McNeill, B. 1 & Kirk, C. 2
1 University of Canterbury, New Zealand
2 University of Oregon
Purpose: This study aimed to examine teachers' reported spelling assessment and instruction practices. Analysis of the match between teachers' theoretical beliefs about spelling and their reported pedagogy was conducted to elucidate factors that may support or impede the use of evidence-based teaching strategies in the classroom. Method: An electronic survey was completed by 405 randomly selected (stratified by region and socioeconomic status) elementary school teachers. The survey examined the following areas: Spelling assessment, spelling instruction, beliefs about spelling, preparing teachers to teach spelling, and teachers' perceived strengths and weaknesses of their spelling program. Results: There was large variability in spelling assessment and instructional practices across teachers. Most respondents reported implementing some aspects of a developmental approach to spelling instruction through analysis of children's spelling errors (64%) and/or individualization of the spelling program (60%). There was a large dissociation between teachers' beliefs about spelling and their frequency of use of specific instructional practices associated with those beliefs (e.g., phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge). The mismatch between beliefs and reported practice appeared to be due to lack of professional knowledge regarding implementing explicit spelling instruction and finding time to teach spelling within the curriculum. Conclusions: Increasing teachers' knowledge about language structure, practical implementation of key assessment and instruction activities, and the links between spelling and other areas of the curriculum are important factors in improving spelling pedagogical practices.