PublicationsSystematic reviewsliteracy teaching
A systematic review of effective literacy teaching in the 4 to14 age range of mainstream schooling

What do we want to know?

Governments of all political persuasions in countries around the world are concerned about how poor standards in numeracy and literacy are costly in terms of lost wealth creation opportunities as well as the cost of social problems associated with academic failure. The numeracy and literacy levels of young people are of vital importance in influencing later academic, social and economic outcomes.  We are only just beginning to understand more fully the ways through which successful teachers promote healthy literacy growth amongst their students - what seems critical is the skills of the teacher. We need to know more about how to recognise ‘effective’ teachers of literacy and to understand more fully the kinds of professional knowledge, beliefs and classroom actions that are associated with the successful teaching of literacy.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers, inspectors, those involved in teacher education, literacy advisers, practitioners.

What did we find?  

Effective teachers of literacy have a wide and varied repertoire of teaching practices and approaches, integrating reading with
writing, differentiating instruction and having excellent classroom management skills. They are alert to children’s progress and can step in and use the appropriate method to meet the child’s instructional needs. The ‘effective’ teacher uses an eclectic collection of methods which represents a balance between the direct teaching of skills and more authentic, contextually-grounded literacy activities. They avoid adherence to any one approach.  Other effective strategies are promotion of pupil engagement, on-task behaviour and self-regulation, and building links with parents and the local community.

What are the implications?

  • Differentiation is crucial, and becoming increasingly more important in inclusive classrooms.

  • Policy-makers should consider the importance of: the early years as a key time for literacy learning; authentic opportunities for reading, writing and talk; cross-curricular connections; and careful monitoring of pupils’ literacy learning by teachers.

  • Student teachers will need to be exposed to a wide array of teaching practices; have experience of blending these practices in different ways for different children; and have the opportunity to reflect on their own and others' practice in the light of the research base.

How did we get these results?

Twelve studies were synthesised.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Hall K, Harding A (2003) A systematic review of effective literacy teaching in the 4 to 14 age range of mainstream schooling. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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