Leave Year 1 testing to the teachers

Testing students isn’t always the answer for improvement according to Griffith University education lecturer Dr Georgina Barton.

Commenting on the Federal Government’s call for Year 1’s to be tested on their literacy skills, Dr Barton says teachers know what makes a good reader and “we should trust their professional judgement”.

“Firstly, there’s a huge body of evidence that highlights the benefits of play-based and imaginative approaches to learning for young students,’’ she said.

“Students of this age will be at quite diverse stages of development. For example, six months difference in age can result in children being at extreme levels of readiness and/or reading levels. It’s sometimes like comparing apples with oranges.”

She said children are already being over-tested in schools purely for accountability purposes so a lot of data is already being collected.

“But it’s not always the right data and sometimes it’s just the same type of test over and over.”

Reading development

“Reading involves a number of skills where phonological and phonemic awareness are in addition to a range of others needed for effective and fluent reading.

“There’s the big six of reading instruction – phonics, phonological and phonemic awareness, oral language, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension as well as other intrinsic skills such as creativity, enjoyment of reading, imagination and critical thinking.”

She said community and family involvement and utilising a range of disciplinary experts such as speech pathologists where neededwas also important in helping to develop a child’s readership skills.

Griffith University education students learn how to teach reading using phonics and a variety of other methods.

“I see phonics as one among many tools in the toolbox for teaching reading. Our students learn how to use it and how to make professional judgements about when to use it and when other methods would be more effective.”