Students set to benefit from ACU’s triangulated approach to literacy research, teacher education programs, and expert reading support

The expertise of Australian Catholic University’s Australian Centre for the Advancement of Literacy will benefit school students through cutting-edge research, enhanced teacher education programs and a new literacy clinic.

Boasting one of the largest concentrations of reading researchers in the world, as well as being Australia’s largest provider of teachers, ACU has positioned itself at the forefront of efforts to improve students’ literacy.

ACU Executive Dean of Education and Arts Professor Mary Ryan said the expertise of the centre’s renowned academics and their rigorous research was being used to inform ACU’s education courses and set the strategies used by the new ACU Literacy Clinic to help students in need of literacy support.

“We have created a powerful nexus between our expertise and research, our teaching programs, and the clinic to ensure everything we do and teach is evidence-based and effective,” Professor Ryan said.

“It is this triangulation that will ensure we use our leading research and expertise to enhance our teaching courses and provide hands-on help for those in need of more intensive literacy interventions.”

Centre Director Professor Rauno Parrila said ACU teaching courses had been strengthened by a more in-depth focus on evidence-based reading strategies including systematic and explicit phonics instruction.

Professor Parrila said two certificate programs were also available for existing teachers to upskill in the areas of evidence-based reading and writing instruction including a focus on phonics and spelling, and comprehension.

“It is important that the teachers of the future, as well as current teachers, receive high-quality training and ongoing professional learning underpinned by scientific knowledge and solid research,” Professor Parrila said.

Professor Parrila said the new not-for-profit clinic would translate research findings into practice to support children and young people who had difficulties with reading and spelling.

“Centre staff are conducting cutting-edge research on the typical and atypical acquisition of reading and spelling, their assessment and remediation. The clinic is a key part of this cycle of research and practice,” he said.

Clinic inaugural Director Professor Saskia Kohnen said the new service provided in-person and online assessments and interventions for Australian children with reading and spelling difficulties.

Professor Kohnen said evidence-based professional learning opportunities for teachers and clinicians was also available, with plans to develop online literacy resources for parents and educators.

“We have a stellar team of clinicians and researchers. As a university-based clinic, our assessments and interventions are based on existing evidence, but as literacy researchers, this means we are agile. We adapt our approach to newly emerging science and always ensure that we cater to the needs of individual children,” Professor Kohnen said.

Professor Kohnen said the connection between the Australian Centre for the Advancement of Literacy, the ACU Literacy Clinic, and ACU’s teaching programs was unique.

“We are educating future teachers using scientific knowledge and implementing evidence-based interventions to assist children who have not reached their literacy goals. The science is at the core of what we do,” she said.

“Being a university clinic also means we can use data and observations to contribute to the scientific knowledge and fill evidence gaps. It’s a beautiful cycle of scientific support to the clinic, information back, and effective literacy teaching practices and instruction for future educators.”

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