Implicit and Explicit Awareness of a Phonics Rule in the Word Recognition of Students With and Without Learning Disabilities

  • John K. McNamara
  • Jim Wagner


This study investigates the ability of students with and without learning disabilities to learn a phonics rule implicitly and the ability of these students to report accurately about the rule verbally. Many researchers have argued that implicit learning denotes a form of learning that occurs without intention and results in adequate performance, but is not available to consciousness and so not verbalizable (Reber, 1993). Others have suggested that this inability to verbalize may not be as definite as originally thought (Ericsson & Simon, 1993). This study examined the implicit learning and explicit knowledge capabilities of students between the ages of 10 and 12 with and without learning disabilities. Students acquired knowledge implicitly about the pronunciation of pseudo words that were governed by one of two phonics rules. They were then asked to verbalize explicitly about the acquired knowledge. Results indicate that implicit knowledge capabilities for all students were not significantly different. However, there were significant differences between students with and without learning disabilities on explicit knowledge scores.