Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Scotland ignores the evidence of its own research

Anne Glennie (March 2017)

"Literacy standards have been falling in Scotland since 2006. This downturn is evidenced by previous PISA rounds, but is also confirmed in our own SSLN data, as well as the recent teacher judgement data. Back in 2000 and 2003, Scotland was significantly ahead of the international average reading score – but this was followed by a sharp decline in 2006. Since then we have effectively been ‘treading water’, maintaining a place marginally above the international average – until now."

"This dip in results is not because of anything we have changed, rather it is the fact that other countries are getting better faster than we are. When it comes to literacy, and in particular the teaching of reading, we are ‘doing what we’ve always  done’, instead of ensuring our classroom practice and pedagogy is informed by the latest international research. Despite Scotland being internationally renowned for the Clackmannanshire findings on the effectiveness of systematic synthetic phonics (which has had a significant impact on policy and practice around the world and is credited with closing the gap in many schools in England) tragically, we continue to ignore the lessons from our own research. Our reading practice is led by resources; any research used is a relic of the past. (Multi-cueing, miscue analysis, running records, Reading Recovery, sight words and guessing – I’m looking at you!) If we continue to employ reading practices that are not evidence-based, our decline in reading will continue."
Despite the data, many were quick to defend CfE and attack PISA, clamouring to point out that PISA is a blunt instrument that doesn’t measure ‘what we’re really doing in schools’ or ‘what we value’."
The value of reading is indisputable. It is not an ‘optional extra’ – it is essential to access education, the curriculum and daily life, not to mention the host of benefits that reading for pleasure bestows. The effects of illiteracy and poor reading on educational outcomes, life choices and chances, not to mention self-esteem and well-being are well documented."
"I want our children to have it all. The problem-solving, the creativity, the critical thinking. But right now we seem to be producing 21st century learners who lack necessary 20th century skills. We need to re-align the balance, re-introduce rigour to our classrooms with protected time for core teaching and learning of basic skills. We need to prioritise our way through the clutter of the curriculum and realise that teaching cannot be carried out entirely through games, group work and discovery learning."
"Teachers are far more open to the research and to improving practice. Sadly, those ‘in power’ who are able to make widespread change happen, are often choosing to be wilfully ignorant of the research. I feel I am fighting a battle I cannot possibly win."

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