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Providing English foreign language teachers with content knowledge to facilitate decoding and spelling acquisition: a longitudinal perspective

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This quasi-experimental study adds to the small existing literature on orthographic-related teacher knowledge in an English as a foreign language (EFL) context. The study examined the impact of a course on English orthography on predominantly non-native-speaking EFL preservice and inservice teachers’ orthographic content knowledge, and the extent to which these teachers retained orthographic-related content knowledge four months after participating in a semester course on the topic. In addition, the study examined the relationship between participants’ acquired orthographic-related content knowledge and EFL spelling. Both groups of teachers that studied in the course improved on overall orthographic-related content knowledge, both immediately following the course and longitudinally. Preservice and inservice participants showed similar levels of orthographic knowledge prior to course participation and both showed significant improvements compared to controls following course participation. Participants also retained knowledge four months after course completion. Overall, the inservice teachers scored higher on orthographic-related knowledge, possibly as a result of the immediate application of their newly acquired knowledge. An unexpected finding was a lack of interaction between acquired orthographic-related content knowledge and pseudo word spelling scores. Possible methodological limitations, such as number of participants as well as the length and scope of the course, may explain this outcome. This paper also discusses practical implications of this study for EFL decoding and spelling instruction.

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    The State of Israel Ministry of Education Pedagogical Administration Planning, Management and Preparation Kits (2014–2015) recommends nine L1 weekly instructional hours in third grade, seven in fourth grade, and six in fifth and sixth grade (this includes all language arts in either Hebrew or Arabic L1). The same document recommends four EFL weekly instructional hours starting in fourth grade and continuing in fifth and sixth grade. The document states that allocation of these hours may be manipulated within a 25 % range (State of Israel Ministry of Education Pedagogical Administration, 2014).


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This research was funded by a grant from Oranim Academic College of Education Graduate Department and Research Authority.

Author information

Correspondence to Janina Kahn-Horwitz.


Appendix 1

Adapted teacher knowledge survey

Appendix 2

Real Word Spelling

  1. 1.

    accept: Please accept this gift.

  2. 2.

    make: In the morning I will make a sandwich.

  3. 3.

    frustrate: The number of car accidents each year frustrate the efforts of the organizations trying to prevent them.

  4. 4.

    pocket: My phone is in my pocket.

  5. 5.

    public: Public transport is fairly good.

  6. 6.

    message: I sent her a message.

  7. 7.

    thick: They walked through a thick forest.

  8. 8.

    thousand: Ten hundreds make a thousand.

  9. 9.

    nice: Today is a nice day.

  10. 10.

    ground: After the rain the ground is wet.

  11. 11.

    shock: The bad news came as a shock.

  12. 12.

    loud: The noise was extremely loud.

  13. 13.

    button: The button on my jacket came off.

  14. 14.

    thunder: The rain poured down and it started to thunder.

  15. 15.

    sudden: A sudden decision.

  16. 16.

    concentrate: I need to concentrate on passing this exam.

  17. 17.

    path: a garden path

  18. 18.

    sound: sound waves

  19. 19.

    attack: The town was under attack.

  20. 20.

    bucket: There is water in the bucket.

  21. 21.

    think: I need to think about this.

  22. 22.

    confuse: I often confuse the twins.

  23. 23.

    with: Please may I have coffee with milk.

  24. 24.

    outline: I will prepare a brief outline of the course.

  25. 25.

    hammer: Hit the nail with the hammer.

Appendix 3

Pseudo Word Spelling

plice, tround, conbencrate, fessage, thip, glound, crucket, conbuse, ousrine, dith, nath, annack, thint, acceft, cludden, thouvand, dake, thubler, frupthate, cammer, tutton, thricket, toud, shublic, slock

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Kahn-Horwitz, J. Providing English foreign language teachers with content knowledge to facilitate decoding and spelling acquisition: a longitudinal perspective. Ann. of Dyslexia 66, 147–170 (2016).

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  • Content knowledge
  • English as a foreign language
  • Longitudinal
  • Orthography
  • Spelling