Design and implementation of the curriculum and learning programmes
How effectively does the content of the learning programmes reflect the written language strand of English in the New Zealand Curriculum?
A well-designed and well-implemented curriculum and learning programme is likely to enhance student engagement and achievement.
School organisation for teaching reading
Although there was a wide range of practice related to the teaching of reading, all students participated in some aspect of learning in reading nearly every day. Nearly half of the schools had timetabled daily reading instruction and others taught reading most days of the week. Students had considerable lengths of instruction time in reading - up to 15 hours per week. One third of the schools integrated some aspects of their reading programmes across other learning programmes such as social studies, topic-based studies or other aspects of the English curriculum. Many schools incorporated regular use of the school library into their reading programmes.
ERO reviewed aspects of curriculum design and implementation that contribute to high quality teaching. The key areas reported on in this section were school-wide support for learning programmes, classroom planning and meeting the needs of individual students. An overall judgement was made on the effectiveness of learning programmes in reading based on these and any other aspects of curriculum design and implementation that could impact on the quality of teaching for reading.
Figure 1 shows how effective teachers have been in developing learning programmes in reading that reflect this goal. Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of all schools in the sample were “effective” or “highly effective” in the design and implementation of their reading programmes. A further 37 percent were “sometimes effective” and no schools were “not effective” in their implementation of the curriculum and design of reading programmes.
Figure 1: Effectiveness of the design and implementation of reading programmes
Year 4 and 8 teachers
The overall effectiveness of the curriculum design and implementation of the Year 4 teachers was compared with that of the Year 8 teachers. Overall, teachers of Year 4 students were designing and implementing more effective reading programmes than teachers of Year 8 students. The difference between the groups was found to be statistically significant Sequence and progression of learning programmes
In an effective reading programme, as students progress through the school, their learning in reading builds on previous learning experiences and achievements. School-wide reading programmes were evaluated to determine the extent to which programmes had appropriate sequencing of course content and progression of difficulty over the years of learning.
Over half of the schools (58 percent) had developed comprehensive guidelines for the teaching of reading. Effective guidelines made provision for ongoing development and increasingly complex learning as students progressed through the school. School “schemes” for the teaching of reading had been developed, often with all the teachers in the school participating in this development. Collaborative development of the
reading schemes led to teachers having a shared agreement of the content of the reading programme, the methods of teaching reading and a common understanding of expected progression for students in reading.
Effective school schemes for reading had clear links between English in the New Zealand Curriculum and the school scheme. The specific learning outcomes of the planned programmes addressed the achievement objectives of the levels of English in the New Zealand Curriculum.
These schemes also advised teachers on the range of instructional strategies for reading that they were expected to use across the programme. Effective literacy practice in Years 1 to 4 states that teachers “need a repertoire of strategies in order to help all their students meet the challenges of becoming literate”. In most cases, the school scheme referred to all or many of the approaches to reading outlined in Effective literacy practice in Years 1 to 4. These approaches are: reading aloud to students; shared reading; guided reading; independent reading; reciprocal teaching; and literature circles.
The school guidelines for the teaching of reading in 32 percent of schools were less useful. In some cases, the school had generic guidelines for the teaching of English and did not have discrete plans for different aspects of English, including reading. The teachers had little specific guidance on teaching reading and there was little formal sharing of information between teachers on the content of learning programmes or student success in these programmes.
In other cases, the school guidelines mainly listed suggested topics for teaching or specific genre to be taught. They did not provide teachers with a basis for planning sequential, progressive programmes that built on students’ prior learning.
In a few schools, school-wide guidelines had been prepared but were not being used by the teachers. There were various reasons for this. In some cases, the guidelines were considered by the teachers to be out of date and of little support in implementing the reading programmes. In other cases there were detailed guidelines for the junior school (the teaching of the early levels of the curriculum) but these were not useful
for the teachers of Year 4 and 8 students. Some schools had developed plans for teaching reading at each syndicate level but the information on what was being taught was not shared between syndicates.
A few schools (eight percent) did not have guidelines in place that supported teachers in providing reading programmes with appropriate sequences and coherent progressions over the years. Individual teachers were responsible for their reading programmes and there was no evidence that information was shared with other teachers in the school.
Classroom planning using English in the New Zealand Curriculum
Most teachers’ planning at the classroom level (65 percent) was closely linked to the national curriculum statement, English in the New Zealand Curriculum. These programmes featured high quality short and long-term planning that had well-defined and explicit learning outcomes. The developed learning outcomes would provide students with opportunities for success in the achievement objectives of the two reading functions and the three reading processes of English in the New Zealand Curriculum.
For the remaining third of the sample (35 percent), there was little or no evidence that the teachers’ planning was closely linked to English in the New Zealand Curriculum. In many cases there was little documented classroom planning for reading. Although the achievement objectives of the curriculum statement were documented in the school overview or articulated by the teacher, these were not translated into specific learning outcomes. It was not clear how students were working towards meeting the achievement objectives.
In other cases, there was variation in the quality of teacher planning within the school. In some schools, the school guidelines were general in nature and specific planning happened at the classroom level. While some teachers in the school were able to plan detailed lessons closely linked to the objectives of English in the New Zealand Curriculum, some teachers were not doing this. Their planning was sometimes limited to lists of books to be read by students throughout the term, with no recorded planned learning outcomes for the programme.
In a few cases, the teachers said they had limited knowledge of English in the New Zealand Curriculum and were not using this document when planning their reading programme.
Planning to meet the identified needs of students
Over half of the teachers (58 percent) were planning reading programmes that addressed identified learning needs of students. In these classes the teachers were providing multilevel programmes for their classes. They were assessing individual students’ progress and determining their next learning steps based on the achievement evidence. Reading groups were established, and regularly revised, using diagnostic assessment information that ascertained student learning needs and strengths.
A further third of the teachers (34 percent) incorporated the identified learning needs of their students in their classroom planning to a limited extent. These teachers were not collecting and analysing ongoing diagnostic assessment information. However they had made some informal adjustments to their planning to meet the needs of students. In most of these classes, reading activities were pitched at a level the teacher felt was suitable for the whole class and ad hoc adjustments were made to their teaching if and when they felt it was appropriate. Some teachers had assessed students’ reading ability at the beginning of the year and determined groups according to student ability at that time. The groups had not been changed and evidence had not been gathered to check whether the initial groupings were still the most appropriate.
A few teachers (eight percent) were not adjusting their classroom teaching to meet the identified needs of their students. Achievement information was not analysed to show students’ strengths and learning needs in reading. One teacher said that he did not need to gather assessment information as he knew his students well. However planning documentation and observation of his teaching showed little attention being paid to students’ individual needs and abilities. In another case, the teacher had purchased and was using a commercially produced plan. Although the students were participating in a range of interesting experiences, there was no indication of how learning needs had been identified or addressed.