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Training teachers for phonics and early reading: developing research-informed practice

Flynn, N. ORCID:, Powell, D. ORCID:, Stainthorp, R. and Stuart, M. (2021) Training teachers for phonics and early reading: developing research-informed practice. Journal of Research in Reading, 44 (2). pp. 301-318. ISSN 1467-9817

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/1467-9817.12336


Background: In England, instruction in systematic synthetic phonics is the first approach to teaching children to read words. There is little research exploring what makes successful training for phonics teaching despite evidence teachers’ subject knowledge is limited. There is a persisting problem of under-achievement in reading in some regions of England, mirrored in the US and Australia. In 2017-18, the Department for Education (DfE) addressed poor reading outcomes in these regions by funding one-day training events. We report on one training model, developed, and delivered by a team of academics, addressing issues specific to an English context, but contributing internationally relevant insights into phonics teacher training. Methods: Research-informed “phonics roadshows” for training phonics teaching for early reading were devised for fourteen regions of England with weak performance on the Year 1 phonics screening check. 584 practitioners attended from 379 schools. Participants provided feedback in on-the-day written evaluations, and by survey one-year-on (100 responses). Local authority officials who attended were interviewed about impacts of the roadshow one-year-on (9 of 14). Qualitative data were analysed using a Constructivist Grounded Theory approach. Results: Quantitative data indicated positive responses to the events. Teachers found the day interesting, helpful, and likely to impact their practice. Qualitative analysis revealed the need for: consistent school-wide approaches to phonics teaching; follow-up training to develop teacher subject knowledge for teaching reading; developing teachers’ ability to assess children’s progress in developing phonic knowledge and to provide targeted interventions to tackle under-attainment. Local authority officials concurred with teachers’ perceptions, with some differences between them and between regions. Conclusions: Research-informed in-service training for phonics teaching can have beneficial impact, but must be closely partnered with local needs, and calibrated to teachers’ existing subject knowledge, to ensure professionals feel empowered to make sustainable changes and improvements to practice.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Language and Literacy in Education
Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
ID Code:94548
Uncontrolled Keywords:phonics teaching, professional development, teacher subject knowledge


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