Oral reading fluency and optimal difficulty level in a literature-based reading curriculum

Cara Jean Cahalan, Fordham University


The primary purpose of this research was to determine how rate of learning to decode text is altered by changes in the difficult level of instructional materials. A sample of 12 Caucasian students (7 boys and 5 girls) from a suburban elementary school participated in the study. All students completed the 2nd grade and were going to enter the 3rd grade at the end of the summer. All students were native English speakers and received extra reading instruction during the school year because they were reading below grade level. Using a multiple baseline design students were randomly assigned to one of three groups that varied in terms of how much time was spent in the instructionally mismatched and instructionally matched phases. Instruction was individual and occurred each weekday for 8 weeks during summer vacation. In order to investigate the impact of instructional match on rate of learning in an empirical framework, daily measurements of Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) and Oral Reading Accuracy (ORA) were gathered using passages from the school's first-, second-, and third-grade level instructional materials. Curriculum-based assessment measures of ORF and ORA were used to assess reading speed and accuracy, respectively. In order to decrease the chances of basal or ceiling effects and increase reliability, students were asked to read passages from 3 different difficulty levels during the assessment portion of each session. Results indicated that rate of improvement in oral reading fluency and accuracy were significantly different between 2 treatment conditions (instruction with mismatched and matched reading materials).

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Cahalan, Cara Jean, "Oral reading fluency and optimal difficulty level in a literature-based reading curriculum" (2003). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3084905.