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Preparing to teach literacy

4. Resources

4.1 Provision and accessibility of literacy resources in HEIs and schools

Programmes for primary teachers

4.1.1 In most of the primary programmes, student teachers had good access to resources to support their own learning about teaching literacy and to plan and deliver lessons on reading and writing while on school placements. The willingness of schools to make their materials readily available to student teachers was a strong feature of partnership arrangements. Many class teachers were also generous about sharing and explaining their own forward plans for teaching reading and writing. This process gave student teachers good insights into the range and nature of resources in use and how they were deployed. In some cases, student teachers had felt uncomfortable when starting school placements because they were not familiar with the resources being used. However, wisely, the HEIs exercised professional judgement to strike an appropriate balance between encouraging student teachers to familiarise themselves with popular resource packages and maintaining a focus on the principles that underpin good practice in teaching reading and writing. For example, one HEI placed the main resource emphasis during the taught part of the programme on materials that developed a principles approach but purchased popular, or new, resource packages which were available to students on short loan from the library.

Programmes for English specialist secondary teachers

4.1.2 In all of the secondary programmes, the literacy resources available in the HEI to student teachers preparing to become specialist teachers of English were good and often very good. Typically, HEI staff provided very useful bibliographies for the student teachers and comprehensive, helpful handouts for lectures and tutorials. The materials available also included video films and on-line ICT resources. Student teachers reported a variable degree of resource support when they were on school placements. Some were given very good access to a useful stock of school materials, but others found themselves in departments which were poorly stocked with resources to support the teaching of reading and writing. HEI/school partnerships should disseminate examples of good resource support on school placements to encourage all schools to achieve similar standards.

Programmes for secondary teachers of subjects other than English

4.1.3 Secondary programmes for subjects other than English varied considerably in the expectations they placed on student teachers to access resources that would help them meet pupils' literacy needs within their specialist subject. Some subject departments had high expectations and provided very good materials to help student teachers extend pupils' abilities in appropriate aspects of writing and reading. Others offered very little resource support to student teachers that was clearly related to meeting pupils' literacy needs in the context of the subject. All subject programmes should ensure that student teachers have access to resources focused on teaching the literacy skills pupils need to improve their learning in the subject.

Libraries and resource centres

4.1.4 The quality of library or resource centre facilities for student teachers varied across the HEIs. Generally, access to materials in these facilities was good. Where student teachers were living (or on school placements) at some distance from the HEI, they sometimes had difficulty with access because of set opening hours. The use of e-mail, with resource attachments, and e-conferencing was beginning to reduce this problem. At certain times, for example when students were preparing set assignments, particular resources were in great demand. The tactic of making the key resources available on short, sometimes very short, loan helped considerably. The best situations had some common characteristics. Student teachers had access to very good ranges of both popular pupil/school materials and resources to extend their own knowledge and understanding of the theory and principles of teaching reading and writing. Resources were kept up-to-date in respect of national guidance, education authority policies and new commercial publications. The library or resource centre provided a valuable meeting place for student teachers to share experiences or work together. However, in some HEIs, the resources were much more limited. The student teachers did not have a centre where literacy resources were readily available, and the range of typical pupil/school materials held by the language department was narrow.

Use of ICT resources in relation to teaching literacy skills

4.1.5 The use of ICT resources for teaching and learning on ITE programmes was becoming increasingly important. A central feature was the use of e-mail and/or e-conferencing for student teachers to support each other or be supported by a tutor. This support took place on campus and on school placements, though it was curtailed in some schools by limitations in their ICT facilities. There were examples of ICT resources being used constructively to improve student teachers' teaching of literacy. Student teachers on primary programmes had accessed very good resources on the Internet for the development of reading and writing. Secondary English students had a bank of S1/S2 units they had prepared for an assignment on a conference site. Several had made direct use of the materials with classes. HEI/school partnerships should continue to look for ways of using ICT resources to facilitate the teaching and learning of literacy. One possible way would be for the HEI to use the Internet to make details available to schools of the attention given to literacy in different programmes.

4.2 Provision of staff

4.2.1 In almost all of the programmes, primary and secondary, the specialist lecturers in the HEIs directly involved in the curriculum and pedagogy related to literacy were very well qualified in the field. Several had national reputations in teaching and learning within particular literary specialisms. However, staffing was often very tight and class sizes were often large for the primary programmes. The tight staffing contributed to the amount of taught time for English language in the PGCE (Primary) programmes being low. To address these factors, it is necessary to look at the balance of teaching contact time and other forms of learning, such as independent study; and the actual staffing numbers. HEIs should consider sharing experiences of implementing different models for teaching and learning, with a quantification of the staffing commitment required and the impact on students' achievements.

4.3 Summary

Strengths in resources for ITE

Resource issues in ITE and action points

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