Effects of Morphological Instruction on Reading & Spelling

Peter Bowers and John Kirby, 2006

Click the image on the left for a handout of the poster presented at the Society for the Scientific Studies in Reading conference held in Vancouver in 2006. The poster presents the initial results of the intervention study conducted last year where Peter Bowers taught grade 4 and 5 students 20 lessons built on Real Spelling materials (Ramsden, 2001) and looked at the effect of that instruction on a variety of literacy measures in comparison to a control group. We also looked at whether any gains from instruction were mediated by children’s initial word reading ability. The short story is that we found gains on a variety of literacy measures. Largely, those gains were not dependent on initial reading ability.

For those interested in more detail, see Peter Bowers’ thesis on the same study as described in the handout. Click on the image to the right to download the pdf. Pete’s thesis was awarded the Queen’s Faculty of Education Thesis Prize, for the best thesis of 2006-2007. Click here for a link to Power Point presentations Pete has presented at the Department of Education at Oxford University and various reading conferences.

Copyright Susan and Peter Bowers 2008

Effects of morphological instruction on vocabulary acquisition

Peter Bowers and John Kirby (2010), Reading & Writing

This study with Grade 4/5 students reports on the vocabulary effects of morphological instruction using structured word inquiry approach with the support of matrices and word sums. The study was just published in Reading &Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Vol. 23, p. 515-537.

For a summary of the findings, you can click either image to the below to download the handout Pete produced for his poster presentation (Bowers & Kirby, 2008) at the 2008 Society for the Scientific Studies in Reading conference in Asheville NC.

More information on Pete’s research on morphological instruction

For those interested in the research evidence of the instruction modelled by WordWorks, this page includes some of the scientific work Pete has been doing on morphological instruction during his graduate work at the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University under the supervision of John Kirby.

Our WordWorks’ Teacher Resource Book uses the lessons that were created for the intervention study “Morphology Instruction and Vocabulary” recently published in in Reading & Writing. See more below.

Meta-Analysis on Morphological instruction

The June issue of Review of Educational Research has published this meta-analysis of morphological instruction that Pete has been working on for his PhD. Here is the citation:

Bowers, P. N., Kirby, J. R., & S. H. Deacon. (2010). The effects of morphological instruction on literacy skills: A systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 80, 144-179.

The findings of our study have since been corroborated by another meta-analysis (Goodwin & Ahn, 2010) in the Annals of Dyslexia. See here.

Summaries of the findings of this work can be found here: 

  1. Click the image on the left for a quick summary of the results from Pete’s poster presentation (Bowers, Kirby, & Deacon, 2009) presented at SSSR in Boston June 25-27.

  2. Click the image on the right for bit more detail on Pete’s Power-Point slides that he used for his presentation at Development: A Canadian Conference on Developmental Psychology, May 6 – 7, 2010 Carleton University, Ottawa. (Note: the PowerPoint & RER paper have slightly updated data compared to the 2009 poster.)

Basic findings from the meta-analysis:

  1. BulletMorphological interventions brought literacy benefits for students from pre-school to Grade 8.

  2. BulletLargest gains shown for less able readers.

  3. BulletEffects were generally stronger for interventions during Pre-school to Grade 2 compared to Grade 3 and above.

  4. BulletIntegrating morphological instruction with other forms of literacy instruction generally brought stronger effects.


Pete’s Research

Refereed Journal articles

Bowers, P.N., Cooke, G. (2012, Fall). Morphology and the Common Core: Building students’ understanding of the Written Word. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 31-35

Bowers, P.N., Kirby, J.R., & Deacon, S.H. (2010) The Effects of Morphological Instruction on Literacy Skills: A Systematic Review of the Literature, Review of Educational Research, 80, 144–179.

Bowers, P.N. & Kirby, J.R. (2010) Effects of Morphological instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 23, 515–537.

Kirby, J.R. & Bowers, P.N. (2012). Morphology Works. What Works? Research into Practice, Ontario Ministry of Education Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.

Kirby, J.R., Deacon, S.H., Bowers, P.N., Izenberg, L. Wade-Wooley, L., Parrila, R. (2012) Morphological awareness and reading ability, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 25, 389-410.

Teacher Resource Book

Bowers, P. (2009). Teaching how the written word works. (See this link.)

Doctoral dissertation

Bowers, P. (2012). Morphological Instruction in the Elementary Classroom

Master’s  Thesis (2006-2007 Queen’s Faculty of Education Thesis Prize)

Bowers, P. (2012) Adding Transparency to Morphologically Opaque Words Through Instruction