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found there were increased confidence, motivation and enjoyment on the part of the learners even though the time-span of instruction was short (5-6 sessions).


Reviewing the literature throws up a dichotomy between an autonomous model of literacy which considers literacy as a set of discrete technical skills to be acquired and a social practice view of literacy where reading and writing is embedded in ideas and contexts. The US research puts emphasis on using assessment measures to identify the four components of reading and in tailoring instructional practices to address learning needs (Kruidenier, 2002; Kruidenier, 2010; McShane, 2005). Most US research literature begins with statistics on rates of literacy difficulties and the consequences of poor literacy skills such as poverty, unemployment and criminality. One can ask if the US model of literacy is one of teaching functional, de- contextualised skills, thus promoting a deficit view of the adult literacy learner. A social practice approach considers reading as going far beyond the decoding of words and includes understanding the purpose and function of texts and the 'cultural values, beliefs and power relations they embed' (Moss, 2005, p.25). This approach considers that the learner is the expert in their own use of literacy and values their opinion on what should be taught in the classroom. Research by Burton et al (2008) and Duncan (2009) in the UK gives value to the voice of the learner in the research process.


The dilemma for the practitioner is therefore what to do with all the academic research. How do I put the research into practice and how does it affect my underlying philosophical foundations? By putting an emphasis on phonics in reading and spelling instruction, am I addressing only the learners' technical needs? However, by not teaching foundation skills directly and using a more social practice approach, will I enable learners to engage and critically read texts? Being mindful of this dissonance was necessary for the research process being undertaken. The following quote from an adult beginner reader suggests that he needs to go back to basics in order to further his reading abilities and helped me to reaffirm that my stance on phonics may be justified. 'It's not that no one ever taught me to read before, it's just that they never took me back far enough. They didn't know what I didn't know' (McShane, 2005, p.33).


The rationale for my research was to investigate, using an action research design, the effect of a phonics intervention and in particular, the use of nonsense words within that phonics instruction. An action research approach was chosen as it allows the practitioner to change an aspect of their practice and to reflect on that change in order to better understand their practice. The two research questions guiding this project were;


1. Will the learners improve in their reading and spelling of regular and irregular words after a phonics intervention strategy incorporating the use of nonsense words?


2. What will the learners say about their perception of using phonics and nonsense words and how will they feel about how it may have affected their reading and spelling performance?


The participants in the study were four learners, from a small, rural town in the Republic of Ireland, who were engaged in a literacy class for 3 hours a week. The learners were all of a similar level working towards Level 2 awards in reading and writing on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) equivalent to Level 1 on the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EFQ). All four learners reported difficulties with spelling in particular and had requested that spelling strategies be a focus of their class. As part of this emphasis on spelling, I discussed the possibility of using phonics in a more consistent manner with the group, before planning the action research project. I had worked with the group for over a year at that stage and the learners knew that any change to practice was rooted in a desire to improve my teaching and hopefully, their learning. I conducted a semi-structured group interview before the phonics intervention to hear the learners' thoughts and opinions on what makes a 'good' reader or speller and what they thought might help their learning. Duncan (2009) suggests that 'learners, more than models of fluent reading, may be a useful


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