Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

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The assessment of children’s reading progress has long been of interest to teachers, researchers, and parents. The purposes for reading assessment include comparing one child‘s progress to that of his peers, screening students for special assistance, measuring an individual’s progress over a period of time, diagnosing particular areas of strength or weakness, using information for decisions about instruction, and determining placement within a reading program or special facility. There have been many different approaches to reading assessment based partly upon these differing purposes, but also upon the conception of reading development held by the test designer or user.


Miscue analysis was initially a major whole language procedure (for a fuller discussion of whole language, see A HISTORY OF DISPUTES ABOUT READING INSTRUCTION on this site) designed to assess the strategies that children use in their reading. Goodman and his colleagues in the 1960’s were interested in the processes occurring during reading, and believed that miscues (any departure from the text by the reader) could provide a picture of the underlying cognitive processes. He used the term miscue, rather than error, reflecting the view that a departure from the text is not necessarily erroneous (Goodman, 1979). Readers’ miscues include substitutions of the written word with another, additions, omissions, and alterations to the word sequence.

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