The Teaching and Learning Cycle

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A large-scale project undertaken by Joan Rothery (1996, cited in Derewianka, B & Jones, P 2012, p44) with children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds in urban Sydney resulted in the development of a pedagogical model of how to effectively teach literacy in a learning environment. This model is now known as the teaching and learning cycle. The model originally had an emphasis on teaching young students how to write but has changed and adapted over time with greater understanding about pedagogy and genre and now involves reading, listening, talking and writing within a supportive context to students of any age. A key element that has not changed within the cycle, however, is the extensive and critical support that the teacher provides to ensure educational success for students’ understanding of literacy. This essay will examine the teaching and learning cycle in the primary school context. Exploring theories behind the development of the teaching and learning cycle and the purpose of each stage. In addition, an explanation of the importance of teachers as holders of expert knowledge will be given. Finally, examples and justification of specific teaching strategies, including the notion of scaffolding and the zone of proximal development, that the teacher plays within the cycles processes will be explained.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the popular educational theory was that children should only be taught how to write in the later years of schooling (Christie, F 2005). A common issue that arose from this was children would leave schooling early and the result was that they never developed the skills to write more than simple words like their name or basic words (Christie, F 2005). The initial theories by Graves (Christie, F 2005, p143) were based around a notion of the ‘process’, being able to write, rather than ‘product’, the content and structure of the text being written (Knapp, P & Watkins, M 2005). Rothery’s approach was focused on the product notion and more specifically towards genre, and that through guidance of an expert other the student would recognise and produce a written text successfully (Christie, F 2005). The result was the teaching and learning and learning cycle. The ‘cycle’ existed initially in three stages: modelling the genre, joint construction and independent construction. Through adaptation and greater understanding of how students learn the cycle now begins with ‘building the field’.

The cycle requires an initial focus that allows the students to become engaged and under this focus begin to build a shared knowledge, ‘building the field’ (Derewianka, B, Jones, P 2012). This stage involves mental and rational processes, usually from a discussion or readings, with directed guidance from the teacher assisting students to become familiar with specific language (Christie, F 2005). The teacher requires specialised knowledge and technical understanding of the topic to ensure the guidance has purposeful interaction and is supporting the child’s development of deep knowledge of the topic (Derewianka, B, Jones, P 2012). The next stage moves onto the teacher modeling the genre. In this stage the teacher leads the students to understand and recognise the social purpose, the organisation of phases and key language features of the whole text, paragraphs and down to sentence level (Derewianka, B, Jones, P 2012). It is essential that teachers have thorough knowledge of the layers of the text and language features, as they heavily guide and direct the students through the components of a text (Thwaite, A 2006). This guidance through the language features enables students to recognise and understand the relevant metalanguage, creating the move into the next step of joint construction. The role of the teacher now shifts more into an assisting manner. Although joint construction is generally still teacher lead the students at this point contribute to a text with the teacher acting as a...
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