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Teaching students flunking literacy

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A significant number of aspiring secondary teachers have been found to have significantly poorer literacy standards than expected, prompting academics to call for a review of teaching degree standards.

The survey of 200 secondary teaching undergraduates, published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education found a high rate of error on general spelling and vocabulary tasks.

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Students often struggled to spells words like ‘acquaintance’, ‘conscientious’, ‘exaggerate’, ‘miscellaneous’ and ‘professional’.

Some surveyed thought the term ‘draconian’ had to go with dragons, while others thought ‘orthodox’ referred to teeth or mouths.

Edith Cowan University researcher Dr Brian Moon said some aspiring teachers had literacy levels “below the ability level of the students they will be hired to teach”.

“The findings suggest that the number of graduates who fall below the expected standard may be significant, and that in some cases their personal literacy competence falls far short of expectations,” Dr Moon noted in the report.

“Many undergraduate students appear to have literacy problems so fundamental that remediation in the late stages of their degree program cannot hope to overcome a lifetime of poor literacy performance.”

He said the “concerning” findings reflected a trend which showed teacher quality is falling across the country.

The report calls on universities to raise admission standards in teaching degrees.

“It seems that problem can only be addressed in future by setting and applying appropriate admission standards and intervening much sooner in the students’ academic careers.”

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