As a college professor, I have experienced blank stares, deep sighs, or rolling eyes on the part of my students, at least occasionally, when introducing a theory or conceptual framework. I am certain that my students are thinking, “Just tell us what to do!” While skipping the theory and going directly to a “cookbook” approach might satisfy students in the short run, such an approach ultimately would diminish the deeper understanding of human behavior and the teaching and learning process that is vital to effective professional practice. My university colleagues and I need to continue stressing the need for theory to guide educational practices. As a lifelong learner, I must take this as a challenge to further the role of theory and its importance in professional practice.
Several years ago, I coauthored a Point-Counterpoint selection in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) that addressed whether university programs were too theoretical. You might guess that my coauthor and I supported the need for and importance of theory in preparing future educators, while acknowledging the need for university programs to strengthen the links between theory and practice. We included a quote from one of our colleagues in that piece, which bears repeating now: “There is nothing as practical as a good theory.” I still maintain that a sound theoretical framework can and should guide professional practice, allowing professionals to go beyond what is learned in the classroom and to generalize their knowledge to new situations and circumstances. In fact, this would seem to be the ultimate goal for every professional, so one has another course of action when the proverbial “bag of tricks” runs out.
The link between theory and practice is portrayed vividly in this month’s issue of JVIB. Bailey and Lueck and their colleagues have contributed two important papers that explore the complex relationships between print size and reading with low vision. In the first paper, these authors present a thorough and understandable theoretical framework for understanding the relationships and interactions between print size, reading speed, and preferred viewing distance. Other factors, such as print layout, cognitive and processing demands, and individual visual skills, as well as the concept of visual reserve, are also discussed. As you read and study this paper, you undoubtedly will begin to make more sense of the complex reading behaviors observed in persons with low vision.
While the theoretical paper alone would have been a major contribution to our understanding of reading with low vision, Lueck and Bailey and their colleagues also showed the application of the theory through case studies of six elementary students with low vision. This research project, presented in the second article, had the students complete a variety of reading tasks under several conditions. Based on the findings, the researchers recommend a visual acuity reserve —the ratio between the print size needed for comfortable reading and the smallest possible size of print that can be read—of at least three times for children with low vision. At the conclusion of the paper, the authors discuss the factors that must be considered in selecting the appropriate print size for students with low vision and then present a simple procedure for determining whether a given student is reading with three times visual reserve.
Too often, students with low vision struggle to develop reading skills, and one must ask whether they have had an appropriate assessment of their print media needs. I hope that reading these two papers will increase your understanding of the complex set of factors influencing print reading behaviors of students with low vision and will improve your ability to provide quality assessments and to deliver effective literacy instruction.
Alan J. Koenig, Ed.D.
Editor in Chief
CALL FOR PAPERS
Special JVIB Theme Issue on Low Vision
Guest editors: Anne L. Corn, Ed.D., professor, Department of Special Education, Ophthalmology, and Visual Sciences, Vanderbilt University.
Duane R. Geruschat, Ph.D., director of research, Maryland School for the Blind; research associate in ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Deadline for submissions: January 31, 2004
Projected publication date: October 2004
The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) invites submissions for a special theme issue on low vision. Topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
Guidelines for contributors are generally printed in each issue of JVIB, and are also available from AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind: web site: <www.afb.org/jvib_guidelines.asp>; phone: 212-502-7651; fax: 212-502-7774; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Manuscripts should be sent for peer review to:
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