Scaffolding academic literacy using the reading to learn methodology: an evaluative study

Millin, Tracey Jane (2016-03)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The primary aim of this study was to test and assess the efficacy of an innovative literacy development intervention, Reading to Learn (RtL), with Grade 11 students at two schools within the Winelands District of the Western Cape. The RtL intervention, originally designed to address inequitable literacy development outcomes of students from marginalised communities in Australia, was undertaken against the backdrop of increasingly serious concerns regarding literacy development in primary and secondary education in South Africa. Recent research has confirmed that poor literacy performance at school cannot be divorced from social conditions and educational practices that may exclude some and privilege other learners. In this study, RtL was designed purposefully to scaffold the development of more advanced academic literacy skills, with special support being offered to students with the greater need, whilst still providing sufficient stimulation for better performing students. A characterising feature of RtL is its affordance of equal opportunities to students from outside mainstream Discourses, by providing explicit access to the Discourse of formal schooling. The theoretical conceptual framework of RtL is derived from the work of Halliday (language as a text in a social context), Vygotsky (learning as a social process) and Bernstein (education as a pedagogic device for maintaining inequality). The two central research questions considered (i) whether RtL could be effective in a smallscale South African secondary school context, and (ii) whether RtL outcomes in such a context would be comparable to other studies of RtL conducted elsewhere. Using a long-term action research design, this mixed methods inquiry into academic literacy development worked with students’ writing portfolios collected throughout the RtL intervention. A linguistic biographical questionnaire was used to gather student-specific data. Student work was assessed, codified and given numerical literacy scores which allowed for descriptive and more advanced statistical data analysis. A number of cases were closely analysed to illustrate the nature of the intervention and students’ levels of literacy pre and post intervention. Triangulation of the various kinds of data revealed how general data patterns emerging from the small-scale statistical analysis relate to contextual features specific to local social and educational conditions. The findings of this study showed that students’ academic literacy skills improved over the duration of the RtL intervention. The greatest area of improvement across all students (regardless of school context) was evidenced in more advanced schematic structuring of both the narrative and academic essay genres. From a cross-sectional (across schools) perspective, the greatest overall improvement in written literacy skills was among the weaker cohort of students from the peri-urban township school. The phenomenon of weaker students making greater overall gains was also evidenced from a time series (within school) perspective. This encouraging finding indicates a possible convergence (or ‘catch-up’) effect, for students previously categorised as academically weak, regardless of school context, meaning that the documented convergence effects also seemed to occur irrespective of students’ socioeconomic circumstances. Furthermore, the findings of this study, with regards to the efficacy of RtL, are comparable to findings from other studies conducted globally, those in Australian studies, in particular.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Die primêre doel van hierdie studie was om die effektiwiteit te toets van ʼn innoverende onderrig intervensie, “Reading to Learn” (RtL), wat gebruik is in die skryfvaardigheidontwikkeling van Graad 11 leerders by twee skole in die Wynlanddistrik van die Wes-Kaap. Die RtL intervensie, wat aanvanklik ontwerp is om ongelyke uitkomste van geletterdheidsontwikkeling van studente uit gemarginaliseerde gemeenskappe in Australië aan te spreek, is onderneem teen die agtergrond van toenemende besorgdheid oor die ontwikkeling van geletterdheid in primêre en sekondêre onderrig in Suid Afrika. Onlangse navorsing het bevestig dat swak prestasie in geletterdheidsvaardighede op skool nie losgemaak kan word van sosiale omstandighede en onderrigpraktyke wat party leerders kan uitsluit en ander bevoordeel nie. In hierdie studie is RtL doelbewus ontwerp om as ‘t ware steierwerk te voorsien vir die opbou van gevorderde akademiese geletterdheidvaardighede, op so ʼn manier dat spesiale steun gegee word aan studente met groter agterstande, terwyl beter presterende studente steeds voldoende stimulasie kry. ʼn Karakteriserende eienskap van RtL is die aanbied van gelyke geleenthede aan studente van buite die hoofstroom Diskoerse, deur die spesifieke verlening van toegang tot die Diskoers van formele onderwys. Die konseptuele raamwerk van RtL is gebaseer op die werk van Halliday (taal as teks binne ʼn sosiale konteks), Vygotsky (leer as ʼn sosiale proses) en Bernstein (onderwys as ʼn pedagogiese instrument wat sosiale ongelykheid instandhou). Die twee sentrale navorsingsvrae wat gestel is, oorweeg (i) of RtL effektief kan wees in ʼn klein-skaal projek binne ʼn Suid-Afrikaanse sekondêre skool konteks, en (ii) of RtL uitkomste in so ʼn konteks vergelykbaar sou wees met dié van ander RtL studies wat elders gedoen is. Deur gebruik te maak van ʼn langtermyn aksie-navorsingsontwerp, het hierdie gemengde metode ondersoek na akademiese geletterdheidontwikkeling gewerk met die skryf-portfolios van leerders. Die data is oor die loop van die aangebode intervensie ingesamel. ʼn Vraelys is gebruik om student-spesifieke taal-biografiese data in te samel. Studente se skryfwerk is geassesseer, gekodifiseer en numeries bepunt sodat ʼn deskriptiewe en meer uitgebreide statistiese data-analise gedoen kon word. ʼn Aantal gevalle is in besonderhede geanaliseer om die aard van die intervensie te illustreer en om die geletterdheidsvlakke van studente voor en ná die intervensie aan te toon. Triangulering van die onderskeie soorte data het blootgelê hoe algemene patrone wat uitgewys is deur die kleinskaalse statistiese analise, in verband staan met kontekstuele gegewens eie aan die plaaslike sosiale en opvoedkundige situasie. Die bevindinge van die studie toon dat studente se akademiese skryfvaardighede oor die loop van die RtL-intervensie verbeter het. Die mees beduidende verbetering by alle studente (ongeag die skoolkonteks) was in die skematiese strukturering van sowel die narratiewe as akademiese opstel genres. Uit ʼn kruisseksionele perspektief (oor skoolgrense heen) was die grootste verbetering in die geskrewe geletterdheidsvaardighede onder die kohort van swakker presterende leerders uit die skool in die semi-stedelike swart woongebied. Die verskynsel van swakker presterende studente wat oorhoofs groter verbetering toon, is ook bevestig vanuit ʼn tydsverloop reeks perspektief (binne skole). Hierdie bemoedigende bevinding dui ʼn moontlike konvergering (of “inhaaleffek”) aan by studente wat tevore gekategoriseer is as akademies swakker presterend, ongeag die skoolkonteks. Dit beteken dat die gedokumenteerde konvergensie-effekte plaasgevind het ongeag die studente se sosio-ekonomiese omstandighede. Verder is die bevindinge ten opsigte van die effektiwiteit van RtL, wel vergelykbaar met dié van ander studies in ander wêrelddele, en spesifiek ook met die bevindinge van soortgelyke studies in Australië.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98874
This item appears in the following collections: