Date of publication: 2017-07-09 06:01
At interview, many of the teachers offered very general explanations of their development as effective teachers of literacy and were unable to select the significant factors.
I did know all this stuff. We did courses on it a few years back. You know, when it was, well, when the LEA were really keen on this sort of thing. Of course it was before I was into English so much. But I just don't use it, so of course it's gone. I don't know that I need it but I know that if I do need a particular word I can look it up. I've done that in the past, mostly when I taught juniors. I make really sure I know what I'm talking about before I do it with the kids. Its like the science now, isn't it?
But I'm afraid its all gone wrong, because the only courses you get to go on are consultant courses. I'm finding that as the language consultant I'm expected to go on courses concerned with language but the other members of staff don't get those opportunities, whereas I feel when I was I could go on any courses I wanted. So I'm concerned that they're not doing enough basic in-service about language.
In this chapter we shall present the conclusions arising from this research project and then outline what we perceive to be the major implications for future policy and practice. Our findings are based on close examination of the work of a sample of teachers whose pupils make effective learning gains in literacy and of a more random sample of teachers whose pupils make less progress in literacy.
Although our effective teachers were addressing phonics systematically and made real efforts to plan and monitor it in their routine teaching of reading, they did not show an orientation towards phonics in their beliefs. It was apparently seen as a necessary, but not a sufficient, part of the teaching of reading: as a means to an end rather than as a goal in its own right.
Of a possible 77 points the results produced a median score of 9 for the effective teachers and 65 for the validation sample. However, further investigation of these results shows that a large proportion of these scores is accounted for by the ability to break down words into syllables and pick out meaningful units within words.
These types of questions in whole class or group lessons were largely confined to the effective teachers and emphasise their concern for raising children's awareness of their own literacy use and comprehension. The use of these questions in whole class and group sessions lead children into thinking about what they are reading or writing at a very high level and offer them models of strategy use and comprehension. All the effective teachers we saw reading individually with children asked these types of question during individual reading interactions. Such questions are referred to in current learning theory as 'scaffolding' and act as supports which help children think at a higher level than they would be capable of if left entirely alone.
Teachers' responses to statements about teaching activities showed a similar pattern to responses to attitude statements about literacy teaching. In teaching reading, the effective teachers of literacy rated favourably teaching activities that focus upon communication and composition. They were less likely than the validation teachers to rate favourably activities such as Children completing phonic worksheets and exercises and Using flashcards to teach children to read words by sight , activities which, while part of a balanced reading programme, do not in themselves focus upon the understanding of text.
'In Drama yesterday I started doing Hamlet with Year 5 thinking about the themes in plays and [particularly] the theme of revenge in Hamlet. We brought it into a modern-day context in thinking about bullying and was it justified getting revenge? Do you gang up on people and do the same back to them? if I hadn't [studied] Shakespeare and done a lot of work on the plays, I wouldn't have had to put into it..it really helps if you have a real knowledge of a play or novel, it makes it so much easier to plan and to [identify] your targets and objectives.'
Teachers were asked to name any other reading or writing activities they had used during the past week. A vast range of such activities were given and, to enable analysis, these were grouped into categories. For example reading with another child , two children reading a book together , paired reading and reading with an older child were all subsumed into the category Paired reading. Forty two such categories were generated for reading activities.
It appeared that, in the approaches to assessment experienced during their training courses, students frequently were given a head-start in relation to common assessment practices in many schools.
Well, that's what they need to do in their writing now. They've seen me writing for them and they have done short items of composing. We have done oral stories and they have heard plenty of stories. I know they can use the sounds to get a good number of words. So its time for a little more challenging task. Pulling it all together in a story for someone else. I mean, I'm confident they can do it because I have reviewed the skills they need. Its just the job they need now. They will be really pleased with it too when its finished, don't underestimate that sense of achievement. It really helps them learn.
Teachers were asked for their views about a variety of types of provision for professional development in literacy. They reported having experienced a range of types although the effective teachers were more likely to have taken part in literacy related lectures, workshops and guided research. The validation teachers were more likely to have experienced in-service sessions led by colleagues and to have observed other teachers in action. This distinction reiterates the finding presented earlier that the effective teachers were more likely than the validation teachers to have experienced in-service courses outside their own schools.
It is notable here that Mrs J taught the use of inverted commas in the context of the class novel and took care to emphasise the function of written dialogue, rather than simply the rules for writing it. She was able to teach sentence level knowledge explicitly within the setting of a meaningful text, thus helping her pupils make vital connections between these two levels of knowledge. Again, this ability to make connections between two or more levels was characteristic of the effective teachers of literacy but not of the validation teachers. The effective teachers were able to draw upon their functional knowledge of language to plan deliberately for these connections.