The importance of language
Language plays a central role in human life. It provides a vehicle for communication, a tool for thinking, a means of creativity and a source of pleasure. An understanding of language and the ability to use it effectively gives students access to knowledge, enables them to play an active part in society and contributes to their personal growth.
Modern literacy requirements
Literacy is the ability to use language to operate successfully within one’s society. Modern citizens face diverse demands on their language skills. Changes in the nature of work and social life and the development of new technologies have produced a proliferation of new and different forms of communication. Students need high levels of literacy to meet these challenges.
Future literacy demands
Students also need to be prepared to meet future challenges. The English language is not a set of neutral, unchanging and established rules or practices that apply at all times and in all situations. Literacy requirements change over time. Those skills seen as the minimum needed to function effectively in Australian society in 1901 would not be adequate for life in the twenty-first century. The skills that make a person literate also vary between contexts. A person who is literate in one situation may not have the skills needed in another. Students need an understanding and a command of language which enables them to adapt to new demands and new situations.
While a range of specialist literacies fall within the province of other learning areas, the English learning area has a special role in developing students’ literacy because it focuses on knowledge about language and how it works.
Functional literacy involves the ability to control and understand the conventions of English that are valued and rewarded by society. A concern for inclusivity and empowerment requires that all students develop the ability to use these conventions and have an understanding of their importance. These conventions include written conventions ranging from handwriting, spelling, punctuation and grammar through to the more complex conventions of form, genre and register; oral language conventions associated with different purposes, contexts and audiences; conventions associated with the presentation of information, ideas and entertainment in the mass media and new information technologies; and conventions associated with literary texts of all kinds. Students need to be able to use these conventions to communicate ideas, feelings and attitudes, to interact with others, to cope with increasingly complex communication demands, to explore and develop ideas and values, and to access an increasing range of knowledge and ways of thinking.
Students also require highly-developed critical literacy skills. Critical literacy depends on an understanding that language is a dynamic social process which responds to and reflects changing social conditions, and that the use of English is inextricably involved with values, beliefs and ways of thinking about ourselves and the world we inhabit. It involves an appreciation of and sensitivity to sociocultural diversity and an understanding that the meaning of any form of communication depends on context, purpose and audience. A crucial feature of critical literacy is an awareness of the relationship between language and power. Students need to understand that well developed language skills provide them with access to sources of power through knowledge; that the control of language and communication confers power on those in control and disempowers others; that language can be used to influence their behaviour and that they can use language to influence the behaviour of others; and that a knowledge of language and how it works can be used to resist control by others. Critical literacy and functional literacy are interdependent. The development of functional and critical literacy in the English learning area helps students to become competent, reflective, adaptable and critical users of language. It provides them with the skills necessary for the pursuit of knowledge and the achievement of their potential.
The English Learning Area Outcomes are:
Understanding Language: Students understand that the way language is used varies according to context.
- Attitudes, Values and Beliefs: Students understand that language has an important effect on the way in which they view themselves and the world in which they live.
- Conventions: Students use the conventions of Standard Australian English with understanding and critical awareness.
- Processes and Strategies: Students select from a repertoire of processes and strategies when listening, viewing, reading, speaking and writing by reflecting on their understanding of the way language works for a variety of purposes in a range of contexts.
- Listening: Students listen with purpose, understanding and critical awareness in a wide range of situations.
- Speaking: Students speak with purpose and effect in a wide range of situations.
- Viewing: Students view a wide range of visual texts with purpose, understanding and critical awareness.
- Reading: Students read a wide range of texts with purpose, understanding and critical awareness.
- Writing: Students write for a range of purposes and in a range of forms using conventions appropriate to audience, purpose and context.
The RAISe initiative is an opportunity for schools to work in partnership with the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia to explore a whole school approach to school improvement. RAISe is a systemic solution to improve student outcomes and enhance teacher effectiveness.
The RAISe initiative for Primary and Composite schools is managed by the K-7 Learning and Teaching Team of the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia.
The Teacher Professional Learning Strategy
RAISe is a multi-tiered, spaced professional learning opportunity for schools and their staff. The initiative is about exploring structures and frameworks within schools that will ensure that all students reach their learning potential across learning areas.
Professional learning opportunities are presented offsite, onsite and online with emphasis on staff members forming professional learning communities in order to enhance the student learning. Consultants from the Catholic Education Office work with schools during these opportunities by acting as critical friends. This role enables consultants to guide teachers as they audit current practices and challenge existing beliefs and values that underpin such practices. This process allows schools to confidently continue with effective practices and/or adopt new ones.
Spaced professional learning opportunities are offered to principals, coordinators and classroom teachers.
RAISe principals are active lead learners and require an overall understanding of the expectations placed on the school as a result of being a RAISe school. Principals have the opportunity to explore the expectation on school structures and classroom routines at two professional learning opportunities annually.
Teacher Leaders (K-3 & 4-7) are designated in key learning areas to create classrooms that exemplify effective teaching and learning practices in their designated learning area. Teacher Leaders are key personnel who understand the practical application of teaching and learning theory and are able to support the ongoing learning of their colleagues in the complex real world of classrooms and schools. Teacher Leaders access ongoing spaced professional development in their designated learning area.
Coordinators of the RAISe initiative are key personnel that enable school and system expectations to be embedded in practice in every classroom. First Wave Coordinators (K-3 & 4-7) are the whole school coordinators of the RAISe effort. Primarily their role is to support teacher development and expertise via in-class coaching. It is clear that high capacity teachers achieve high levels of achievement in their classrooms, and therefore First Wave effort must be directed towards upskilling classroom teachers. First Wave Coordinators access spaced professional learning over the year.
The RAISe initiative utilises Reading Recovery and Extending Mathematical Understanding (EMU) as key programs for second wave support. Second Wave Teachers focus their attention on students who are having difficulty achieving early literacy and numeracy independence. The Second Wave Teachers are also vital members of the K-3 Professional Learning Community. Second Wave Teachers access professional learning opportunities by participating in ongoing professional development offered through our university partners.
Third wave effort offered to students requiring long term intervention is coordinated by the Third Wave Coordinator. The Third Wave Coordinator works across the school coordinating support for both students receiving government funding and those students also identified as requiring further assistance in the classroom. Third Wave Coordinators access separate professional learning opportunities provided by Edith Cowan University and the K-7 Learning and Teaching Team.
Classroom Teachers, responsible for the day to day teaching of students are the key to raising achievement levels in schools. It is very important that classroom teachers access information first hand and therefore are expected to access conferences and workshops aimed at providing guidance in theory and practice on a regular basis.