The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Reading Recovery Teacher Leader Professional Development in Malta 2018/2019

Tuesday, 27 August 2019, 10:57 Last update: about 10 months ago

Janet Cristinae

In September 2018, six colleagues and I started our master's course in Reading Recovery and Literacy Leadership (MA RRLL). This professional development (PD) was delivered by the International Literacy Centre of the University College in London, UK, (UCL) in collaboration with the National Literacy Agency (NLA) in Malta.


The theory and practice of Reading Recovery

Right from the beginning, the emphasis was placed upon the need for us Teacher Leaders in training to learn about the theoretical concepts on which Reading Recovery (RR) is based, focusing on how to use RR procedures to teach children with literacy difficulties. We learnt about the possible causes of reading and writing difficulties which differ from child to child.


My daily teaching of four children in RR was essential for self-reflection on my own teaching practice. I captured my learning through the implementation of an in-depth case study of one six-year-old child experiencing difficulties in learning literacy. Assessing the child, teaching her daily and evaluating her individual intervention through history notes, samples of work, assessment records and summaries gave me further opportunity to study my teaching and to reflect on the feedback that I regularly received from my tutor leading to an improvement in my practice.

Reflection was further supported in each of the three visits made to my teaching by different RR UCL lecturers along the year. In each visit, I was supported to engage in an analysis of the two lessons observed through verbal and written feedback. Furthermore, I assessed an older child with literacy difficulties to describe and analyse her persistent reading and writing difficulties and demonstrated how her progress differed from that of the pupils supported by RR.


Understanding literacy and the practice of leadership of professional learning

During our fortnightly group face to face sessions with our tutors at the NLA National Curriculum Centre in Ħamrun, there was ongoing discussion about the literature regarding Research Methods in Literacy as well as Literacy Development. In addition, through reading about the learning, I deepened my understanding of the principles underlying the Initial (IPD) and Continuous (CPD) RR Teacher PD Programmes. In RR, educators are not merely concerned with improving techniques but more important is the understanding of teaching practice and flexibility in making the necessary changes.  Learners are not worked through a single programme and so, teachers need to learn to interpret the literacy behaviours of individual pupils to implement a programme to meet each pupil's needs.


Collaborating with others

As part of my role as Teacher Leader in training, I organised and administered the initial implementation of RR at St Benedict College, Zurrieq Primary and built the school team in the process. There was the constant need to communicate with different audiences about RR, a process referred to as 'advocacy'. This audience included the NLA, the College Principal, the School Management Team, the School Literacy Link Person, the Parents of the children receiving the intervention, the Link RR Teacher, the four Year 2 Classroom teachers and the three RR teachers in training. We highly valued this collegiality as we shared our knowledge and insights in discussing our teaching and strived to work together on behalf of the success of the thirty-one children involved.


Observing an experienced Teacher Leader

In addition, I carried out fieldwork through my observations of an experienced Teacher Leader in action and his management of the first RR PD of fourteen experienced teachers of literacy at various RR centres in Malta. I learnt about the gradual establishment of an adult learning community whose learning started with assessment training and moved into teaching procedures. During each IPD session two teachers taught for the group. The one-way glass allowed the observers to see the lesson closely, to hear the teacher-child interactions and to reflect and discuss them. Through my observation and reviewing of this PD programme I became aware of their building expertise as RR teachers over the year of the programme.


Learning to tutor

As the year progressed, my participation in aspects of this PD role increased as I began to play a more active role as a Teacher Leader. From a practical perspective, I had the opportunity to rehearse tutoring at the screen with my colleagues. I also had an initial experience of participating in the leading of teachers at one RR school by practising guiding the teachers' conversation behind the screen.


Visits to teachers

As a Teacher Leader in training I made two visits to teachers to observe their teaching in school and to give them feedback. First, I accompanied an experienced Teacher Leader and then made a visit alone. I was struck by the one to one interaction between the leader and teacher, a dialogue which is an essential component of the PD of the RR teacher. I observed the Teacher Leader wondering aloud and guiding the teacher to reflect on her lesson. Moreover, I had the opportunity to observe and discuss teaching in a visit to a colleague which was then reciprocated.

I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the National Literacy Agency in Malta and the International Literacy Centre of the University College in London, UK, for the sterling opportunity to train as a RR Teacher Leader. This PD programme provided me with various instances to receive and give feedback as well as to critically reflect on my learning and lift my understanding in the process.  Through the analysis of the teaching of others in RR, I have gained extensive insight into my own teaching. All this is beneficial as I prepare to lead the PD learning of thirty two RR IPD teachers and fifteen RR CPD teachers in the upcoming scholastic year, an experience which I am enthusiastically looking forward to.


Janet Cristina is an HOD at St Benedict College

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