All posts filed under: Research

I tried that and it didn’t work . . .

Education has a reputation for being subject to fads, where new ideas are adopted and then dropped. It seems to me that this is not so much because teachers are lazy, but because we are so enthusiastic, and always eager for new ways to help our students. Approaches that we think ‘work’, we keep in our arsenal, while we discard those that ‘don’t work’. There is always the next new thing. We had Brain Gym, VAK, and NLP. We had versions of AfL that reduced it to lolly sticks and endless ‘dialogue’ marking. More lately we’ve had grit, growth mindset, and mindfulness. We have cold calling, interleaved practice, and worked examples. These approaches range from having no evidence, to misinterpreted evidence, to quite sound evidence. Sometimes it’s our intuition, rather than the evidence, that has made an approach appealing. Responding to superficial features rather than checking the evidence for ourselves can lead to a lot of trouble later on. But there is another problem. It’s the comment in the title of this post: “I tried …

It’s Not Too Late

Our second session at ResearchED English and MFL, Oxford was entitled It’s Not Too Late to draw attention to a common misconception in secondary schools: namely, that students who are reading seriously behind when they arrive at secondary can never catch up. We surveyed the research and what it tells us about what it takes to enable struggling adolescent readers to succeed at something where they have always failed. The keys points are: 1 The difficulty of teaching reading has been underestimated; 2 Reading is more complex and less intuitive than we think; 3 Addressing the problems of older struggling readers is very intricate – and also immensely rewarding. We finished the session with some case studies to show just what is possible with regard to turning around reading failure at secondary school.   Download the reference list for both sessions here. Session 1: Wars and Waste You may also be interested in: Looking Past the Masks Building on the Evidence Why is there a reading problem in secondary schools? No Excuses Left

Wars and Waste

Our first session at ResearchED English and MFL, Oxford was called Wars and Waste to highlight two key ideas: 1 The lack of agreement and open conflict regarding the best ways to teach reading; 2 The immense waste this has created in time, money, and quality of life. The session is divided into three sections: 1 The extent of illiteracy; 2 The reasons for this; 3 The two main approaches to teaching reading, and why one is demonstrably superior to the other. Download the reference list for both sessions here. Session 2: It’s Not Too Late You may also be interested in: Peeling Back the Layers Addicted to Denial? Code-Teaching or Code-Breaking? Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science

Does phonics help or hinder comprehension?

A recent TES article headlined “Call for researchers to highlight negative ‘side effects’ of methods like phonics” drew a predictable response. Though the article supplied not one piece of evidence to support the assertion that phonics had “negative side effects”, and despite the academic quoted having zero background or expertise in reading science, tweets and comments celebrated this damning of the barbaric practice of phonics in schools. Both the article and the responses illustrate the strong prejudices that have to be overcome before early reading instruction is universally of sufficient quality to ensure that we really are a literate society – i.e. one in which all school leavers have good, not just functional or non-functional, reading and writing skills. But – does phonics help or hinder comprehension? Is it merely, as Michael Rosen and his followers have characterised it, “barking at print”? It seems to me that this question is at the heart of much resistance to phonics. Many people seem to believe that phonics in reading means that other aspects of reading are not taught, or that …

The Practitioners: Alison Clarke

This is the first in an occasional series highlighting the work of people doing good things in the world of reading, language development, and research. Alison Clarke, Melbourne, Australia Alison has been a Speech Pathologist since 1988, has a Masters in Applied Linguistics and an ESL teaching certificate. She has been in private practice since 2000, addressing school-aged children’s reading/spelling and speech, language and/or social interaction difficulties. Website and blog: Spelfabet I am a great fan of Alison’s blog and always look forward to receiving email notifications of her new posts. Her posts bridge the gap between research and practice in clear, accessible language. She writes succinctly and with compassion, demonstrating her thorough grasp of the knowledge and methodology around language, reading and writing using well-chosen examples. Alison is a strong supporter of evidence-based practice, but I also appreciate the respectful and positive approach she takes to debate. Alison has a wide range of useful resources available on her website, some of them for free. Here is a selection of her blogposts – I could …

Looking Back – old problems, new challenges

2016 has been a very challenging, but rewarding, year. Establishing a rigorous, powerful approach to reading intervention in secondary schools takes time to embed: There is a great deal for teaching staff to take on board, school systems need to be adjusted, and school culture must also begin to change. It has been very satisfying to work in schools across England, and to see the early evidence of impact. One of the major needs in education is for schools to accept the scale of the illiteracy problem, and to persuade them that it is necessary and possible for them to take responsibility for addressing this situation. These posts raised questions for school leaders: Accountability? A Scandal for Schools In what has been called the age of managerialism and accountability, schools seem to be measured for everything: not just GCSE grades, but levels of progress, Progress 8, EBacc results, value-added, attendance, exclusions, all within a wide range of ‘context’ measures. Addicted to Denial? When it comes to the reading problem there appear to be two forms of …

A New Channel

This term has been a time of significant development for Thinking Reading. James Murphy (@HoratioSpeaks) joined the team full-time, with a focus on supporting secondary schools to adapt their systems and resources to better target students in need of literacy help. We’ve also begun to scale up, with the support of the Teach First Innovation Unit, increasing the number of regions in which we are working: the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, East of England, the South-West, the South-East and London. As the number of schools has grown, so has the need for a clear channel of news and information. We have set up a new Twitter account (@ThinkingReadin1) for this purpose. We would have preferred @ThinkingReading but that was taken some years ago by what now seems like an unused account. We’re hoping that Twitter will be able to release it. As well as keeping schools and practitioners up-to-date, there will also be a strong focus on research and its application, particularly with respect to the most effective ways to help students in need of …