Science Can Inform Educational Practice: The Case of Literacy

  • William Tunmer
  • Jane Prochnow
  • James Chapman


Antinaturalists, interpretivists, critical theorists, postmodernists, and deconstructivists have been highly critical of educational research methods that are theory driven, hypothesis testing, or generalization producing. According to extreme versions of these views research can only provide findings that are “contextually bound”, in which case educational researchers should concentrate more on “telling stories” than “crunching numbers”. With respect to literacy, these critics have questioned the feasibility of attempting to develop a general theory of how children learn to read (and write), and what can be done to maximize the effectiveness of literacy instruction for all children in the light of such findings. Instead, children’s literacy experiences are seen as firmly embedded in social contexts that uniquely give meaning to their uses of literacy. In this paper we present an alternative view that begins with a definition of reading literacy that simultaneously incorporates psychological, linguistic, and sociological perspectives. We then present a brief critique of the position that literacy is primarily social, political, and relative, before turning to the primary focus of the paper, which is to provide specific examples of how theory-driven quantitative research can inform educational practice in literacy.


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Author Biographies

William Tunmer
Jane Prochnow
James Chapman
How to Cite
TUNMER, William; PROCHNOW, Jane; CHAPMAN, James. Science Can Inform Educational Practice: The Case of Literacy. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], n. 9, feb. 1999. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 28 oct. 2020. doi:


Languages, Language Education and Literacy