Data-based instructional decision making related to basic early literacy skills in the Intermediate Phase
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Arising from the increasing demands of the twenty-first century workplace, concern over learner reading performance is at the forefront of national education. The increasing demands have raised the literacy bar for learners and subsequently, schools have been forced to accommodate instruction for these increased expectations. As teachers increasingly are held responsible for learner achievement, school teachers struggle to find ways to effectively document learner responsiveness to interventions and track progress towards important reading literacy outcomes. Data-based instructional decision making pertains to the systematic collection, analysis, examination, and interpretation of data to inform practice and policy in education settings. Effective use of assessment data to plan, judge, and modify teaching is a fundamental competency for good teaching. Teachers need to actively use the information collected via the assessments to critically evaluate their teaching in order to determine how it could be changed to better meet the learner‘s needs. Generally, schools collect enormous amounts of data on learners‘ attendance, behaviour, and performance. But when it comes to improving teaching and learning, it‘s not the quantity of the data that counts, but how the information is used. The purpose of the study was to determine what assessment data a district (i.e., Fairy Tale district) requires schools (i.e., sample namely, Grade 4 in the Intermediate Phase) to submit; what a district expects from schools and/or teachers in terms of assessment data analysis, interpretation and instructional decision making; what assessments teachers use to assess basic early literacy skills such as oral reading fluency and reading comprehension; how teachers assess basic early literacy skills; what instructional decisions teachers make related to their learners‘ basic early literacy skills assessment results; and how the implementation of a data-based instructional decision making model (i.e., Outcomes-driven model) affected teachers‘instructional decision making as related to basic early literacy skills. This study was conducted with an interpretive research paradigm. A proactive action research design was chosen for this study. The aim was to collaborate with a subject Summary iv specialist (district level), school management team (school level) and two Grade 4 teachers (classroom level), in order to obtain an in depth understanding of assessment practice in general, and specifically the assessment support needs of teachers and learners. Overall, the results indicated that use of data is part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. After collecting multiple sources of data about learner learning, teachers should interpret data and develop hypotheses about how to improve learner learning then modifying instruction to test those hypotheses. The results also clearly indicated that data in a district and school context isn‘t powerful or valuable until tools, processes, and training or supports are put in place for users to accurately understand it and put it into action. In this study, I developed a system-wide basic early literacy skill assessment and instructional support framework for the Intermediate Phase. The framework is intended to ensure that all partners in education accept collective responsibility for ensuring learner reading achievement by addressing data-based instructional decision making at all levels of the educational system related to reading literacy assessment practices and data-based instructional practices. All components of a coherent system are aligned with the key goals for learner‘s learning. A comprehensive assessment system addresses a full range of knowledge and skills expected by the curriculum (i.e., CAPS). It provides different users at different levels in the system (district, school, and classroom) with the right kinds of data, at the right level of detail, to help with decision making. A system that is continuous provides ongoing streams of information about learner‘s learning throughout the year. Key words: accurate and fluent reading, reading comprehension, vocabulary and language skills, assessment, progress monitoring assessment, instructional decision making, data-literacy, data-driven decision making, data-driven instructional practices, assessment literacy, data-based instructional decision making.
- Education 
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