"Miscue analysis" was invented out of whole cloth by Ken Goodman and rests on the fatally-flawed "three cueing system" model of reading. "Three cueing" and "miscue analysis" are dead giveaways that you are in the thickets of whole language and its offspring, "balanced literacy".
In short, the "three cueing system" alleges that competent readers use three systems to derive meaning from text:
- Semantic cues, meaning that the previous words predict subsequent words;
- Syntactic cues, meaning the prediction of upcoming words are constrained by
- Graphophonemic cues (the actual, written words)
(Image Source: Turbill, J. (2002, February). The four ages of reading philosophy and pedagogy: A framework for examining theory and practice. Reading Online, 5(6). From http://www.readingonline.org/international/inter_index.asp?HREF=/international/turbill4/index.html), accessed 12/31/09 In whole-language, balanced literacy land, the last, weakest element is the word itself. (Quotes drawn from Hempinstall, 2002)
Accuracy, correctly naming or identifying each word or word part in a graphic sequence, is not necessary for effective reading since the reader can get the meaning without accurate word identification...Furthermore, readers who strive for accuracy are likely to be inefficient (Goodman, 1974, p.826).
The first alternative and preference is -- to skip over the puzzling word. The second alternative is to guess what the unknown word might be. And the final and least preferred alternative is to sound the word out. Phonics, in other words, comes last (Smith, 1999, p. 153).From Kerry Hempenstall's extensive analysis of "three cuing" and "miscue analysis (link to pdf Download DIN_02_02_10)
Thus, the techniques of contextual prediction that are emphasized in whole language classrooms, are based upon an unsustained hypothesis about the techniques representative of skilled reading.
According to the whole language conception of skilled reading, students must make many miscues during the progressive integration of the three-cueing systems in order for reading to develop. It is argued that these errors are not necessarily a cause for intervention but a positive sign of a reader prepared to take risks. Teachers should expect and even be pleased with meaning preserving errors. Additionally, they are exhorted to avoid corrective feedback regarding errors as it is risky, likely to jeopardise the student's willingness for risk-taking.On to Ken deRosa's D-Ed Reckoning: When is a decoding error not an error?.
The problem with balanced literacy is that even though it typically includes phonics-like activities, it is not based on alphabetic code-based reading instruction. The dirty little secret behind balanced literacy is that for all the lip-service that's paid to phonics, in balanced literacy the decoding of text using the alphabetic code can be replaced with the guessing of word identity based on non-phonological information.
In balanced literacy, decoding errors can be ignored if the reader guesses a word that means about the same thing as the word that the reader is unable to properly decode. That doesn't sound very balanced to me. Doesn't sound like decoding either. The Critical Reading Inventory helpfully makes public their scoring assistant website in which teachers learn the black art of miscue analysis (i.e., ignoring decoding errors). Two case studies are provided laying out all the gory details.
Hempinstall, K., 2002 The Three-Cueing System: Help or Hindrance? Direct Instruction News, vol. 2, #2, pp 42-51 Download DIN_02_02_10 accessed 12/31/09.
Moats, L.C.: Whole Language Lives On
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