Gene Ouellette

Professor; Women's Soccer Coach
Crabtree 213
Office hours


I am a Professor in the Department of Psychology here at Mount Allison University. I am also the Head Coach of the Women's varsity soccer team.

My areas of scholarly expertise include cognitive development, educational psychology, the acquisition of literacy, speech and language impairments, and psycholinguistics.

Prior to completing my PhD in Psychology, I obtained a Masters of Clinical Science in Speech Language Pathology and have worked in the past for public school boards in Ontario and have also provided private-practice consultative services to schools and families in areas related to speech, language, and literacy development and disorders. I currently teach courses in the areas of child and adolescent development, educational psychology, and the psychology of language. My research interests are currently focused on exploring the connections between oral language and learning to read, as well as on identifying the cognitive skills that underlie skilled reading and writing, and the educational practices that best promote language and literacy.


Martin-Chang, S., Ouellette, G., & Rossi, M. (2019). Reading speed and orthographic quality: Exploring the space between good and poor.  Scientific Studies of Reading, 23, 192-201.

Ouellette, G., Martin-Chang, S., & Rossi, M. (2018). Learning from our mistakes: Improvements in spelling lead to gains in reading speed.  Scientific Studies of Reading, 22, 350-357.

Ouellette, G., & van Daal, V. (2017). Orthographic learning and mental representations in literacy: Striving for a better understanding of a complex lead role. Scientific Studies of Reading, 21, 1-5.

Ouellette, G., & Sénéchal, M. (2017). Invented spelling in Kindergarten as a predictor of  reading and spelling in Grade 1: A new pathway to literacy, or just the same road, less known? Developmental Psychology, 53, 77-88.

Martin-Chang, S., Ouellette, G., & Bond, L. (2017).  Differential effects of context and feedback on orthographic learning: How good is good enough? Scientific Studies of Reading, 21, 17-30.

Ouellette, G., & Michaud, M. (2016). Generation Text: The “Kids” are All Right. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 48, 217-222.

Ouellette, G., & Shaw, E. (2015). Oral vocabulary and reading comprehension: An intricate affair. L'Année Psychologique/Topics in Cognitive Psychology, 114, 623-645.

Martin-Chang, S., Ouellette, G., & Madden, M. (2014).  Does poor spelling equate to slow reading? The relationship between reading, spelling, and lexical quality. Reading and Writing, 27, 1485-1505.

Ouellette, G., & Tims, T. (2014). The write way to orthographic learning: Printing versus typing in spelling acquisition. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00117.

Ouellette, G., Sénéchal, M., & Haley, A. (2013). Guiding children's invented spellings: A gateway into literacy learning. Journal of Experimental Education, 81, 261-279.

Ouellette, G., & Haley, A. (2013). One complicated extended family: The influence of alphabetic knowledge and vocabulary on phonemic awareness. Journal of Research in Reading, 36, 29-41.

Sénéchal, M., Ouellette, G., Pagan, S., & Lever, R. (2012).   The role of invented spelling on learning to read in low-phoneme-awareness kindergartners: A randomized-control- trial study. Reading and Writing, 25, 917-934.

Ouellette, G. (2011). Orthographic learning in learning to spell: The roles of semantics and type of practice. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology107, 50-58.

Ouellette, G., & Beers, A. (2010). A not-so-simple view of reading: How oral vocabulary and visual-word recognition complicate the story. Reading and Writing23, 189-208.

Ouellette, G., & Fraser, J. (2009). What exactly is a Yait anyway: The role of semantics in orthographic learning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology104, 239- 251.

Ouellette, G., & Sénéchal, M. (2008). Pathways to literacy: A study of invented spelling and its role in learning to read.  Child Development, 79, 799-813.

Ouellette, G., & Sénéchal, M. (2008). A window into early literacy: Exploring the cognitive and linguistic underpinnings of invented spelling.  Scientific Studies of Reading, 12, 195-219.

Delauriers, W.A., Ouellette, G., Barnes, M., & LeFevre, J. (2008). To see or not to see: The visual component of complex mental arithmetic. In B.C. Love, K. McRae, & V.M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 241-246). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Sénéchal, M., Pagan, S., Lever, R., & Ouellette, G. (2008). Relations among the frequency of shared reading and 4-year-old children's vocabulary, morphological and syntax comprehension. Early Education and Development, 19 (1), 27-44.

Ouellette, G. (2006). What's meaning got to do with it: The role of vocabulary in word reading and reading comprehension. The Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 554-566.

Sénéchal, M., Ouellette, G., & Rodney, D. (2006). The misunderstood giant: On the predictive role of early vocabulary to future reading. In S.B. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of Early Literacy Research Volume 2. New York, NY: Guilford Press.


B.Sc., Psychology  (Dalhousie University)

M.Sc., Speech-Language Pathology/Human Communication Disorders (McGill University)

Ph.D., Psychology (Carleton University)


Courses taught (past and present):

Psychology 1011: Introduction to Psychology II

Psychology 2431: Child and Adolescent Development

Psychology 3501: Selected Topics - Language Disorders in Children

Psychology 3221: Psycholinguistics/Psychology of Language

Psychology 3801: Educational Psychology

Psychology 4401: Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology (Research Methodology)


Language and literacy skills and the role of internal representations 

Phonology refers to the study of the sound system of a language; honological representations refer to our internal store of the sounds of our language. When we learn to read, we use these representations in matching sounds to letters. 

Orthography refers to the symbols used to put a language into writing and to the rules that govern the formation of printed words. Inherent to this definition is implicit knowledge of rules that govern which characters are legal and how these characters can be combined as well as knowledge of whole-word patterns. Orthographic representations refer to our internal store of visual word forms; these come into play as we learn to recognize words by sight- that is, without having to sound them out letter by letter.

Semantic representations refer to our internal store of words, their meanings, and how they are associated with one another. As we learn and use vocabulary, we refine our knowledge of words, their sounds, and their meanings; indeed we can continue to learn new words throughout life. Word knowledge directly impacts our reading comprehension, but may also facilitate - or restrain - our ability to read and spell words.

Interestingly, the different roads to word reading intersect in developmental theory. In virtually all leading theories of how children learn how to read, the initial process is proposed to be one based on phonology and sounding out words. There is now ample evidence that phoneme awareness (i.e., an awareness of sounds within words) is related to decoding, and that training in phoneme awareness improves subsequent decoding. Although the earliest phases of reading reflect a reliance on phonologically based processes, orthographic and semantic knowledge become increasingly important as reading skills develop.

I am interested in exploring how children develop early reading skills and also how readers progress from a reliance on phonological representations to storing and using orthographic knowledge. I am also interested in exploring just how semantics factors into word reading and spelling. Several lines of ongoing research in this respect are:

(1) the study of invented spelling, and its use as an instructional tool to facilitate the integration of representations and hence help children in learning to read

(2) the study of how children develop processing skills and learn to store orthographic representations (orthographic learning) across the early elementary school years.

(3) the study of how specific components of oral vocabulary are related to reading and spelling proficiency

(4) the study of how different cognitive processes are related to reading and spelling proficiency

(5) the study of how spelling and reading are related (and dissociated)