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10 Research- and Evidence-Based Practices Applied by Edublox Reading and Math Interventions

Edublox Online Tutor is an online platform that houses a range of products and services to improve various aspects of learning. Our programs include Development Tutor, Reading Tutor, and Live Tutor. Live Tutor is our flagship and offers four programs that target five academic areas:
  1. Reading and spelling,
  2. Spelling and writing;
  3. Reading comprehension; and
  4. Numeracy

These tailor-made sessions are offered in conjunction with Development Tutor and recommended for students with mild to severe learning disabilities, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia (math learning disabilities), and poor reading comprehension.

Edublox’s Live Tutor is aligned with research-based and evidence-based reading practices as recommended by the National Reading Panel (NRP) in 2000, as well as important research studies that followed. Although we focus on reading in the article, Edublox’s numeracy program is based on the same principles.

(1.) Neuroplasticity at the heart of Edublox practices

People were convinced that, once we grow up, our brains have a set number of neurons performing functions in a fixed way. In the past two decades, however, neuroscientists have dismantled, piece by piece, the entrenched view that the human brain is fixed and unchanging. A growing number of research publications have illustrated the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience. Changes associated with learning usually occur in the connections between neurons: new connections can form, and the internal structure of the existing synapses can change. New neurons are constantly being born, particularly in the learning and memory centers. When you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas in your brain that deal with this type of skill will grow. Named neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change is at the heart of Edublox practices.

This figure from Seitz et al. (2006) shows the
improvement in learning when multisensory learning (darker curve) is used instead of unisensory learning (lighter curve)

(2.) Edublox programs are multisensory

Multisensory training refers to the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance learning. Educators and clinicians have long believed that multisensory training can enhance learning. Already in 1967, Treichler stated: “People generally remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear.”

Memory research showed that multisensory exposure can result in superior recognition of objects compared to unisensory exposure (Shams & Seitz, 2008). Rao (2017) concluded that using multiple channels accelerates learning and recall by up to 80%.

(3.) Edublox Live Tutor targets phonological and phonemic awareness

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, dyslexia research has been dominated by a search for the Holy Grail: the single cognitive deficit that is necessary and sufficient to cause all behavioral characteristics of dyslexia. Until the 1950s, the belief was that dyslexia is attributable to visual processing problems. Visual processing refers to the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see.

In 1957 Noam Chomsky published his seminal book, Syntactic Structures, which transformed the study of language and with it, reading. Any role for visual processing was abandoned, and dyslexia became a linguistic problem — specifically a deficiency in phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and identify the various sounds in spoken words. Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness that focuses on recognizing and manipulating phonemes, the smallest units of sound. The two most important phonemic awareness skills are segmenting and blending.

(4.) Edublox targets multiple cognitive skills

While phonological and phonemic awareness is critical for developing reading skills, decoding, and fluency (NRP, 2000), interventions based on the phonological deficit theory alone have proved ineffective (Nicolson & Fawcett, 2018). The reason is simply that other cognitive skills that are equally important were overlooked at the time. Current thinking sees phonological deficits as one of multiple deficits that are likely to interact to cause reading disability (Peterson & Pennington, 2012; Pennington, 2006).

In addition to phonological awareness, cognitive psychology has now linked many brain-based skills to dyslexia:

Cognitive deficits that may cause reading disabilities and dyslexia.
  • verbal fluency (Moura et al., 2015);
  • attention and executive functions (Menghini et al., 2010);
  • visual attention, i.e., our ability to rapidly select the most relevant visual information ranges when we are engaged in various reading tasks (Elliott, 2015; Valdois et al., 2004);
  • visuospatial abilities (Giovagnoli et al., 2016; Menghini et al., 2010; Helland & AsbjØrnsen, 2003);
  • processing speed (Moura et al., 2015; Stoodley & Stein, 2006);
  • short-term memory (Cowan et al., 2017; Majerus & Cowan, 2016);
  • auditory working memory (Vender, 2017; Weiss et al., 2014);
  • visual and visual sequential memory (Talepasand et al. 2018; Guthrie & Goldberg, 1972);
  • visual long-term memory (Binamé et al., 2015), especially for details (Huestegge et al., 2014);
  • verbal long-term memory (Helland & Morken, 2015); and
  • rapid naming (Brizzolara, 2006; Denckla & Rudel, 1976).

Edublox, therefore, targets multiple cognitive skills.

Like reading, math is also underpinned by multiple cognitive skills including visual and auditory processing; visual, visuospatial, and working memory; and logical reasoning (Mercer, 1997; Kulp et al., 2004; Szűcs et al., 2013; Price & Ansari, 2013). These cognitive skills are also targeted by Edublox’s Development Tutor.

(5.) Edublox Live Tutor is explicit and systematic

Since its inception many decades ago, Edublox insisted that there is nothing that any human being knows, or can do, that they have not learned. We also asserted that human learning does not take place on a single level but is a stratified process. Scientific research reviewed by the National Reading Panel has confirmed this: the most effective approach in teaching reading is systematic and explicit instruction.

Explicit teaching practices involve showing students what to do and how to do it. Strategies that emphasize silent, independent reading, for example, have not proven to improve reading achievement (NRP, 2000; Carver & Liebert, 1995). Systematic teaching means skills and concepts are taught in a planned, logically progressive sequence. For example, certain sounds — those that are easier to learn or used more often — are taught before other sounds. In math, one has to learn to count before it becomes possible to learn to add and subtract. Suppose one tried to teach a child who had not yet learned to count to add and subtract. This would be quite impossible, and no amount of effort would ever succeed in teaching the child to add and subtract. This shows that counting is a skill that needs to be mastered before it becomes possible to learn to do calculations.

(6.) Edublox Live Tutor is phonics-based

The National Reading Panel concluded that various types of systematic phonics approaches are significantly more effective than non-phonics approaches in promoting substantial growth in reading (NRP, 2000). Phonics is a set of rules that specify the relationship between letters in the spelling of words and the sounds of spoken language. For the English language, these relationships are predictable but not completely consistent. However, they are consistent enough to be very useful to children in helping them learn to decode unfamiliar words.

At Edublox, phonograms are taught in isolation with adequate repetition and intervals between each phonogram for complete mastery. Integration with previous lessons, and frequent review, are considered crucial. Reading and spelling — which include spelling rules — are taught simultaneously.

(7.) Edublox Live Tutor builds fluency

Fluent readers can read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. It is generally acknowledged that fluency is a critical component of skilled reading, and that there is a close relationship between fluency and reading comprehension. Students who are low in fluency may have difficulty getting the meaning of what they read (NRP, 2000).

Research shows that a network of brain regions is involved in learning to read, one specifically in sounding out words and another in seeing words as pictures. The left inferior parietal lobule is said to be involved in word analysis, grapheme-to-phoneme conversion, and general phonological and semantic processing. The picture area is located in the left occipitotemporal region and is known as the visual word form area (VWFA) or visual dictionary. Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center concluded that skilled readers can recognize words at lightning-fast speed when they read because these words have been placed in this VWFA or visual dictionary (Glezer et al., 2016).

In the largest study of its kind up to date, Brem et al. (2020) confirmed that the VWFA is key to fluent reading using fMRI data (n = 140 children, 7.9–12.2 years; 55 children with dyslexia, 73 typical readers, 12 intermediate readers). Their study also showed that connectivity of the left occipitotemporal cortex seems a prerequisite for guiding the emerging specialization in the VWFA.

Logan (1997) reports that automatic word recognition can be thought of as a continuum that begins with the slow, struggling word recognition of a beginning reader and extends to the rapid, effortless word recognition of the skilled reader. Readers progress gradually along this continuum. This gradual buildup of proficiency requires instruction and practice. Fluency is first developed through systematic phonics (see no. 7 above), but fluency also involves grouping words into meaningful phrases and reading with expression. To ensure that students continue to develop fluency other forms of practice should be included. Two forms that have shown evidence of improving fluency, ensuring that words are placed in the VWFA, are repeated reading and guided repeated oral reading (NRP, 2000). Both are applied in Edublox tutoring.

(8.) Edublox Live Tutor expands vocabulary

The National Reading Panel defines vocabulary as the understanding of individual word meanings in a text. The importance of vocabulary in reading achievement has been recognized for more than half a century. As early as 1925, in the National Society for Studies in Education (NSSE) Yearbook, this quotation appears:

Growth in reading power means, therefore, continuous enriching and enlarging of the reading vocabulary and increasing clarity of discrimination in appreciation of word values (Whipple, 1925, p. 76).

Researchers distinguish between many different “vocabularies.” Receptive vocabulary is the vocabulary that we can understand when it is presented to us in text or as we listen to others speak, while productive vocabulary is that vocabulary we use in writing or when speaking to others. It is generally believed that receptive vocabulary is much larger than productive vocabulary since we often recognize words that we would rarely use. Vocabulary is also subcategorized as oral vs. reading vocabulary, where oral refers to words that are recognized in speaking or listening while reading vocabulary refers to words that are used or recognized in print (NRP, 2000).

Edublox Live Tutor uses explicit instruction to expand vocabulary. If a child has severe vocabulary and language delays, we recommend a passive listening, at-home method that is based on the Suzuki violin teaching methodology and delivers excellent results (Akdeniz, 2015).

Mathematics is associated with numbers and symbols. But, it’s also associated with intriguing words and its own vocabulary. Everyday words have a different meaning in a mathematical context. Words like “difference,” “true,” or “product” can have different definitions or connotations in our everyday life. Edublox’s numeracy program aims at teaching math terminology including the appropriate meaning of words when in the context of a math problem.

(9.) Edublox Live Tutor develops comprehension

Comprehension is critically important to the development of children’s reading skills and therefore their ability to obtain an education. Indeed, reading comprehension has come to be viewed as the “essence of reading” (Durkin, 1993), essential not only to academic learning but to life-long learning.

A child can read fluently but without comprehension. Neuro-imaging of children showed that, while reading, the brain function of those with reading comprehension problems is quite different and distinct from those with reading disabilities. Those with reading disabilities exhibited abnormalities in a specific region in the left occipitotemporal region (see no. 8 above). Those with reading comprehension problems, on the other hand, did not show abnormalities in this region. Instead, they showed specific abnormalities in regions typically associated with memory (Cutting et al., 2013).

Other reasons for fluent reading without comprehension may be poor vocabulary and weak logical reasoning skills. The relationship between logical reasoning and reading comprehension is well established in the literature. It has been said that “there is no reading without reasoning,” and even that reading is reasoning.

In addition to improving vocabulary, memory, and reasoning skills, Edublox students are taught to find the main idea(s) in texts; distinguish between cause and effect; differentiate between fact and opinion; draw conclusions and make inferences.

(10.) Repetition is not the enemy

As far as one can go back in history, repetition (also known as drill-and-practice) has been considered the backbone of successful teaching and schooling. But in the 1920s and 1930s, repetition and rote learning became to define poor teaching. Good teachers don’t fire off quiz questions and catechize kids about facts. They don’t drill students on spelling or arithmetic.

Edublox Online Tutor is aligned with research- and evidence-based practices. Watch our playlist of customer reviews and experience how Edublox training and tutoring help turn reading and math disabilities around.

When properly conducted, however, drill-and-practice is a consistently effective teaching method and should not be slighted as “low level,” and appears to be just as essential to complex and creative intellectual performance as they are to the performance of a virtuoso violinist (Brophy, 1986). Christodoulou (2014) argues that memorizing doesn’t prevent understanding but rather is vital to it. The very processes that teachers care about most, says Willingham (2009), — critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving — are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge stored in long-term memory. Knowledge ready in long-term memory is often required as a stepping-stone to understanding something deeper.

Whatever the case may be for the average student, repetition certainly benefits children riddled with learning challenges. A meta-analysis of 85 academic intervention studies with students with learning disabilities, carried out by Swanson and Sachse-Lee (2000), found that regardless of the practical or theoretical orientation of the study, the largest effect sizes were obtained by interventions that included systematic drill, repetition, practice, and review.

From a neuroscientific perspective, repetition is important in the “wiring” of a person’s brain, i.e. the forming of connections or synapses between the brain cells. Without repetition, key synapses don’t form. And if such connections, once formed, are used too seldom to be strengthened and reinforced, the brain, figuring they’re dead weight, eventually “prunes” them away (Hammond, 2015; Bernard, 2010).

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