988). Facts and fads in beginning reading. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Frith, U. (1986). A developmental framework for developmental dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 36, 69-81.
Kirby, J. R. (1988). Style, strategy, and skill in reading. In R. R. Schmeck (Ed.). Learning strategies and learning styles. New York: Plenum Press.
Kirby, J. R. & Williams, N. H. (1991). Learning problems: A cognitive approach. Toronto: Kagan & Woo Ltd.
Lovett, M., Ransby, M., Hardwick, N., Johns, M., & Donaldson, S. (1989). Can dyslexia by treated? Treatment specific and generalized treatment effects in dyslexic children's response to remediation. Brain and Language, 37, 90-121.
Martinussen, R. L. (1995). Instructing at-risk kindergarten students in successive and phonological processing. Unpublished master's thesis. Queen's University, Kingston.
Naglieri, J. A. (1992). The demise of G and the consequent rise of cognitive education. In J. Carlson (Ed.), Cognition and Educational Practice (Vol. 1, Part A). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Palinscar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1984). The reciprocal teaching of comprehension fostering and comprehension strategy. Cognition and Instruction, 1, 117-125.
Paris, S. G., & Oka, E. R. (1986). Children's reading strategies, metacognition, and motivation. Developmental Review, 6, 25-56.
Paris, S. G., Newman, R. S., & McVey, K. A. (1982). Learning the functional significance of mnemonic actions: A microgenetic study of strategy acquisition. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 34, 490-509.
Parrila, R. K. (1995).Vygotskian views on language and planning in children. School Psychology International, 16, 168-183.
Salomon, G. & Perkins, D. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanisms of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist, 24(2), 113-142.
Share, D. L. & Stanovich, K. E. (1995). Cognitive processes in early reading development: Accommodating individual differences into a model of acquisition. Issues in Education: Contributions for Educational Psychology, 1, 1-57.
Stanovich, K. E. (1988). Explaining the difference between the dyslexic and the garden-variety poor reader: The phonological core-variable difference model. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, 590-603.
Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1994). Longitudinal studies of phonological processing and reading. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 276-286.
*These selected readings will provide a more in depth understanding of the PASS Model and PREP.
1 This refers to learning being transferred from an original situation to a new situation. Transfer results when the original and new situation are (1) similar in content, (2) similar in procedure, or (3) share the same principle of learning (Das, Naglieri, & Kirby, 1994). The greater the number of identical content elements between the old and the new situation, the better the transfer. Salmon and Perkins (1989) discuss both a "low road" and a "high road" to transfer. The low road refers to (1) and (2) above. This transfer occurs through varied and extensive practice. It results in automaticity; the action becomes so automatic that in a similar situation, only minor adjustments in behaviour are required. The high road entails abstraction and reflection, and is a controlled rather than automatic process. High road transfer occurs in the "bridging component" of PREP.
2 This includes the child's ability to process sounds successively, access phonological information from long-term memory, produce rhymes, and understand the structure of words (Martinussen, 1995). In short, it is the child's ability to say a word from its printed spelling.
^ Back to top