Phonics checks loom for university graduates
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation ... 99bc6fae57
NATIONAL EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT
12:00AM OCTOBER 15, 20196 COMMENTS
Universities will have to ensure their teaching and education courses adequately cover the key role of phonics in helping children read and write as part of accreditation standards to be rolled out as early as next year.
Education Minister Dan Tehan has asked the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership to set up taskforce to investigate how best to ensure that graduates teachers are taught about phonics — and how to apply it in the classroom — following revelations the key element of teaching children to read and write is overlooked in many university courses.
It follows a meeting between the minister and deans of education faculties on Friday.
It is understood the AITSL taskforce, which will propose changes to course accreditation standards to the COAG Education Council for endorsement at its December meeting, will comprise senior research fellow Jennifer Buckingham, Edith Cowan University lecturer Lorraine Hammond and Australian Catholic University literacy education specialist Robyn Cox.
Dr Buckingham, who previously advised the federal government on its Year 1 phonics screening initiative, and Dr Hammond are vocal advocates for explicit and systematic phonics, which teaches children the correspondence between letters and sounds.
Dr Cox is president of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia, which promotes a “balanced literacy” approach to early reading instruction that favours whole-word recognition and encourages children to guess at unfamiliar words. It advocates that phonics be taught but in the context of “real and relevant texts”.
Mr Tehan described the Friday meeting as “productive”.
“I have tasked AITSL to create a small taskforce to advise on implementing the government’s phonics in initial teacher education election commitment,” Mr Tehan said.
“AITSL will draw on the taskforce’s expertise, focusing on ensuring graduate teachers can teach the fundamentals of literacy through learning how to teach the five essential elements of literacy: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and comprehension.”
The push to overhaul teacher training comes after research analysing more than 60 teacher education courses found that just 5 per cent of units appeared to have a specific focus on teaching beginning readers to read.
In addition, most teaching courses preferenced the balanced literacy approach to reading instruction, despite repeated scientific studies finding systematic phonics instruction to be the most effective way to teach children how to read.
Many courses also promoted text books that overlooked the importance of phonics in early reading instruction, including several that were disparaging to the method.
Dr Buckingham said it was “essential for initial teacher education courses to provide rigorous information about phonics and other elements of evidence-based reading instruction”.