In a study with 24 beginning readers in 2 Opportunity Schools (18 boys ad 6 girls) whose I.Q.s ranged from 55 to 88 (mean = 73), a form of automatic reading teaching through earphones was compared with teacher teaching by 2 female teachers. One school was situated in a middle class neighbourhood and the other in a low socio-economic area. Three print media (Colour-large; black-large; and black-normal) were also compared across these two approaches. Two books, specifically written for the experiment, used language units which had previously been collected from other retarded children of the same geographical area.
The groups employed were balanced on the basis of their scores on the Revision of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test (1960), the St. Lucia Sight (1969), chronological age and any words previously known of the programme to be followed. The Stanford-Binet results slightly favoured the teacher taught group.
After preliminary pre-reading exercises using both teaching approaches, all children were instructed on Book I. They were then divided on the basis of an arbitrary criterion into those who were to proceed to Book II and those who were to repeat Book I. These three levels were submitted to two, two way analyses of variance and a one way analysis combined with a “t” test. No significant difference was found between the three print media, the two teaching approaches or any interaction between them. Although the mean scores generally, but not always, favoured the teacher approach, taking the slight bias of the Stanford-Binet results into consideration, the two methods of teaching can clearly be considered as comparable. The smaller print appeared to favour the quicker reader and the larger print the slower child. The coloured letters did not seem to have any noticeable effect on the results either way. There was a slight tendency for the girls to prefer to be taught by a female teacher. The earphone approach was noticeably helpful with one very withdrawn boy who gained the second highest score, whilst another boy, knowing some of the language units prior to commencing the experiment, improved his reading age by 2 years 3 months in the 6 months period on the automatic method. Valuable information was gained on how to improve the efficiency of this, at present, completely experimental teaching approach with beginning readers.