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Is there evidence-based research that provides support for PLD's structured synthetic phonics approach?

What is the evidence-base for PLD?
Evidence-based teaching is now the norm within Australian schools. For our education standards to meet national and international benchmarks, schools need to invest in programs that are supported by research. This ensures schools are investing in what will produce results rather than just implementing what is a ‘fad’, visually appealing, or what has been done for years.

PLD’s Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) approach is based on international research and the resources are upgraded as new research becomes available. In addition, our programs are independently assessed by third-party researchers. This research has shown that when PLD programs are used, in conjunction with ongoing professional development and school-wide consistent screening and tracking, measurable differences occur. We would like to share with you three pieces of evidence-based research across three different education scenarios that show the difference that PLD can make to student outcomes.

PLD underpins High Performance
The 2015 Department of Education Western Australia study, conducted by Professor William Louden, selected nine top performing schools based on their NAPLAN results and reviewed their processes. The report, High Performing Primary Schools: What do they have in common? noted key characteristics included lower variation in teaching methods and the use of explicit teaching strategies for teaching phonological awareness and phonics.

Among the mandated resources utilised within these schools were synthetic phonics resources. PLD’s programs were commonly used in the schools investigated. Louden found that high performing schools used explicit teaching strategies for teaching phonological awareness and phonics through a Structured ‘Synthetic Phonics’ program.

The majority of the schools had adopted methods that promoted ‘lower-variation’ in teaching, and had:
developed scope and sequence progressions
introduced specific mandated resources and assessment tools
established achievement targets for each term and year
Louden found that all of the high performing schools were using explicit teaching strategies for phonological awareness and phonics through a structured ‘synthetic phonics’ manner was mandated. PLD’s Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) resources were commonplace within the schools investigated.

“Synthetic phonics is a systematic approach to teaching reading by beginning with sounds (phonemes) and blending (synthesising) these sounds to make words. All of the case study schools have implemented synthetic phonics programs in the early years…PLD Literacy and Learning… teach{es} phonemes (letter and digraph sounds), letter formation, blending of sounds together to form new words, segmenting sounds to read and write new words, and teaching specific ‘tricky words’ with irregular spelling.” Page 20-21 of the report.

PLD received significant mentions in this research. You can find a summary of the research here and the whole article here. Louden’s findings supported the adoption of a whole-school approach to literacy, the use of explicit and direct literacy instruction, the use of a Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) program (of which PLD’s program was mentioned as a preferred resource) and the implementation of regular assessment and student learning targets. PLD’s literacy resources incorporate and support these recommendations with suggestions for whole-school implementation, monitoring of student progress and SSP instruction.

AUSPELD recommends PLD programs
PLD has a positive working relationship with SPELD’s in various states. Many of the SPELD’s have been supplied with a full collection of the PLD programs for their libraries and PLD also collaborates annually with workshop presentations throughout Australia.

AUSPELD provides recommendations on evidence-based programs that are backed by current research, linked to improved academic results and supported by independent reviews of the effectiveness of the program. This allows schools to make informed choices on the programs they implement and thereby preventing the number of students with a dyslexia diagnosis.

AUSPELD applies the three-tier approach to implementing Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) in schools. This is explained in the graphic below:

In 2017, PLD was identified by AUSPLED as a recommended Tier 1 (whole class) program and a Tier 2 (small group) evidence-based Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) program.

AUSPELD recommends PLD’s literacy range as it utilises a systematic sequence of teaching synthetic phonics and includes phoneme-grapheme teaching, reading and writing (dictation) activities and the introduction of high frequency, phonetically irregular words.

In 2019, the Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation compared PLD with other evidence-based SSP programs within the publication The Bulletin. See how PLD compares to their list of 8 recommended programs here.

PLD’s whole school literacy approach and our variety of support resources can ease the pressure on schools and teachers, and provide the majority with an effective and evidence-based Structured Synthetic Phonics program that ensures all students (Tier 1 & 2) receive quality literacy instruction. Read the full recommendation here.

Speech Pathology Australia case study on literacy improvements in remote schools
In 2011, Speech Pathology Australia wrote a case study on the significant progress that was shown in a remote school, with students going from non-readers to readers very rapidly once alphabet sounds and phonemic awareness was systematically targeted using PLD’s approach to literacy instruction.

Like many remote indigenous schools, the Rawa Community School within the Pilbara region of Western Australia faced challenges such as limited access to support services and resources, irregular school attendance, hearing difficulties from chronic ear infections, and English as students’ second, third or even fourth language.

The traditional approach to teaching literacy with a print/word focus made it extremely difficult for students to learn and retain literacy skills. In addition, teachers may have limited training in literacy and learning difficulties and found it challenging to work with groups containing students with varying literacy skills.

PLD’s program concentrated on developing key speaking and listening skills such as sound awareness and language comprehension which resulted in immediate improvements in students reading, spelling and writing skills. Focusing on oral language and phonological awareness, and teaching students to blend and segment words based on sounds resulted in significant gains in literacy skills which were maintained over time.

Before the PLD program was introduced, 100 per cent of the junior primary students were assessed as being ‘non-readers’, while at the end of the first year of the program, this was reduced to 64 per cent. In addition, only 25 per cent of the primary students were reading within one year of their reading age before the program, in comparison to 86 per cent after the first year.

Another part of the PLD program focused on providing training for teachers and educational support staff. This equipped teaching staff with the skills and knowledge to carry out language and literacy-based programs within their classrooms.

How has PLD changed & evolved over the years?
Established as a Literacy and Learning clinic in 2007, PLD has gone through substantial changes over the years. It is this constant changing and adapting how we operate that has allowed PLD to reach where we are today. Find out more below.

Evidence for Synthetic Phonics
PLD programs are supported by current research and have been shown to be effective in producing improved literacy skills. By choosing to use PLD’s programs, in conjunction with professional development and consistent screening and tracking, schools are investing in what will produce results based on current research. Interested in learning more about how PLD can be used at your school? Contact us through our online chat.

Updated on: 30/11/2021

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