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Morphology, phonology and literacy in primary years: Evidence from eye-movements and dynamic assessments.


Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science


Sara Whylie (PhD student), Helen Breadmore (DoS), Anna Cunningham (supervisor), Clare Wood (supervisor)


My PhD research investigates the role of morphological awareness in the literacy development of budding readers. The project will take a closer look at the developmental trajectory of morphological awareness development, as it relates to other literacy skills by testing three different age groups within primary years. Specifically, I am studying the following research questions:

  1. How does morphological awareness in language relate to the development of later literacy skills?
  2.  How do young readers use (or not) morphology in reading?
  3. Do implicit measures of morphological awareness (using the eye-tracker) relate to explicit measures (using dynamic assessment)?


Morphological awareness here refers to the awareness of and ability to manipulate the smallest units of meaning within words. Its importance has been supported for several skills including reading comprehension and vocabulary. By studying morphological awareness in very young learners longitudinally, and at a critical period of their introduction to formal instruction, we hope to gain insights into the role of morphological awareness in literacy development. A further aspect of the project investigates how the older primary age child might use morphological awareness in reading. This allows us to elucidate the role of morphological awareness across literacy development from pre-readers to up-and-coming readers.

Alongside traditional assessments, several novel tests have been created. Dynamic assessment of morphological awareness provides unique understanding of the learning potential of younger children, while eye-tracking may uncover implicit morphological awareness. A separate eye-tracking task for older readers will investigate the cognitive process of decoding words by analysing their constituent parts.

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