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Teacher Education St Mary's Departments

Defining Literacy

St Mary’s defines literacy as essentially the generation and transmission of meaning through listening, speaking, reading and writing in all their forms.


Literacy skills are vital to enabling us to live rich, fulfilling lives and to provide the medium for nearly all teaching and learning. Today’s world is driven increasingly by the construction, transmission and interpretation of information requiring new definitions of literacy and the teaching of literacy. To be literate today means much more than to be competent in dealing with printed texts and to have a familiarity with an established body of knowledge. New technologies have widened the definition of the literate person to include making sense of texts presented in myriad electronic forms and organised in more varied and complex ways than the linear sequence of most books. These complex issues cover a large territory, they are subject to ongoing curriculum change and the respective teaching approaches are often contested and challenged.

Student teachers will be teaching in an uncertain world. If they are to meet the needs of the children they teach, they will have to draw on their critical and creative powers as well as their resources of knowledge and understanding. Through their course and school experience students will accumulate a repertoire of productive classroom practices, develop an understanding of what "literate" means, consider their own literacy and extend their knowledge and understanding.

Today’s world demands high-quality literacy skills, which require the high-quality teaching of literacy.


St. Mary’s Literacy Team is committed to the following aims:

  • To ensuring that students have a substantial, flexible core of knowledge in literacy as well as an understanding of how to bring about learning so that children can best be helped to talk, listen, read and write, and to gain the ability to apply this knowledge in the classroom.
  • To encouraging student teachers towards a richer conception of what literacy is–one that is rooted in an understanding of children as active participants in their learning and which brings to school myriad experiences and aptitudes.
  • To encouraging student teachers to explore the beliefs and values they hold about literacy.
  • To developing students' awareness and helping them come to their own interpretation of current trends and expectations.
  • To raising standards in literacy by setting high expectations of student teachers and providing them with a high degree of support.
  • To cultivating a passion for this rich and complex subject that will enable student teachers to generate excitement in learning in primary and secondary classrooms.
  • To educating students as thinkers, able to review research evidence and policy documents in an informed, critical and creative way.
  • To exploring a wide range of pedagogic approaches in literacy teaching with the support of reputable research.
  • To encouraging reflection of the range of different and often conflicting literacy practices observed in the schools in which students work during their training.
  • To helping students to meet the challenges of working with children who bring other languages and cultures to school.
  • To helping students to meet the challenges of working with children with special educational needs.

Team Leader: Mrs Donna (Murray) Hazzard

Associated Staff