Improving reading: Phonics and fluency


One of the main aims of the Skills for Life strategy has been to improve the quality of teaching of adult literacy, language and numeracy, and thus to enable learners to make more progress. However, right from the inception of the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC), it has been clear (Besser et al. 2004, Brooks et al. 2007, Burton 2007) that the research base for knowing how to improve the teaching of adult literacy is markedly deficient. A few factors were found to correlate with better progress (e.g. more time on task, learners spending less time working alone in class and more time working in groups), but none of these was strictly speaking a matter of pedagogy.

The first project to investigate directly a number of teaching strategies which held out the promise of better progress for learners was the NRDC research project, ‘Improving the quality of teaching and learning in adult literacy’ which ran from 2007–08, was funded through the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (DIUS) and carried out by a research team at the University of Sheffield. This study aimed to explore the effectiveness of three different teaching strategies with adult learners; it is the two reading strategies which are explored in this guide.

Maxine Burton, Judy Davey, Margaret Lewis, Louise Ritchie and Greg Brooks. November (2008) Improving reading: phonics and fluency. NRDC: London