Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy Reading Performance on Homeschooled Children

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This article focuses on the impact of reading performance with animal assisted therapy

Text of Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy Reading Performance on Homeschooled Children

  • A 2009 The eleaming Institute. All rights reserved. Page 2 of 34

    Journal of Elementary and Secondary Education 2010 . October. Volume: 1 , Issue: #age 2

    Impact of Animal AssistedTherapy Reading Instructionon Reading Performance of

    Ilomeschooled StudentsDr. Kelly A. Smith

    Semrnole State College

    ABSTRACTThis pilot study aimed to determine the impact of AAT reading instructionon reading performance, within a sample of 26 homeschooled students ingrade 3. An experimental pre/post test control group research design wasutilizedfor this pilot study. The ffict of AAT on reading performance wasdetermined bqsed on the results of two+ailed two-sample t-teststatistical analysis of participant pre/post test scores of the Gray OralReading Test 4th edition (GORT-Q in the areas of reading rate and overallreading quotienL The two-tailed two-sample t-test score t(24) : 2.56,p:.017 confirmed that AAT orql reading instruction significantly impactedstudent reading rqte. Due to the small size of this pilot study, the analysislacked sfficient power, limitingfindings to this study. However, this

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  • @ 2009 The eleaming Institute. All rights reserved.

    research prepares the foundation for future larger studies that canexplore the instructional ffictiveness of AAT.

    Page 3 of34

    Journal of Elementary and Secondary Education 2010. October. Volume: I . Issue: Hage 3

    Reading challenges can have a lasting impact on students, with most who

    experience reading difficulties in elementary school continuing to have reading problems

    into adulthood (Felton & Pepper, 1995; Maughan et al., 2009). Reading challenges affect

    a large portion of the elementary school population with 30 to 40 percent of all school

    children facing significant difficulty leaming to read (National Assessment of

    Educational Progress [NAEP], 2003). In addition, the reliance of public schools on the

    use of traditional curriculum and structured one-size-fits-all instruction (Bruni, 2004;

    Owens & Valesky, 2007) often leads to lack of motivation and lack of skill development

    (Barkley, 2007 ; Ehren, 2009).

    However, with the application of altemative reading intervention strategies, the

    reading skills of struggling readers increased by 90% (Montgomery & Moore-Brown,

    2003). Altemative reading instruction methods should be examined and tested to address

    the continued deficiencies within the teaching of reading so that student comprehension

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  • @ 2009 The eleaming Institute. All rights reserved. Page 4 of34

    improves. Savage, Carless, and Erten (2009) examined the effectiveness of alternative

    reading intervention methods for reading instruction and found that two out of three

    participants improved in the area of reading comprehension. The use of animal assisted

    therapy (AAT) as an alternative reading instruction method may also be a viable option

    for addressing reading deficiencies. Researchers could explore the effectiveness of

    altemative reading instruction methods such as AAT reading instruction in improving

    reading skills in homeschooled children.

    The educational setting of homeschooling is an educational model that is an

    alternative to the more highly structured nature of traditional public education, and is one

    that embraces self-directed and inquisitive instruction such as AAT (Wasley, 2007).

    Journal of Elementary and Secondary Education 2010. October. Volume: I . Issue: Hage +

    Homeschooling, by being adaptable, allows for individualization of the learning

    experience, instruction and assessment materials that best meets the leaming needs of the

    child (Ray, 2009). AAT is an alternative instructional method for reading that

    accommodates not only the leaming style of each child but allows for instruction and

    presentation of information to be adapted to best fit the individual learning style (Bannier,

    2007). Recent research findings support the hypothesis that the inclusion of animals

    within the educational process does benefit learners (Beck, 2000; Miller & Lago, 1990).

    AAT fits well within the more flexible educational constructs of homeschooling and the

    impact of an AAT reading program on reading progress can be explored through a

    quantitative research design.

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    Purpose of the Study

    The purpose of this quantitative experimental pre/post test pilot study was to

    determine if homeschooled children in Grade 3 who received weekly AAT reading

    instruction had improved reading performance as measured by pre/post test results of the

    Gray Oral Reading Test 4 m edition (GORT-4) in the areas of reading rate and overallreading quotient (ORQ), when compared to the pre/post test results of the GORT-4 in the

    areas of reading rate and ORQ of a control group, members of which will not receive

    AAT reading instruction and will read independently while the experimental group

    receives AAT instruction. In this study, the independent variable was the AAT reading

    instruction. AAT reading instruction provided within this design was once weekly one-

    on-one therapeutic reading instruction sessions between study participant and certified

    therapy assistance dog and dog handler. Each session allowed for monitored reading of

    grade level selected books by the study participant to the dog, as a part of an AAT

    Journal of Elementary and Secondary Education

    Page 5 of34

    2010. October. Volume: 7 . Issue: Fage 5

    reading instruction regiment that focused on improving reading performance. The

    dependent variable was reading performance as measured by pre/post difference scores

    from the GORT-4 of both the experimental and control groups in the areas of reading rate

    and ORQ. The control variable was grade level, with all participants being members of

    the third grade. Confounding variables included testing and maturation. Testing as a

    confounding variable may exist if participants were affected by taking the pretest as

    reouired bv the research desisn. Maturation as a confoundins variable mav be in

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  • @ 2009 The eleaming Institute. All rights reserved. Page 6 of 34

    operation given that children naturally change physically and mentally so quickly, thus it

    may difficult to know whether the change observed from pre/post test results were due to

    the treatment of AAT reading instruction sessions or were due to maturation.

    This study included homeschooled children in Grade 3 from the Volusia Counfy,

    Florida area. The sample consisted of 26 participants, l3 within the experimental group

    and l3 within the control group. Issues related to sample size are discussed further in the

    participant section, in the evaluation of findings section, and in the limitations section of

    this manuscript. Members of both the experimental sample and control sample met at the

    local public library for either AAT reading instruction or independent reading sessions at

    the same time once a week for 6 weeks, The research aimed to determine the exact effect

    of oral reading AAT on homeschooled children's reading progress through several

    research questions.

    Conceptual Framework

    The top-down model is an interactive model that relies on cues and reader input to

    construct meaning. The whole language approach of reading instruction is categorized

    within the top-down model as an instructional model that relies on methods such as

    Journal of Elementary and Secondary Education 2010 . October. Volume: I . Issue: fage 6

    shared reading experiences. Shared reading experiences allow for student and teacher to

    partner in the process of guided reading for fluency and comprehension (Coyne et al.,

    2004; Holdaway, 1980). The aim of shared reading experiences within the whole

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  • @ 2009 The eleaming Institute. All rights reserved.

    environment in which they can learn to read through experience. This can be done

    without fear or shame and with encouragement and guidance from a teacher. AAT

    reading instruction is an example of a whole language approach to reading that utilizes

    the aspect ofshared reading.

    Within the assisted reading theory (Pikulski & Chard, 2005), reading rate is an

    essential component of comprehension and fluent reading. When this theory is applied to

    reading instruction, students would complete oral reading sessions in which minimal

    correction and positive feedback on missed words is provided. The goal of reading

    instruction that follows the assisted reading theory is to improve the reading rate and

    accuracy ofstudents through reading instruction session in order to develop enhanced

    fluency. When applied, students who engaged in assisted reading made significant gains

    in reading rate and fluency (Heibert & Fisher, 2002). Such findings illustrate the

    practical value of utilizing assisted reading theory as a framework for research that aims

    to address reading