A review of the literature into effective practice in teaching literacy through braille

Title: A review of the literature into effective practice in teaching literacy through Braille.

Authors: Steve McCall, Mike McLinden and Graeme Douglas, VICTAR, University of Birmingham, Publisher: RNIB, Year of publication: 2011

Background

The teaching of literacy through the medium of braille has been a topic of interest for researchers and educators for many years. However it is debatable to what extent evidence from psychological and educational research has filtered through to teachers and informed their practice. Findings from some UK studies suggest considerable variation in approaches to the teaching of braille literacy, for example in the timing of the introduction of contractions, and in the role played by teaching assistants (TAs) in the delivery of braille teaching. There is also a wealth of information and resources on developing children's braille reading skills but there has been little research into the efficacy of these approaches. The objectives of this study were therefore to:   

  • review the literature into teaching literacy through braille     
  • collate relevant UK- based braille reading schemes    
  • present the findings so that they would be of practical use for teachers in their approaches to the teaching of literacy through braille to young children.

Key findings 

  • There is general support in the literature that phonological instruction is beneficial for beginning braille readers and that there are key similarities in the underlying processes of reading development for braille readers and print readers    
  • There are some concerns in the literature that the logographic nature of contracted braille complicates the development of phonological skills and this has been taken as evidence in favour of uncontracted braille. However, further research is needed to substantiate this claim    
  • Although there are arguments for both the early and late introduction of contractions, sufficient empirical evidence does not yet exist to resolve the debate conclusively. It seems there is only general agreement that instruction needs to focus on reading processes, regardless of how or when contractions are introduced.    
  • There is no evidence in the research literature to support the view that technology has an adverse effect on the development of literacy through braille    
  • There is surprisingly little research into the potential of digital technology to support the development of early literacy through braille. The evidence does suggest that digital technology can play a key role in supporting the consolidation of braille literacy skills.    
  • The accurate assessment of literacy performance is important for informing literacy teaching    
  • Deciding whether braille is an appropriate route to literacy is complex and involves many issues. The re-development of the 'Learning Media Assessment' would be a useful step forward in helping to inform decision making    
  • The choice of reading media for children with additional learning difficulties presents particular challenges    
  • Learning to read through braille and print in combination appears to be a legitimate, successful and sensitive route to literacy for some CYP    

The findings have led to 10 recommendations aimed at:    

  • National/regional providers - these focus on policy makers and lobbying groups including RNIB, national government, teacher groups and producers of braille teaching resources    
  • Training providers    
  • Local education services    

Other issues - this includes topics that warrant further investigation.