Survey Results Inform Literacy Group’s Next Steps

A new survey conducted by the International Literacy Association revealed significant gaps between attention-getting topics and critical topics when it comes to literacy education. These misalignments will help ILA plan for future research, content, and education.

The International Literacy Association’s 2017 “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey found significant gaps between what topics educators worldwide think are important to literacy education and those that are getting the most attention.

ILA is using this information to focus its attention on the issues that matter most. “The survey gives us a way to inform the content we put together for members, expands their knowledge, and gets us all probing more deeply,” said Executive Director Marcie Craig Post.

The survey included nearly 1,600 educators and literacy leaders from 89 countries and territories, who were asked to rate how “hot” and “important” 17 topics are to literacy education, at both community and country levels. Hot topics were defined as those receiving the most attention in the classroom, in conversations with other educators, and in the media. Important topics were those most critical to advancing literacy.

“This survey makes us ask more questions than it answers,” Post said. It shines a light on “who’s informing what matters. Is the issue truly important, or is policy informing that?” She added, “We’re sensitive to the influence of the media and policy on what might be hot.”

For example, the survey revealed that digital literacy is trending in educator circles. It ranked third in overall hot topics at the country level, but it ranked only eighth in importance. For ILA, this finding raises the issue of the need to define “digital literacy” and questions whether the focus should be on access to tools—such as whether every child has an iPad—or on the individual aspect of digital literacy—the skills and language abilities a person needs to be digitally literate. To help improve digital literacy, “we need to ensure educators are talking about all the elements that affect students becoming digitally literate,” Post said.

While ILA considers multilingualism a critically important topic across the world, responses were neutral about it, so Post says the association will work to raise awareness. Where ILA identifies this kind of misalignment—if research and evidence say one thing, but educators say another—“we will take that up as needing more investigation,” she said.

Leadership in literacy is another area of misalignment. “We know leadership has a significant impact on student achievement,” Post said. However, the topic of “school administrators as literacy leaders” ranked low in the survey: 29 percent of respondents said the topic was not at all hot in their community (and 22 percent said so about their country). The topic also ranked 13th in importance at both community and country levels. In response to these findings, the association can “communicate the research, provide examples, and show why this is of critical importance,” Post said.

Ultimately, the association is working toward improved instruction and achievement. The survey results “will inform what the association writes and blogs about, as well as informing research” and planning sessions to offer at conferences, Post said.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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