The effectiveness of a literacy program is dependent on what it offers a teacher’s students and their specific needs, according to literacy expert Sharon Callen.
With various literacy programs available to teachers, it can be hard to determine which ones to take on board, which ones are worth the money and what will actually help your students’ learning.
Sharon talked about how to critique and filter through programs to find the right fit in episode 55 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy.
She emphasised the importance of looking at whether a program actually offers a solution to what your particular class needs, rather than only considering how ‘effective’ or structured it may seem as a whole.
“It’s about being aware of what programs are offering and not thinking of programs as, ‘well it’s this or that’. We make decisions based on students and needs and what we as teachers need, so we don’t see the program as being one ‘thing’,” Sharon said.
Therefore, one single program may not be the answer and shouldn’t be treated as a ‘one size fits all’.
“Teachers may be asked to use a program, but they find it’s not catering for their learners. Many leaders want a universal solution that’s going to fix everything. Which of course then begs the question – what are we fixing? And how does that relate to the programs we’re using?” Sharon said.
“So instead, we see all of this as building repertoires. There may be some parts of programs that are useful to us in particular ways. It’s not a polarised decision.
Sharon explained the best way to critique a program is to answer questions around what you’re searching for and how it caters to this.
“The best thing I could ask when bringing something in is number one – what am I looking for? And then number two, what is it that I can do that I don’t need a program for? And what professional learning do I need before I jump in for a program? Because that’s actually a key question. Are we investing in programs or are we investing in professional learning? And I think that’s a really good question to ask of ourselves as teachers, because we are in the business of learning,” she said.
It’s also about making sure that teachers find the right balance, staying in control and not being overshadowed by the program.
“All of a sudden it makes teaching just that bit more wondrous. It makes it where you’re not then in search of a book or a program to help. It’s about, ‘let me chase down those who believe that this is how children learn, and then what resources are they using?'”
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