Over the past week I have been impressed with what I’ve read about two ‘not-so-new’ teaching approaches that are helping ‘low-progress’ students – (1) Multilit and (2) Explicit Instruction.
Multilit ‘making up for lost time‘ is a research initiative of Macquarie Uni’s Special Ed. Centre. It’s led by Professor Kevin Wheldall and it’s making a difference for students in Darwin, Sydney, Cape York and Gladstone, a marked improvement on the existing system.
Reverend Bill Crew’s Exodus Foundation runs tutorial centres around Australia offering free remedial reading tuition to disadvantaged primary school children. This foundation is using Multilit and is helping establish the program.
Justine Ferrari, writing in The Australian about Multilit reports that:
“Exodus Foundation national education manager Glenys O’Riley said the main skill missing in the children who come to the literacy centres is usually phonic skills, the ability to sound out unknown words.
“Phonic awareness is usually the weakest link. Sight words (memorised by children) takes them up to a reading age of about eight but most of us need to have our phonics,” she said.
“They don’t get taught phonics explicitly, they’re just exposed to it and expected to pick it up by osmosis. For some kids it works but for many kids it doesn’t work.”
Dr Riley said Multilit works because it is based on explicit and systematic teaching of phonics and other skills, with students tested regularly.” .
Melbourne teacher John Fleming, described as a traditional mentor, believes schools become inured to bad results and
“We don’t teach to kids’ potential, we underestimate kids’ potential.”
This teacher believes national testing and reporting of results will force schools to lift their goals, not only those in areas of disadvantage but well-performing schools resting on their laurels.
In the 10 years that John Fleming spent as Principal of Bellfield Primary, the school went from having 80% of students below the minimum standard to being one of the best in the state.
John has had similar results at high fee private school Haileybury over the past 3 years.
He certainly doesn’t believe in TWA – time-wasting activities that keep kids occupied and quiet, but not learning – and he does believe in teaching phonics and advocates teachers ‘closely direct’ student learning.
This approach differs from the dominant inquiry model, where teachers guide students and encourage them to discover answers for themselves.
What I found really interesting was Hailybury Principal Derek Scott’s comment:
“Not only do we see results improve for all students but also extraordinary satisfaction amongst teachers with what they do.”
Any experience of explicit instruction of Multilit out there?