The Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) Lab was established in the School of Education at La Trobe University in 2020, as a platform to support research, knowledge translation on the science of language and reading into classroom practice.
In one if its key programs, SOLAR Lab co-directors, Professor Pamela Snow and Associate Professor Tanya Serry are partnering with a number of primary, secondary and specialist schools to deliver bespoke professional learning and classroom coaching to teachers and school leaders, to promote scientifically supported approaches on teaching children to read, write, and spell.
The five Victorian Department of Education SOLAR Schools span eight campuses in metropolitan Melbourne and the Great Bendigo region, from Foundation to Year 12. Professors Snow and Serry use a responsive coaching approach to assist staff to advance their knowledge as well as their assessment and instructional practices in a quest to achieve better outcomes for all students.
Each school has begun a transformation process around reading instruction and is in a different place on the journey. Professor Snow and Associate Professor Serry’s work is helping to support their goals.
“Our work in schools is very much about implementation science and, in particular, optimising the translation of new knowledge and skills into practice,” explains Professor Snow. “The ecologies within individual schools mean that this new knowledge ‘lands’ a little differently in each. Our work seeks to ensure that local factors are understood and addressed.”
The team charts each schools’ journey to a more rigorous and explicit teaching of reading, writing and spelling, and develops bespoke support that meets teachers’ needs.
“We work hard to maintain focus and motivation and to encourage our partners to ‘hasten slowly’ on change,” says Associate Professor Serry. “Becoming overwhelmed may damage motivation and the sustainability of the changes, which need to be embedded for three to five years at least, to stabilise new approaches and see outcomes across year levels.”
While COVID-related lockdowns and the shift to remote learning for much of 2021 and 2022 have disrupted the program, the coaching and professional learning work with teachers has continued. And the feedback has been positive.
“Staff in participating schools have indicated that they find their relationship with the SOLAR Lab to be significant in supporting their changes and dealing with challenges and questions that arise along the way,” says Professor Snow.
“Ultimately, we want teachers to have the proven, instructional approaches that will get all children across the reading bridge to reading proficiency in the first three years of school, not just those who were going to get there anyway.”
SOLAR Lab short courses
Professor Snow and Associate Professor Serry also deliver a series of SOLAR Lab online short courses on the science of language and reading, designed for classroom teachers, literacy leaders, principals, allied health clinicians, and parents who are interested to know more about the linguistic foundations of reading and evidence-informed teaching practices. From 2020 to 2022, more than 6000 people have attended one or more courses.
The Science of Language and Reading – An Introduction
The Science of Language and Reading - Intermediate
The science of Language and Reading - The Secondary School Perspective
The SOLAR Lab has partnered in research and consultancies with organisations across state and federal government departments, education sectors and welfare organisations.