Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Teaching reading: should it be science based or by `professional judgement`?

The `reading wars` are not over:

Phonics consultant Debbie Hepplewhite objects:

"If teachers are left to make 'professional decisions', the danger is that they are not studied well enough in the field of reading and spelling - choices must be fully informed and we know that teachers are not necessarily knowledgeable enough with regard to research findings, or perhaps experienced enough in synthetic phonics teaching, to be in a position to make informed choices."

"In any event, it should not be down to the chance of who the teacher is, and the teacher's views and knowledge-base, when children go to school - we DO have research findings and leading-edge practice to inform us - but not everyone wants to 'hear' or has had the training and experience to be fully knowledgeable."

"The fact that the teaching profession even abandoned teaching the alphabetic code of the English language demonstrates that what teachers teach in the field of reading instruction is beyond individuals' 'professional choices'."

"I suggest that it would be remiss of governments in countries where there is illiteracy and weak literacy not to investigate the research and not to inform and influence the teaching profession."

"This field is just far too serious."
Debbie Hepplewhite

Some teachers have come to understand their lack of training in phonics:

"`I trained as a teacher around 18 years ago and remember coming out of my training and going into school, and teachers saying, ‘we don’t really know how children learn to read.’ I didn’t think much of it at the time and after teaching a whole class for two years I became a support for learning teacher."

"Two years ago I went on a course called Phonics Forever. It covered the science behind reading and explained things about the English language and the alphabetic code that I just didn’t know. I remember getting a bit tearful because I could think of so many people that I could have helped better if I’d actually known the science behind teaching children to read. It was like an epiphany, a revelation`...."

"Since this one-day training session, support for learning teacher Alison Taylor has done a huge amount of reading on the subject, exploring research from different experts around the world."

"Alison says: `It became apparent to me that much of our poor literacy is due to teachers not having been educated properly themselves about the English language`."

"She now feels passionately that systematic synthetics phonics can make a huge difference in Scotland..."

"Professor Rastle explains that this is a global war, occurring in all English-speaking countries, and only in England has the war been `won by science`."

"England has put in place a national policy where primary schools are required to teach reading via systematic phonics."

"A simple phonics screen check was recently implemented to test the effectiveness of this practice."

"When introduced in 2012, teachers in England were saying they were using phonics; however, in that year only 58 per cent of children met an acceptable standard in their phonics knowledge. Over each successive year that figure has increased dramatically, and it’s now over 80 per cent."


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