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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Online Unscheduled




EDER530 Phonemes and Phonics: Instruction and Assessment

Unit rationale, description and aim

Automatic translation of graphemes to phonemes underpins accurate word reading and lays the foundation for text reading fluency and comprehension. 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. It is therefore critical that teachers working with developing readers understand how the two are conceptualised in reading research and can analyse research on effective instruction of them. It is also essential that teachers know how to design systematic, explicit, and evidence-based differentiated phonics instruction for their students, how to assess their students’ developing decoding skills, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of their phonics instruction. 

This unit examines how phonemic awareness and phonics are conceptualised in reading acquisition theories, why they are important for learning to read, and how we can teach and assess them effectively. 

The aim of this unit is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to lead their colleagues in developing effective phonics instruction and assessments for students with diverse needs. 

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 Description
LO1Examine the role of phonemic awareness and phonics in different theories of reading acquisition (APST HA 2.1)
LO2Explain what evidence existing research has produced for phonemic awareness and phonics instruction (APST HA 1.2, Lead 2.5)
LO3Evaluate which practices and instructional approaches are best suited for different students and purposes (APST Lead 1.1, 5.2)
LO4Design evidence-based phonics instruction and assessments for diverse groups of students (APST HA 1.6, 2.3, 4.1, 5.1, Lead 1.1, 2.1, 3.3 )
LO5Evaluate the effectiveness of their phonics instruction (APST HA 5.4, Lead 1.2, 1.5, 3.6)


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.2 Understand how students learn  

Expand understanding of how students learn using research and workplace knowledge.

1.6 Strategies to support full participation of students with disability

Work with colleagues to access specialist knowledge, and relevant policy and legislation, to develop teaching programs that support the participation and learning of students with disability.

2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area

Support colleagues using current and comprehensive knowledge of content and teaching strategies to develop and implement engaging learning and teaching programs.

2.3 Curriculum, assessment and reporting

Support colleagues to plan and implement learning and teaching programs using contemporary knowledge and understanding of curriculum, assessment and reporting requirements.

4.1 Support student participation

Model effective practice and support colleagues to implement inclusive strategies that engage and support all students.

5.1 Assess student learning

Develop 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.

5.2 Provide feedback to students on their learning

Select from an effective range of strategies to provide targeted feedback based on informed and timely judgements of each student’s current needs in order to progress learning.

5.4 Interpret student data

Work with colleagues to use data from internal and external student assessments for evaluating learning and teaching, identifying interventions and modifying teaching practice.


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.1 Physical, Social and intellectual development and characteristics of students

Lead colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies to improve student learning using knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.

1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities

Lead colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of learning and teaching programs differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area

Lead initiatives within the school to evaluate and improve knowledge of content and teaching strategies and demonstrate exemplary teaching of subjects using effective, research-based learning and teaching programs.

2.5 Literacy and numeracy strategies  

Monitor 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.

3.3 Use teaching strategies 

Work with colleagues to review, modify and expand their repertoire of teaching strategies to enable students to use knowledge, skills, problem solving and critical and creative thinking

3.6 Evaluate and improve teaching programs

Conduct regular reviews of teaching and learning programs using multiple sources of evidence including: student assessment data, curriculum documents, teaching practices and feedback from parents/carers, students and colleagues.

5.2 Provide feedback to students on their learning

Model exemplary practice and initiate programs to support colleagues in applying a range of timely, effective and appropriate feedback strategies.


Topics will include:

  • Phonological and phonemic awareness and their role in learning to read
  • Structure of spoken words
  • Phonemic features in Standard Australian English
  • What phonemic awareness is, and how it differs from phonological awareness and phonics
  • Phonemic awareness in theories of reading development
  • The reciprocal relationship between phonemic awareness, phonics and spelling
  • Evidence for phonemic awareness instruction using letters
  • Evidence for phonemic awareness instruction without letters
  • How to integrate teaching phonemic awareness into teaching letter-sounds
  • Examples of effective teaching sequences for blending and segmentation


  • The English writing system and how phonemes are represented in alphabetic writing systems
  • The difference between alphabetic and nonalphabetic writing systems
  • Representation of speech in different writing systems
  • Systematic relationship between letters and sounds in alphabetic writing compared to meanings
  • Graphemes in Standard Australian English
  • Common spelling patterns in English

  • Phonics and its role in learning to read
  • Phonics in different reading acquisition theories
  • Grapheme-phoneme and phoneme-grapheme relationships and their critical role in decoding and spelling

  • Evidence-based approaches to teaching phonics
  • Systematic phonics vs. non-systematic phonics
  • Synthetic phonics vs. analytic phonics
  • Scope and sequence of grapheme-phoneme correspondences, and the speed of introduction
  • Use of decodable books
  • Use of high-quality children’s literature to teach phonics
  • Set-for-variability/flexible phonics
  • Differentiated instruction of phonics to support advanced, EAL/D and struggling readers/spellers

  • Assessment and progress monitoring
  • Assessment of phonemic awareness
  • Assessing phonics knowledge and decoding success
  • phonics screeners
  • decoding assessments
  • Progress monitoring 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode format and supported by a unit Learning Management System (LMS) site. In all modes, students are required to use the online learning platform that provides asynchronous access to lectures, readings, and quizzes. In a weekly attendance mode, students are required also to attend tutorials, presentations, and discussions in person in specific physical location/s whereas in an intensive mode the required in-person sessions take place during weekends or other blocks of time determined by the school. In online mode, students are required to participate in a series of 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 instruction 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 or face-to-face 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. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester.

Mode of delivery: This unit will be offered in one or more of modes of delivery described below, chosen with the aim of providing flexible delivery of academic content.

  • On Campus: Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.
  • Intensive: In an intensive mode, students require face-to-face attendance on weekends or any block of time determined by the school. Students will have face-to-face interactions with lecturer(s) to further their achievement of the learning outcomes. This unit is structured with required upfront preparation before workshops. The online learning platforms used in this unit provide multiple forms of preparatory and practice opportunities for you students to prepare and revise. 
  • Multi-mode: Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions and/or placements, to enable interaction. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.
  • Online unscheduled: Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 
  • Online scheduled: All learning activities are held online, at scheduled times, and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, the students need to complete and pass all three assessment tasks. The first two tasks offer students opportunities to demonstrate knowledge of phonological awareness and phonics, their place in reading acquisition theories, research, instruction and assessments. The third assessment task allows them to show their skills in designing effective phonics instruction, including the scope and sequence, and assessment practices for their students and schools. 

The first task (20%) consists of weekly quizzes that assess understanding of the core content of lectures and readings and provides students an opportunity to continuously monitor their own learning. The second task (30%) requires students to demonstrate their understanding of issues associated with phonics theory and research by explicating their own instructional theory. The third task (50%) 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 instruction and assessment for their current or future students.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1 – Weekly Quizzes

Weekly quiz assessing comprehension of the content presented in lectures and readings


LO1, LO2, LO3

Assessment Task 2 – Written assignment

Analysis of current theories of reading acquisition and the role of phonics in them, and construction of instructional theory that (1) is supported by existing theories and evidence, and (2) can guide differentiated instruction and assessment of students.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Assessment Task 2 -Written assignment

Compose a plan for an evidence-based phonics instruction and assessment for one school year for current or future students. 


LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Phonemic Awareness

Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19, 5-51.

Chapman, M. L. (2003). Phonemic Awareness: Clarifying What We Know. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 7, 91-114.

Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Willows, D. M., Schuster, B. V., Yaghoub‐Zadeh, Z., & Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel's meta‐analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(3), 250-287.

Honig, B., Diamond, L., Gutlohn, L., Cole, C. L., Hudon, R. F., Lane, H. B., Mahler, J. & Pullen, P. C. (2018) Teaching reading sourcebook (3rd ed.). Academic Therapy Publications.

Moats, L. (2019). Phonics and spelling: Learning the structure of language at the word level. In Kilpatrick, D. A., Joshi, R. M., & Wagner, R. K. (2019). Reading Development and Difficulties.


Colenbrander, D., Wang, H.-C., Arrow, C., & Castles, A. (in press). Teaching irregular words: What we know, what we don’t know, and where can we go from here. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist. Doi: 10.1017/edp.2020.11

Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Stahl, S. A., & Willows, D. M. (2001). Systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research71(3), 393-447.

Mesmer, H. A. E., & Griffith, P. L. (2005). Everybody's selling it—But just what is explicit, systematic phonics instruction? The Reading Teacher, 59(4), 366-376. doi:10.1598/RT

Rupley, W. H., Blair, T. R., & Nichols, W. D. (2009). Effective reading instruction for struggling readers: The role of direct/explicit teaching. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 25(2-3), 125-138.

Share, D. L. (1999). Phonological recoding and orthographic learning: A direct test of the self-teaching hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology72(2), 95-129. DOI: 10.1006/jecp.1998.2481

Stuart, M., & Stainthorp, R. (2015). Reading development and teaching. London: Sage. Doi: 10.4135/9781473920170

Sunde, K., Furnes, B., & Lundetræ, K. (2020). Does introducing the letters faster boost the development of children’s letter knowledge, word reading and spelling in the first year of school? Scientific Studies of Reading24(2), 141-158. DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2019.1615491

Torgerson, C., Brooks, G., Gascoine, L., & Higgins, S. (2019). Phonics: Reading policy and the evidence of effectiveness from a systematic ‘tertiary’ review. Research Papers in Education34(2), 208-238. DOI: 10.1080/02671522.2017.1420816

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