If you dismiss the applicability of evidence to education on the grounds that it is ‘phallic‘ or ‘positivist‘ or whatever, then what else can you draw upon to support your position? One answer is to borrow authority from others.
A curious recent example has been the use of the definition of decode in the Australian Curriculum by phonics skeptics. In 2018, Misty Adoniou, Brian Cambourne and Robyn Ewing used this definition to throw shade on a proposal to supply school children with ‘decodable’ texts. Decodable texts are early readers with a controlled set of grapheme-phoneme relationships – the relationship between letters or sets of letters and their corresponding sounds – so that children are not asked to read any words that contain relationships they have not yet been taught.
More recently, David Hornsby relied upon the same definition of decode in a podcast that was later critiqued by Pam Snow. The Australian Curriculum definition of decode used by Adoniou et al. and Hornsby was:
“A process of working out a meaning of words in a text. In decoding, readers draw on contextual, vocabulary, grammatical and phonic knowledge. Readers who decode effectively combine these forms of knowledge fluently and automatically, and self-correct using meaning to recognise when they make an error.“
This whole language definition of decoding, with its use of multiple cues (ie anything but phonics) was presumably put into the Australian Curriculum by someone who agrees with the Adoniou et al. and Hornsby side of the argument and so invoking it is entirely circular. It doesn’t prove anything.
However, in an interesting development, the definition of decode in the Australian Curriculum has now changed to:
“A process of efficient word recognition in which readers use knowledge of the relationship between letters and sounds to work out how to say and read written words.“
Will the views of phonics skeptics change accordingly? I doubt it, but it is amusing. If the Australian Curriculum was an authoritative source previously then why is it not an authoritative source now?
Perhaps we should get back to basing our arguments on actual evidence.