27 SES 03 B, Beginning Literacy : Reading and Writing
A worldwide emphasis on literacy as a means of personal empowerment, social and human development, citizenship, lifelong learning and academic attainment draws attention to the demand for high quality literacy education for all students from their early years of schooling throughout their school career (Eurydice, 2011; UNESCO, n.d.; OECD, 2010).
In Iceland literacy is of particular concern in the wake of the results of recent PISA surveys where the general trend since 2000 has been a decline in reading comprehension of 15 year old students (Halldórsson, Ólafsson, & Björnsson, n.d.). Furthermore a new National Curriculum (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2012), states Literacy as one of six fundamental pillars of education. Research knowledge about literacy education in Icelandic Compulsory schools is sparse, however, but the findings of a recent report written for the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2009 (Leiknisdóttir, Guðmundsdóttir, Björnsdóttir, Jónsdóttir & Jónsson, 2009) indicated that schools continued a long tradition of phonics teaching, where formal teaching of reading was confined mainly to the first years of primary school, and was aimed primarily at decoding, building fluency in reading, and reading comprehension.
Since 2006 compulsory schools in Iceland have been able to implement a literacy education programme, called Beginning Literacy (hereafter BL) (Eggertsdóttir, 2009, 2013) in collaboration with consultants from the Centre of School Development (CSD) at the University of Akureyri. The programme is directed at the first two years of the primary school and is currently in use in some 70 schools in Iceland, about 45% of the all compulsory schools. BL is built on an interactive model of literacy education. It assumes that neither the decoding emphasis of phonics teaching, nor the holistic approach where children are exposed to text in an independent search for meaning, are sufficient by themselves but need to interact (Lipson & Wixson, 1991; Vacca, Vacca, Gove, Burkey, Lenhart & McKeon, 2009). In BL this interaction is achieved by moving students’ learning through a threefold learning cycle: from exposure to authentic literature texts, through a phase of decoding and ‘technical’ work and finally to a phase of reconstruction. Literacy is regarded as a social activity and a braid of reading, understanding, writing and oral expression. Furthermore BL emphasises inclusion where learning needs of all children are met within the class (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013), by means of interdependent collaboration, scaffolding and active learning (Eggertsdóttir, 2009; Soderman, Gregory & McCarty, 2005).
BL is implemented through a two year professional development programme in collaboration with the CSD. Teachers attend courses and workshops, network with teachers from other participating schools, receive coaching from a CSD consultant and a development leader appointed in each school and educated to be an adviser to teachers. Teachers and leaders are provided with various kinds of material. The leaders and the CSD consultants communicate regularly (Eggertsdóttir, 2013).
In 2011 a research project on BL was launched. In light of the paucity of literacy research in Iceland the project has the broad aim to build capacity for literacy research and contribute to the body of knowledge and understanding of literacy education, nationally and internationally. Two more specific aims are to 1) analyse the BL literacy programme and the literacy teaching and learning that takes place within it, in light of the existing body of international literacy research and knowledge of effective literacy teaching, and 2) analyse the professional and school development that operate within the BL schools to understand what makes these developments effective, and how new approaches to literacy education in Iceland, might be introduced, implemented and sustained in future.
Eggertsdóttir, R. (2013). Starfsþróun og varanlegar breytingar á skólastarfi: Byrjendalæsi í ljósi fræða um starfsþróun [Professional development and sustained change in schools: Beginning Lieracy in light of the professional development literature]. In R. Sigþórsson, R. & G. H. Frímannsson (Eds.). Fagmennska í skólastarfi: Skrifað til heiðurs Trausta Þorsteinssyni [Professionalism in schools: Written in honour of Trausti Þorsteinsson]. Reykjavík: University of Iceland Press & the University of Akureyri. Eggertsdóttir, R. (2009). Beginning Literacy – An interactive approach. In B. Culligan (Ed.) The changing landscapes of literacy: Building best practice, (pp. 279–293). Dublin: Reading Association of Ireland. Eurydice network. (2011). Teaching reading in Europe: Contexts, policies and practices. Brussels: European Commission, doi:10.2797/60196 Fullan, M. (2007). The new meaning of educational change (4th ed.). New York NY: Teachers College Press. Hall, G. E. & Hord, S. H. Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (3rd ed.). Boston MA: Pearson. Halldórsson, A. M., Ólafsson, R. F. &. Björnsson, J. K. (n.d.). Helstu niðurstöður PISA 2012: Læsi nemenda á stærðfræði og náttúrufræði og lesskilningur [Main results of PISA 2012: Students‘ literacy in mathematics and science and reading comprehension]. Reykjavík: National Testing Institute. Leiknisdóttir, A. M., Guðmundsdóttir, H., Björnsdóttir, Á. E., Jónsdóttir H. H., & Jónsson, F. H. (2009). Staða lestrarkennslu í íslenskum grunnskólum [The state of reading instruction in Icelandic compulsory schools]. Without publishing place and publisher. Retrieved from http://brunnur.stjr.is/mrn/utgafufskra/utgafa.nsf/RSSPage.xsp?documentId=4D59A0E31F2C3435002576F00058DD1B&action=openDocument Lipson, M. Y. og Wixson, K. K. (1991). Assessment and instruction of reading disability: An interavtive approach. New York NY: Harper Collins. Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. (2012).The Icelandic national curriculum guide for compulsory school: General section. Retrieved from http://brunnur.stjr.is/mrn/utgafuskra/utgafa.nsf/RSSPage.xsp?documentId=C590D16CBC8439C500257A240030AE7F&action=openDocument OECD. (2010). PISA 2009 Results: Learning to Learn - Student Engagement: Strategies and Practices (Volume III). Paris: OECD. Soderman, A. K., Gregory, K. M. og McCarty, L. T. (2005). Scaffolding emergent literacy: A child – centered approach for preschool through grade 5. (2nd ed.). Boston MA: Pearson UNESCO. (n.d.). Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/education-building-blocks/literacy/ Vacca, J. A. L., Vacca, R. T., Gove, M. K., Burkey, L. C., Lenhart, L. A. and McKeon, C. A. (2009). Reading and learning to read. (7th ed.). Boston MA: Pearson. Tomlinson, A. C. and Moon, T. R. (2013). Assessment and student success in a differentiated classroom. Alexandria VA. ASCD.
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