Learning to be a Primary Teacher: Core Knowledge and Understanding

Learning to be a Primary Teacher: Core Knowledge and Understanding

by Jonathan Glazzard

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Learning to be a primary teacher is a bit like becoming a superhero!


It’s not impossible, but it takes hard work and dedication to become that heroic individual, looked up to by the whole class, who is able to simultaneously be fun, creative, responsive to a range of different needs and who knows everything about all subjects! So to harness and develop your inner powers look no further than this essential core text. It will ensure you are fully equipped to:


  • tackle planning and assessment with ease
  • win the fight against poor behaviour
  • overcome your worries about subject knowledge
  • challenge and apply theory and research
  • build your emotional strength and resilience
  • stand tall as a professional
  • and most importantly, protect and nurture the children in your care.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781910391761
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 07/15/2016
Series: Critical Teaching
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Jonathan Glazzard is Head of Academic Development at Leeds Trinity University. In this role he is responsible for the implementation of the learning, teaching and assessment strategy across all courses. He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2015 for having demonstrated an outstanding contribution to learning and teaching in higher education. Prior to undertaking his current role Jonathan was Head of Primary Initial Teacher Training courses at the University of Huddersfield. He is a qualified teacher and taught in primary schools before moving into higher education.

Jonathan Glazzard is Professor of Teacher Education and Head of Department for Children, Education and Communities at Edge Hill University. He is an active researcher and teacher educator as well as a qualified teacher. Jonathan taught in state primary schools for 10 years before moving into higher education. His research addresses issues of inclusion and social justice within education.

Read an Excerpt

Learning to be a Primary Teacher

Core Knowledge & Understanding

By Jonathan Glazzard

Critical Publishing

Copyright © 2016 Jonathan Glazzard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-910391-76-1



Teachers' Standards

This chapter addresses the following Teachers' Standards:

Teachers' Standard 8: Fulfil wider professional responsibilities

Teachers must:

take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues.

In relation to this standard the term 'professional development' is interpreted broadly and includes teacher engagement with research and scholarship as well as access to courses, training, coaching and mentoring.


The Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training made the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1c: Evidence-based teaching should be part of a framework for ITT content.

Recommendation 6: The Teachers' Standards should be amended to be more explicit about the importance of teachers taking an evidence-based approach.

Recommendation 7: A central portal of synthesised executive summaries, providing practical advice on research findings about effective teaching in different subjects and phases, should be developed. A future College of Teaching would be well placed to develop this.

Recommendation 8: ITT partnerships should make more systematic use of wider expertise outside university departments of education. There are many universities that are home to world-leading research and assessment organisations.

(Carter, 2015, pp 8–9)


What is this chapter about?

In this chapter you will learn about:

1. the importance of evidence-based teaching – what works and how do we know?

2. some of the key research that underpins aspects of teaching.

Why is it important?

Effective teaching is underpinned by research findings. Research helps us to understand the effectiveness of different teaching strategies, interventions and ways of working in the classroom. As a teacher it is important that the practices you implement in your classroom are evidence-based and informed by research. As a reflective teacher you have a responsibility to evaluate research and challenge it before applying it in the classroom. Research helps to demonstrate that teaching strategies have an impact and will make a difference to children's learning. Without research it is difficult to establish the effectiveness of particular teaching strategies and you could waste a lot of time implementing strategies which make little or no difference to children's learning.

The Carter Review stated that:

We believe it is critical that ITT should teach trainees why engaging with research is important and build an expectation and enthusiasm for teaching as an evidence-based profession. International evidence, including the RSA-BERA inquiry (British Educational Research Association (BERA), 2014), shows us that high-performing systems induct their teachers in the use, assessment and application of research findings.

(Carter, 2015, XVI, p 8)


Our findings suggest that sometimes ITT focuses on trainees conducting their own research, without necessarily teaching trainees the core skills of how to access, interpret and use research to inform classroom practice. It is important that trainees understand how to interpret educational theory and research in a critical way, so they are able to deal with contested issues.

(Carter, 2015, XVII, p 8)

Research findings can help to shape your educational values because they will help to inform your core beliefs about learning and teaching. During your ITT programme you will be introduced to seminal research findings on aspects of pedagogy such as assessment, feedback and early reading. Seminal research is research which has made a significant and often longstanding contribution to knowledge. It often informs current practice and is cited in books, journals and during teacher professional development sessions. However, as well as knowing seminal research it is also important that you keep up-to-date with the latest research findings on aspects of educational pedagogy. This will give you the confidence and knowledge to express your views to colleagues and to experiment with new approaches to teaching. Keeping up-to-date with current research findings will enable you to be a reflective teacher and it will keep you interested in teaching!

In this chapter, some key teaching methods and approaches are examined in relation to the current research to help you position your own teaching around the latest evidence. This chapter will also explore how you might access research and research summaries in order to keep up-to-date in your professional practice.

How to locate research

The starting point for you to access research is your ITT provider library. This may be a physical library which includes educational resources such as books and academic and professional journals. Your provider is also required to provide you with access to an electronic library. This will enable you to access online journals and electronic books as well as other resources such as newspaper articles. You will need to learn how to search electronic databases to help you locate research, and many providers now include this as part of the ITT induction process. You will need to learn which search words might yield the best results and then you will need to narrow the search by selecting various filters. General searches often produce several thousand sources so it is important to be as specific as you can when searching for material so that you can select sources from a narrower range.

In addition to your electronic library, many sources are now freely available on the internet for you to access.

Subject associations and charities or interest groups may provide access to useful research via their individual websites. Google Scholar is also a useful search engine for finding research. It is important to bear in mind that just because something has been published, that alone does not ensure it is quality material. You should be sceptical about material that you access on the web, particularly if it has not been through a process of peer review. Peer review is a process which assures the quality of the research, which usually goes through a process of revision before it is published. When searching through your provider's online library you are well-advised to select the 'peer review' option which filters out any material which has not been subject to this.

As time is precious on any ITT programme you will not be able to read everything and you will not be expected to do so. To save time, many reports (particularly government reports) include an 'executive summary' of the publication at the front and it is usually sufficient to read this. Try to access the summaries of research findings rather than wasting valuable time reading whole studies.

Evidence-based teaching: phonics

This section demonstrates how you might approach looking at research and how you can use it to inform your practice. Specifically, it evaluates the effectiveness of synthetic phonics compared to analytic phonics. It presents the key research findings and offers a critical appraisal of this research.

During the last decade there has been a political focus which has highlighted the importance of systematic synthetic phonics in securing children's skills in word recognition. Successive governments in England have exerted pressure on schools to teach synthetic phonics and this has been regulated through various inspection frameworks. Additionally, inspections of initial teacher education in England have focused heavily on the extent to which training providers have ensured that all trainee teachers have thorough training in synthetic phonics. Publishers have developed commercial schemes for teaching synthetic phonics and high-profile individuals have developed consultancy work in this area. The political message is clear. Teachers have been told that synthetic phonics is the best way of teaching children to read. However, as critical, reflective teachers it is important to know that what you do in the classroom is substantiated by research evidence. You need to establish that what you are doing is likely to work and you need to be aware of other approaches if one strategy does not work with specific learners. Children are individuals. They learn in different ways and at different rates and one strategy will not necessarily suit all children.

Successive governments in England have, in recent decades, invested heavily in various educational initiatives. However, England lags behind other countries in terms of its performance in international education league tables. For example, in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2011 there was a greater proportion of weaker readers in England than in many other high-achieving countries (Mullis et al, 2012). It would appear that the significant political investment has not always had the desired impact in terms of raising educational achievement.

It is important to critically examine the evidence from research findings to establish the effectiveness of different teaching strategies. In relation to the teaching of reading, the discipline of psychology is a good place to look for evidence. Teachers need a secure understanding of psychology to understand child development. Without this, it is difficult to plan for progression in learning or help children overcome misconceptions in their knowledge, skills and understanding. The next sections therefore examine the psychological research on different approaches to phonics before arriving at a synthesis.


The term 'synthetic' is taken from the verb 'to synthesise'. Beginning readers are taught grapheme-phoneme correspondences and are taught to blend phonemes all through the word right from the outset in order to develop word reading skills (Johnston and Watson, 2007). They are also taught the reverse process of segmenting a spoken word into its constituent phonemes. These are then represented as graphemes for spelling. Letter sounds are learned at a rapid pace and the skills of blending and segmenting are taught from the start (Johnston and Watson, 2007). In contrast, analytic phonics introduces blending much later in the process. Children are taught to analyse the common phoneme in a set of words and individual phonemes are not pronounced in isolation (Strickland, 1998).

Evidence for synthetic phonics

The Rose Review in England (Rose, 2006) concluded that:

Having considered a wide range of evidence, the review has concluded that the case for systematic phonic work is overwhelming and much strengthened by a synthetic approach.

(Rose, 2006, para 51, p 20)

In this review, Rose recommended that synthetic phonics 'offers the best route to becoming skilled readers' (p 19) and he argued that teachers should be required to teach synthetic phonics 'first' and 'fast'. This recommendation informed literacy policy in England and the content of initial teacher education courses.

Rose substantiated his claim by drawing on evidence from the Clackmannanshire research in Scotland (Watson and Johnston, 1998). The second experiment examined the performance of three groups of children who received interventions over a ten-week period. Each intervention lasted for 15 minutes twice a week. One group received sight vocabulary training, a second group received intervention in analytic phonics and a third group received intervention in synthetic phonics. The results led the researchers to conclude that synthetic phonics led to better reading, spelling and phonemic awareness gains than the other two approaches (Watson and Johnston, 1998).

A longitudinal study reported by Johnston and Watson (2005) has demonstrated that synthetic phonics is particularly effective for boys. This study reported that both boys and girls demonstrated substantial gains in word reading, spelling and comprehension which were sustained over time when taught through a synthetic phonics approach. However, the gain was larger for boys (Johnston and Watson, 2005). Additionally, the research found that synthetic phonics enabled children from areas of deprivation to overcome social disadvantage by demonstrating gains in reading and spelling which enabled these children to perform above their chronological age (Johnston and Watson, 2005). More recent research also supports these findings. For example, a study by Johnston et al (2011) compared the performance of ten-year-old boys and girls who had been taught to read by either synthetic or analytic phonics. The study found that the group taught by synthetic phonics had better spelling, word reading and comprehension than the group taught by analytic phonics. Additionally, the results demonstrated that the boys taught by synthetic phonics had better word reading, spelling and comprehension than the girls who had been taught by the same method.

However, the Clackmannanshire research (experiment 2 specifically) has received considerable criticism in the academic literature (Wyse and Goswami, 2008). The study lacked sufficient rigour in its design to establish whether the synthetic approach is superior to the analytic approach (Wyse and Goswami, 2008). Children in the analytic phonics group were taught fewer letters than children in the synthetic phonics group (Wyse and Styles, 2007) and the groups were given different amounts of teaching (Wyse and Styles, 2007). Additionally, the research design did not isolate the impact of additional treatment factors which might have contributed to the gains in reading, spelling and phonemic awareness (Ellis and Moss, 2014). For example, factors such as teacher effectiveness; parents' educational attainment; the quality of the literacy environment in the home; remedial help offered outside the intervention and other reading interventions which operated within the school were not controlled and therefore the evidence is insufficiently robust (Ellis and Moss, 2014). The study failed to report information about the time spent on phonics instruction outside the intervention, time spent on other reading activities and the contexts in which children were exposed to phonics (Ellis and Moss, 2014). Given these serious flaws in the reporting of the research and the design of the study Ellis and Moss concluded that:

The weakness of the research design, including the way the statistical data were analysed and reported, suggest it would be unwise to draw any clear conclusions for pedagogy or policy from this single study.

(Ellis and Moss, 2014, p 249)

Despite the methodological weaknesses of the Clackmannanshire research, Johnston and Watson (2005) concluded that 'synthetic phonics was a more effective approach to teaching reading, spelling and phonemic awareness than analytic phonics' (p 351). However, as Wyse and Styles (2007, p 39) point out 'it is important that gains are shown for comprehension, not just for decoding and related skills'. In the first experiment the reporting of the comprehension outcomes is ambiguous and in the second experiment the comprehension findings are not reported (Wyse and Styles, 2007). The subsequent longitudinal study published by Johnston and Watson (2005) reported gains in comprehension scores but there was no control group so it is not possible to attribute gains in comprehension to synthetic phonics (Wyse and Styles, 2007). Additionally, comprehension scores during the longitudinal study were assessed using different tests, thus invalidating any results.

Given the serious limitations of the research, it is questionable why Rose (2006) acknowledged the criticisms that were levelled against it but failed to take any of these into account. To launch a policy change on a lack of robust, empirical evidence was both hasty and naïve and not an adequate solution for addressing England's low position in the international literacy league tables.

Evidence for analytic phonics

Analytic phonics is often described as processing text by going from whole to part, rather than part to whole as is the case in synthetic phonics (Moustafa and Maldonado-Colon, 1998). It is a strategy which emphasises the use of larger grain sizes and the use of rime in reading by analogy.


Excerpted from Learning to be a Primary Teacher by Jonathan Glazzard. Copyright © 2016 Jonathan Glazzard. Excerpted by permission of Critical Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


  1. Using research
  2. Subject knowledge and pedagogy
  3. Subject knowledge in English
  4. Subject knowledge in Mathematics
  5. Child development
  6. Planning and differentiation
  7. Assessment
  8. Behaviour management
  9. SEND
  10. Professionalism


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