Reading & Literacy

Survey: In Literacy, What’s Trendy Isn’t Always What’s Important

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — January 12, 2017 2 min read
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A new survey from the International Literacy Association finds that what many teachers note as being “hot” in national conversations about literacy isn’t what they think is most important.

Past and present members of the International Literacy Association, most of whom were teachers or literacy/instructional coaches, and other teachers, academics, government workers and literacy professionals were asked to rate a set of 17 topics related to literacy on how “hot” and how “important” the topics are in their communities and in their countries.

Teachers reported that in both their communities and in the country as a whole, assessment and standards are the hottest topics in literacy conversations. Eighty-six percent said assessment and standards are “moderately,” “very,” or “extremely” hot in their communities, and 89 percent said the same about their country. But assessment and standards were not one of the top five topics that teachers rated as most important.

Digital literacy was also rated as more “hot” than “important” by the survey’s respondents.

Parent engagement, access to books and content, literacy in resource-limited settings, teacher professional learning and development, and early literacy, on the other hand, were rated as significantly more “important” than “hot.”

The association surveyed 1,594 of its current and former members in 89 countries for its report, entitled “What’s Hot in Literacy.” The survey is a new iteration of a running list of hot topics in reading instruction by Jack Cassidy, a former president of the organization. This was the first year the organization conducted such an extensive survey; previous “What’s Hot” lists had been drawn more informally from the impressions of 20-25 teachers and literacy professionals.

Marcie Craig Post, the executive director of the International Literacy Association (formerly the International Reading Association), said the organization hoped the results would inform the literacy community’s research and policy priorities.

Post said that what’s remained on the list over the years is as instructive as what’s changed: “Teachers are always sensitive to resource and budget questions,” Post said. She said they’re also perpetually interested in teacher training and professional development and in early literacy.

Post said she was also struck by a finding that very few teachers reported school administrators’ leadership in literacy as “hot.” The ILA has been focusing on building school leaders’ skills in leadership, which Post said could help improve teachers’ professional development and preparation and, eventually, students’ literacy.

Post said that in the United States, there also seems to be a need for more attention to the needs of English-learners: 53 percent of U.S. respondents said that English-learners were a “hot” topic, while 73 percent said it’s “important.”

For more on the findings, check out the whole report.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.