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Catherine

Catherine Doherty

Year of Award: 2016 Award State: Tasmania Community > Education
None > Education
Education > Early Childhood
Education > General
Education > Primary
The Gallaugher Bequest Churchill Fellowship to investigate cost effective interventions to improve literacy outcomes of primary aged children - USA, UK, Ireland
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Keywords: Literacy, evidence-based interventions, disadvantage, students

 

The purpose of my Churchill Fellowship was to meet with researchers, teachers and other service providers, whose work focuses on finding proven strategies or programs to support struggling young readers to ensure their opportunities for success are increased. Specifically I was investigating cost effective interventions to improve literacy outcomes for primary aged children.

 

Teaching is an incredibly complex pursuit. Every class is filled with a variety of students with different personalities, abilities, backgrounds and experiences. Classrooms pull together an extraordinary collection of human beings. At its core, teaching is a human activity. It’s about relationships built upon thousands of interactions and decisions. Teaching is not simply applying a practice, strategy or intervention in order to gain a particular outcome. Teaching is an art that weaves together so many complexities to contribute to the development of an individual.

 

I have synthesised the ideas and knowledge I learnt on my Churchill Fellowship travels into eight major recommendations. Within these discussions I refer to the relevant contacts I visited. In this way I have been able to draw out the big ideas that are worthy of pursuit in Tasmania and more broadly across Australia. Due to the complexities of literacy development, I realised, during my travels, that I could not just simply focus on cost effective classroom interventions. As such, the recommendations not only include specific classroom literacy interventions, but also consider broader childhood developmental concepts that affect literacy acquisition. 

 

Key Recommendations

  • Provide support for parents from birth around literacy development
  • Cultivate community support initiatives for students’ literacy learning
  • Support schools with disadvantaged populations
  • Build teacher capacity through the establishment of a cross sector institute for professional development
  • Use evidence based interventions and strategies
  • Strengthen oral language development in the early years
  • Develop stronger relationships between schools and universities to encourage appropriate evidence based practice
  • Bring it all together at the school level: the role of the Literacy Specialist

Supporting children to become successfully literate people needs a strong collective; parents, teachers, school leadership, community organisations, volunteers, education systems, academic researchers, state and federal governments. However, the complex journey of literacy education cannot and should not be considered in separate silos of responsibilities. We need to work together, to ensure all children, especially those from more disadvantaged families are supported from birth, throughout their school education.

 

Some of my recommendations do require considerable funds or at least a redistribution of current available funds. Some people may not consider them to be cost effective. I urge readers, to consider however, the costs of not supporting every single Australian child to become a successfully literate person. Poor literacy often leads to poor life outcomes; lack of employment or low incomes, health problems, mental health issues and even imprisonment.  The cost of supporting adults with low literacy skills is a burden on society and more importantly a great burden to those individuals. Supporting parents from the birth of their child, as well as supporting teachers to assist students through primary school, is a cost effective means to nurturing literate and confident individuals in the long term.

 

My Churchill Fellowship has strengthened my faith in humanity. I believe that we all want the best for our children and their future and that we can all strive for excellence through cooperation and collegiality.

 

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