Theory of Change and Theory of Education: Pedagogic and Curriculum Defects in Early Grade Reading Interventions in South Africa
Keywords:theory of change , early grade reading , decodable text , group guided reading
Much of the field of educational change has focused on better understanding the theory of change, that is, what knowledge is needed to make substantial educational change, particularly improvement to learning outcomes at scale. This article suggests that the South African early grade reading study community may have been looking in the wrong place. The search for the optimal theory of change or theory of action is obviously very important, but could it not be that a key part of the problem is defects in our theory of education? It is argued that there may be something educationally unsound in certain aspects of the official pedagogy and curriculum. As such, the South African education system is unlikely to make much progress towards the goal of getting children to read for meaning by the time they are 10 years old if these defects are not addressed. To illustrate this argument, the article points to data from two examples in South African education policies on pedagogy and curriculum: the first relates to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) Foundation Phase document’s under-specification and weak guidance with reference to the teaching of phonics with linked decodable texts; the second concerns the CAPS document’s privileging of an unworkable reading teaching methodology called Group Guided Reading. The article concludes that to achieve real knowledge breakthroughs, university academics working alongside researchers in government need to develop rigorous research programmes aimed at improving foundational learning outcomes.
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