Study finds students better at spelling and grammar than new teachers

by Brett Henebery12 Jan 2015

Many of the new teachers about to enter the classroom cannot spell, an embarrassing study shows.

In some cases, teaching undergraduates scored lower marks in literacy tests than the students they will one day teach, prompting calls for swift action.

In a test published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education, every teaching undergraduate who participated failed to spell a list of 20 words correctly, including “acquaintance", "amateur" and "definite".

Australian Education Union boss Meredith Peace said the finding shows that tougher rules are needed to ensure that teacher literacy standards are met, suggesting that minimum ATAR scores be applied to teaching courses.

"We need to raise the standard of students entering education, rather than just opening the door and allowing anyone and complete those courses," Peace said.

"Literacy and numeracy is vitally important ... and we need to make sure our graduates have high quality literacy and numeracy levels before stepping into the classroom."

Bronwyn T. Williams, an American Professor of English, is well aware of the stir being caused by teachers’ literacy grades, but denies that a literacy crisis exists in Australia. 

In a publication titled Why Johnny Can Never, Ever Read: The Perpetual Literacy Crisis and Student Identity, Williams argued that teacher literacy does not necessarily impact on student literacy.

“Despite the best endeavors of conservative think tanks and tabloid commentators to create a moral panic, there is no literacy crisis in Australia,” Professor Williams wrote.

“The argument that beginning teachers' literacy levels has any meaningful impact on their own students’ literacy is not supported by evidence.”

Fred Wubberling, former president of the Australian Principals Federation (APF), believes poor spelling and grammar is a broader societal issue.

"I have certainly witnessed a decline in standards for spelling and grammar, but I wouldn't say it's confined to teaching," Wubberling told radio station 3AW.

"I'm a regular reader of the newspaper and I see that journalists make what I would regard critical errors in some of their writing, or it's the editors of the newspapers that haven't picked it.

"For me, it's noticeable throughout society.”
 

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