Focus on place of phonics at Creating Futures Summit

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Education experts will debate the controversial place of phonics in the teaching of reading at this year’s Creating Futures Summit, hosted by Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies (EPS) on Thursday 6 May.

The annual Griffith University summit was rescheduled following a COVID-19 lockdown across Greater Brisbane but looks to shine a spotlight on issues relating to the teaching profession and especially how this shapes initial teacher education.

This year’s virtual, immersive event will focus on Quality Teaching of Reading in the Early Years and has attracted more than 500 delegates from around Australia, and as far afield as New Zealand, Scotland, and Wyoming in the United States.

Dean and Head of School of EPS Professor Donna Pendergast said discussion around the teaching of reading in initial teacher education was expected to generate a diverse range of opinions and points of view.

“This Griffith led event will stimulate important discussions around the place of phonics in a balanced approach to the teaching of reading,” Professor Pendergast said.

“This is a contentious space with high stakes consequences.”

“Reading success is regularly featured in annual NAPLAN reporting.”

Professor Donna Pendergast from the Professional Learning Hub
Professor Donna Pendergast

Professor Pendergast pointed to statistics showing that Year Three reading scores reflected an increase in the percentage of students meeting the national minimum standard (NMS) since NAPLAN reporting began in 2008, with a steady increase from 92.1% in 2008 to 95.9% in 2019.

She said females outperformed males, with 97.1% girls and 94.8% boys achieving the NMS.

“Closing this Year Three gap is crucial for future success,” she said.

“The percentage of students meeting the NMS declines in Year Five to 94.7%, Year Seven to 94.5% and in Year Nine to 91.8%.

“The causes of this decline are complex, and the early teaching of reading methodologies may play a role.”

Professor Beryl Exley, an expert in literacy education, said the Summit would provide the opportunity for intelligent conversations about what works and why.

“Exemplary practice will be shared in slam style sessions that sharpen messages and provoke participants to reflect on their assumptions from an evidence-based perspective,” Professor Exley said.

“Success in reading is a foundation capability that influences lifelong learning profoundly.

“It should be the ambition of all educators to ensure the national minimum standard is achieved by all students, and moreover that all students reach their fullest potential.

“This will require teachers to have at the ready a complex range of approaches that are context specific.”

Participants at this year’s summit include teaching academics from higher education institutions, researchers, school leaders and teachers from all schooling sectors, educators from early childhood education contexts, preservice teachers, representatives from peak educational associations, and community representatives.

Professor Pendergast said the Summit offered an annual platform for the co-creation of shared ideas to shape a common vision for quality teacher education on the topic under consideration.

“This event is much more than a conference or a talk fest-it is where informed and creative educators and educational stakeholders come together to shape-shift the work in initial teacher education and support beginner teacher experiences, school leadership initiatives and key stakeholder policy decisions.

“After the summit, we then collectively enact the way forward.”

Find out more about individual speakers at this year’s Summit online.

The virtual event will be held between 8:45am and 2:30pm AEST on Thursday 6 May 2021.

The above NAPLAN data was sourced from: https://reports.acara.edu.au/Home/TimeSeries

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