Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

What Drives Human Behavior?

January 3, 2015

This is a very thoughtful piece. As a teacher it is something that is most misunderstood by many of my profession. I do not make any great claims to understanding but it is something we need to do more work on.

Social Health

What drives behavior

Human behavior is shaped by a combination of cognitive, social, and biological forces. Although there are various theories of behavior, my own research into psychological and sociological forces had lead to me to the following simple but often neglected insight:
We are driven by our desire to feel significant.

Driven by our desire for significance, it can be achieved in two ways:
1) a sense of belonging and contribution; 2) a sense of winning and dominating

The former operates through communal integration, where individuals are valued as part of a community or team, whereas the latter operates through communal disintegration where individuals are valued based on their individual wealth or power.

Mental stories about our place in the world informs our sense of significance by pointing to families, occupations, or organizations we belong or contribute to. Our behavior is then driven by our internal assessment of this state of…

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Literacy And Numeracy: Literacy and personal and social power are all intimately connected

January 2, 2015

 Literacy And Numeracy

Preamble

Literacy and personal and social power are all intimately connected. The word ‘literacy’ stems from the Latin word littera, meaning ‘letter’ and from there to literatus which means having knowledge of letters, which is what gives meaning to the connection between being literate and educated or learned.

The meaning of, ‘to be literate’, and ‘literacy’ is to describe skills that go beyond the functional ability to read and write. While reading and writing are critical and essential foundations for becoming ‘consciously literate’, there are many other ways that we ‘read the world’. In this sense numeracy and becoming numerate; appreciating and creating, and communicating through The Arts and The Sciences need to be regarded equally, as essential elements of literacy.

The concept of ‘multiple intelligences’ as developed by Howard Gardner is one framework that helps to explain the complex of skills and knowledge that describes a literate or educated person. The description of multiple intelligences acknowledges the complexities, and the difficulties, of defining and explaining human cognition. Therefore, to use the word ‘intelligences’ in relation to ‘literacies’ is useful.

Equally valid, when thinking about literacy and education and the cultivation of thought, and thinking about thinking, are all the following: Cognitive intelligence – thinking about thinking and learning to learn, by inquiring into the cultural, social and historical creations that define our lives so we thereby find meaning and purpose for life. Our emotional, visual, dramatic, and musical intelligences are as much a part of thinking and literacy as any other aspect. The challenge is, how to connect deeper understanding of these, with our day-to-day practice.

What are the implications for learners and teachers in the inquiry learning mini-school? Making connections with Early Years learning Framework and Every Chance to Learn.

Literacy means having the ability and knowledge to reflect on the meanings of symbols, our feelings and actions in relation to them, and the affect they have on others. Ability and knowledge give us the power to use languages to interpret and transform worlds. Each element or discipline represents a form of power; namely the power to identify things, ideas and actions and to be able to communicate effectively with, and about them.

The word ‘power’ has positive and negative connotations, however what concerns us as teachers and learners are the ‘innate’ powers that we understand as human behaviour. While these are difficult to define and encapsulate, their absence is noticeable. Student involvement and engagement with learning and school, and society at large, are essentially about questions of power.

Power comes from the Latin posse, ‘to be able’ and the French word povoir, ‘the ability to do things’. The words ‘possible’ and ‘potent’ are derived from these roots too; this allows a more powerful or meaningful interpretation of ‘possibility’ and ‘potential’ when we speak about students ‘realising possibilities’, ‘creating futures’ and ‘reaching, or realising their full potential’.

Power can be abused; and especially when it is not understood we can use it to serve selfish and anti-social ends. We hope that our philosophy with children program, in conjunction with the children’s involvement in exploring their connections with our natural environment, and expressing and interpreting their knowledge through the arts, will also provide a rich learning environment as well as the content for much of their literacy activities.

We hope too, that our code of conduct, which is founded on the principles of restorative justice or practice, will also assist in preventing irrational, unreasonable or thoughtless actions. The formation of a student council and the ongoing development of avenues and opportunities for student participation in the daily life of the school will also provide meaningful and purposeful contexts for their literacy activities.

The literacy and numeracy ‘program’.

Teachers are also inquirers who are endeavouring to fulfill our obligation to provide sound, evidence based assessment and evaluation of our profession, and our teaching and learning. The democratic school is a ‘school that learns’ in which – the ‘political life’ of transforming ourselves through the things we do in our public lives. Collective and community responsibility is emphasised through our classroom programs and whole school activities. We expect our students to question therefore the expectation is that we as teachers do so too.

  • What then does accountability mean? If we accept the assumption that schools, like the society that produces it, is a site of ‘power’ in which there are both mutual and competing interests.
  • How do we create a school that is genuinely democratic, child centred, and acts in children’s best interests?

Critical pedagogy and dialogue; the Inquiry Learning Framework and Philosophy with Children; the Community of Inquiry: dialogue and language, speaking and thinking.

A framework is not a silo standing entirely alone, while a framework acts a guide it is inevitable that frameworks will overlap and morph or as we describe it, the silos or disciplines are integrated with each other. While at the same time as providing opportunities to look through different ‘windows onto worlds’ and share and appreciate ‘points of view’, we can explore different ways of thinking and communicating or sharing our experiences and purposes. All this is only possible through the process of inquiry learning.

The aim should be to provide in a straightforward way what will be common across all year levels – from Preschool, Kindergarten to Grade 6 and beyond. It is not intended to be in anyway prescriptive but rather provide some common assumptions that are founded in well-regarded research into children’s biological and cultural development. All theories or more accurately hypotheses, are contestable, which is why evidence, grounded in the good practice of scientific inquiry, that is to say, having the capacity for self-correction, is another hallmark of the theoretical material that supports our teaching and learning practice.

1.0 Teaching literacy for the needs of children: Literacy as Social Practice

1.1 What does the research tell us?

1.2 Essential Ingredients of the literacy ‘toolkit’

1.3 How will we teach?

1.4 What do we need to teach? Planning and teaching a balanced Literacy Program

Developing a P-6, Scope and Sequence.

1.5 Literacy and Numeracy as Social Practice: The Literacy ‘Toolkit’

1.6 The 4 Resource Literacy ‘Toolkit’:

The Code-Breaker, Meaning-Maker, Text-User, and Text-Analyst.

1.9 Proforma of The Four Resources ‘Toolkit’:

1.10 Literacy Teaching and Learning: Some inquiry questions.

2.0 Literacy Interview: A tool of assessment.

3.0 Building the Foundations: Teaching and Learning Reading and Writing

3.1 Writing systems: Learning to be a code breaker

3.2 Alphabet writing systems

3.2.1The code nature of writing systems are difficult to understand;

3.2.2 How writing systems work and why we need them

3.4 The Phono-graphic approach and the Alphabet Code: The sound-picture code.

Learning to read. Phono-graphics or whole word. Why not teach whole words as an ‘initial sight vocabulary?

The flaws of the Whole Word approach; How our writing system works.

3.4.1 Teaching the alphabet code

3.4.2 The transparent alphabetic code:

3.4.3 Encoding and decoding – A code is defined by the fact that it is reversible.

3.4.4 For teachers: The best approach to introducing the alphabetic code.

3.5 Instructional Framework for teachers.

3.5.1 The Basic Code: Consonant Vowel Consonant (CVC) words.

3.5.2 The teaching goals of the Basic Code

3.5.3 Introducing adjacent consonants

3.5.4 Teaching the advanced code

Sub-skills necessary to reading

Sub-skills necessary to reading with the advanced code

3.6 Multi-syllable management

Bridging the gap between single syllable and multi-syllabic words

Background to an instructional method based on the realities of the written language.

Features of multi-syllabic words

Teacher language for developing management strategies

3.6.1 Activities to support reading and spelling processes

4.0 Professional Practice: Following developments in the teaching of reading.

Key resources used

4.0.1 Letter/s-sound order and speed of introduction

5.0 Networks; professional networks – global and local.

Making the global local – Making the local global.

Useful websites Further Reading and Key Resources

5.1.References

6.0 For the parents: Reading at home.

Literacy And Numeracy

1.Teaching literacy for the needs of children: Literacy as Social Practice

Children’s literacy is shaped through and by their social and physical interactions with the world around them. Children bring to school ‘knowledge’ formed by these social experiences that have shaped them from the time they were born. However it is through their ‘reconstructing’ of experiences that rich cognitive activity is achieved. Literacy is essential to any inquiry.

Being literate includes the capacity to recognise the ways in which language and texts shape our thoughts, judgements and values. We want our children to grow up being able to resist exploitation by commercial and political interests. Literacy is critical in learning to understand, accept or acknowledge differences in language, ethnicity, gender, age and political views and is therefore essential for acting effectively in the world.

“Teaching literacy requires highly skilled teachers who have the knowledge, sensitivity and capacity to adapt their teaching methodologies to the differing contexts and conditions in which children grow up. This needs to be done in such a way that children are not ‘turned off’, so that those tenuous early steps towards literacy do not become the focus of competing interests or tedious and repetitious activities.”

“In order to survive in an ever increasingly complex world, where literacy not only focuses on written texts, but also visual, computer and internet texts, students will need to develop a ‘literacy toolkit’ which enables them to:

  • Make meanings of and compose a range of different forms and modes of texts, including multi-modal texts
  • Decode and encode effectively, including the icons and symbols of technology
  • Read and write fluently and cogently
  • Critically analyse texts to recognise whose views are being presented
  • Adapt reading and writing processes to the many different text forms used by different subject areas and the differing text modes; poetry, drama, fiction, non fiction; as well as the written, the visual in all the arts and the moving image, computer, and internet texts.

1.1 What does the research tell us?

Over the last thirty years, a strong and consistent body of knowledge has been established. (Heath, 1983; Wells, 1983; Freebody, Ludwig and Gunn, 1995; Cairney et al., 1995; Snow, Burns and Griffin, 1998; Stanovich, 1998; Luke, 1998; and Hill et al., 1998) This research leads to the following conclusions:

  • Children who become literate with ease have had a great deal of experience with numerous written texts from the time that they are very young. They have been read to frequently, and they have been given the opportunity to examine the nature of a range of texts and have been able to explore the meanings of those texts with a supportive mentor.
  • Children’s literacy development is strongly linked to knowledge of how words are made up of different sounds and of how these sounds can be mapped onto written symbols. That is, successful literacy learners have phonological awareness, as well as code breaking skills, and they can use the alphabetic principle (the idea that written spellings systematically represent the sounds of spoken words) in reading and writing. *(See 3.0, Building the Foundations: Teaching and Learning Reading and Writing)
  • Reading and writing of texts involves understanding linguistic and symbolic codes specific to the written language. Texts have specific attributes that learners must consciously understand if they are to become effective literacy learners. Unlike talking, which most children will learn to do so long as they are provided with human interaction, effective literacy learning requires the conscious awareness of sounds, letters and words, and the ways in which texts provide meaning and knowledge about forms of text.
  • Children’s literacy development is dependent on the fluency of their comprehension and composing strategies to get meanings from texts and to create their own texts. Without fluency children cannot cope with the cognitive demands of complex texts.
  • Children’s literacy practices are shaped by the social interactions of those around them. The different experiences children take with them when they go to school are mediated by the literacy and social experiences they have from the time they are born.
  • Literacy learning also includes the capacity to recognise the ways in which texts shape particular values about topics. This is necessary because we want our children to grow up learning how to resist exploitation by commercial and political propaganda and to accept differences in race, language, ethnicity, gender, age and political views.

1.2 Essential Ingredients of the literacy ‘toolkit’

It is relatively easy to describe the ‘toolkit’ that students need to develop in order to become literate. It is much more difficult to describe exactly how teachers might enact this balanced literacy curriculum in their different classrooms.

Unless students are engaged in cognitively demanding activities (Vygotsky, 1978) they are unlikely, for a range of reasons, to develop these literacy resources.

The challenge is to plan ways of implementing a balanced literacy program that both engages the children and cognitively challenges them, while at the same time providing them with sufficient practice to facilitate the fluency and reading reflexes achieved by effective literacy learners.

The history of teaching literacy over the last fifty years tells us that there has been a continual search for the ‘right’ methodology. Looking back over what we have learned from this extensively researched area, it appears that we are unlikely to find a single ‘right’ methodology or even to be able to define ‘good practice’.

Teaching literacy requires highly skilled teachers who have the knowledge, sensitivity and capacity to adapt their teaching methods to different contexts and conditions. Teachers need to be able to help children learn to be literate in ways that are joyous, significant and engaging for all children. This needs to be done in such a way that children are not ‘turned off’, so that those tenuous early steps towards literacy do not become tedious and repetitious activities and then fall victim to competing interests.

In discussing how we might find an appropriate balance for teaching literacy over the next decade, I wish to focus on what we have learned about literacy development in the last 100 years. Despite the ongoing debate about the teaching of literacy, there has been a convergence of research, upon which we can draw. Before looking at what this research is telling us, it is important to focus on current understandings of literacy.

These understandings go far beyond the narrow view of literacy provided by the National Benchmarks. Rather they focus on a literacy that will open up possibilities for children who will grow up in a multi-modal world. Literacy experiences must provide children with the resources or a ‘toolkit’ to break the code of written, visual or multi-modal texts, which focuses on the meanings of these texts and which will provide children with the social understandings and critical awareness to make use of these texts within appropriate contexts.

1.3 How will we teach?

How we go about planning for and teaching literacy will be likely to change according to the needs of the children we teach and the literacy experiences they bring to school with them. We know that almost all children participate in meaningful oral and written language interactions in their homes. However, we also know that these home literacy practices are likely to privilege some children over others when they begin participating in the ways of talking and thinking required by school contexts (Gee, 1990).

Particular home practices are necessarily better than others and we must be careful not to interpret information or data in such a way that personal preferences or judgments cloud our interpretations. Rather, we need to be alert to giving all children access literacy practices and ways of talking that allow them to participate successfully in school learning.

At the same time we must be careful not to devalue the different ways of talking which some children bring to school with them. Helping children learn how to move between the different ways of talking and doing literacy required by different contexts is critical if we are serious about providing any sort of equity in the opportunities that children have to access literacy and power in the world outside.

Most importantly, we will need to know as much as possible about the children we teach. If they come to us without a great deal of experience of written texts, much of our time will be spent in providing such children with the experiences, texts, analysis, practice and discussions that occur in the homes of other children.

These precepts mean that teachers must use what the students know and engage with, in order to move them to reading, writing and critically evaluating the variety of texts that will give them access to a range of opportunities. We can open the window to all of the cultural texts of the past, only if we plan for them with these understandings in mind.

We need to help children read and write about a range of texts using the social knowledge they have. Selected television shows and drama texts can provide the opportunity for students to meet challenging issues about race and gender because the discussion of delicate issues can be confronted without identifying any particular individuals or groups in Australian society.

From such an analysis, teachers can plan to move to a similar discussion of some of the cultural texts that are part of our heritage. Similarly, we would also want to see students going to the internet to access a range of views about social issues of concern; views that may differ from the ones represented by the mass media.

1.4 What do we need to teach? Planning and teaching a balanced Literacy Program:

Developing a P-6, Scope and Sequence.

What children need to be able to do to become effective literacy learners can provide a guide for what it is we need to consider when planning for a systematically balanced literacy program. Planning should provide opportunities for children to participate in activities that engage their interest while ensuring:

  • Regular sustained time for inquiring into, and learning of knowledge about the word and the world and connecting this to their literacy and numeracy learning
  • Teacher talk which is clear and precise enough to focus children on what is being learned
  • Explicit instruction in code-breaking techniques, which include sound-letter-sound correspondences, phonological awareness and letter recognition.
  • Develop understanding of phonemes, phonemic segmentation and spelling relationships, while using ‘invented’ phonetic spelling to help children understand spelling strategies to support their transition to conventional spelling
  • Oral language and inquiry activities that develop awareness of sounds, listening, speaking, complex oral language structures, vocabulary and knowledge about the world
  • Systematic practice of inquiry through engagement with a variety of oral, written and multi-modal texts using a range of instructional strategies
  • Comprehension and composition of a range of text forms through teacher instruction and co-inquiry, modelling, scaffolding and philosophy
  • Frequent practice, in reading aloud to develop fluency in reading and writing
  • Games and computer activities that provide practice to support the development of children’s ‘literacy toolkit’
  • Regular analysis of a range of texts to help support children’s understanding of how texts are written
  • Critical analysis of texts to look at whose interests are being served by those texts
  • Regular assessment to monitor the progress of children, and to help make decisions about ongoing teaching

The content of the preceding material has been provided from, ‘Finding a balance for the year 2000 and beyond’, Associate Professor Judith Rivalland, Chair of Primary and Early Childhood Studies Programs Edith Cowan University, Perth WA

1.5 Literacy and Numeracy as Social Practice: The Literacy ‘Toolkit’

Literacy is recognised as social practice, integrated or embedded in the social context (Fairclough, 1989; Gee, 1990, 1996,1999; Lankshear and McLaren, 1993; Street, 1995; Barton and Hamilton, 1998 and Baynham, 1996). The multiplicity of facets and literacy content is known under the heading of multiliteracy (Cope and Kalantzis, 2000). Perceptions of numeracy parallel those of literacy. Varying numeracy skills are required to deal systematically with problems of concern in everyday life and to better understand the physical, economic and social environment in which we live (Crowther, 1959, quoted in Cumming, 1996, p. 11). Freebody and Luke (1990) and Luke and Freebody (1998) make the point that literate people adopt four resource roles.

1.6 The 4 Resource Literacy ‘Toolkit’:

The Code-Breaker, Meaning-Maker, Text-User, and Text-Analyst.

The four resource model is a ‘toolkit’ to break the code of written, visual or multi-modal texts, which focuses on the meanings of these texts and provides children with the social understandings and critical awareness to make use of these texts within appropriate contexts.

  1. The Code-breaker role includes basic skills associated with knowing the technology of the written symbols of the language, and understanding the relationship between spoken and written symbols. Reading, spelling, writing
  2. The Meaning-maker role involves learners bringing their techniques of code breaking to the different structures of the various types of texts they encounter and the experiences portrayed in those texts. This means matching up the learner’s own knowledge of the topic with knowledge of textual structures.
  3. The Text-user role means that, in addition to participating in texts, learners must also assume the role of using texts in a variety of situations, each with a different socio-cultural purpose.
  4. The Text-analyst role involves learning how to examine texts critically in order to gain understandings about sub-surface influences and themes and to find out why texts are written in particular ways to achieve particular effects.

This material has been provided from the article, ‘Addressing The Literacy And Numeracy Needs Of Workers Through Training Packages: Training Packages: A Case Study In Delivery’. Pat Millar and Ian Falk, Centre for Research and Learning in Regional Australia (CRLRA), University of Tasmania.

Code breaking – Decoding and encoding the codes and symbols of written, spoken and visual texts, for example:•     using appropriate technical terms during shared reading activities

•     recognising pronouns that refer to preceding nouns

•     using voice and body language

•     using camera angle and viewer position in a visual text

•     recognising linking words that express logical relationships

•     recognising symbolic use of music or sound effects.

Text participant Comprehending and composing written, spoken and visual texts, for example:•     describing distinguishing characteristics of a scene, animal, person in a broad description

•     interpreting causes and effects in an explanation

•     interpreting imaginative relationships through imagery

•     interpreting features that indicate personal opinions about issues

•     narrating real or imagined events in logical sequence attending to the main elements of storyline

•     comparing and contrasting to argue for or against an issue in a written discussion.

Text user – Understanding the purposes of different written, spoken and visual texts, and using texts in different ways for different cultural and social functions, for example:

•     constructing timelines, story-maps, semantic webs or flowcharts to represent events or the organisation of information in printed and visual texts

•     using narratives, e.g. to write an imaginative story with a storyline in which interrelated events can clearly solve a problem

•     using transactions, e.g. to negotiate goods and services through print media advertising

•     using procedures, e.g. to follow a series of interrelated steps according to written and visual instructions such as a cooking video or a recipe

•     using reports, e.g. to follow an accident report that requires close attention to sequence and detail

•     using expositions, e.g. to synthesise information from different sources and to express points of view.

Text analyst – Understanding how texts differentially position readers, viewers and listeners, for example:•     discussing varying reactions to narrative texts in which male and female roles are reversed

•     differentiating the emotive effects and cultural meanings of images and symbols in commercial advertising

•     considering the interests, needs and backgrounds of potential readers

•     comparing political allegiance evident in a speech or an interview

•     analysing divergent interpretations of the same facts presented in different texts

•     discussing the various ways that people may be represented in texts.

1.10 Literacy Teaching and Learning: Some inquiry questions.

The following points have been lifted from the previous text to stimulate discussion.

  1. Children’s literacy is shaped through their social and physical interactions with the world around them. Children bring to school ‘knowledge’ formed by these social experiences that have shaped them from the time they were born. What are the implications of this statement for understanding how we learn and for our psychological development?
  2. Being literate includes the capacity to recognise the ways in which language and texts shape our thoughts, judgements and values. We want our children to grow up being able to resist exploitation by commercial and political interests and propaganda. Literacy is critical in learning to understand, accept or acknowledge differences in language, ethnicity, gender, age and political views and is therefore essential for acting effectively in the world. What are the implications of this statement for teachers and their practice? What are the implications of this statement for teachers and their professional development? How does inquiry learning correspond to literacy?
  3. Home literacy practices are likely to privilege some children over others when they begin participating in the ways of talking and thinking required by school contexts. Why and if so in what ways and how?
  4. We know that almost all children participate in meaningful oral and written language interactions in their homes. How do we know this? And what does ‘meaningful’ mean in this context?
  5. To change teaching according to the needs of the children we teach and the literacy experiences they bring to school. How can we achieve this? Are there problems associated with this?
  6. Particular home practices are better than others and we must be very watchful not to interpret this information in such a way. What does this mean?
  7. Be careful not to devalue the different ways of talking which some children bring to school with them. Why should we be careful?
  8. Helping children learn how to move between the different ways of talking and doing literacy required by different contexts, is critical, if we are serious about providing any sort of equity in the opportunities children have to access literacy and power in the world outside. Why should this be an issue for schools?
  9. Teaching literacy requires highly skilled teachers who have the knowledge, sensitivity and capacity to adapt their teaching methodologies to the differing contexts and conditions in which children grow up. This needs to be done in such a way that children are not ‘turned off’, so that those tenuous early steps towards literacy do not become the focus of competing interests or tedious and repetitious activities. What issues arise from this proposition?
  10. Looking back over what we have learned from this extensively researched area, it appears that we are unlikely to find a ‘right’ methodology or even to be able to define ‘good practice’. What could we use as a term; ‘better practice’?
  11. Encouragement of invented spelling to help children’s strategies to support the move to transitional and conventional spelling. What is ‘invented’ spelling? Does invented spelling need ‘encouragement’? Is invented spelling a useful term? Is it truly “invented” or is it working with available knowledge? Can appreciating children’s invented spelling provide useful insights?

2.0 Literacy Interview: A tool of assessment

Recording, what we do: Collecting, describing, analysing, and interpreting. To find what the child can do as a listener, teller, writer, composer, and ability to read and comprehend we look at the; Literal levels: to know the content of a book: Inferential or semantic understanding; to be able to read between the lines.

Ways of extracting meaning and recognising different levels of meaning.

  1. Literal meaning – The bare-bones information.
  2. Inferential – What can we say from and about the context?
  3. Critical – What can we say about it?
  4. Creative – What could I change and how?
  1. Ways to locate the child through oracy, writing continuum, spelling, and reading benchmarks and progression points.
  2. Writing, three draft pieces. Copying something in front of you, write something from yourself, describe a person, each other, or a game etc.
  3. When (if) they write on the computer what do they do?
  4. What films, TV, computer games do they watch or play?
  5. Read and retell. Select a novel; enlarge a page, times 2. Errors are a window to understanding. Prediction, what do you think story is about?
  6. Inference. What do they do to gain meaning beyond the text?
  7. Your questions should be literal, inferential, critical, and creative. Did they ask for help?
  8. Include the selected passage of writing and the questions you asked.
  9. ‘Cloze’ activities
  10. Forms of punctuation.
  11. Be prepared allow the child to use their initiative.

3.0 Building the Foundations: Teaching and Learning Reading and Writing

3.1 Writing systems: Learning to be a code breaker

A writing system is a code in which elements of language are systematically mapped to graphic signs or symbols. (See ‘Reading Reflex’ for schematic approach to Phonographic development of reading skills and associated goals)

  • Some examples of codes are; number and quantity/size, musical notation and pitch/duration/meter/stress, computer codes and binary logic/0s and 1s.
  • A fundamental feature of a code is the elements being encoded are logically distinct from the symbols of the code.
  • To understand a code is to master it and use it efficiently. This means to be made aware, indirectly or explicitly of what is being encoded and what the code is.

3.2 Alphabet writing systems

  • Letter symbols represent phonemes (sounds). Phonemes are the basis for the code and the letters are the code.
  • Letters do not “have” or “make” sounds; people make sounds.
  • This logic needs to be made clear to beginning readers otherwise the code will lose one of its essential features, its reversibility.
  • Without this understanding children will try to use one logic to read (decode) and a different logic to spell (encode).

3.2.1 The code nature of writing systems are difficult to understand;

  • They are imperfect graphic representations of both semantic (meaning-based) and phonological (sound-based) aspects of spoken language.
  • Codes for spoken language are complex, which needs to be taken into account when thinking about reading instruction.

3.2.2 How writing systems work and why we need them

  • Function – writing systems encode spoken language into a permanent form so to transcend time and space.
  • Purpose – its most important feature. Makes life better by helping civilisation work by permanently recording important things that are hard to remember and recording events of importance to everyone such as rules and laws and historical events and disasters.
  • Structure – a true writing system must represent the entire language, and to do so it has to meet certain fundamental requirements. These are economy, simplicity, unequivocality, and comprehensiveness. These characteristics are defined below.
  • Economy – the number of symbols used must be complete and small as possible. It is essential to keep memory load for symbols manageable. Alphabets have the fewest symbols and are therefore the most economical. The conclusion that every writing system should be an alphabetic is an erroneous assumption – Morse code is extremely economical but this is not sufficient reason for it to replace the alphabet.
  • Simplicity – the mapping relationships between what is being encoded (elements of speech) are straightforward, in the sense that there is only one way to write a particular word not half a dozen.
  • Unequivocality – dictates that its form determines the meaning of a written expression. That is, what you read must mean one thing, not many things. While ambiguity creates confusion that is more of a problem in writing than speech, where context – facial expressions, tone of voice, knowledge of personal history of speaker/writer – are present. However ambiguity is essential too.
  • Comprehensiveness – all words, names, and any possible new words in the future can be represented by the writing system with relative ease; e.g. computer, hardware, software, Internet, website, hacker, nerd.

McGuiness D, Early Reading Instruction; What Science Really Tells us about How to Teach Reading, MIT Press, 2004, p14.

3.4 The Phonographic approach and the Alphabet Code: The sound to picture code.

Learning to read. Phonographic or whole word, Why not teach whole words as an initial sight vocabulary?

The flaws of the Whole Word approach; how our writing system works.

The hypothesis beneath the whole word approach is developmental gradualism. Its proponents argue that children become more phonologically aware as they grow older. Children begin by learning whole words by sight, then move onto syllables (clapping or beats), then to word families (words with rhyming endings like might, fight, sight), with goals of easing into phonemes, a process taking a year or two, if completed at all.

The assumption that writing systems evolved by mirroring the developmental sequence of speech perception – moving from larger to smaller phonological (sound) units (whole words, syllables, phonemes) helped explain differences in children phonological awareness and provided an explanation for dyslexia as well. The evidence suggests otherwise; that we become less phonologically aware as we grow older.

This does not mean that young children know that speech consists of sound units and that alphabet-writing systems represent sounds. This connection needs to be explicitly taught. Even fluent readers are not conscious of this relationship as this analytical activity operates below the level of conscious awareness.

McGuiness D, Early Reading Instruction; What Science Really Tells us about How to Teach Reading, MIT Press, 2004, p5-6, 153.

Words are not ‘whole shapes’ which represent a spoken word; this is not how our writing system works. It is an inaccurate and flawed approach to teaching children how to read. Researchers have demonstrated that a very high percentage of children are failed by the very approach that is commonplace as a first step. Guard against the argument that some children manage it. Yes, some children do, but this random result is not good enough. (Researchers have revealed that 70% of readers make it through despite the teaching methods.) There are also many children who appear to do well with their reading, writing and comprehension but who have many inaccuracies in their decoding of individual words and inaccuracies with spelling which are likely to have been caused or exacerbated by teaching words as whole shapes in the beginning. It is not desirable for any reader to guess at words from their shape alone. This is simply to cause the wrong reading reflex and is to be avoided at all costs. This WARNING about guessing words (from various clues or cues) features heavily in the Phonographic teaching approach.

3.4.1 Teaching the alphabet code

The alphabetic code has 42 speech sounds with corresponding letters and letter combinations:

Teach the sound to letter/s to sound correspondences of the transparent alphabetic code first and quickly. That is, the alphabetic code without complexities; the extended code is described as opaque.

3.4.2 The transparent alphabetic code:

  • The Basic Code. The basic code is an artificial, transparent alphabet using the most probable spelling for each phoneme. The code patterns (consonants and vowels) are cvc, vcc, ccvc, ccvcc,

3.4.3 Encoding and decoding – A code is defined by the fact that it is reversible.

Emphasis the spelling routine in teaching early literacy, going from sound to print. Then, emphasise the reading routine, going from print to sound.

What is important is to teach that there are 40 to 44 sounds in our speech (the English language) and that there are letters and combinations of letters (ch, sh, er, ai, igh, ng) – known as digraphs, trigraphs etc. rather than emphasising the 26 single letter names alone

Teaching of consonants together (ccvc, cvcc) as consonant blends leads to confusion. ‘Consonant blends’ consist of two or three distinct sounds (cr, spr, -lk, -nt etc.) These should be taught as individual sounds. Further more there are too many ‘blends’ to remember to have any strategic use in pronunciation and spelling.

3.4.4 For teachers: The best approach to introducing the alphabetic code.

There is some confusion about the best approach to introducing the alphabetic code. Some people think that going from sound to print is the essential way to introduce early literacy. They take this position because the written code was derived in the first instance through a speech-to-letter process. Clearly, we had speech before a written code. This argument may seem an unnecessary because beginning readers need to be able to understand and be skilled in both the reading and spelling processes, it is important that the sound to letter relationship is emphasised. A code is by definition reversible. We are explicitly teaching the sound to letter, and letter to sound correspondence.

3.5 Instructional Framework for teachers.

3.5.1 The Basic Code: Consonant Vowel Consonant (CVC) words.

  • The Basic Code means teaching the most common sounds that are represented by one letter. Teaching the mechanics of the basic code will establish the way a reader responds to all future texts. *Many children fail to understand that letters are pictures of sounds; a common misconception is that letters make sounds. This supposition is confusing because it implies that the letter has meaning in and of itself.
  • The Basic code is a critical first step to all future understandings.

3.5.2 The teaching goals of the Basic Code

Goal # 1 – It is understood that letters are pictures of sounds. The nature of our written code is that symbols represent sounds. When children see the symbol the teacher encourages them to say or think of the sound that it represents. With this understanding readers can make way through the word and find the meaning.

Teaching language: (Recall memory) Do you remember what we say when we see that/this letter/s.

Goal # 2That the correspondence between all the letter-sounds and sound pictures that make up the basic code is known. Young children have difficulty learning sound distinctions between many of the sound pictures – some common ones are: confusion between /a/, /i/, /e/ and /u/ and /a/ and /a/ and /o/ and /u/; /th/ and /f/; Left to right written orientation such as <b> and <d>. * It is important that sound-to-sound picture (the letter/s) correspondence is taught within the context of words; this emphasises that letters are components of words. This assists in seeing relevance and how letters work to build words.

Teaching language: Avoid ‘long’ and ‘short’ sound as descriptors as they are confusing. Children tend to think of length not time duration. It is not a useful distinction, e.g. /a/ as in ‘hat’ and ­‘a’, ‘a-e’ as in ‘rain’. Key word strategies – such ‘Ay’…for ‘apple’…/a/ – add cognitive/memory load. So there is the risk that only the first sound seems important; a common problem is guessing words that start with the first letter sound. Give direct instruction when the letter sound information is misinterpreted or guessed at, do not just say, “No, incorrect”. To encourage children to think for themselves about what they need to do to find the meaning, ask them, “What sound is this a picture of?” This question reinforces sound-to-letter, letter-to-sound correspondence. If they do not know, tell them.

Goal # 3That spoken words are made up of sounds; to understand written language we need to understand spoken language. Written language is a visual representation of spoken language.

Teacher language: Learning readers and the use of sound games such as “I hear with my little ear something beginning with…, ask “What is the first thing you hear” in a number of different words; start with short words of two or three sounds and also, “How many sounds can your hear in the word ‘rat’, fat, … ?” * Emphasise is on what they hear not what they see.

­Goal #4That written words are made up of sound pictures that represent sounds in words. Fulfilling our needs drives much of our language. Our desire to get what we want requires that from a very young age we label, sort and categorise things.

Teacher language: To appreciate and understand particular and general misconceptions and difficulties that children have with pronunciation, we must hear them read. Correct pronunciation and teaching children to be aware of the relationship between pronunciation of words and their written representation, as letters and words are critical for teaching and learning reading. Taking the time to sensitise children to oral language but not introduce them to the code, is a misuse of effort. While it may help pronunciation it will not help them learn to read. Obvious speech/sound confusions are easily detected; often there are subtle, and generalised confusions due to mispronunciation of sounds that can only be detected by hearing them read. The sooner these confusions are resolved the better, lest they become reflex habits that later become obstacles to developing and adapting best reading, spelling and writing strategies.

Goal #5Understands that sound pictures in written words occur in a left to right sequence. There is no natural law that determines we read left to right. Like reading, spelling and writing are learnt. Internal awareness of this side or that is not present in young children; top to bottom is established at approximately 5 years, left to right takes a little longer. Letter reversals are common to approx age 8, but children should be able to write on an even plane at approximately age 7.

Teacher language: Patience and explicit acknowledgment that language is acquired and learnt. It is important to understand physical and psychological development when gathering data and making judgments.

Goal #6Able to segment sounds in spoken words. This is the ability to unglue and separate the smallest units of sound – cat /c/ – /a/ – /t/ or train /t/ – /r/ – /ai/ – /n/. A good activity is to count the sounds and then the number of letters; this brings attention to the ‘ai’ diagraph in this case. Two (or more) letters can be a picture of one sound and the picture does not always correspond to the sound. The difficulty of English is the opaque alphabet where a direct sound-to-letter relationship is not possible. By contrast the Spanish or Italian have a more phonetic alphabet system.

Teacher language: Clear modelling of segmenting – No chunking or overlapping; do not allow overlapping in segmenting – ‘sip’ should be /s/ – /i/ – /p/, not ‘si – /p/ or ‘si – /i/ – /p/, and so on.

Goal #7Able to blend sounds (through the word) into words. Accomplished adult readers tend to take this notion of ‘blending’ for granted. For many it is a difficult to understand and perform. Under approximately 6 years, children can have difficulty in remembering, or recalling, three sounds in a letter/word sequence.

Teacher language: Do it, do not explain it (unless ready for this inquiry); segment the letter to sound then say the word – /c/ – /a/ – /t/ cat. Blend the first two sounds then the last letter and then into a unit. Do not teach ‘ca’ as a new sound as some phonics programs do as ‘chunking’ or ‘blending’. A common mistake is to segment and then guess the word. Point out the letter and ask what letter would be there if the three symbols read ‘tap’ rather than ‘map’.

Allow time for practice of these skills. Another important aspect of hearing children read is to ensure that they are using the best decoding strategies. Many children will use picture drawings (and often encouraged) as a cue to a new or difficult word and then guess rather than look at the letters printed on the page – for example they know the word green and there is green roof in the picture, so they select roof as the word whereas the word was grass, and the story is about a garden. Often there are too many clues to select from.

Celebrate successful segmenting and ‘blending’ or ‘saying through the word’ – Allow time for practise and success. New readers should be told that adults read quickly because they practised slowly as children.

Repetition is the key when moving on. Be sure to address previous learning and accomplished skills. Accuracy is a good indicator of when to move on.

3.5.3 Introducing adjacent consonants

Goal # 1 – perform the basic reading skills while articulating adjacent consonant sounds.

Goal # 2 – recall all the sounds in longer words when blending.

Goal # 3 – avoid the tendency to add sounds to words.

3.5.4 Teaching the advanced code

Summary of the sub-skills necessary for reading

  • ability to scan left to right
  • match visual symbols to auditory sounds
  • segment sounds in words
  • blend discreet sound units into words

Sub-skills necessary for reading the advanced code

Goal # 1 Ability to understand that sometimes two or more letters represent one sound, e.g. sh i p

Goal # 2 Ability to understand that most sounds can be represented in more than one way, e.g. the sound ‘a-e’ can be spelt in several ways … train, play, paper, and more.

Goal # 3 Ability to understand that there is overlap in the code, that some components of the code can represent more than one sound, e.g. /o/ can spell ‘o’ as in ‘hot’ or ‘oe’ as in ‘most’.

Multi-syllable management

You need to be able to have

  • Ability to understand that sometimes two or more letters represent a sound, e.g. sh i p
  • Ability to understand that most sounds can be represented in more than one way, e.g. the sound ‘a-e’ can be spelled in several ways … train, play, paper, and more.
  • Ability to understand that there is overlap in the code, that some components of the code can represent more than one sound, e.g. /o/ can spell ‘o’ as in ‘hot’ or ‘oe’ as in ‘most’.

Bridging the gap between single syllable and multi-syllabic words

Background to an instructional method based on the realities of the written language.

Understanding the nature of the written language will help us support understanding of it. Children need to understand words to be units of meaning that contain sub units, or groups of letter symbols, which have no meaning, but are the building blocks of the complete word. Our written language is not a syllabary like many oriental languages in which each symbol represents a syllable. The English language is a sound to symbol code and syllables are the result of sounds being blended together. It is the sounds that are the raw material of written words, not the syllables. Multi-syllabic words are more than a mouthful. They are quantitatively different from most single syllable words as they are longer and contain more sounds. They are qualitatively different because the large number of sounds cannot be articulated in one continuous flow. This forces us to stop the natural flow of bended sounds, and to start again with another set of blended sounds.

Features of multi-syllabic words

  • Each set of blended sounds has a vowel sound
  • sometimes a syllable is a vowel sound with no consonants
  • if children are not aware of these features or phenomena they cannot be given or develop a strategy for managing them. Often they will attempt to push all the sounds into one neat little blended unit, this does not work. Usually it is the vowel sound which gets eliminated, e.g. ‘p o l i sh’ becomes plish, polsh

Teacher language for developing management strategies

  • segmenting – the need to know that words break down into units of sound
  • need to recognise sound units within a syllable
  • from the parts to the whole, phoneme/syllable/word – reiterate that we build words from smaller units to larger units – from sounds – to syllables – to the meaning, the word.
  • establish this logical understanding with other processes such as making a cake – the raw material – to the parts – to the whole.

Goal # 1 Understand that sometimes words have “chunks” (syllables) of blended sounds

Goal # 2 Understand that chunks of sound in words are determined by linguistics, not orthography

Goal # 3 Understand that we can read multi-syllable words by blending sounds into chunks and then chunks into meaningful words

Goal # 4 Understand that we can spell multi-syllable words by building the sounds into chunks and then the chunks into words

Goal # 5 Understand that multi-syllable words contain a dominant chunk

Goal # 6 Understand that many multi-syllable words contain a strong and weak vowel sound, e.g. button – buttun – buttin, the ‘u’ is strong and the ‘o’ is weak.

Goal # 7 Understand that many multi-syllable words have “special endings”. These endings are syllable chunks that cannot be decoded phonetically according to the English writing code, e.g. ‘occupation’ – derived from ‘occupy’, a verb; the act of taking up space, the ‘tion’ (Latin, to take form) changes the meaning to a ‘thing’, a noun referring to taking up space.

3.5.4 Activities to support reading and spelling processes

  • It is essential that children be taught in both processes from the beginning so that they are knowledgeable and adept at both reading and spelling.
  • Be aware of some of the dangers from following programs slavishly without thinking of the effects on their pupils’ knowledge and skills.
  • Teachers also need to be aware of the dangers of deviating from programmes that are evidence-based, as tinkering too much could spoil the outcome.

We do need to look carefully about the weighting of activities to support reading and spelling processes. It is worrying that children can become more skilled in either the spelling process, or the reading process simply because of the dominant activities provided by the teacher.

It is essential that children be taught in both processes from the beginning so that they are knowledgeable and adept at both reading and spelling. Teachers, therefore, need to be aware of some of the dangers from following programmes slavishly without thinking of the effects on their pupils’ knowledge and skills.

Paraphrased from, Reading Reflex: The foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read, McGuinness C & G, Fireside, 1998

4.0 Professional Practice: Following developments in the teaching of reading

Key resources used

McGuinness C & G, Reading Reflex: The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read, A Fireside Book, 1998.

Snowball D & Bolton F, Spelling K – 8: Planning and Teaching, Stenhouse Publishers, 1999.

McGuiness D, Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us about How to Teach Reading, MIT Press, 2004

McGuiness D, Why Our Children Can’t Read: And What We Can do about It, Free Press, 1997

McGuiness D, Growing a reader from birth: your child’s path from language to literacy, W.W. Norton and Co, 2004

4.0.1 Letter/s-sound order and speed of introduction: This is a distinct approach to that of Phono-Graphix© but has important commonalities.

  • Teach up to six sound-letter-sound correspondences a week and include both vowels and consonants.
  • Fast-paced introduction including vowels and consonants allows the beginner to put the letter-sound correspondences to use immediately showing how the alphabetic code works.
  • The children are taught to sound out and blend the letter-sounds all-through-the-word and to ‘hear’ the target word from this blending process.

This is the synthesising process from which Synthetic Phonics derives its name. Synthetic Phonics teaching, however, involves both the teaching of reading and spelling from the outset.

We talk about ‘blending for reading’ and ‘segmenting the spoken word’ for spelling. Some people, however, describe the blending process as ‘segmenting the printed word first (to derive the sound units which could include digraphs or trigraphs etc.), then blending the sound units all-through-the-word’ – all of which is the reading process.

Different programmes have different letter/s-sound orders, but what is important is to cover a comprehensive range of letter/s-sound correspondences quickly to avoid children guessing words simply because they do not have a wide-enough knowledge of the letter/s-sounds.

This is the case for both reading and spelling purposes. Teachers need to think carefully about what they are expecting children to do (e.g. independent writing when they have insufficient knowledge and skills including competent independent handwriting).

  • There is renewed emphasis on developmental learning with the latest ‘learning through play’ ethos in the English Foundation Stage. Whilst not arguing about the value of children playing, it is worrying that this issue has become muddled with teaching children explicit knowledge and skills directly (which is in danger of being demoted as this can be considered too formal) as opposed to incidental teaching and learning (which research on reading does not advise).
  • No teacher should have to feel uncomfortable to teach knowledge and skills directly, even with young children.
  • When and how does explicit instruction in knowledge and skills fit in the inquiry-based learning?
  • Play based ‘educational’ play and direct instruction in skills, reflex/automaticity, and habits.

For further see, ‘Classroom research findings and the Nutshell Programme’ (Dr. Bonnie Macmillan, RRF newsletter no. 46)

How is Phono-Graphix different than Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is ONLY letters are pictures of sounds. So it is not different to PG, only a small part of it. Reading requires several things. They are: SKILLS; 1. The ability to segment 2. To blend. 3. To manipulate phonemes; CONCEPT knowledge of the nature of the code which is … 1. Letters are pictures of sounds 2. A sound can be shown with one or more than one letter 3. There is variation in our code (more than one way to show most sounds) 4. There is overlap in our code (some of the ways to show one sound can also represent another sound).

5.0 Networks; professional networks – global and local.

Making the global local – Making the local global.

  • Encourage people to keep their finger on the pulse of the reading debate and to consider joining in with the debate through forums such as the Reading Reform Foundationhttp://www.rrf.org.uk
  • Fostering a culture where teachers voluntarily used the same standardised tests from Prep onwards (starting with word-level tests) sharing and comparing their results to see what is possible and what works best – not on a ‘high stakes’ basis and not for public humiliation.
  • Teachers learn best respectfully sharing ideas, and giving suggestions and advice to one another.

The irony is that they also need to be aware of the dangers of deviating from programmes that are evidence-based as tinkering too much could affect the outcome! That is why I encourage people to keep their finger on the pulse of the reading debate and to consider joining in with the debate through forums such as the Reading Reform Foundation and the Times Educational Supplement (TES) online staffroom forum where the archives (particularly on the TES early years forum) will give a feel for developments in the teaching of reading amongst at least some schools and early years settings.

5.1 Useful websites

www.rrf.org.uk The Reading Reform Foundation promotes the use of evidence-based synthetic phonics for teaching reading, spelling and writing in the English language.

  1. ‘Reading Instruction in Australian Schools’: an open letter to the Australian Federal Minister for Education, Dr. Brendan Nelson, signed by 26 leading authorities. This letter was published in the Australian Higher Education Supplement (21 April 2004). Interestingly, the editing excluded any reference to Reading Recovery (included in this, the original version).
  2. Explanatory notes for above open letter with extracts from RRF Newsletter/Website.

http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/school_education/policy_initiatives_reviews/key_issues/literacy_numeracy/national_inquiry/documents/rtf2/Sub_313_Australian_Education_Union_rtf.htm.

http://202.14.81.34/hansard/senate/commttee/s1377.pdf.

5.2 Further Reading and Key Resources.

Language that supports explicit teaching of and building/construction of knowledge and understanding

Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development. Paulo Freire on The word and The world – socially constructed beliefs, values and knowledge.

5.3 References

Finding a balance for the year 2000 and beyond Associate Professor Judith Rivalland Chair of Primary and Early Childhood Studies Programs Edith Cowan University, Perth WA

Cairney, T. H., Ruge, J., Lowe, K., and Munsie, L. (1995) Developing Partnerships: The Home, School and Community Interface. (Vols.. 1-3), Canberra: DEETYA.

Freebody, P., Ludwig, C., and Gunn, S. (1995) Everyday literacy practices in and out of schools in low socio-economic urban communities. Griffith University: DEETYA.

Gee, J. (1990) Social Linguistics And Literacies. Hampshire, UK: Falmer Press.

Heath, S.B. (1983) Ways with Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hill, S., Comber, B., Louden, W., Rivalland, J., & Reid, J. (1998) 100 Children Go To School: Connections and Disconnections in Literacy Development in the Year Prior to School and the First Year at School. Australian Language and Literacy National Literacy Project Report. DETYA: South Australia.

Luke, A. (1992) ‘The body literate: Discourse and inscription in early literacy training’, Linguistics and Education, 4 (1).

Rohl, M., House, H., Louden, W., Milton, M., & Rivalland, J. (2000) Successful Programs and Strategies for Children with Learning Difficulties. National Language and Literacy Project Brochure. DETYA: Western Australia.

Stanovich, K. (1998) Recovering Our Research Foundations: The Current Convergence of Research on the Reading Process. Reading Key to the Future: Key to Success. 43rd Annual Convention of the International Reading Association. Florida: USA..

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society: the development of higher psychological processes. Edited by

M.Cole, S. Scribner, V. John-Steiner & E. Souderman. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Wells, G. (1986). The Meaning Makers: Children Learning Language and Using Language to Learn. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.

Literacy and Numeracy as Social Practice. Literacy is recognised as social practice (Fairclough, 1989; Gee, 1990, 1996,1999; Lankshear and McLaren, 1993; Street, 1995; Barton and Hamilton, 1998), integrated or embedded in the social context (Baynham, 1996). The multiplicity of facets and literacy content, for different purposes in different contexts has come to be known under the heading of multi-literacy (Cope and Kalantzis, 2000). The workplace involves its own particular kind of literacy. Like other literacy practices, those of the workplace change, and new workplace literacies are acquired through processes of formal and informal learning and sense making (Barton and Hamilton, 1998). Perceptions of numeracy parallel those of literacy. Varying numeracy skills are required to deal systematically [with] problems of concern in everyday life and [to] better understand the physical, economic and social environment in which we live (Crowther, 1959, quoted in Cumming, 1996, p. 11). Freebody and Luke (1990) and Luke and Freebody (1998) make the point that literate people adopt four resource roles.

Barton, D and Hamilton, M (1998), Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community, Routledge, London.

Baynham, M (1996), Literacy practices: Investigating literacy in social contexts, Longman, London and New York.

Cope, B and Kalantzis, M (2000), Multiliteracies, Routledge, New York and London.

Fairclough, N (1989), Language and power, Longman, London.

Fitzpatrick, L and Roberts, A (1997), Workplace communication in national training packages: A practical guide, Language Australia, Melbourne.

Freebody, P and Luke, A (1990), Literacy programs: Debates and demands in cultural context, in Prospect (5) 3, pp. 7-16.

Gee, J (1990), Social linguistics and literacies, Falmer, London.

Gee, J (1996), Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses, Taylor Francis, London and New York.

Gee, J (1999), An introduction to discourse analysis, Routledge, London.

Hull, G (1993), Hearing other voices: A critical assessment of popular views on literacy and work, in Harvard Educational Review, vol. 63, no. 1, pp. 20ñ50.

Hull, G (ed) (1997), Changing work, changing workers: Critical perspectives on language, literacy, and skills, State University of New York Press, Albany NY.

Hull, G (1999), Literacy and labelling, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, April, pp. 540ñ 545.

Hull, G (2000), Critical literacy at work, in Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 43, no. 7, pp. 648ñ653.

Lankshear, C and McLaren, P (eds) (1993), Critical literacy: Politics, praxis, and the post-modern, State University of New York Press, Albany NY.

Lincoln, YS and Guba, EG (1985), Naturalistic inquiry, Sage, Beverly Hills.

Luke, A and Freebody, P (1998), The social practices of reading in Muspratt, S, Luke, A and Freebody, P (eds) Constructing critical literacies, Hampton Press, Creskill

6.0 For the parents: Reading at home.

It is important that children read at home. Your involvement is very important in developing confident readers who enjoy books.

What is our home reading program?

Children learn to read by reading. Children learn to love story and literature by being read to.

Enjoying stories with your child.

Making listening to them read, and reading to them, a special time for your child.

  • Learning to read is learning that understanding is finding out the meaning of words and sentences. It is a problem solving activity.
  • When we read we are actively looking and thinking to find the message or meaning of writing. If we are not doing this we are not reading.

A letter is a picture of a sound.

  • We made sounds first then came the alphabet system. Letters do not make sounds, we do. A letter is a picture we have created to represent a sound. We combine letters to represent particular sounds. Words are made up of units of sound.
  • Phonics helps build this understanding. These are called letter sounds. Most of us spell words using the alphabet letter name. They will need these too, but this is what they usually know. The letter sounds are the ones that do not often use actively as they try to make sense of a word by segmenting letters, which are pictures of sounds, into sounds.
  • Phonemic awareness. Phonetics or individual sounds is only useful with three letter words such as, cat, dog and so on. We combine letters and vowels to create new pictures or words. Think of the sounds in the word p ou r. As children develop they will need to understand that there are various ways of writing the same sound picture. For example pour, poor, and paw.

What can you do to help?

Reinforcing activities carried out in the classroom.

  • The child reads both independently and reading to and with you.
  • Get to know the book: look and talk about the title, author and illustrator.
  • Browse through the book and talk about the pictures and what the story might be about.
  • Ask questions like: What do you think the book might be about? What is happening now? What might happen next? What do you think might happen in the end? Have you read a book or story like this one before?

Hearing reading

  • Always give your close attention and display interest in the story.
  • When they are stuck on a word use the initial letter as a clue, read on to the end of the sentence and then start again and read the whole sentence.
  • When children self correct or have success in working out a word, give PRAISE!
  • If they lose meaning of what is being read ask questions to get them focused again.
  • BE PATIENT – reading is difficult, there is a lot to remember for a young child. Anxiety ruins the enjoyment, which is paramount. Allow them time to work out strategies for understanding the text.
  • PRAISE with ENTHUSIAM attempts to make sense of words and stories. For example, “I like the way you had a go at that word well done!

Remember

Home reading is a sharing time. Sometimes your child will have a book that they will want to read themselves. Other times your child will bring home a book for you to read and share

Murdoch and other billionaires run the country and want to dictate how to standardise public schools

January 2, 2015

Murdoch and other billionaires run the country and want to dictate how to standardise public schools… So what!

Rupert Murdoch a self proclaimed expert on hacking into public schools and education; “We know the old answer- simply throwing money at the problem – doesn’t work…his reason? More money has fed a system that is no longer designed to educate – it’s become a jobs program for teachers and administrators.”

He our wants kids ‘taught’ online. ‘News Educational’ run by Joel Klein and ex-head of NY schools, is seeking the rights to provide online instruction that’s worth $500 billion dollars to the US corporations alone. Other transnational corporations have their eyes on this prize too. Walmart run schools in the US – why not here as well?

Murdoch also praises Sweden’s IKEA schools, whose head honcho says, “If we’re religious about anything, it’s standardisation. We tell our teachers it’s more important to do things the same way, than to do them well.”

US Cruise Missile manufacturer Raytheon Industries, which helps run the Pine Gap US spy base near Alice Springs, already operates programs within South Australian state schools.

We do have a choice. Do we want an education that encourages us to question and think so we can stand up for each other, or just life long training for one job after another? The choice is for us to make.

For the wealthy, the lives of working people and public education are expendable. Current, and future wage slaves are and will be casuals, underemployed, and unemployed. There will always a majority working in low wage jobs. The wealthy and their political minders in the parliament conspire to talk up ‘the problem’ of public education. The rich for-profit schools, which get the lion’s share of taxpayer supported funding are all OK – thank you very much.

The world’s wealthy are dictating their needs to us – they want to train us, to do as we’re told. We are told to buy a computer and connect, but if you cannot afford to run and maintain it they do not want to know you. They cannot make profits they need and then line their own pockets from people like that!

Why do ALP politicians and their fellow travellers seek out and listen to billionaires and corporate heads like Murdoch, and then implement education and social policies that are harmful to public students and teachers alike? Is it because the ‘Murdoch solution’ is in the long run cheaper for them and their ideal corporate state? No public schools, TAFES or universities would mean even fewer places for troublesome students and teachers to congregate, educate, and organise!

We deserve a whole lot better. We need an education to make a better future. An education that enables us to collectively determine what our democracy might be in a truly independent country, run for the benefit, of those of us who create the wealth and hand over the profits.

Do we really want to work and sacrifice our own and our children’s lives to maintain a political and economic system that ultimately only benefit the billionaire owners and managers of giant corporations? What is the cost to our future generations and those of us today? This is our fight now and we have a country and a world to win.            

… So what can we do!

Our land’s resources are finite – Relying on false hope and the ‘good luck’ of the wealthy is no way to pay for the present and prepare for the future.

The wealthiest people pay the least amount of tax. While we work and pay our taxes the vast proportion of this countries mineral and energy wealth disappears into corporate bank accounts and private trust funds. Reinhardt has never worked a day in her life; she has never owned or managed a mine! BHP-Billiton, Rio Tinto, Xstrata, Chevron and other giant mining and energy multinationals make massive profits and send most of it off-shore, out of the country.

These giant corporations can afford to return some of their massive wealth back to our communities. But they will not do it out of their own good will.

Billionaires avoid taxes only to squander the efforts of our labours on multi-million dollar birthday parties held in super-sized mansions and then lounge around on multimillion-dollar pleasure craft competing for exotic locations. Meanwhile already time poor teachers’ and their overworked union organisers have to run a begging campaign to convince the powers that be to better fund the nation’s public schools. While student’s parents have to find people with the time to run sausage sizzles just to pay for a few more already scant resources.

Minerals and energy are finite. The millions made cannot go on forever, however their profits have increased by more than 900% in the past 10 years. If they continue to plunder our land and its wealth what will be left for our future generations, miserable people, a decimated environment and some huge holes in the ground and vast warehouses of nuclear waste?

We must organise to demand that they pay a whole lot more by taxing mining companies’s super-profits

From where will the money come to pay for our welfare today and all our children’s futures?

Increasing taxes on company and private wealth would assist to provide for the needs and welfare of all our country’s working families by;

  • Creating jobs by building local sustainable manufacturing, processing and agricultural industries to secure our sovereignty and independence;
  • Funding public education, health, housing, pensions, welfare, community services and public transport;
  • Reintroducing a death tax would assist to capture billions of dollars from unpaid taxes over a lifetime and held as family inheritances. We need it for the living.

What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect by James R. Flynn Review by Cosma Shalizi

January 2, 2015

What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect by James R. Flynn Cambridge University Press, 2009 (first edition, 2008) Currently in print as a paperback, ISBN 9780521741477, US$18.99 The Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi

The Domestication of the Savage Mind

In 1980, James Flynn wrote a book called Race, IQ, and Jensen, where he tried to assess the then-current state of the IQ controversy, especially the claim, prominently pushed by Arthur Jensen, that the mean IQ differences between black and white Americans were due to the former being hereditarily dumber than the latter, rendering all attempts to change the situation futile (at best). The book was a valuable exercise in clarification, but Flynn, like many people, found the IQ literature unpleasant, and in his preface he swore that he was going to ignore the whole matter forever after.

Fortunately, Flynn broke this oath, and went on to write a series of papers, culminating in the now-classic “Massive IQ Gains in 14 Nations: What IQ Tests Really Measure” (Psychological Bulletin 101 (1987): 171–191), establishing the phenomenon that Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein later named “the Flynn effect”. In every country where we can find records of consistent IQ tests given to large numbers of people, scores have been rising as far back as the records go, in some cases to the early 20th century, and by large amounts, sometimes (e.g., for draftees in the Netherlands) as much as twenty IQ points every thirty years. This book is Flynn’s attempt to explain this phenomenon, and explore some of implications of that explanation.

To explain Flynn’s hypothesis, I first need to talk about how IQ scores are calculated, which will also explain how the Flynn effect went unnoticed for so long. (He did have a few predecessors.) By convention, IQ tests are designed so that the mean score is 100 points, the standard deviation is 15 points, and the scores follow a Gaussian probability distribution, the now-infamous bell-shaped curve. At least, all of this is true of a norming or reference sample of test-takers, when the test is put together; they are hoped to be representative of future test-takers. Scores on individual questions are weighted and added up, and then transformed, as the distribution of raw scores is quite skewed rather than symmetrically bell-shaped. In essence, the IQ scores of future test-takers is computed by seeing where their raw scores fall in the distribution of the original reference sample, and reading off the corresponding Gaussian value. There are wrinkles — e.g., some test-makers set the standard deviation to be 16 or even 24 points — but those are the basics.

Two test-takers who give exactly the same set of answers to the same questions can thus get different IQ scores, if they are normed against different reference samples. Test-makers periodically re-norm their tests against new samples, keeping the mean at 100, but that mean score can represent very different levels of absolute performance. Flynn’s discovery came from intelligence tests which had been consistently given with the same sets of questions over time, and where the raw scores had been recorded. What he found is that someone who gets an IQ score of 100 today gets more questions right than did someone who got a score of 100 in 1950, who in turn answered more right than did someone with a score of 100 in 1900. The exact rate of gain depends on the country and on the test, from a high of 6–7 IQ points per decade to a low of only a few points over a half-century. A rough summary is that measured IQ has been rising at, conservatively; 3 points per decade for as far back as the data go, across the industrialized world. This rate is enough that someone who had an IQ of 100 in 1900 would have had an IQ of only 70 in 2000 — low enough to be classified as mentally retarded, and so, in the US, exempt from capital punishment, as being incapable of fully understanding their own actions. (Flynn’s chapter 6, aptly titled “IQ Gains Can Kill”, is devoted to the implications of that fact, but space precludes going into it here.)

A number of explanations have been suggested for the Flynn effect, most of which Flynn swats down with little trouble. It is just too large, too widespread, and too steady, to be due to improved nutrition, greater familiarity with IQ tests, or (a personal favorite) hybrid vigor from mixing previously-isolated populations, all of which have been seriously proposed. Nobody seems to have bit the bullet and suggested that modern societies have natural or sexual selection for higher IQ; but the numbers wouldn’t add up in any case.

The Flynn effect seems to imply at least one of two things: either our ancestors of a century ago were astonishingly stupid, or IQ tests measure intelligence badly. Flynn contends that our ancestors were no dumber than we are, but that most of them used their minds in different ways than we do, to which IQ tests are more or less insensitive; we have become increasingly skilled at the uses of intelligence IQ tests do catch. Though he doesn’t put it this way, he thinks that IQ tests are massively culturally biased, and that the culture they favor has been imposed on the populations of the developed countries (and, increasingly, the rest of the world) through a far-reaching, sustained and successful campaign of cultural imperialism and social engineering.

This can be seen in Flynn’s discussion of a hypothetical, but typical, test question: “How are rabbits and dogs alike?” Answers like “both are raised on farms”, “both come in breeds with different colors”, “both are eaten by people in some parts of the world and kept as pets in others”, “both have claws”, “both can destroy gardens”, and Flynn’s example answer, “you can use dogs to hunt rabbits” are true, but not what IQ testers look for. (Even the answer “they’re not alike, in any way that matters” could be sensibly defended.) The test-makers want you to say “both are mammals”. What the testers look for, in other words, is not knowledge of the concrete world or of functional relationships, but mastery of one set of abstract concepts, which the test-makers themselves have internalized as highly trained scientific professionals and literate intellectuals.

All thought involves some degree of abstraction, but IQ testers, like intellectuals in general, tend to value abstraction as such. For instance, a (now-dropped) item on the standard WISC test for children was “What do liberty and justice have in common?”, scored as follows: “2 points for the answer that both are ideals or that both are moral rights, 1 point for both are freedom, 0 for both are what we have in America. The examiner is told that ‘freedoms’ gets 1 point while ‘free things gets 0 because the latter is a more concrete response” (pp. 27–28). Flynn does not inform us how to score a response like “Things America will never restore while it remains shackled by political correctness”, which, agree or disagree, would definitely show more thought than the rote response “moral values”.

As well as preferring answers which show familiarity with our current scientific concepts, IQ tests also reward certain kinds of problem-solving abilities, what Flynn describes as solving “problems not solvable by mechanical application of a learned method” (p. 53; I don’t think he really means to deny the possibility of AI). Prime examples, to his mind, are things like tests of similarities and analogies, and pattern-completion tests like Raven’s Progressive Matrices. In the latter, each question consists of a series of line drawings, followed by a choice of several extra drawings from which the test-taker is supposed to pick the one that completes or finishes the sequence.

(See here for an example.)

Raven hoped that his test would be a fairly pure measurement of ability to “educe relations”, i.e., to discover patterns, which he regarded as the essence of intelligence. Raven’s test is often said to be subject to little or no cultural bias (a claim resting on basically no evidence whatsoever). Yet it is on tests of this type that the Flynn effect is strongest, 5 points per decade at the least. Below them come similarities and analogies tests of the rabbit/dog kind. Scores on vocabulary, arithmetic and general-information tests, on the other hand, show the lowest rates of improvement, and even some small declines.

Flynn refers to these transformations in how we think as “liberation from the concrete” and “putting on scientific spectacles”. His claims that the Flynn effect is a consequence of the changes in how people live and what skills they cultivate brought about by the industrial revolution. We now overwhelmingly keep dogs as pets, not to hunt, and we go to schools where we are not just taught to read but to think abstractly, and to use a common set of abstractions. Flynn refers here to the well-known work done by the great Soviet psychologist A. R. Luria in the 1930s, described in the latter’s Cognitive Development: Its Social and Cultural Foundations (1974). Luria claimed to show, by means of fieldwork among peasants and nomads in Uzbekistan, that the kind of abstract reasoning skills Flynn points to developed in tandem with literacy, schooling, and participation in the modern economy. While Luria’s work has flaws (an Uzbekistani peasant who had abstract reasoning skills, confronted in the 1930s by a Russian Communist official asking them strange and leading questions, had many excellent reasons to play dumb), his findings are broadly consonant with later work on cross-cultural psychology.

At a larger scale, there is a connection, which Flynn does not draw, to the investigations of historians and sociologists into links between industrialization, nationalism and schooling. Americans may recall that our public schools were consciously used to make this country a melting pot; to turn the descendants of immigrants from dozens of countries with many languages and cultures into a more-or-less unified people. Similar processes took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in all the developed countries — and, somewhat later, took off in the rest of the world. Governments and educated classes sought, in historian Eugen Weber’s phrase, to turn “peasants into Frenchmen” — or into Dutchmen, Germans, Italians, Poles, Serbs, Russians, etc.; at the time Luria worked, the Soviet government was busy turning peasants into Uzbeks.

Out of the blooming, buzzing confusion of local dialects and traditions, intellectuals invented (or, as they saw it, codified) standardized literary languages and “ancient folk customs”, which they then propagated through state-organized universal education and the new mass media. Simultaneously, they took modes of thinking which previously had been the reserve of their own small minority of literate specialists and made them part of everyone’s education. As the sociologist Ernest Gellner emphasized, this was not just an exercise in cultural domination. An industrial economy constantly creates new jobs and destroys old ones, so learning a trade, probably one’s father’s, by immersion from childhood won’t work any longer; more generic and so more abstract training is required. In an industrial society, people constantly face strangers and novelties. Action then cannot be guided by custom and familiar context, but instead by explicit impersonal rules, cultural conventions shared across whole countries rather than single villages, and original thought and decision. An industrial society is one in which the whole economically effective population has to deal with machines and with written communications, again with minimal help from context, and where a large fraction of workers must have some mastery of the abstract, scientific concepts which make industrial technologies comprehensible. Finally, in an industrial society everyone routinely deals with large bureaucracies (when privately owned we call them “corporations”), and actually most people work within them. All of this points towards not just standardized and literate cultures, but also one which reward abstract thinking, and even more a change of attitudes, to be willing or even eager to follow arbitrary-seeming abstract rules with no immediate point or relevance, just because a person in authority tells you to do so.

Again, this did not create new ways of thinking so much as spread ones which had existed for a few millennia but been very rare. If you had asked medieval scholars like Averroes or William of Ockham “how is a rabbit is like a dog?”, they would have replied that rabbits and dogs are both species of the genus “quadruped animals”. (Ockham might have quibbled about the difference between names and things.) They were already “liberated from the concrete”, but they used a somewhat different system of abstractions than we do. William Gibson once said that “the future is already here, it just isn’t widely distributed yet”; the same was once true of this aspect of the present.

If this is right, two consequences follow for IQ tests. First, schooling should increase IQ scores. Though Flynn does not address this, the best estimates (e.g. those of Winship and Korenman) show that, in contemporary American samples, each additional year of secondary education increases IQ by, on average, between 2 and 4 points. (These estimates ignore school quality, but they do control for early-childhood IQ, and so for the possibility that kids with lower IQ leave school earlier.) If — and it is a big if! — this holds over time as well as in cross-section, to account for the US Flynn effect, educational attainment would have had to have risen by one year per decade, which is a bit more than it actually did.

Second, IQ scores gains should not be equal across different tests, but rather should be vary depending on the content of the tests, being highest in those which rely most on mastering abstract taxonomies and on-the-spot problem-solving. This is, precisely, where the gains are highest. They are lowest in tests like arithmetic, vocabulary, and general information, i.e., questions of the form “What is the capital of Argentina?”

That such trivia-quiz questions appear in tests which supposedly gauge mental ability brings us to the question Flynn poses in his title. He begins well, correctly saying that the task is to take a pre-theoretical notion and try to shape it into something which is a moving part in a theoretical explanatory mechanism. His pre-theoretical notion, following Jensen, is that “intelligence” means “how well and how quickly someone learns”; the most intelligent person is the one who learns best and fastest. This is plausible, at least to my ears, but also not the only possible choice. John Dewey, for instance, said intelligence was the “capacity to estimate the possibilities of a situation and to act in accordance with [that] estimate”. This also sounds plausible — it’s the intelligence of Odysseus, the man who is never at a loss — but it would lead to a rather different theory. After all, “the people who learn best and fastest are the people who always know what to do” is not a tautology!

Still, let’s give Flynn and Jensen this, and even suppose (as they do implicitly) that there’s no trade-off between learning well and learning quickly; it doesn’t follow that this is a single attribute. Who learns best and fastest depends on what is being learned, on what is already known, on how people try to learn, on how (if at all) others try to teach them, etc. Flynn knows this, of course, and asserts that intelligence consists of the combination of “(1) mental acuity … (2) habits of mind … (3) attitudes … (4) knowledge and information … (5) speed of information processing … (6) memory”. (He does not say how he came up with this list, and gives no attention to the cognitive science literatures on any of these topics.) He also claims that in a narrow sense intelligence is just mental acuity, “the ability to provide on-the-spot solutions to problems we have never encountered before”. There may, for all I know, be one such ability, completely independent of problem content, but it’s not obvious, and it’s conceivable, though perhaps false, that the first item on Flynn’s inventory doesn’t actually exist, though the others do.

The flaw in this aspect of Flynn’s book doesn’t turn on that point, however, so much as the way that he basically stops with the inventory. This is not a mechanism but a sketch of a mechanism’s outline, and it does no work at all. It says that “Jack solved all the Raven’s Matrices problems because he is very intelligent” means “Jack solved all the Raven’s Matrices problems because he has a lot of ability to provide solutions to problems”, which as an explanation is no better than “The pill put Jack to sleep because it has a lot of dormitive ability”. The most charitable take would be that such statements might focus our attention on what needs explaining.

Though Flynn’s attempt to explicate intelligence doesn’t go very far, it at least points in the direction of an explanatory theory and a substantive account of what is and is not relevant to its variables. This is far superior to the current practice in IQ testing (very much subscribed to by Jensen, among others), which fetishizes certain statistical methods, especially the data-reduction tool called “factor analysis”. Starting with measurements of different variables which are correlated with one another, factor analyses mathematically construct new, unobserved variables, the “factors”, which can reproduce the observed correlations. Specifically, the model supposes that the observed variables are directly correlated solely with the factors, and only indirectly correlated with each other. If this works, one can reduce many measured values to estimates of a few factors, without losing information about the correlations.

Looking at the components of an IQ test (arithmetic, vocabulary, general information, analogies, Raven’s, etc.), one finds that they are all positively correlated — those who do well on one tend to do better on the others — and the usual factor-analytic methods produce a “general factor”, or g, with which each sub-test is more or less positively correlated. To simplify slightly but not unfairly, in current practice what makes something an IQ test is that it correlates sufficiently strongly with things which are already accepted as IQ tests and so with g, and what makes something a good IQ test question is that it correlates with other, accepted IQ test questions and with g. To correlate it has to vary, so “What is the capital of Argentina?” might work as an IQ item in North America or South Africa, but not very well in Argentina.

As data reduction, factor analysis is harmless, but there has always been a temptation to “reify” the factors, to suppose that factor analysis discovers the hidden causal structure which generates the observations. This is a temptation which many psychologists, especially IQ-testers, have failed to resist, even eagerly embraced. Flynn protests the “conceptual imperialism” of g. He correctly insists that factor analysis (and related techniques, like item response theory) at most finds patterns of correlation, and these arise from a complicated mixture of our current social arrangements and priorities and actual functional or causal relationships between mental abilities. Factor analysis is helpless to separate these components, and gives no reason to expect that “factor loadings” will persist. Indeed, the pattern of Flynn-effect gains on different types of IQ test is basically unrelated to the results of factor analysis.

But really the whole enterprise rests on circularities. It’s mathematically necessary that any group of positively-correlated variables has a “positively loaded” general factor. (This follows from the Perron-Frobenius theorem of linear algebra.) A sub-test is “highly g loaded” if and only if it is comparatively strongly correlated with all the other tests; or, to adapt a slogan, positive correlation does not imply common causation. (Saying “Jack solved all the Raven’s problems because he had high scores on many other tests which are positively correlated with scores on Raven’s” is even more defective as an attempted explanation than attributing sleep to a dormitive power.) Since IQ test questions are selected to be positively correlated, the appearance of g in factor analyses just means that none of the calculations was botched. The only part of the enterprise which isn’t either a mathematical tautology or true by construction are the facts that (1) it is possible to assemble large batteries of positively-correlated questions, and (2) the test scores correlate with non-test variables, though more weakly than one is often led to believe. Flynn does not make this argument, and some of his remarks suggest he still attributes too much inferential power to factor analysis, though he correctly says that it has contributed little to our understanding of the brain or cognition.

After a century of IQ testing, there is still no theory which says which questions belongs on an intelligence test, just correctional analyses and tradition. This is no help in deciding whether IQ tests do measure intelligence, and so whether the Flynn effect means we are becoming smarter. If we accept Flynn’s idea that intelligence is how well and how quickly we learn, an IQ test is an odd way to measure it. None of the tests, for instance, set standardized learning tasks and measure the performance achieved within a fixed time. At best they gauge the success of past learning, which could indirectly measure how well and how quickly people learn if we presume that the test-takers had similar opportunities to learn the material they’re being tested on. Even then it would be confounded with things like executive function and current and past motivation. For instance, in 1998 Lovaglia et al. (American Journal of Sociology 104: 195–228) did an experiment where they took groups of college students and spent fifteen minutes creating a situation in which either the right- or left- handed students could expect to be better-rewarded for their efforts and abilities; the favored hand was randomly varied by the experimenters. This consistently made students in the favored group score about 7 IQ points higher on Raven’s Matrices than those in the disfavored group. That is, a quarter of an hour of motivational priming can be worth a decade or more of the Flynn effect.

By now, the reader may be protesting that, after all, at least the more mathematical questions on IQ tests are objective. This mistakes the issue. If asked to continue the sequence “1, 1, 2, 3, 5”, most readers would recognize the Fibonacci sequence and say “8”. But there are infinitely many other sequences where the next number is 7 (e.g., pick the largest prime number less than or equal to the sum of the previous two numbers), or for that matter 11 (the smallest prime number greater than or equal to, etc.). Similarly, what Raven’s matrices test is not how well you can “educe relations”, but how well you can find the patterns Raven liked — personally, I can solve such puzzles only by guessing what was going through the test-maker’s mind. In either case, to even begin to respond appropriately requires certain culturally-transmitted cognitive tools, and the motivation to use them on command.

This, and my re-phrasing of Flynn in terms of cultural bias and imperialism, may have given the wrong impression. (I admit to some deliberate provocation.) I am thoroughly committed to the kind of culture IQ tests favor, as I suspect are most of my readers, because that culture has much to recommend it. Knowing that rabbits and dogs are both mammals is a different kind of knowledge than knowing that you can use dogs to hunt rabbits, and our kind of knowledge grants both a deeper understanding of the world and (when embedded into a vast division of labor) greater power over the world. Progress of many kinds is difficult or impossible without scientific knowledge and the habits of abstract thought which go with it. Spreading this kind of thinking is a Good Thing, and worth a lot of effort. It’s just that it’s also true that thinking this way entails a specific kind of culture, and we do no one any favors by confusing this, our favorite use of the mind or exercise of intellect, with thinking or intelligence as such.

That mistake is particularly tempting because of how we use IQ tests. Up through the nineteenth century, intellectuals’ feelings about the prospect of democracy mostly ranged from ambivalence to terror, even in France and the United States; the masses, they said, were incapable of thinking, and letting them rule, rather than be led, was full of peril. “Meritocracy” was a later compromise with democracy: there would still be elite rulers, but they could be recruited on the basis of objectively-assessed merit, rather than mere birth. (This ideal helped institutionalize IQ testing, including such modified IQ tests as the SAT.) What Flynn’s arguments suggest is that these fears and hopes were at most half-right. The masses were, back in the day, mostly very bad at thinking like intellectuals; they were not bad at managing their own affairs. (The twentieth century was over-supplied with disasters, but few of them can be blamed on democratic decision-making, and plenty on the actions of elites.) Meritocracy, as Flynn says, is an incoherent ideal — even if we agreed on “merit”, and allocated rewards on that basis once, the meritorious would use some of their resources to give their kith and kin more than those people merited. But spreading educational opportunities and opening up positions of influence to broader peaceful competition has been widely beneficial.

If Flynn is right, the issue of how many picture-puzzles different vintages of teenage Dutch boys could solve is actually a window through which we can see a momentous change, the “liberation from the concrete”, not just among a few clerics and scribes, but as the common condition of humanity. This book has flaws, some of which I have indicated above, others of which I could expand upon (the self-indulgent sections on postmodernism and relativism; the weird naivete about people like Arthur Jensen and Charles Murray), but these are not that significant. It would almost be damning this book with faint praise to say it’s a valuable addition to the IQ debate (though it is); it’s an important take on what we have made of ourselves over the last few centuries, and might yet make of ourselves in the future.

It shouldn’t be difficult to find more money for less privileged schools by Denise Ryan

January 2, 2015

This article outlines the myriad concerns of thousands of teachers and school leaders when it comes to funding schools and programs. We know the bulk of money and resources go to the wealthiest schools and families: Inequality looms large and we are far to tolerant. Many of us are only to well aware of the complete disregard the most privileged in our society have for those most in need. 

‘Other people’s children also deserve an education’ February 9, 2010, Denise Ryan is an senior education writer for The Age a daily newspaper in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Teacher Brendan Murray made a public plea last November for someone to donate a portable classroom so that he could help high school drop-outs wanting to study at an alternative school program he and a small team of teachers and social workers have been running in Heidelberg West. Asked last week if any school had responded to his request to help teenagers in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Melbourne, he looked downcast. ”No,” he replied.

That seems extraordinary. Schools have never had it so good. Millions of dollars are flowing to state and independent primary and secondary schools. Yet not one school offered to help or to donate one of its old portables. No doubt they will end up in a paddock in Kyneton or one of the other graveyards for old school buildings. Murray has run the Pavilion school program for three years from rundown changing rooms in the former Olympic village. More than 80 young people who were previously not working or studying turn up on a rotational basis to a venue that can only comfortably cater for 12. The teenagers share toilets with cricket players who use the adjacent room.

The Education Department saw fit to award Murray its outstanding secondary teacher award for 2009, yet it failed to find his program suitable premises for three years. The federal government also knew about the program, awarding it a Closing the Gap award for its work with indigenous students. Following recent publicity about the Pavilion’s plight, the Education Department offered it rooms in the former Preston East Primary School. This is a wonderful outcome. But it is only a start. Another program for disadvantaged teenagers that urgently needs help is ‘Hands On Learning’. High schools have to run this program outside their budget, and this year schools such as Mornington Secondary College and Monterey Secondary College can’t afford it.

Mornington Secondary principal Sarah Burns says her most challenging students are devastated that this ”absolutely brilliant” program, where tradesmen and specialist teachers worked with them on practical building projects, can no longer run. She is not sure how she can prevent them from dropping out of school this year. More alternative school programs are needed to offer education to the 13 per cent of people aged 15 to 20 who are not studying or working. In its 2008 report, the Foundation for Young Australians calculated that 200,000 people fit this category. It’s not hard to find them. These are the young people you see hanging around Melbourne’s shopping centres and stations, bored and often getting into trouble.

There seems to be a disconnect, where the link between these disaffected young people and crime is not recognised. Sure, more police might help, but what about dealing with the underlying problem of hundreds of young people who would love a chance to rebuild their lives and learn, even if their literacy levels are low and they may first have to deal with problems such as substance abuse? At a time when the education system is flush with money, it seems timely to suggest that parent groups and staff in every school that received funding should sit down and work out how to help less fortunate schools.

A friend told me recently about the reaction when she suggested at a Parent Teacher Association meeting at her child’s state primary school that it might use some of the $90,000 raised in the school fete to help a disadvantaged school – she was met with an uncomfortable silence. When she raised it again at the next meeting, she was firmly asked to drop the issue. I hear that school has just bought a baby grand piano. Those who work with troubled teenagers see it so clearly: To have a safe society, everyone must look out for the most needy. You can’t protect your own children when there are other children on the street desperate for help.

Towards an expression of the spiritual in a secular curriculum by Monica Bini

January 1, 2015

Dealing with the issue of ‘spirituality’ is a very current concern for many people. The concerns raised and the difficulties identified still make this article worth reading today.

This article was written as a contribution to the now extant Australian Curriculum. However the author tackles the question of spirituality and what that might mean in a school curriculum. “The curriculum must allow for the kind of delivery that will support its intentions. The awakening and development of the spiritual is often going to be something that is difficult to plan for, and teachers need to be free to capture the teaching moment and be given flexibility to work with individual student needs. And it is an area which is an investment in students’ life journeys, where seeds planted during experiences at school may for some, only really begin to bear fruit at an unexpected time in the future. But with the support of this particular quality of education students may be lucky enough to have a relatively greater proportion of their lives that is fulfilling.”

Monica Bini – Curriculum Manager (Humanities), Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. July 2009.

Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008)

The Melbourne Declaration claims a place for spiritual wellbeing in education for all Australianswhen it declares that “confident and creative individuals have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing”. How can the development and management of spiritual wellbeing be expressed in curriculum beyond faith based settings, so that it is indeed supported for all Australians? This paper outlines and then uses a way of articulating the spiritual that is independent of adherence to religious tradition or belief in the divine, to inform themes of secular spirituality that could be manifested in secular curriculum, and the skills and capacities that can be brought to these themes. In doing so, it aims to capture what is distinctive about the spiritual in the context of curriculum.

The Melbourne Declaration goes some way to articulating a secular spirituality when it links spiritual wellbeing to self worth, self awareness and personal identity. It takes a position that there is something distinct from the emotional, mental and physical in what it is to be human. If secular curriculum wants to claim education of the whole person, then the curriculum needs to address this aspect of being human.

Developing the themes of secular spirituality

Stating what might be further said about the spiritual in a secular sense will inform how curriculum can give expression to this goal. Some of the literature avoids defining the spiritual, as it is not only complex, but partly an experience and therefore partly ineffable. However for the secular to stake a claim in the spiritual it is necessary to show how it can be conceived without an appeal to religion or the divine. For educators, it gives them the language needed to understand the thinking behind any spiritual themes in the curriculum and to support them in engaging in discourse on the spiritual.

The spiritual is something that is perhaps better experienced than explained. It is a particular quality of consciousness that responds to the awesome in nature and the awesome in human creation or expression, where paradoxically in the experience we are drawn out of ourselves and yet deeper within ourselves. It is that part of ourselves that we are not happy with characterizing as emotion. It is, at times, linked rather with a deep sense of satisfaction or fulfillment. This sense of satisfaction is often linked to goals that are in fact unattainable, for example perfect wisdom. And yet it responds to meaning and purpose and can create meaning and purpose. The spiritual is associated with a detachment, that is, a separation from the egotistical aspects of the self, rather than the world or the other.

The Melbourne goal speaks of having a sense of self that enables management of wellbeing, including spiritual. The term ‘management’ suggests cultivating a certain kind of discrimination or discernment that in the first instance begins to recognize the spiritual in the self, in response to particular kinds of experiences and then is ultimately used to make choices that support wellbeing and in turn refine the self. One of the most important contributions that curriculum can make is to assist students as they develop and attend to this faculty or key skill, in what is for most, a lifelong journey.

What follows links the broad conception of spirituality introduced above with ways that this may be manifest in the curriculum. It should be recognized that many of the areas overlap and that somewhat artificial distinctions have been made to draw out distinguishing characteristics of each area.

Themes of secular spirituality that could be manifested in the curriculum:

Awe and wonder:

– providing for engagement with the beautiful in nature and human endeavour, including the bigger or more profound stories, that may resonate, inspire or allow for moments of gratitude and appreciation.

– giving permission to wonder, not only intellectually but a deeper, reflective wonder.

Meaning and purpose:

– providing opportunities to serve something larger than oneself. By isolating such service from material gain, students have a chance to notice a different kind of satisfaction.

– enabling the development and expression of vision.

– engaging students with concepts such as truth, courage, including moral courage, honour and so on, and recognizing their contentious nature yet central role in human endeavour .

– allowing for meaningful self expression. In a wider sense this may be personal meaning realized in public contexts.

Being and Knowing:

– providing opportunities for students to integrate knowledge with action; to ethically bring both considered rational judgment and intuitive insight to bear on practical problems.

– engaging with concepts such as justice, compassion and other areas of ethics.

– assisting students to be aware of and attune the quality of their consciousness in action and thought, for example the level of integrity.

– supporting human dignity by for example valuing the welfare, learning journeys and stories of the students and giving them a voice in their education.

Developing the skills or capacities that can be brought to these themes

What the student brings to the opportunities for awe and wonder, meaning and purpose and exploring being and knowing is important. For example, being presented with the beautiful is enriched with a capacity to notice and attend to the response of the self. Students can build skills to assist in the interpretation of experience. The key skill here is a kind of discernment or discrimination. Developing the ability to discern or discriminate in the context of secular spirituality is particularly related to the following elements of the curriculum:

– building the capacity to notice and attend to the self and how it engages with and responds to certain experiences. For example, noticing different levels of fulfillment. This can occur not only through quiet reflection and silence but through dialogue.

– developing students’ capacity to engage with and express the ineffable, for example in powerful literary and visual metaphors and other non-verbal means of expression such as dance, or design and creative process.

– assisting students in developing the language to express to others and themselves what can be said about secular spiritual experiences.

– allowing the creation and expression of what is deeply satisfying for the student, for example in athletics, woodwork or social activism. Here the student can practice and test their developing discrimination. This may ultimately impact on their choice of life pursuits as well as in a more generic way.

Disciplinary or Interdisciplinary?

Spirituality can be triggered and nurtured by different things for different people and in this sense is interdisciplinary, where students are given the chance to widely explore and test where spiritual wellbeing may lie for them. Students can be invited to engage with facets of the spiritual in the context of a discipline or learning area. For example, service learning in Civics, aesthetics in Mathematics, ethics in Philosophy, or vision in History or Science. Key skills can also be developed in this way, for example through the study of poetry in English or participating in the design process in Technology. The extent to which the spiritual is brought in will be linked closely to pedagogy.

Bringing spirituality into the curriculum in this sense need not be so much about an addition to the curriculum but rather involves considering the disciplines through a particular qualitative lens. The nature of this qualitative lens does need separate documentation however, and this paper attempts to go some way towards supporting educators in this.

Early years learning framework (2009)

The themes of secular spirituality in this paper were used to inform the definition of spirituality in the national Early Years Learning Framework. The framework is built around the concepts of Being, Belonging and Becoming, recognizing that life is more than transactional. A range of groups gave strong feedback that spiritual aspects of young children’s lives should be recognized. In particular it was thought that the play experience for a child had a spiritual dimension. The groups identified a need to capture in a secular way the spiritual dimension of what it is to be human.

Recognition of the spiritual is not unusual at a higher policy level – for example both the 2008 Melbourne and the 1999 Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling, or the 1957 NSW Wyndham Report (naming spiritual values as one of eight key aims for the education of the individual). These high level statements aim at all sectors including faith based, but this aspect of the goals of schooling has not traditionally been picked up by the government sector in particular. One significant gap has been the lack of translation of this part of the goals into formal curriculum structures. This is a necessary part of the mechanism by which high level documents ultimately get delivered in the classroom. Creating a key definition of spirituality began to close the gap.

A definition of spirituality was proposed and welcomed :   “Spirituality refers to a range of human experiences including a sense of awe and wonder, a search for purpose and meaning, and the exploration of being and knowing.” A paper underpinning this definition was a valuable part of the process as it supported decision-makers in understanding that an interpretation of the definition compatible with the secular was possible. At the same time the definition does not exclude the faith based sector, while acknowledging that these settings may bring elements of their different religious traditions into how they interpret it.

Challenges

National Curriculum

The national curriculum will be accountable to the goals for schooling. ACARA’s Curriculum Design paper states at 4.2b that “the national curriculum documents will indicate how much learning in each area contributes to the national goals.” Articulating themes of secular spirituality may assist in the mapping of this aspect of the goals to the curriculum. Curriculum writers have been given some discretion beyond literacy, numeracy, creativity and ICT in how other general capabilities and indigenous, sustainability and Asia related cross curriculum perspectives will be embedded into the curriculum.

The spiritual is a qualitative aspect of the curriculum that cuts across disciplines, general capabilities and cross curriculum perspectives. In this sense it is likely to be more clearly expressed in content elaboration rather than content description, although content description sets the framework that allows particular teaching and learning activities to be developed. For example if students will learn to analyse indigenous history in Australia (as a content descriptor) then content elaboration could include learning about vision and Aboriginal people of vision in this context. In Science a content description derived from the content organizer of science as a human endeavour could be something like ‘students will learn to analyse and evaluate the role of science in human endeavour’ which in turn could lead to content elaboration regarding discussion of meaning and purpose within science or what concepts like moral courage might mean in scientific contexts. The curriculum has many demands placed upon it and selection of more overtly spiritual aspects needs to be not only well informed but judicious.

Spirituality is a personal journey and teachers must be given the flexibility to work with student needs and to allow time for and response to the student voice. A curriculum dense with prescriptive content would work against this.

Assessment

The question of the assessment of spiritual development in students is more broadly related to the question of assessment of those aspects of the curriculum concerned with dispositions, values and attitudes. Curriculum is tending more towards the provision of a holistic education while at the same time there is a growing assessment culture. Are there limits to what a teacher can confidently assess? Dr. Ruth Deakin Crick identifies four stations in the learning journey that are useful to consider:

“Using the metaphor of ‘learning as a journey’ there are four ‘stations’ which learners and their mentors attend to in the process of learning. The first is the learning self, with its particular identity, nested sets of relationships, stories and aspirations. The second is the personal qualities, values, attitudes and dispositions for learning….The third is the acquisition of publicly assessed knowledge, skills and understanding. The fourth is the achievement of publicly assessed and valued competence in a particular domain – such as being a competent citizen, or artisan, or carer.” (Deakin Crick, 2009, p.78)

The spiritual is clearly related to the first and second stations but there is interplay with the third and fourth as spiritual development occurs and is expressed. Deakin Crick has developed a self assessment tool of values, dispositions and attitudes of effective lifelong learners. The rationale for this being a self assessment tool is relevant to spiritual development too:

the first two stations are personal and unique to the learner, and although formed in the context of community and participation, and thus not necessarily private, the authority to create and make judgments in these domains rests with the learners themselves.”(Deakin Crick, 2009, p. 78)

Assessment of learning belongs in the 3rd and 4th stations of the learning journey where authority to make judgments lies outside the self. This kind of learning is accountable in a public way that spirituality is not. It is fair to set achievement standards for these stations of the learning journey but somehow unfair, if not absurd, to grade students on their spiritual development. The difficulty in gathering direct evidence would also make this attempt invalid and unreliable and could indeed be counterproductive. It would be more coherent to undertake assessment of the educator’s provision of opportunities for deep learning and expression.

A partnership is necessary between all the stages of the learning journey to result in a holistic education. Deep engagement with learning is not guaranteed and neither should it be demanded, but rather invited. But it is important that the educator at least present the opportunity not only through good curriculum but also good pedagogy. Spiritual development is thus a well supported ‘hope’ of the curriculum rather than a demand. (Rossiter, 2006).

Conclusion

The curriculum must allow for the kind of delivery that will support its intentions. The awakening and development of the spiritual is often going to be something that is difficult to plan for, and teachers need to be free to capture the teaching moment and be given flexibility to work with individual student needs. And it is an area which is an investment in students’ life journeys, where seeds planted during experiences at school may for some, only really begin to bear fruit at an unexpected time in the future. But with the support of this particular quality of education students may be lucky enough to have a relatively greater proportion of their lives that is fulfilling.

References

NSW Government 1957, Report of the Committee Appointed to Survey Secondary Education in New South Wales (the Wyndham Report), p.40

Bigger, Secular Spiritual Education?, e-journal of the British Education Studies Association, Vol 1(1) August, 2008

Crawford and G. Rossiter, Reasons for living – education and young people’s search for meaning, identity and spirituality, ACER Press, 2006

Deakin Crick, Inquiry-based learning: reconciling the personal with the public in a democratic and archeological pedagogy, The Curriculum Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1, March 2009, 73-92

Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI), owned by the University of Bristol and the Lifelong Learning Federation, at http://www.ellionline.co.uk

Thomas and V. Lockwood, Nurturing the spiritual child: compassion, connection and a sense of self, Early Childhood Australia Inc., Research in Practice Series, Vol. 16., No. 2 2009

http://www.acsa.edu.au/pages/images/Monica%20Bini%20-%20secular%20spirituality.p


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