Vision :

The vision of RIFE is to become a unit "of excellence" within the next 10 years with the aim of producing basic and applied scientifically evidence-based reading literacy research which will function as a tool for teacher and learner empowerment and socio-economic development, as well as providing support through innovative reading literacy programmes and district-school-university partnerships that will contribute to national policy-related issues

 

Objectives :

The aim of RIFE is to:

  • Support the North-West University’s mission to develop and sustain high-quality, relevant and focused research, aligned with national priorities, supplying innovative solutions to challenges faced by the scholarly community, the country, the continent and the world.
  • Foster responsible university, district, school, community and home engagement.
  • Influence reading literacy policy formulation and practice at all education levels
  • Empower pre-service and in-service teachers to address the quality of training of teachers in the domain of reading literacy.
  • Improve assessment, monitoring and evaluation of reading literacy to provide relevant stakeholders with timely, valid and reliable data on learners’ reading literacy levels
  • Empower diverse learners of all ages at all education levels within diverse education environments.

 

About Us :

The European Commission (2007) identified the quality of teaching and teacher education as key factors in securing the quality of education systems and improving the educational attainment of young people.  A study of the common characteristics of the most successful school systems highlights the central role of teachers, asserting that “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers” and that “the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction” (Barber & Mourshed, 2007).  Teacher training programmes often cannot meet the challenge in preparing teachers for highly complex and increasingly diverse schools and classrooms, the challenge of keeping abreast of current developments in research and practice, the complexity of the reading knowledge base, and the difficulty of learning many of the skills required to enact the knowledge base (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998).

Presently, not only are far too few teachers proficient in scientifically based reading instruction, but far too many of the programmes that prepare the country’s teachers are failing to give them the grounding they need in order to become proficient.  The stringent demands of teaching reading have been unrecognised in the design of teacher preparation programmes.  Professional preparation programmes have a responsibility to teach a defined body of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are based on the best research in the field. Comprehensive redesign of teacher preparation in reading is possible, but it must begin with a definition of the knowledge and skills necessary for effective practice and demonstration of how these are best learned.

RIFE aims to strengthen the quality of teacher preparation in reading as well as the practice of reading instruction by addressing the lack of alignment with scientifically based reading instruction and scientifically based reading research.  In order to address the challenges facing South Africa teachers in the domain of reading literacy teaching, RIFE is structured into three sub-programmes with each addressing one of the major challenges facing quality teacher preparation in the reading literacy domain.

Sub-programme one addresses the Reading Theory–Practice Nexus. To prepare effective teachers in the domain of reading literacy for 21st century classrooms, teacher education must shift away from a norm which emphasizes academic reading preparation and course work loosely linked to school-based experiences. Rather, it must move to programmes that are fully grounded in practical learning and interwoven with academic reading content and professional courses.  This demanding, practical learning approach will create varied and extensive opportunities for teachers to connect what they learn about reading with the challenge of using it, while under the expert tutelage of skilled practical educators/mentors.  Teachers will blend practitioner knowledge with academic knowledge as they learn by doing.  They will refine their practice in the light of new knowledge acquired and data gathered about whether their learners are learning. In order to make this change, teacher education programmes must work in close partnership with school districts to redesign teacher preparation to better serve prospective teachers and the learners they teach.

Sub-programme two focuses on learner diversity. Learners have diverse strengths, interests and experiences. Further, they have different language and cultural backgrounds.  These variations influence the instructional decisions that teachers make. Teachers should plan quality reading instruction by drawing on the knowledge base of how learners read, grade-level expectations, and the fundamentals of effective reading instruction. Reading profiles will enable teachers to track typical patterns of reading growth or challenges and indicate where, what and why differentiated interventions are needed.

Sub-programme three focuses on progress monitoring assessment.  Assessment is the cornerstone of effective teaching practice; the degree to which teachers are comprehensive and timely in supporting readers varies as a function of whether they are comprehensive and timely in assessing reading competencies. Indeed, good reading instruction starts with comprehensive assessment