Phonics International Forum Index Phonics International
an International Online Synthetic Phonics Programme
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

The Australian: Teacher training fails on literacy

Post new topic   Reply to topic    Phonics International Forum Index -> All sorts of articles, blogs, research and topics to stimulate debate!
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message

Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2486
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:32 pm    Post subject: The Australian: Teacher training fails on literacy Reply with quote

A deep audit of teacher-training establishments is exactly what is needed - and teachers need to be able to conduct a deep audit of their provision for phonics and basic skills for reading, spelling and writing in schools.

It is very good news to see this piece in 'The Australian':

Teacher training fails on literacy


Justine Ferrari

National Education Correspondent

MANY primary school teachers are ill-equipped to help students learn to read, with an audit of education degrees revealing the teaching of reading is mired in theory, with too little focus on practical skills.

The nation’s first evaluation of the content covered in teaching degrees identifies “significant concerns” about the skills of many existing teachers in proven methods for teaching reading and questions whether graduating teachers are properly equipped.

The report by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards reveals the time spent on the subject and the strategies covered vary considerably between universities.

It calls for guidelines setting out core ­essential content for the teaching of reading, including a range of evidence-based ­approaches and the appropriate balance of theory to practice.

“Although research evidence from recent major studies into the teaching of reading unequivocally supports the explicit and systematic teaching of ... phonics in the early years of schooling, it is not apparent that all graduate teachers would be able to do so,” it says.

“While all programs address early literacy learning, the place of phonics in programs is variable. For example, phonics is variously addressed as one teaching strategy that may be used, as a remediation strategy only or as an essential strategy for the teaching of reading.”

The board also recommends school systems identify the gaps in the knowledge of their existing teachers and commission courses to address the shortcomings.

“Many current primary teachers do not have adequate knowledge and skills for best-practice in the teaching of reading and are unable to provide appropriate guidance to (teaching) students,” the report says.

The report is one of the first of a series of rolling annual audits by the board as part of the NSW government’s reforms to improve the quality of teaching.

All teaching degrees must meet national accreditation standards, but NSW is the first state to inde­pendently evaluate how universities teach what they are supposed to.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the audit was the first time universities had been held to account for what they taught, and “I can’t say I’m totally impressed by it”.

“There are accreditation requirements of the things universities must teach, but until recently it’s just been a tick-the-box process. This is the first time the board has had a close look at what they actually do,” Mr Piccoli said.

“Universities have this attitude that nobody tells them what they should do and who to enrol. I just don’t agree with that.

“They enrol students on the understanding they will teach those students how to be a good schoolteacher and it lets down schools and it lets down those students if they don’t deliver that.”

The audit of reading strategies was limited by a reluctance of universities to co-operate, and Mr Piccoli said he hoped the process would be adopted by the federal government, which funds universities. “The commonwealth has more coercive powers through its funding agreements with universities and it’s something I hope it will look into to make sure universities are doing what they’re supposed to,” he said.

BOSTES president Tom Alegounarias said every teacher had to be able to teach phonics — the teaching of sounds that comprise the English language — ­explicitly and systematically, even if some students learnt to read without requiring being taught the letter-sound relationships.

“Teachers need to be able to teach a great many things, including when they teach reading, and phonics is an essential one of those strategies,” Mr Alegouna­rias said.

“Teaching phonics isn’t about ideology or philosophy, it’s about evidence. Doctors don’t have a belief in penicillin, penicillin works. Phonics works, full stop.

“It’s disappointing that, after ­decades of research into the best way of teaching reading, ­universities still haven’t reached a consensus, and there’s too much variation between teaching degrees.”

The board looked at 68 courses in 14 institutions in NSW, from sandstone universities to small Christian colleges, and found a “lack of clarity” and consensus, with little evidence students were taught the evidence-based approach to the teaching of reading. “The extent to which providers take the integrated, explicit and systematic approach to the teaching of reading as recommended by international and national research evidence remains unclear,” it says.

The board found courses had stronger emphasis on strategies for students in years 3 to 6 rather than children in their first three years of school, focusing on literature and teaching literacy in the context of literature. “In some course outlines, there was no explicit reference to the teaching of phonics ... and in some it appeared to be assumed knowledge,” the report says.

“For the teaching of reading, most providers appeared to emphasise strategies such as modelled, guided, shared and independent reading more than foundational strategies such as phonics ...”

Universities and other institutes have processes to address literacy skills of their teaching students, but little to assess their readiness and ability to teach reading to young children. “In many cases, it would be difficult to make a confident judgment about students’ readiness to teach reading,” it says.

It identifies big shortcomings in practical training provided for teaching students in the teaching of reading, saying many supervising teachers “appear to have little knowledge and understanding of literacy theories/models, and ineffective literacy skills”.

“The emphasis on literacy seems to vary greatly across classrooms, schools and school systems and, in some cases, discredited teaching strategies or strategies not based on research evidence are in use.”

Debbie Hepplewhite
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2486
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linked topic - this is the site of the National Council for Teacher Quality, in the USA:
Debbie Hepplewhite
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2486
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is what Susan Godsland has written about Initial Teacher Training in England via her excellent, well-referenced site :

Back in 2002, Ofsted (the government's education inspection dept.) reported that student primary school teachers at Cambridge University, one of the country's top teacher training courses, still did not know how to teach reading at the end of a four-year degree course. In particular the teaching of phonics "left much to be desired" and was hardly touched on (RRF50 p12)

Dr. Morag Stuart, contributor to the Rose Report 2006, gave evidence to the Education and Skills committee's inquiry on Teaching Children to Read (15/11/04). She told the committee, ‘'I work at the Institute of Education and I go in there every day. However, I work in the School of Psychology and Human Development and I teach on Master’s courses for already qualified teachers and the continuing professional development programme. I moved to the Institute of Education because I recognised that I now knew an awful lot about reading and my knowledge was useful to teachers. However, I have never been invited to give so much as a single lecture on the initial teacher training course which runs in my own institution. That is the extent of my failure to make a difference.'’(Ev. 25)

In his article, 'The Education White Paper: a CPS Postnatum' (Nov. 2010), Tom Burkard wrote that, ''(T)eacher training was first identified as the major obstacle to the implementation of effective practices in the 1996 report, Reading Fever. In an unpublished CPS report that was sent to Nick Gibb just prior to the general election, we suggested that new arrangements were needed to train teachers to use synthetic phonics effectively. We included a survey of reading lists for 46 initial teacher training (ITT) courses, which revealed an overwhelming hostility to this method, and indeed a profound disagreement with the coalition’s overall vision of educational reform''.

In 2012 the Coalition Government made it clear that proficiency in synthetic phonics was the expectation for all teachers and those training to teach. This expectation is now reflected in the Teachers’ Standards. In order to meet the standard, trainee teachers should, by the end of their training:

• know and understand the: recommendations of the Rose Review 2006; and the Simple View of Reading
and be able to apply this understanding to their teaching of reading and writing.
• know and understand the alphabetic code
• know and understand the Criteria for assuring high quality phonic work (DfE, 2011) and be able to recognise how they are met in a range of phonic programmes
• be able to apply their knowledge and understanding of the Criteria to the teaching and assessment of phonics using a school’s phonic programme
• be able to identify, and provide targeted support for, children making progress both beyond and below the expected level

''This understanding needs to be applied within the context of a language rich curriculum, supporting the development of vocabulary and communication skills in speaking, listening and writing, and within a learning environment where there is a focus on reading for purpose and pleasure''

As can be seen above, university teacher training departments must now provide trainees with extensive information on systematic synthetic phonics (SSP). Deplorably, many teacher trainers remain ideologically wedded to the NLS mixture of methods (real books for independent reading, sight words, contextualized phonics, multi-cueing for decoding) and are extremely reluctant to train students to teach early reading using synthetic phonics (decodable books for independent reading and real books for sharing, discrete phonics, decoding using phonics only). They are providing trainees with a subversive subtext and false balance (see below) to ensure that the statutory SSP content is undermined. An ITE lecturer describes how this is happening: ''Due to the very nature of what it means to be a professional there can be no doubt that for some there will be subversion at work the creation of guerrilla campaigns against the imposition of SSP...For example, an organised, strategic resistance may be through the philosophy promoted within a faculty'' (Hewitt p88)

''My uni was very anti the Rose report, and one of our assignments was to do a presentation about how poor the data were, and why the whole lot of it should be taken with a pinch of salt.'' (Mumsnet Primary Education forum 2011)

A senior ITE lecturer recently wrote a paper (see link below) where she asserted that, ''A lecturer with integrity and a good understanding of how children read will ensure that students, who are learning to teach reading, understand that the sole use of SSP is not an effective way to teach reading, but that for many children a variety of approaches is required'' (Hewitt. p88) She failed to provide even one piece of scientific evidence to support this view. In the same paper she stated that reading researcher Prof. Stanovich and whole language founder Frank Smith both ''endorse the belief that children learn to read through a whole word approach to reading'' (Hewitt p82). In actual fact, Stanovich says that he and his colleague Richard West were at first very taken with Frank Smith’s theories about context effects and expected their own research to confirm them. However, their experiments led them to very different conclusions. Stanovich wrote, ''To our surprise, all of our research results pointed in the opposite direction: it was the poorer readers, not the more skilled readers, who were more reliant on context to facilitate word recognition..I write “to our surprise” because we embarked on these studies fully expecting to confirm Smith’s (1971) views'' (Stanovich.p6). Stanovich went on to say “That direct instruction in alphabetic coding facilitates early reading acquisition is one of the most well established conclusions in all of behavioural science” (Stanovich p415)

Presently, what seems to be happening in the majority of university teacher training departments is that student teachers are being given a false balance between synthetic phonics and mixed methods in their lectures on how to teach reading. A look at the reading lists for several universities confirms this:
Even a university which lists a couple of synthetic phonics texts as 'required reading' has an additional and extensive 'recommended reading' book list which consists entirely of texts written or edited by academics who are known to be anti-synthetic phonics, in the case of Goouch and Lambirth virulently so.

'Thinking Reading' covered the subject of false balance in an article she wrote about her own training programme:
''It would be good if your training programme presented a more balanced view.” This oft-posed challenge to those who propose an effective approach to teaching reading, i.e. one that is both rationally and empirically sound - was also put to us recently. The logical implication of the statement is that our course is not balanced. Presumably, as in a news article, this means that a training programme should present competing points of view and leave trainees to make up their own minds by evaluating the relative merits of the different approaches. However, this would also imply that the competing views must therefore be of equal value if they are to take up equal amounts of time. And this raises two questions: what ‘balance’ really means; and what we are balancing...''

Debbie Hepplewhite
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2486
Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

More in the Australian - Teacher reading audit gets Christopher Pyne tick:

Teacher reading audit gets Christopher Pyne tick


Rick Morton

Social Affairs Reporter

UNIVERSITIES must be able to demonstrate their ability to ­deliver quality courses that ­“produce effective teachers”, the government declared yes­terday, as Education Minister Christopher Pyne welcomed a unilateral move by NSW to audit how teaching graduates are being taught.

The NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards investigation into how the state’s universities were preparing teachers has found many ­primary school teachers were poorly trained to help students learn to read, and over­loaded with theory at the expense of practical skills.

The report, revealed in The Australian yesterday, sparked a call for the federal government to intervene, a spokesman for Mr Pyne praising the solo ­effort by NSW to force transparency into the murky debate.

“The commonwealth government is very pleased to see that the NSW government is taking this initiative,” the spokesman said. “Concerns expressed by NSW should be of interest to all state governments as regulatory authorities. Anecdotal evidence is that the design and delivery of tea­cher education programs is not always based on sound ­evidence. All providers should be able to demonstrate they deliver quality programs that produce effective teachers.”

In February, Mr Pyne convened the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group to examine these issues. His office confirmed yesterday the minister had received the final report, which would frame the education debate in the year ahead.

Centre for Independent Studies researcher Jennifer Buckingham said the federal government should use its funding influence over universities to “convince” them to play ball on transparency, echoing the sentiments of NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.

“There is a great momentum about equipping teachers with these traditional skills and it would be a shame if that momentum were lost,” Ms Buckingham said. “Teaching students need to have the full details of what sort of education they are going to get; once they have that, they can — and schools can — make a choice about what degrees are best.”

NSW Council of Deans of Education president Chris Davison, head of the School of Education at the University of NSW, was scathing of the BOSTES process. “BOSTES only looked at course outlines from the past five years and conducted short telephone interviews,” she said. “I am frankly baffled by the strategy being adopted by Minister Piccoli. Universities are co-operating fully, they can ask for whatever information they want, they have that power.

“Who has signed off on applications for all initial teacher education programs in NSW since 2009? He has. We are the solution, not the problem.”

Professor Davison played down the value of phonics — the teaching of reading using the sounds that comprise the English language — saying it was useful but not always necessary. “English is much more complex, there are 26 letters but 44 sounds; it’s not good enough just to know those sounds, you have to know where the words fit,” she said.

A key criticisms of the BOSTES report was teachers did not know how to use phonics, an approach backed by evidence, to teach reading.

The Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership developed national accreditation standards — against which NSW audited universities — and chief executive Margery Evans said it was up to states how they applied them. “There are more than 400 courses in the country, states make their own decisions about ways they will apply the standards and ways to make universities accountable.”

While the national standards focus on ensuring teachers have access to the full “repertoire” of teaching skills in relation to reading, they do not specifically require the use of phonics.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said teachers must be taught the full range of reading approaches “including phonics”. He argued that teachers would receive more time for practical experience if universities set higher entry standards and reduced their total numbers of education students. “If there is a total cap on the number of places available, that will allow us to better focus the training and support for graduating teachers,” he said. “We need to tackle the profession from the point of entry to university, experience and induction.”

The Queensland College of Teachers, the regulatory peer of BOSTES in that state, said it routinely identified “priority areas” with education deans and schools and works on improving in these areas. The priority for the 2015-16 year was “numeracy”.

The Victorian Institute of Teaching chief executive Melanie Saba said the state was transitioning to the national standards by 2017. “The process of accreditation … is not a tick-the-box process,” she said.

Debbie Hepplewhite
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2486
Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great opinion piece by Jennifer Buckingham, a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies:

Reading writing on the wall


THE audit report on primary teaching degrees prepared by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards is not yet public, but its findings, described in The Australian yesterday, are damning.

Primary teaching degrees fail to provide teachers with adequate knowledge in effective reading ­instruction, including phonics. ­Instead, most universities emphasise whole language approaches to literacy.

Reading specialists around Australia and the world have greeted these findings with mixed emotions. They are delighted that a government has taken strong, positive steps to ensure children receive effective instruction in reading. But there is also despondency to have it confirmed that most universities in NSW are doing a terrible job of preparing new teachers in the most fundamental aspect of their job — teaching children to read.

Phonics is the most hotly contested battleground of the so-called “reading wars”, perhaps because it is the most misunderstood. Phonics is, in essence, the alphabetic code — the relationship between sounds and letters. Good phonics instruction gives children the ability to decode ­familiar and unfamiliar words. Some children work out how to decipher the alphabetic code on their own, but most need some ­explicit instruction in phonics.

Phonics is one part of an effect­ive reading program, but the part teachers are most likely to get wrong. This is not surprising since the audit report says even supervising teachers “appear to have ­little knowledge and understanding of literacy theories/models, and ineffective literacy skills”.

There has been a bewildering reluctance in education faculties to acknowledge the scientific basis for effective teaching methods. Education academics often view the idea of explicitly teaching children how to read the written word (rather than reading children lots of books and hoping for the best) as between an anachronism and a “neoliberal”, anti-public education plot.

Teaching methods are given a bizarre ideological or sociological spin; a dean of education in a NSW university rec­ently described pho­nics as a “mono­cultural” approach to teaching reading.

Fortunately, BOSTES chairman Tom Alegounarias and NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli have a more pragmatic perspective: teachers should use the strategies that are the most ­effective for the largest number of students. As Alegounarias said, “Teaching phonics isn’t about ideology or philosophy, it’s about evidence. Doctors don’t have a ­belief in penicillin, penicillin works. Phonics works, full stop.”

Also fortunately, the new NSW audit report is not an iso­lated ­example of evidence-based teaching methods gaining ground. The curriculum review com­missioned by the federal government last year recommended a stronger emphasis on explicit teaching in the early years of schools, including phonics, a recommendation endorsed by the federal government.

The new chairman and deputy chairman of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, John Hattie and John Fleming, are advocates of phonics and explicit teaching.

With Fleming also in the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, it would be ­surprising if the forthcoming TEMAG report was ambivalent about universities teaching effect­ive reading instruction methods.

The momentum for change is powerful, and it’s about time. Australia is a decade behind the US and Britain in adopting policies that reflect the best research. Res­ults of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Survey suggest these countries are reaping the rewards.

In 2011, 24 per cent of Australian Year 4 students failed to meet the intermediate international reading benchmark, compared with 14 per cent in the US and 17 per cent in England. New Zealand’s results were dispiritingly similar to Australia’s — as are their literacy teaching practices. Australian psychology, linguistics, or neuroscience departments produce some of the world’s best reading research, but it is rarely seen in the curricula of teaching degrees.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of students are unable to read after 10 years at school.

Education faculties and state governments must take responsibility and action. The NSW government is leading the way.

Jennifer Buckingham is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.

Debbie Hepplewhite
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2486
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

England: Interesting blog posting about teacher-training experiences in England via the 'mrbunkeredu' blog:

Things I wish they'd told me

2. Teaching Phonics isn’t evil.

Despite being an English teacher, I consider my knowledge of phonics teaching to be incredibly poor. We didn’t actually learn about it at Uni, we were just made aware that teaching reading through phonics completely undermines the nature of ‘meaning’. We read a lot about this as well – a lot of Literature supporting the same point. Yes, we knew a lot about why Synthetic Phonics was wrong, without really being told what it was or how it is used in Primary Schools.

I still don’t really know enough about phonics – but I don’t think it’s evil anymore. Luckily there’s plenty of people on Twitter who are much better informed than me, debating the ideas I was never really properly introduced to. In particular I’ve found @HeatherBellaF‘s phonics posts incredibly informative

3. Inclusion doesn’t mean every child will be fine in your class, all the time.

I clearly remember leaving my PGCE believing that permanent exclusions were ghastly and to be avoided at all costs. I remember being adamant that special schools shouldn’t really exist, and that if we were doing education properly in the UK, every single child would simply attend their local school, whatever their needs.

Again, I won’t claim to be an expert on
Special Educational Needs, and I guess that’s the point. I’m actually not trained enough, skilled enough, knowledgeable enough to teach any child. Thankfully other teachers are, in a variety of alternative provisions.

I’ve also seen, met, and taught students that have been excluded for their continual, serious misbehavior, something that would have been inconceivable to me after leaving my PGCE. I don’t know what has happened to all of these children having left my school. But a few of them have popped back in, and the transformation has been remarkable. One particular boy, after attending a ‘studio school’ for two years stopped by my classroom for a chat at the end of last year. I couldn’t believe how much happier he was outside of mainstream, and how much more he had achieved since being excluded.

My views on inclusion also coloured my views on behaviour management. I use to think sending a pupil out meant that I’d failed. I use to take poor behaviour to heart – always feeling that somehow my lesson had failed. I now think more about the majority of my classes who want to learn, want to listen and want to attend lessons without disruption. Sure, I would rather the students prone to disruption stayed in the class. But, If I have to send people out, it’s without the same feelings of guilt and failure.

Nancy Gedge’s three recent posts on inclusion are excellent.

4. Group-work isn’t necessarily the holy grail.

My main essay for the’Educational and Professional Studies’ unit’ was entitled How do Teachers Secure the Benefits of Group-Work.

Here’s the first part of my abstract:

Debbie Hepplewhite
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Phonics International Forum Index -> All sorts of articles, blogs, research and topics to stimulate debate! All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group