Lessons from the Pedagogical Guru: Davina Sharry

In a snapshot: Davina’s passion reflects in her enthusiasm over the phone. In her role as Education Queensland Literacy Coach she innovated on current practices and designed an explosive reading program that sees the youngest of students learn to read in 8 weeks; all of which resulted in her achieving ‘Queensland Teacher of the Year’ for 2017.
Longitudinal Success: Since 2012 every Prep student at Whites Hill State College is a reader because of the exceptional work of Davina Sharry and her team. Davina has designed a program that significantly accelerates student’s reading skills resulting in Preps reading earlier, and with greater confidence than their peers in other schools.

Upon arriving at her new college in August 2012, Davina discovered 86% of Prep students were non-readers. With a sense of urgency and an unrelenting belief that all students can be successful, Davina set out to develop a reading program that achieved remarkable outcomes and continues on an improvement trajectory such that other teams of educators now seek her expertise. In 2016, the *‘Effect Size’ for her Prep Reading Program was officially calculated by Education Queensland as 3.6!

*Note: 0.4 is one standard year of learning in education as identified by Professor Dr John Hattie in ‘Visible Learning.’ Visible learning is an in depth system wide change model which is derived from professor John Hattie’s meta-analysis of research studies on student achievement, the largest global research base into what actually works best in schools to improve learning. It takes the theory of Hattie’s research and puts it into a practical inquiry model for teachers and school leaders to ask questions of themselves about the impact they are having on student achievement. ‘0.2’ is a small effect size, ‘0.5’ is a medium effect size and ‘0.8’ is a large effect size. Davina’s program received an average 3.4 effect size, which is significantly higher than the normal ‘large effect size’, and resulted in Davina being invited to the 2018 National AITSL summit in Canberra as a guest speaker for Dr Hattie.

In five years, Davina’s passion for innovation and reflective practice has seen her reading program evolve from a stand-alone program to an agreed set of pedagogical practices that shape the teaching of reading in Prep classrooms and beyond. In pursuing excellence for all students, Davina has built the capability of teachers by coaching and supporting them to deliver expert and precise teaching of reading. Using current research, she has refined the approach to reading to be responsive and focused on student engagement and improvement. In 2017, Davina’s program saw 75% of Preps accelerate from level 0 to reading in less than 10 weeks! During this same year she was awarded the prestigious ‘Queensland Teacher of the Year’ State Award during a huge presentation evening with the Queensland Premier in Brisbane City.

Davina says, “My main work is teaching teachers to teach emergent readers. If you have a system and a recipe that works, you can teach other people how to replicate it. That’s exactly what I do. The schools that visit me can also have a large percentages of their cohort as non readers. They then leave with everything they need to emulate what I have done – and I get to hear about their successes along the way!”

We get the feeling this ‘Teacher of the Year’ is just getting started! See what her alumni and peers have to say about her work:

Julie Bliss Principal Education Adviser – Australian Curriculum; Curiosity and Powerful Learning – Metropolitan Region, Teaching and Learning, Department of Education and Training – 9th May, 2017
“Davina’s approach to reading instruction in Prep is based on sound research: Clay (1991), Rose’s (2005) work in Reading to Learn, the seminal writings of Hirsch (2003), the work of Griffith and Rasinski (2004), and Brown and Cambourne (1990). The approach taps into the fields of neuroscience and psycholinguistics, and emphasises high expectations of achievement supported by high levels of teacher scaffolding. Because of its foundation in the power of reciprocity between reading and writing, the impact on students’ achievement has been profound. Well-considered pedagogic choices have led to accelerative reading acquisition amongst the students.”

Travis O’Keefe – Whites Hill State College Head of Curriculum 2012 – 2016:
“I witnessed the impact the Prep reading program had on our Prep students, and the significant data outcomes first hand from 2012 to 2016 as Head of Curriculum at Whites Hill State College. Year after year, Prep students entered the school as non-readers on level 0. I witnessed the evidence-based teaching practices; the program constantly evolving; Davina training staff members and volunteers; and her offering specialist advice to other visiting school’s staff. I can verify the Prep reading program’s results impacted significantly and positively on not only the whole cohort, but on English second language students as well as students with various learning needs.”