Your Voice is Powerful: Advocating for Effective Science of Reading-Based Professional Learning in Literacy
Let's face it: The professional learning (PL) many teachers have endured has too often missed the mark—sessions filled with jargon, detached from classroom realities, and leaving little to carry back to students. The frustration of lost hours that could have been spent enriching student minds or simply recharging adds to increasing burnout. These experiences have not gone unnoticed. Now, imagine PL that's different: Evidence-based, engaging, and tailored to reinforce educator expertise where it matters most—in the classroom.
Effective Professional Learning: The Heart of Literacy Advancement
Recent studies suggest reading achievement levels have notably declined, with students in grades 3–8 having lost nearly a quarter of a year in reading proficiency. This gap calls for a strategic approach to professional learning that transcends the ordinary and provides practical, evidence-based strategies to elevate literacy instruction. Moving from professional development (PD) to professional learning (PL) marks a shift in how careers are grown. While PD often suggests a one-way transfer of knowledge, PL embodies ongoing participation that actively refines teaching methods. This change signifies a deeper commitment to impactful, sustained growth in teaching practices, particularly in literacy.
Quality teaching is the cornerstone of student literacy success. Yet, traditional PD often falls short, serving as placeholders rather than catalysts for educational growth. Research-Based Literacy Professional Learning underscores the need for a deeper understanding of the science of reading to teach these skills effectively.
Professional learning grounded in the science of reading can bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical classroom application to combat significant learning loss from the pandemic. This type of learning offers not just the “why” behind effective literacy instruction, but it also provides the what and the how—ensuring educators have all the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure students can accelerate their literacy learning.
Effective PL in literacy provides the strategies and confidence to facilitate literacy breakthroughs— transforming instructional approaches and yielding measurable advances in student achievement.
Effective Science of Reading-Based Professional Learning
Professional learning is an important component of continuing education for teachers, but if it’s not actually providing useful information and actionable strategies, it will likely leave educators feeling annoyed and behind on work. Look for these key components to ensure professional learning time is beneficial:
- Addresses the “Why” of Literacy Instruction: Emphasize the reasons behind literacy practices to deepen understanding and commitment.
- Illuminates the “What” of Literacy Instruction: Clearly define the objectives and outcomes of literacy instruction for practical application.
- Clarifies the “How” of Literacy Instruction: Demonstrate instructional methodologies and tools that align with SoR principles.
- Focuses on Active Engagement: Move beyond passive listening to involve teachers in hands-on learning experiences.
- Aligns With Current Research: Base content on the latest findings in reading science.
- Provides Practical Classroom Strategies: Offer tools and methods that can be directly applied in classroom settings.
- Supports Long-Term Implementation: Go beyond one-off sessions to include follow-up support, coaching, or community building.
- Includes Assessment and Feedback: Use assessments to guide learning and offer constructive feedback for improvement.
Professional learning grounded in the science of reading bridges the gap between theory and practice. It empowers educators with strategies and confidence for literacy breakthroughs, transforming instructional approaches and yielding measurable advances in student achievement.
Advocating: An Educators’ Role in Shaping the Future of Professional Learning
Professional learning doesn't have to be a quagmire of lost time and ineffective strategies. It can and should be a wellspring of practical and impactful knowledge that invigorates teaching. What's more, it should provide what is needed in the classroom.
How to Leverage the Administration: Talking Points
- Identify Needs in the Classroom. Educators know their students best. Highlight for the principal gains students have made, but emphasize what is needed to help them advance further:
- Emerging Readers: Highlight the number or percentage of students reading below grade level.
- Unique Learning Styles: Explore the potential of Emergent Bilingual students and students with dyslexia, emphasizing their distinct linguistic and cognitive skills that enrich the classroom environment.
- Investigate Opportunities: Enhance student interest and engagement in literacy programs, recognizing diverse interests and the potential for creative, culturally responsive teaching methods.
- Achievement Gaps: Examine the varied literacy development trajectories among student groups, with an emphasis on understanding each group's unique strengths and the opportunities for tailored instructional approaches that build on these strengths.
- Advocate for Resources: Highlight the need for additional resources and innovative strategies to support foundational reading skills, focusing on the potential for community collaboration, technology integration, and professional development to enhance teaching efficacy and student learning outcomes.
- Present Data. No one can argue with numbers. Use data already being reviewed to demonstrate where students need additional help.
- Classroom Assessments: Use results from formative assessments, reading inventories, or benchmark tests.
- Student Progress Reports: Show individual or class progress reports highlighting areas of need.
- Qualitative Data: Share anecdotal evidence and student work samples demonstrating specific literacy challenges.
- Comparative Data: If available, compare class district, state, or national literacy trends.
- Discuss Return on Investment (ROI). Professional learning shouldn’t just be a day out of the classroom to check a box. Instead, show how effective PL can lead to short- and long-term payoffs for educators, students, and a school.
- Improved Student Outcomes: Emphasize how SoR-based PL can lead to higher reading proficiency and overall academic performance.
- Teacher Efficacy: Stress that effective PL can enhance teacher skills and confidence, leading to better instruction and student support.
- Long-Term Benefits: Highlight the potential for long-term academic success and the positive impact on students' future education and career prospects.
- Cost Savings: Discuss how investing in quality PL now can reduce the need for remedial instruction and additional resources later.
- School Reputation: Point out that improved literacy rates can enhance a school's reputation and attract more resources and support.
- Offer Options. Present programs like Lexia LETRS® and Lexia Aspire™ Professional Learning as viable options for SoR-based PL.
Take the initiative. Advocate for the professional learning educators need and deserve. This is the moment to create a movement that takes back professional learning and unlocks the full potential of students through enriching and effective professional learning.
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