'Teaching to Teach' Literacy

48 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2016  

Stephen J. Machin

University College London - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Sandra McNally

University of Surrey; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Martina Viarengo

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Women and Public Policy Program

Abstract

Significant numbers of people have very low levels of literacy in many OECD countries and, because of this, face significant labour market penalties. Despite this, it remains unclear what teaching strategies are most useful for actually rectifying literacy deficiencies. The subject remains hugely controversial amongst educationalists and has seldom been studied by economists. Research evidence from part of Scotland prompted a national change in the policy guidance given to schools in England in the mid-2000s about how children are taught to read.We conceptualise this as a shock to the education production function that affects the technology of teaching. In particular, there was phasing in of intensive support to some schools across Local Authorities: teachers were trained to use a new phonics approach. We use this staggered introduction of intensive support to estimate the effect of the new 'teaching technology' on children's educational attainment. We find there to be effects of the teaching technology ('synthetic phonics') at age 5 and 7. However, by the age of 11, other children have caught up and there are no average effects. There are long-term effects only for those children with a higher initial propensity to struggle with reading.

Keywords: literacy, phonics

JEL Classification: I21, I28

Suggested Citation

Machin, Stephen J. and McNally, Sandra and Viarengo, Martina, 'Teaching to Teach' Literacy. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9955. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2786039

Stephen J. Machin (Contact Author)

University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom
+0171 955 7799 (Phone)
+0171 955 7595 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Sandra McNally

University of Surrey ( email )

Guildford
Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Martina Viarengo

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Women and Public Policy Program ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4786 (Phone)

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