The Evidence Base of Davis methods

Abigail Marshall; ©2018 DDAI
Davis Research Word Cloud

The Davis Dyslexia Correction program was developed through extensive clinical research in the early 1980’s, under the direction of Ronald Davis and with participation and input of educators, psychologists, and neurologists.  The program is now offered in multiple languages in dozens of countries around the world, and tens of thousands of children and adults have successfully completed the basic 5-day facilitated program.

Data Collected from Davis Providers

In 1981, Davis joined with Dr. Fatima Ali (PhD, clinical and educational psychology) to form the Reading Research Council (RRC) in California.  A year later, the RRC began offering dyslexia correction services to individual clients, and also obtained permission from  McGraw-Hill to use its Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills to study the effectiveness of the Davis procedures. Between 1982 and 1984, testing was done before and after 30-40 hours of individualized counseling and instruction, with a study group consisting of 110 cases, 24 female and 86 males ages 6 to 61. The results showed an average increase of 21 percentile points in reading scores, and 17 percentile points in language scores. Grade equivalents in both areas also increased an average of 1.8, almost two grade levels. 1

Readilng Impovement ChartIn 1994, after the dyslexia correction program had been provided to more than 1,000 clients, the original edition of The Gift of Dyslexia was published. Within the next two years, Davis developed a standardized approach to train other professionals to facilitate the program with individual clients. One set of facilitators established a center in Calgary, Canada in 2002, and embarked on a program of pre- and post-program testing of all of their clients, using the Ekwall-Shankar Reading Inventory.

Their data from more than 360 consecutive clients showed average improvement of almost 4 full grade levels in reading over the course of a basic 5-day dyslexia program. More than one-third of their clients showed improvement of 5 or more grade levels; more than three-quarters improved their reading skills by at least 3 grade levels. Level of improvement correlated positively to student age. Children age 8 through 12 had average gains of slightly above 3 grade levels. Teenagers, age 13-18, averaged almost 5 grade levels of improvement during the one-week program. Adults, ranging in age from 19 through 57, experienced an average improvement in ability of 6 grade levels. 2

Pilot School Program

First Grade Word Recognition ResultsIn the late 1990’s, Ron Davis also assisted educators in developing and piloting a primary level, school-based foundational program called Davis Learning Strategies. This program was created by a team of three Davis Facilitators who were also experienced teachers, led by Sharon Pfeiffer, and conducting research under the guidance of Dr. T.F. McLaughlin of Gonzaga University.  The Davis tools were modified for use with younger children in classroom group settings. Students in multiple classrooms at California public schools were provided with supplemental Davis-based instruction as they progressed from grades K-2. Their progress was later compared with students in demographically matched classrooms at the same schools, taught with the same curriculum but without the Davis component.

The Davis groups scored significantly higher on tests of sight word recognition, and no children from the Davis groups needed further intervention or special education support. Results for first graders were later compiled and published in a peer-reviewed journal. 3

Independent Research

The core Davis techniques are described in detail in Davis’ books, which in turn have been translated into more than a dozen different languages. The relative simplicity of the approach combined with the explicit instructions in books has provided further opportunities for independent research by educators with no direct ties to Davis or the Davis organizations. Over the last two decades, Davis methods have been the direct subject of more than a dozen research journal articles, conference papers, and academic dissertations from researchers in countries such as South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, India, and Iran, as well as the U.S.

In 2003, a team of prominent Italian researchers compared outcomes of students receiving 8 different forms of dyslexia intervention, at various learning centers in their region. This included a group of 16 children in grades 3-8 who had received a Davis-based intervention relying on Davis Orientation Counseling as described in The Gift of Dyslexia. The researchers also reported that the Davis group showed the greatest increase in reading speed, with passage reading at a rate that was double or triple the speed of students in other groups. Because the Davis group had also received fewer hours overall of intervention than any of the other groups, the researchers reported that the attention-focus training the group received was the most efficient intervention for increasing reading speed. 4

Chart showing Program Efficiency

Another report published by South African university researchers compared outcomes of randomly assigned students with matched controls from the same school. Davis-based tutoring was provided to 18 students in grades 4-7, ages 10-14, over a period of 9 months, and results were compared with students in the control group receiving equivalent extra hours of traditional, phonological-based tutoring.  Post-test results showed that the Davis students performed significantly better than the control group on tests of word recognition and spelling. The researchers concluded that the Davis-based intervention was effective to remediate reading and spelling problems of intermediate-level dyslexic learners.5

Chart showing reading improvement

A list of all research studies evaluating the use of Davis methods is maintained on this website at

Citation Information
Marshall, Abigail. (2018) “The Evidence Base of Davis Methods”. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:

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  1. Davis, A; Marshall, A. Reading Improvement with Davis program
  2. Marshall, A., Smith, L., & Borger-Smith, S. (2009).Davis Program Average Reading Gains: Statistics from Rocky Point Academy
  3. Pfeiffer, S; Davis, R; Kellogg, E; Hern, C;  McLaughlin, T.F. , Curry, G. The Effect of the Davis Learning Strategies on First Grade Word Recognition and Subsequent Special Education Referrals. Reading Improvement Project Innovation. Volume 38, Number 2, pp 74-84 (Summer) 2001
  4. Tressoldi, P.; Vio, C; Lorusso, M.L.; Facoetti, A.; Iozzino, R. Confronto di efficacia ed efficienza tra trattamenti per il miglioramento della lettura in soggetti dislessic. Psicologia Clinica Dello Sviluppo . VII, n. 3: 481-493 (2003)
  5. van Staden, A; A. Tolmie; MG Badenhorst. Enhancing intermediate dyslexic learners’ literacy skills: a Free State community project. Africa Education Review Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Volume 6, Issue 2, pages 295-307 (October) 2009

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