The outlook for student literacy outcomes in 2018

The outlook for student literacy outcomes in 2018
The latest round of NAPLAN results painted a grim picture for Australia’s literacy outcomes, showing a 2.04% decline in writing skills across all year groups since 2011.

While moves are underway to turn this around by investing in specialist teachers and literacy programs, there are concerns that the ‘same old formula’ inherent in NAPLAN tests is standing in the way of true progress.

Seven Steps to Writing Success creator, Jen McVeity, says a greater focus needs to be put on giving students the opportunity to develop a strong and unique writing style that is critical to literacy development.

Below, The Educator looks at the prognosis for student literacy in 2018, and asks McVeity how Seven Steps is doing its part to improve student outcomes in this all-important area.

TE: What kind of year do you expect 2018 to be for Seven Steps in the K-12 education space, and why?
We think 2018 is going to be an interesting year. Elections are coming in three states, and the curriculum is already being batted about on the political table, especially in Victoria. The NAPLAN results in 2017 have made writing a point of focus for many, many schools. At the same time, schools are doing inspired work in the fields of creativity, collaboration and explicit learning. This is inspiring as these are exactly the learning principles behind the success of the Seven Steps.

TE: Can you tell us about why Seven Steps will be focusing strongly on the value of informative writing this year?
No matter how powerful students’ narrative or persuasive writing can be with the Seven Steps, students often fail to transfer the techniques to the more formal areas such as informational writing.  So we get: ‘We were going to the zoo…. we got on the bus… we queued for 10 minutes…’ and sadly we learn more about the bus trip than about what students actually observed at the zoo. 

Instead, if we encourage students to transfer, for example, the simple Sizzling Starts technique to informative texts, this might happen: ‘You need a strong stomach to watch feeding time in the lion enclosure. There was half a cow being lowered into the shady enclosure…’

Persuasive and informative writing are the areas adults use most, so it is our goal to equip students with strong skills in these writing areas for their future studies and careers. For this reason, we’ve been adding informative writing resources to our Seven Steps Online membership website and in our workshops. We are excited to announce we will have a complete Informative Writing Manual ready to be released in 2018.

TE: In your view, are Australian students and schools better equipped to deliver improved literacy results in the year ahead?
I hope so, because last year we trained over 5,500 teachers in writing.  The success stories they have shared have been amazing. They talk about engaged students, rapid writing improvement and raised NAP scores across the board. Plus, they send us the most inspiring writing samples of students who once ‘hated writing’ or who are good writers but are now incredible communicators. The change is not just in writing, but across the board in all communication. In the speeches, students give in assemblies, in videos they make as documentaries and in their vibrant and lively discussions across classrooms.

Related stories:
Is the ‘same old formula’ harming student literacy?
Schools see huge boost through writing program
Can writing classes prevent student disengagement?