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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Online Unscheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

An estimated 20% of Australian students struggle with learning to read and spell. Many of these students have difficulties with learning the foundational skills of translating phonemes and graphemes. Many of them also struggle with the phonemic awareness skills required for reading and spelling and require assistance throughout their school career. Phoneme awareness and phonics are identified as critical components of literacy instruction in every Australian primary school curriculum and the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) accreditation requirements mandate that teacher education programs include evidence-based approaches to teaching phonological awareness and phonics. This includes approaches designed for students who are not achieving their literacy learning goals at the same rate as other students and require age-appropriate adaptive instruction. Teachers also need to understand how to assess their students’ decoding skills, use assessment data for programming, and evaluate the effectiveness of their phonics intervention. This unit examines how instruction for word-level reading and spelling difficulties is intensified. We discuss how to provide evidence-consistent intervention and utilise assessment tools and data to adapt the intervention to each child’s specific needs. 

 The aim of this unit is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to lead their colleagues in developing effective phonics instruction and assessment for primary and secondary students who struggle with learning foundational reading skills. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Summarise the evidence existing research has produced for phonics intervention in primary and secondary studentsGC1, GC9
LO2Examine the conceptualisation of intensification of intervention and the presentation of reading difficulties in primary and secondary schoolGC1, GC9
LO3Evaluate which practices and instructional approaches are best suited for students with word reading difficulties in primary and secondary schoolGC3, GC7
LO4Design evidence-based phonics instruction and assessments for students with low literacy skillsGC2, GC3, GC8
LO5Evaluate the effectiveness of their phonics interventionGC3, GC7, GC8

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers - Highly Accomplished

In connection to the learning outcomes, on successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should have developed the following industry specific knowledge based on the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers - Highly Accomplished standards:

Industry StandardRelating toRelevant Learning Outcome
APST(HA)1.2Expand understanding of how students learn using research and workplace knowledge.LO1, LO5
APST(HA)1.3Support colleagues to develop effective teaching strategies that address the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.LO2
APST(HA)2.1Support colleagues using current and comprehensive knowledge of content and teaching strategies to develop and implement engaging learning and teaching programs.LO4
APST(HA)3.2Work with colleagues to plan, evaluate and modify learning and teaching programs to create productive learning environments that engage all students.LO4
APST(HA)4.2Model and share with colleagues a flexible repertoire of strategies for classroom management to ensure all students are engaged in purposeful activitiesLO3
APST(HA)5.1Develop and apply a comprehensive range of assessment strategies to diagnose learning needs, comply with curriculum requirements and support colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of their approaches to assessment.LO3, LO4, LO5
APST(HA)5.4Work with colleagues to use data from internal and external student assessments for evaluating learning and teaching, identifying interventions and modifying teaching practice.LO5

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers - Lead

In connection to the learning outcomes, on successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should have developed the following industry specific knowledge based on the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers - Lead standards:

Industry StandardRelating toRelevant Learning Outcome
APST(Lead)1.1Lead colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies to improve student learning using knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.LO2, LO3
APST(Lead)1.5Lead colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of learning and teaching programs differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.LO3
APST(Lead)1.6Initiate and lead the review of school policies to support the engagement and full participation of students with disability and ensure compliance with legislative and/or system policies.LO2, LO3
APST(Lead)2.5Monitor and evaluate the implementation of teaching strategies within the school to improve students’ achievement in literacy and numeracy using research-based knowledge and student data.LO3, LO5


Topics will include:

  • Phonics and its role in literacy intervention

o  Understanding strength of evidence

o  Effects of phonics intervention for low-skill readers

o  Effects of phonics intervention in secondary school

  • Intensification of support

o  Response to Intervention Frameworks

o  Multi-tiered systems of support

o  Reading differences, difficulties and disorders

  • Elements of systematic phonics instruction

o  Review and revision – evidence and practice

o  Introducing simple phonics code

o  Independent practice

o  Considerations for teaching spelling

o  Common difficulties for low-skill students

  • Assessment and progress monitoring

o  Assessment of phonemic awareness

o  Assessing phonics knowledge and decoding success

o  phonics screeners

o  decoding assessments

o  Progress monitoring 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in an online unscheduled format and supported by a unit Learning Management System (LMS) site. The students are required to use the online learning platform that provides asynchronous access to lectures, readings, and quizzes. The students are required to participate in four interactive online workshops in addition to the regular online learning.

The unit uses an active learning approach to support students in acquiring, exploring, and analysing the essential knowledge associated with phonics intervention and assessment. Students will engage in an experiential learning cycle of conceptual learning and inquiry; engagement with existing research; active experimentation in their classrooms; and collecting and evaluating evidence.

Engagement for learning is the key driver in the delivery of this unit. The unit will facilitate active participation in pedagogical approaches that demonstrate alignment of teaching, learning and assessment and incorporate: 

  • Online digital resources, including reference readings, database and document searches, and recorded lectures from experts;
  • Online small group collaborative learning to foster reflective practice following the personal analysis, evaluation and synthesis of relevant literature and instructional and assessment practices in different schools; 
  • Online forum and chat tools to build a community of learners; and 
  • Problem-based learning sessions to develop necessary skills and analyse and apply learning to school case studies. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, the students need to pass five multiple-choice assessments and complete one written assignment. The multiple-choice assessments build on short mastery-learning quizzes provided after each topic that allow students to continuously monitor their own learning of the core content. The five multiple-choice assessments assess students understanding of the evidence on phonics intervention to improve reading skills in primary and secondary school, intensification of support, reading disorders; research on effective instruction; and the available assessments and progress monitoring methods best suited for their students. Each multiple-choice assessment is worth 10% of the final mark.

The written assignment task is worth 50% of the final mark and allows students to show their skills in designing effective phonics intervention, including explicit teaching cycles, and assessment practices for their students and schools. The written assignment is related to knowledge of evidence-based instruction and assessments, and requires the students to apply their knowledge and skills to designing evidence-based phonics intervention and assessment for their current or future students.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate CapabilitiesStandards

Assessment Task 1: Five Multiple-Choice Exams

Students will complete five short multiple-choice exams assessing their comprehension of the content presented in lectures and readings.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO5GC1, GC3, GC7, GC9APST(HA)1.2, APST(HA)1.3, APST(HA)4.2, APST(HA)5.1, APST(HA)5.4, APST(Lead)1.1, APST(Lead)1.5, APST(Lead)1.6, APST(Lead)2.5

Assessment Task 2: Written assignment

Compose a plan for a sequence of evidence-based phonics intervention and assessment for one group of your current or future students


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8APST(HA)1.2, APST(HA)2.1, APST(HA)3.2, APST(HA)4.2, APST(HA)5.1, APST(HA)5.4, APST(Lead)1.1, APST(Lead)1.5, APST(Lead)1.6, APST(Lead)2.5

Representative texts and references

Colenbrander, D., & Kohnen, S. (in press). Word reading: The role of the speech-language pathologist. ASHA perspectives.

Donegan, R. E., & Wanzek, J. (2021). Effects of reading interventions implemented for upper elementary struggling readers: A look at recent research. Reading and Writing, 34(8), 1943-1977.

Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. S. (2006). Introduction to response to intervention: What, why, and how valid is it?. Reading research quarterly, 41(1), 93-99.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., & Compton, D. L. (2012). Smart RTI: A next-generation approach to multilevel prevention. Exceptional children, 78(3), 263-279.

Gersten, R., Beckmann, S., Clarke, B., Foegen, A., Marsh, L., Star, J. R., & Witzel, B. (2009). Assisting students struggling with mathematics: Response to intervention (RtI) for elementary and middle schools. IES National Center for Education Evaluation Practice Guide.

Gersten, R., Fuchs, L. S., Compton, D., Coyne, M., Greenwood, C., & Innocenti, M. S. (2005). Quality indicators for group experimental and quasi-experimental research in special education. Exceptional children, 71(2), 149-164.

Jones, K., Castles, A., & Kohnen, S. (2011). Subtypes of developmental reading disorders: Recent developments and directions for treatment. ACQ, 13(2), 79-83.

McArthur, G., Sheehan, Y., Badcock, N. A., Francis, D. A., Wang, H. C., Kohnen, S., ... & Castles, A. (2018). Phonics training for English‐speaking poor readers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11).

Vaughn, S., & Fletcher, J. M. (2012). Response to intervention with secondary school students with reading difficulties. Journal of learning disabilities, 45(3), 244-256.

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