Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology

First Committee Member

Ralph E. Reynolds

Second Committee Member

Gale M. Sinatra

Number of Pages



Literacy scholars traditionally described spelling development as a stage-like progression of increasing orthographic understanding measured by orthographic feature errors children used but confused (Henderson, 1980; Ehri, 1992). Overlapping Wave theorists defined spelling development as a series of adaptive choices between sophisticated and unsophisticated spelling strategies measured by the type and amount of strategies children used (Siegler, 1996). To disentangle discrepancies found between the alternative viewpoints, the current study: replicated and extended a previous investigation that described spelling development as overlapping waves (Riffle-Johnson & Sieger, 1999); investigated differential feedback conditions as a source of spelling growth; and examined correlates between orthographic features and spelling strategies used by low-ability first-grade students. The study used a trial-by-trial microgenetic approach combining statistical and observational methods. The study found evidence of spelling development proceeding in accumulative phases, continuously, and in overlapping waves concomitantly. Results defined three feature-strategy relationships: (1) direct relationships between orthographic feature knowledge and spelling strategy use, (2) time-sensitive relationships dependent on the depth of orthographic understanding, and (3) stable relationships not affecting strategy use. Individual differences in children's growth rate uncovered the Matthew effect (Stanovich, 1986). Additionally, the study illustrated the advantages of a microgenetic mixed design.


Children; Development; Knowledge; Microgenetic; Orthographic Knowledge; Perspective Spelling; Spelling

Controlled Subject

Individualized reading instruction; Developmental psychology

File Format


File Size

3993.6 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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