'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

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'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:30 pm

Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

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Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:40 pm

This blog post seems to me to be the usual attack through rhetoric that Old Andrew delights in. Rational debate doesn't come into it. He spoils his one interesting argument, about the scientific value of research into education, by his aggressive attitude to those who do not 100% agree with him.

Recognition of the difficulties of researching classroom practice with regard to phonics, outlined by Davis in his article, might seem to cast doubt on all classroom research - I think it probably does. However, this does not mean that research is useless and invalid, either research into phonics or anything else. It just means that findings need to be treated as what they are - always contingent and always open to further exploration and discussion rather than some sort of prescription which must be followed no matter what.

Of course, one of the problems with research is that the research performed reflects the interests of those backing the research - people identifying questions they want answering. Other relevant questions may never be identified and given the benefit of an airing.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:11 pm

It just means that findings need to be treated as what they are - always contingent and always open to further exploration and discussion rather than some sort of prescription which must be followed no matter what.
I don't think most people would disagree with this - but there comes a point when results reflect certain commonalities - such as good phonics versus no phonics or SSP provided in a certain timescale versus something else provided in the same timescale - then overarching conclusions can be drawn -and this is the point we have reached.

Thus, we now have a historic and current body of research and classroom findings showing the efficacy of systematic synthetic phonics for mainstream and for reading intervention purposes.

We now need to look at why some schools get even better results than others on the basis that they are all supposedly providing high-quality SSP.

I think people will find that regardless of programme, the teachers do not necessarily follow the guidance nor deliver the SSP to an equally high quality or quantity.

Thus, we do need to continue to look at consequences and pay attention to the detail of what teachers provide.

Including 'what else' they provide over and above the SSP teaching.

We certainly must not rest on our laurels and we must always be vigilant and free-thinking individuals.

As Old Andrew identifies, however, there is such a notion of 'phonics denialists' - and in England now they do usually say 'OK, you need some phonics but...'.

I suspect that frequently such people, including Andrew Davis, author of the IMPACT paper, has little or no SSP experience of modern-day programmes and in the modern-day context - thus I suspect his idea of 'phonics' in the classroom is very limited.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by john walker » Fri Jan 03, 2014 7:04 pm

If there is one thing of which Stanovich humbly reminds us, it is that 'psychology is a "gradual synthesis" science, not a "sudden breakthrough" science and that 'n psychology and the psychology of reading we make progress by accumulating evidence from a host of interlocking studies, each of which may be of fairly low diagnosticity but which taken together present a coherent picture and warrant firm conclusions'.
Those studies are there in abundance and clearly, in the opinion of OldAndrew, they warrant firm conclusions. It's equally true, Toots, that there should never come a moment when we fold our arms, lean back and contemplate history. We should always be looking for better ways of doing things, which, for me, means better ways of teaching phonics and training teachers to teach phonics.
The problem with debating people like Davis is that aren't interested in finding out what linguistic phonics or synthetic phonics is all about. As Debbie said, it's highly likely that Davis has not been near a classroom in which a modern-day phonics programme is being taught. One of our Sounds-Write practitioners, from a school very close to Durham (where Davis is based), invited him to have a look for himself. He declined!
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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:00 am

Oh how ironic, John, I have just said the very same thing on the 'other' thread about the Davis paper!

I made the very same comment before I read your latest posting on this thread! :shock:

LOL!

In fact, I'll copy what I just wrote on the parallel thread on to the next message!

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:01 am

I just wrote this on another thread: :roll:

Did I hear that Davis had been invited to Marion's school to see the phonics practice there but did not reply?

I recall inviting Michael Rosen to meet up to talk about SP many years ago and did not receive a response.

We've 'met' since then at various events but it is more than clear that Rosen is not interested in finding out more about SP programmes and approaches.

Is Davis of the same ilk - shouting loudly about SP but not really that knowledgeable about our programmes and practices?

If toots is the person I think she is, I also invited her to one of my training events to find out more but she was unable to attend.

If the people who go out of their way to spend considerable time and effort in challenging the government's promotion of SP - and if they are so concerned and critical about the notion of what they call 'pure SP' and the 'imposition' of SP practice, you would think they would want to know more about SP programmes and practice first hand wouldn't you!?!

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Sat Jan 04, 2014 9:30 am

I don't remember you ever inviting me to a training event, Debbie. Perhaps I am not who you think I am. It is difficult for me to travel, so attending events can be a problem.

The point that Davis makes is that a teacher would not be able to follow a prescribed programme to the letter and remain a teacher, because at the heart of teaching is the responsibility to listen and understand the pupils and act accordingly. Seeing a programme in action will be interesting and informative; the value of following it should always remain under review.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Jan 04, 2014 10:51 am

I do understand that teachers need to be able to make professional choices about their pupils.

On visiting some schools, however, that are supposed to be implementing either or both of the two SP programmes that I am associated with, I find it is common that teachers have used their professional discretion according to 'their' pupils but in reality this frequently means that they have disregarded my training or overarching guidance, and mis-use or don't use various resources which are fundamental to the programmes, because they have judged that their pupils are not 'ready for' the skills' activities that the programmes are designed around.

Teachers often choose, also, not to follow the guidance and design of the programmes regarding informing and sharing knowledge and resources with parents.

Thus, they are simply not 'doing' the programmes per se - and therefore I cannot be accountable for their results - and I suggest that these teachers have dramatically depressed the children's opportunities for progression and for fulfilling their potential.

There is a certain attitude around which is derogatory about the notion of teachers following phonics 'programmes' - with people failing to understand that it is the following of the 'programmes' which are based on research and leading-edge classroom findings - designed by researchers and teachers themselves - which have the potential of dramatically improving reading and spelling instruction for both beginners and strugglers of all ages.

Other programme authors have noted exactly the same set of circumstances as mentioned above about the use - or mis-use - of their programmes - not helped at all by the attitude of people such as Davis and Rosen.

Yes, we do need teachers to take ownership of the various programmes and to add sensible literacy enrichment - for example, grammar, deeper explanations about the vocabulary, extension and comprehension work (based on the programmes' content and extra to the programmes' content) - and, of course, steeping the learners in rich literature.

But there really ought to be some level of respect for the SP and LP phonics programmes from even the detractors - and there would be if there was a deeper understanding of the amount of work, knowledge, understanding, experience and training that has gone into making the programmes' resources and providing the overarching guidance - and the results which are readily achievable if there was some genuine respect and commitment for high-quality SP and LP teaching and learning.

toots - if I have misunderstood who you are - or if you are who I think you are and you have forgotten about my previous invitation - the invitation still stands of course - to you or anyone else with a genuine interest in finding out more about the thinking and training behind at least two of the SP programmes.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:00 am

I glanced at the TES thread to which Susan Godsland had drawn our attention linked to Davis's paper where someone had written something about Sue Lloyd being awarded her MBE, and it just reflected the lack of appreciation of the work of Sue Lloyd - and no doubt such an attitude is the same towards other people who have worked really hard for many years to try to raise levels of teacher understanding, training and provide supportive resources and programmes.

Whilst the vociferous detractors protest via the TES thread, they have failed to note in Davis's paper the vocabulary of 'zealots' and other such words in relation to SP promoters and programme authors.

Do they have a blind spot regarding the choice of Davis's language as they protest about mine or Andrew Old's or have they actually read his paper thoroughly and objectively?

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by chew8 » Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:19 am

Toots wrote:The point that Davis makes is that a teacher would not be able to follow a prescribed programme to the letter and remain a teacher, because at the heart of teaching is the responsibility to listen and understand the pupils and act accordingly.
I’m sure that we’d all agree. Davis says, however, that ‘If teachers are actually teaching, there will be and should be nothing common to all SP programmes’ (my italics), which is surely an over-statement. I also can’t see how he can say this and yet think that analytic phonics programmes have enough in common for a.p. to be recognisable enough to be regarded as better than s.p. Isn’t there a lack of logic here? If a.p. programmes can have enough in common to be classified as such, why can’t the same be true of s.p. programmes?

Jenny C.

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:20 am

Debbie, have you considered that the teachers' apparently cavalier attitude to the programmes might, at least to some extent, be down to faults in the programmes? After all, the teachers are the people who are testing the practicalities of delivery. You talk about 'leading-edge classroom findings' and yet here you have examples of classroom findings, perhaps more up to date than the findings on which you have based the programmes, which you seem to dismiss out of hand.

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:34 am

chew8 wrote:
Toots wrote:The point that Davis makes is that a teacher would not be able to follow a prescribed programme to the letter and remain a teacher, because at the heart of teaching is the responsibility to listen and understand the pupils and act accordingly.
I’m sure that we’d all agree. Davis says, however, that ‘If teachers are actually teaching, there will be and should be nothing common to all SP programmes’ (my italics), which is surely an over-statement. I also can’t see how he can say this and yet think that analytic phonics programmes have enough in common for a.p. to be recognisable enough to be regarded as better than s.p. Isn’t there a lack of logic here? If a.p. programmes can have enough in common to be classified as such, why can’t the same be true of s.p. programmes?

Jenny C.
Davis is calling for flexibility in SP teaching which responds to the pupils rather than to a necessity to implement a programme. I agree, if you read it very strictly, he overstates the case by saying there would be nothing in common to all SP programmes because clearly, what would be 'in common' is the use of SP. Just as AP programmes would all have in common the use of AP. But I think it is clear, when you read the whole piece, what he means. Perhaps he'll come on the forum and explain further.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by maizie » Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:29 pm

Toots wrote: Perhaps he'll come on the forum and explain further.
He was invited to do so quite some time ago. He has, as yet, failed to take up the invitation.

Though at least he hasn't actively declined, as he did when invited to go to a school near to his uni to see good SP/LP phonics being taught.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by kenm » Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:38 pm

Toots wrote:The point that Davis makes is that a teacher would not be able to follow a prescribed programme to the letter and remain a teacher, because at the heart of teaching is the responsibility to listen and understand the pupils and act accordingly.
By this definition, the people who deliver Zig Engelmann's DI scripts precisely are not teachers. Then, the implication of the Follow Through results is that children are best taught by actors, with the role of the teacher being to observe and choose which performance each child should attend.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:51 pm

Debbie, have you considered that the teachers' apparently cavalier attitude to the programmes might, at least to some extent, be down to faults in the programmes?
I am not suggesting that teachers have a 'cavalier attitude' to the programmes.

I am suggesting that when teachers do as Davis suggests, which is modify the programmes, or disregard the full programmes and/or the advice for the programmes, this may well be on the basis of them taking into consideration their own pupils and scenarios in all good faith - but that presumes teachers make these choices with full knowledge and understanding of the research, what children are capable of, and the good sense of the programmes for all the children.

If teachers, for example, have a 'developmental readiness' mindset and 'decide' that some children are not ready 'to start' or 'to write' - then this can be a self-fulfilling state of affairs - that such children get less, limited or no opportunity to practise the various skills -and thus get further and further behind their peers (who may well be nearly a year older than them) - but then that raises the chances of them being the next generation of special needs.

It also pre-supposes that all teachers have the same levels of knowledge and skill in making choices about their children and this just simply isn't the case.

I am not the same person/teacher I was at the outset of my career - and what I know now I would dearly have loved to have known at the outset of my career - no doubt I would not make the same 'professional judgements' had I the same level of knowledge and experience that I now have.

Of course I know that teachers need to make professional judgements, but one such professional judgement (arguably) might be to give more respect to the programme authors, their training and guidance - and credit them with the level of knowledge and experience they bring in their later years.

If there are indeed faults in the various programmes and/or accompanying training (which may well be the case), then this feedback should be given to the programme authors in case there is anything that needs modifying - or in case misunderstandings need to be addressed - or for further advice which the school/s may require.

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