An exploratory case study of the implementation of one computer-assisted instruction program in reading

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Ritchie, Kathleen G.
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Commercially available Computer Assisted Instruction programs and their implementation appear to be having an effect on elementary education. The indiscriminate use of these programs may pose a threat to the quality of education some students receive. This exploratory research: (1) examined the effectiveness of CAI programs in the opinion of past and present educational researchers, through a literature review, (2) discussed the structure of the reading strand of one such program currently in use in some Canadian elementary schools; and through a case study involving a 6 week computer program intervention using 6 high, middle, and low achievers from one grade six classroom, (3) reflected on the relevance of this program by measuring: pre- and post-intervention performance on the Gates-MacGinitie standardized Reading Tests. Form D (1965), the Johns Basic Reading Inventory (1994), computer generated program reports and investigator constructed format of instruction attitude questionnaires and self-concept survey. A focus group session documented student perceptions about program use. Findings in this case study indicated mixed results in terms of reading performance gains for high, middle, and low achieving students. Performance seemed to be affected by personal attributes, program characteristics, and scheduling management and resource limitations. It was concluded that, in this case students at all levels benefited to some degree but that attitude had more influence on performance than on the entering achievement level. Students remarked on the need for more social interaction to facilitate learning. More detailed research into the numerous factors that influenced performance is required. Findings suggest that caution is in order in the large scale implementation of computer assisted instruction programs.