The original aim of the study was to trial an assessment procedure, HOWZAT, designed to sample the oral language, reading, and cognitive style competencies of seven year old children. The evaluation of the pilot study indicated that the procedure was limited in the extent to which the original aims could be attained. A follow up study with amended aims, items, and procedure was conducted and evaluated. The second study was a descriptive, empirical study of the responses of a sample of seven year old children to eighteen items - most of which contained distortions of written language forms. The procedure required the children to make decisions about the acceptability of the items and to discuss and justify their decisions. The sample consisted of thirty children, ten from each of three reading ability groups. The allocation of children to groups and ranking within each of the groups according to reading ability was done by their respective teachers. The children's responses to the items and some of their response behaviours were analysed in two major ways. In the item analysis it was found that the children had similar response patterns to the items that were distorted semantically, syntactically and in conventions of print but responded differently to the graph phonically distorted items. The patterns of response to the different kinds of distortions were interpreted in terms of the intrusive effect of the distortions on the children's expectations about written language. Different response patterns were also found between and within the three ability groups. Children perceived by their teachers as being better readers demonstrated competence in finding and using strategies for dealing with the task and items. Individual profiles were presented to illustrate these differences. The conclusion reached in the evaluation was that the use of distorted materials had produced interesting results but was not justified on ideological grounds. However, procedure was judged to have some potential as an action research methodology to explore children's reasoning with print and strategy learning abilities, and to probe their linguistic development and performance.
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