Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Lorraine Hammond

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Tony Fetherston


The release of several major evidence-based reports and reviews worldwmilcatide in the last 15 years on teaching reading, have reported that one of the most effective ways to teach the necessary decoding skills for beginning readers is to include and teach phonological awareness and phonics in an explicit, direct and systematic manner. To achieve this, researchers and educators have placed an emphasis on the key role that evidence-based professional development plays in providing teachers with the necessary knowledge, understandings and instructional skills to be able to teach these skills effectively to beginning readers. Professional development has three aims: to change teachers’ practices, to change their attitudes and beliefs, and to improve learning outcomes of students.

This research examined the effect of a professional development model on Kindergarten, Pre-Primary and Year One teachers’ development of Let’s Decode (Formentin, 1993) instructional practices and changes to: their beliefs about reading instruction, their knowledge about early reading skills, specifically phonological awareness and phonics, and their attitudes toward reading instruction professional development over the course of one year.

A research informed professional development model was chosen to provide the participants with multiple opportunities for coaching, modelling and feedback to promote development in their Let’s Decode (Formentin, 1993) instructional practices while teaching early reading. The participants’ attitudes towards reading instruction professional development were obtained both pre and post-test to determine their attitudes and analyse how these attitudes may have influenced their receptivity to the professional development and the degree to which they demonstrated development in their Let's Decode instructional practices.

The teachers were provided with evidence-based professional development in reading instruction and the instruction centred tool for teaching systematic decoding, Let’s Decode (Formentin, 1993) which is based on the principles of Direct Instruction (Carnine, Silbert & Kameenui, 1990). To determine the impact of the professional development on teachers’ Let’s Decode instruction, each teacher was observed five times during the year and elements of their instruction were documented on an observational tool which included the three converging factors which impinge on cognitive learning as outlined by Engelmann and Carnine (1991) in their Theory of Instruction: analysis of behaviour, analysis of knowledge systems, and analysis of communications.

The results indicated that the professional development model was effective as there was a significant development in the participants’ implementation of Let’s Decode (Formentin, 1993) instructional practices in teaching phonological awareness and phonics over the course of one year. All of the participants confirmed that they would continue to use Let’s Decode in their future teaching of reading with nearly all of the participants commenting that their confidence had improved when teaching phonological awareness and phonics. While many of the participants’ scores improved on the Teacher Knowledge Survey, overall there was not a significant difference pre and post-test which is reflective of results from similar research studies. Two thirds of the participants held a skills perspective to teaching reading both pre and post-test with no significant changes being reported, however, significant changes were reported pre and post-test for the participants’ views about their teaching of reading, attitudes towards professional development and professional development intentions