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Major Report on the Middle Years Literacy Research Project

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The challenge of engaging students in learning is equally important to effective literacy education for middle school students. That schools, with the support of education systems or sectors, transform teaching and learning for effective secondary literacy education.

CONTEXT FOR THE RESEARCH

LITERACY IN A CHANGING WORLD

LITERACY IN THE MIDDLE YEARS OF SCHOOLING

Therefore, the need to engage students in learning is a key recommendation arising from major research on middle years reform. Students in the middle years of schooling bring a wider range of developmental levels and literacy capacities and needs than at any other stage of schooling.

THE MIDDLE YEARS LITERACY RESEARCH PROJECT

There are inherent characteristics that distinguish the middle years from other phases of schooling, such as the early years. Schooling in the middle years challenges students to develop control over the literacy demands and learning expectations of increasingly sophisticated and specialized knowledge areas represented in the curriculum.

APPROACH TO THE RESEARCH

FOCUS OF THE RESEARCH

METHODOLOGY

  • Case Studies
  • Selection of a Suitable Assessment Instrument
  • The Literature Review
  • Ongoing Contact with Relevant Victorian Research Projects
  • Consultation with Additional Schools, Teachers and Regional Personnel
  • Consultation with Special Needs Groups
  • National and International Links

The schools were therefore not representative of the full range of literacy practices and approaches that would be found across systems and sectors. The administration of the DART models effective practice in literacy education and shows the links between teaching and assessment.

OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS

SUMMARY OF KEY IDEAS FROM THE LITERATURE REVIEW

  • The Middle Years of Schooling
  • Literacy in the Middle Years of Schooling
  • Key Themes Emerging from the Literature Review

An important principle underlying approaches to reading and writing in the secondary school years is the idea of ​​making literacy requirements and learning expectations more explicit, and supporting students in meeting these requirements. An important development in writing education (which also affects reading) is genre theory and systemic functional grammar.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS FROM THE CASE STUDIES

  • Impact of the Research on the Case Study Schools
  • Key Learnings in the Case Study Schools

The case study schools highlighted a number of factors which were seen as critical to the benefits achieved through their involvement in the research. These factors are related to the implementation of any middle years literacy framework in schools and can be grouped into two main categories: core literacy lessons in the context of the whole school and key literacy lessons in the context of the regular classroom.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS IN RELATION TO THE DART STUDENT ASSESSMENT

  • Administration of DART within the Case Study Schools
  • Evaluation of the DART as a Literacy Assessment Instrument
  • Data Gathered through DART

An average of shifts within CSF levels for each school (for each grade where multiple levels were assessed). However, research findings on student progress in the literacy strands between the pre- and post-assessment phases must be read and interpreted in light of the following important qualifying information.

Table 1:  Range of Student CSF levels,  by year level, in the Pre and Post Assessment - Reading  WRITING (content)
Table 1: Range of Student CSF levels, by year level, in the Pre and Post Assessment - Reading WRITING (content)

STRATEGIC INTENTIONS FOR LITERACY

SECURING THE CURRICULUM ESSENTIALS

  • Auditing students’ literacy and learning needs and school literacy practices
  • Establishing shared understandings and a common language for talking about literacy
  • Emphasising a broad range of literacy capabilities, including literacies for information and communications
  • Teaching knowledge about language and curriculum literacies in each key learning area
  • Defining clear roles, responsibilities and expectations in the teaching of curriculum literacies
  • Assessing and reporting on curriculum literacies in each key learning area
  • Increasing structured opportunities for oral language in each key learning area
  • Supporting sustained reading and writing in a variety of genres in curriculum areas
  • Providing quality support in literacy for underachieving or at risk learners in all curriculum areas

Access for all students to literacy-oriented teaching, or teaching that explicitly focuses on the language and literacy aspects of the curriculum in all key learning areas, is essential for improving students' literacy and learning outcomes. To define clear roles, responsibilities and expectations in literacy teaching, provide baseline standards in Year 5 and 6 classes, in the English key learning area and in all key learning areas.

MANAGING THE TRANSITIONS

  • Planning collaboratively for continuity of literacy education between associate schools
  • Using common approaches and strategies, including consensus moderation, for assessing literacy progress and
  • Developing common strategies and instruments for communicating school and student literacy information

Designing the education requirements and learning expectations of the curriculum, particularly during Years 6 and 7, can lead to the preparation of curriculum materials and resources not only for middle years teachers, but also for students and parents. Establishing clear roles and responsibilities for literacy coordination in the middle years supports schools in maximizing the benefits of this professional collaboration for student education and learning outcomes. Some of the case study schools in the research project had varying levels of involvement in local or regional groups, functioning loosely as professional learning teams of representatives from primary and secondary schools.

For the primary school teacher, part of the interest in the exchange was the opportunity to follow previous year 6 pupils to see how they coped with the literacy requirements and learning expectations of the secondary curriculum. These processes should recognize and build on the professional judgment of middle-aged teachers in the primary context. Middle school teams can use this information to directly inform curriculum development, teaching and learning.

Further benefits are increased communication between teachers and the school, improved professional relationships and informal professional development, which are important in promoting the continuity of literacy education in the middle school years.

CREATING A NEW MODEL OF PROVISION

  • Creating a middle years mindset and model for supporting literacy education
  • Establishing literacy-focused professional learning teams
  • Maximising potential for literacy education through school and class restructure

This provides opportunities for curriculum and schedule flexibility to support literacy and learning outcomes in an environment where teachers and students have increased contact and develop ongoing relationships. Establishing literacy-focused professional learning teams fosters positive professional working relationships, improves professional practice in literacy, and fosters shared commitment and mutual accountability to improve literacy and learning outcomes. This promotes curriculum continuity and coherence and coherence in approaches to literacy teaching and learning across key learning areas.

In addition, schools should include literacy specialists and library staff in literacy professional learning teams to ensure a coherent approach to improving literacy and learning outcomes. School and classroom restructuring has a profound impact on classroom teaching and learning and maximizes potential for effective literacy and learning. Extended class times and greater contact with specific classes of students enable teachers to gain deeper and more comprehensive knowledge of students' literacy and learning abilities and needs across a wider range of key learning areas.

All case study schools assessed that school and classroom restructuring and reform had a positive impact on literacy teaching and learning.

TRANSFORMING TEACHING AND LEARNING

  • Planning for a diversity of literacy teaching and learning needs
  • Using a shared model or framework to inform planning for literacy and learning
  • Using core teaching practices and strategies to support literacy and learning in each key learning area
  • Using learning technologies to enhance literacy and learning
  • Planning for authentic purposes and autonomy in literacy and learning
  • Including metacognition, reflection and self-assessment in literacy and learning

This in itself has encouraged a diversity of approaches and strategies to improve literacy and student learning outcomes. Teachers at this school focused on engaging students in learning as a precursor to focusing on improving literacy and learning outcomes. School A focused on integrating effective literacy teaching and learning strategies into key learning areas in Year 7.

Teaching and learning literacy is most effective where it is embedded in key elements of effective teaching/learning processes. To improve literacy and learning outcomes, strategies must do more than just use language. While all the schools in the case studies focused in some way on making learning more meaningful, engaging, and authentic for middle school students, School F had a particular focus on authentic literacy and learning goals.

Metacognition, reflection and self-assessment are particularly important for supporting literacy and learning development of students in the middle years.

FIGURE 2 : The Four Resources model, Luke & Freebody,  1990
FIGURE 2 : The Four Resources model, Luke & Freebody, 1990

CREATING OUTWARD-LOOKING COMMUNITIES

  • Communicating about literacy education between home and school
  • Valuing and building on literacy practices outside school
  • Connecting school literacy and learning to the wider community
  • Pursuing productive partnerships to enrich literacy and learning

An important aspect of this is connecting school literacy and learning with real-life social, community and global contexts and goals, and building on the community literacy and popular culture that students bring to learning. Communication about literacy education between home and school is vital to appreciate the contribution of families/carers in supporting and expanding the literacy and learning development of middle-aged students. Connecting school literacy and learning to the wider community, in both a local and global sense, is vital for middle school students.

The main focus of the research at School F was to link literacy and learning to valid and authentic learning tasks, particularly where these involved students' communication with individuals, groups or organizations in the wider community. School A designed an integrated curriculum unit exploring local grasslands for secondary school students which brought together literacy and learning outcomes in the core learning areas of English, SOSE, Science, Technology and Mathematics. Pursuing productive partnerships to enrich literacy and learning expands the learning opportunities available to middle school students.

Both projects combined education and learning outcomes in the core learning areas of English, SOSE, Science, Technology and Mathematics.

TOOLING UP FOR REFORM

  • Raising the profile and status of literacy education
  • Providing ongoing quality professional development and support in literacy education
  • Securing leadership, co-ordination and succession planning in literacy education
  • Designing policies and structures to sustain reforms in literacy education
  • Developing school literacy plans informed by an understanding of change processes and a design for effective
  • The Design Elements – Enabling Best Practice in Literacy Education

Qualitative professional development and support for secondary school literacy teachers is fundamental to improving student literacy and learning outcomes. Ensuring leadership, coordination and succession planning in literacy education is essential to improving literacy and student learning outcomes. This includes supporting secondary school teachers in implementing sustainable changes in curriculum, teaching and learning that improve the literacy and learning outcomes of secondary school students.

Each of the design elements for effective schooling was viewed as essential enabler of effective literacy teaching and learning. Teachers understand the relationship between literacy and learning and have high expectations for the literacy development of middle years students in all curriculum areas. Teachers plan collaboratively in teams to improve student literacy and learning outcomes in all curriculum areas.

Teachers are professionally skilled and supported to address the literacy demands and learning expectations of the curriculum.

FIGURE 4:  Integrating literacy provision across three levels.
FIGURE 4: Integrating literacy provision across three levels.

CONCLUSION

2000), “Literacy and new technologies in school education: meeting the challenge of l(IT)eracy?”, The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy vol. 1991), With Literacy and Equity for All, The Falmer Press, London. Literacy Learning: Secondary Thoughts, Vol. 1997), "Debating Literacy in Australia: History Lessons and Popular F(r)ctions", The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy vol. 1998), "The journey from primary to secondary school: the transitional demands associated with literacy", Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 1985), An Introduction to Functional Grammar, Edward Arnold, London. A Profile of Boys Committed to Reading, The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol. 2001), "What happens to old and new literacies when they turn into politics?".

2000), 'The Literacy Specialist's Role' in Literacy Promotion in Grades 4-9: A Handbook for Teachers and Administrators, eds K. Dickinson, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA, p. 1997), Solving Reading Problems Across the Curriculum, NZCER/ACER Press, Aukland, NZ. 1998), Digital Deviations: Youth Culture in the Multimedia Age. 1999), Youth, creativity and new technologies: The challenge of the digital arts. 1993), 'The impact of computers on student writing: a comparative study of the effects of pens and word processors on the context, process and product of writing' Australian Journal of Education, 37(1) pp The Effects of Word Processing and Writing Instruction on the writing processes and products of college writers, Reproduction Service of Eric No The New Literacy Studies', Cross Cultural Approaches to Literacy, Street, B. ed.). As part of Literature Studies for the novel, 'Rowan of Rin', students were asked to complete a data graph.

This was a strategy presented as part of the professional development in the research project, but also in a program entitled 'The Thinking Classroom' in which staff were involved. For example, as some students initially wanted to take a long time to create an elaborate picture and some were hampered by their concerns about a lack of "drawing skills", the debriefing focused on the need for a quick "sketch" and on the range of visual representations that may be appropriate. 50 minute period", the opportunity provided by the longer chunks of time always created when a teacher has the class for a range of subject areas, meant that time could be organized more effectively to allow for debriefing, or to making sure that each student had their turn in the literature circle, or that the group planned appropriately and carefully for the next session.

Figure

FIGURE 1: Mapping the layers underpinning effective literacy teaching and learning in the middle years
Table 1:  Range of Student CSF levels,  by year level, in the Pre and Post Assessment - Reading  WRITING (content)
Table 2:  Range of Student CSF levels,  by year level, in the Pre and Post Assessment – Writing (content)
Table 3:  Range of Student CSF levels,  by year level, in the Pre and Post Assessment – Writing (language)  Although the number of students at some year levels was low, when the range of CSF levels  were summarised for each school, it was very clear that t
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References

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