Subject Banner Subject Home The Faculty of Education

Literacy Learning and Literacy Disabilities: Research, Teaching & Professional Development Materials

This page covers work Dr Munro has done in Literacy Learning Disabilities:

  • Research,
  • Teaching, and
  • Professional Development Materials

The model of literacy learning

How readers learn to read The article The process of acquiring reading skills describes how readers learn to read,  from the perspective of the Multiple Levels of Text Processing or MLOTP model.   It shows how multiple aspects of reading knowledge are acquired developmentally. This model underpins our work in the areas of literacy teaching and literacy learning disabilities.

8 Areas of Literacy Knowledge  This brief paper identifies the eight key aspects of knowledge that comprise literacy knowledge.

Literacy Intervention: Extending the Evidence Base for Determining Effective Options This paper describes a research that evaluate the effectiveness of three interventions options for students in Year 2 who have been identified as at risk of experiencing ongoing reading difficulties.  Three intervention pathway were investigated; the phonological awareness, orthographic processing  and oral language comprehension pathways.  The reading gains for each intervention are described. The results show how, for  those who have literacy learning disabilities, the learning assumptions made by the teaching needs to match the ways in which individual students learn.  The research was funded by the Literacy and Numeracy Innovative Projects Initiative of the Commonwealth of Australia in 2005.  The article is included here,  within the copyright conditions, for professional study and training purposes.

Literacy Learning Disabilities: Research

Multiple factors cause early reading difficulties (Munro J., 2009). Learning to read written prose requires requires young readers to learn to use a complex symbolic system that permits them to understand the text in a range of ways.  This research project examines  present study examines various areas of psycholinguistic, visual-symbolic and cognitive knowledge that are associated with early reading difficulties in a cohort of  314 first grade students,  of whom154 were identified as ‘at risk’ readers.  Principal component analysis was used to
analyse the components of knowledge that characterised the ‘at risk ‘and  ‘good progress’ readers.    The components for each group of students that correlated with prose reading comprehension and accuracy were identified.  These were combined to develop a description of the literacy learning
readiness profiles of each group.

Analysis of  the knowledge profiles of the at risk group showed several possible causes of reading disability.  It was possible that a low score in either reading comprehension or accuracy could be attributed to several possible sources.  The implications of the findings for effective intervention
are discussed.  A version of the paper was published in  the Australian Journal of Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilities, 3,  Spring-Summer, pp.  36-48.

How can a school system improve students’ literacy learning? How can an educational provider such as a school system go about taking steps to improve the literacy learning of its students? This question is frequently seen as ‘too big and complex’. Some educational systems may not know where to start. This series of research papers describes how various levels of educational provision used an explicit model of literacy to improve students’ learning outcomes aspects of this issue. The first describes the literacy model that the schools and the educational provider used to underpin their work. A second paper is a case study of how the model was used t at a primary school. The third paper describes its use in a secondary school. The fourth is how a major educational provider used it. Munro, J. (2003). Literacy improvement: Operationalising and contextualising a conceptual model. Papers presented at the Conference of the International Congress of School Effectiveness and Improvement, January, 2003.

Fostering literacy learning across the curriculum in a secondary school: Evidence of improvement. How does systematic and explicit literacy teaching, embedded in subject area teaching, in a secondary school context, improve students’ literacy knowledge? This paper describes an investigation examining the effectiveness on student literacy of including literacy teaching procedures as part of regular teaching in the various subject areas in the secondary curriculum. It identifies the areas of students’ literacy knowledge that were enhanced by a systematic learning program implemented across all teaching areas.

Literacy improvement is possible in a secondary school. It is frequently assumed that is almost impossible It is frequently assumed that literacy enhancement at the secondary level is almost impossible. This paper is a case study that disproves this belief. It describes how a systematic professional development program based on an explicit model of literacy, led to improved literacy comprehension outcomes for students. It describes the professional learning and development activities that were put in place to achieve the improved pedagogic practice at the school. A version of this paper was published as: Munro, J. (2004). Literacy improvement in the Secondary School. The Specialist Schools’ Trust Journal of Innovation in Education, 2(2), 29-32.

The Bellfield literacy story: Literacy improvement in a primary school. The significant literacy improvement at Bellfield Primary School in Victoria in 1997- 2005 has been recognised repeatedly in recent years. This paper is a case study that describes the professional learning and development activities that were put in place on a whole school basis to achieve the improved student outcomes in literacy at the school. A version was published as: Munro, J. (2004). Literacy improvement: It takes a team. The Specialist Schools’ Trust Journal of Innovation in Education, 2(1), 12-15.    

How much phonological knowledge to learn to read? How much phonological knowledge do young students need to learn to read? How well do they need to use this knowledge? What phonemic knowledge and strategies do they need to use? This article, Subvocal phonological decoding: A key component in diagnosing reading disabilities, (Munro, 2005), describes research that examines this question It introduces a new concept, called ‘phonemic aware span’ that teachers, and researchers can use to understand how phonemic and phonological knowledge develops and when it is at a problem level). Subvocal phonological decoding: A key component in diagnosing reading disabilities. Developmental and Educational Psychologist, 20, 1, 109-123.

What is dyslexia? What do we mean by dyslexia? What does it actually ‘look like’? How is it revealed in what readers know about words? What causes it? This article offers teachers and parents an explanation of developmental dyslexia and how readers who show evidence of it can be assisted.     

Literacy Learning Disabilities: Teaching

A comparison of three literacy intervention options for Year 2 students who are at risk of experiencing ongoing reading difficulties. (Munro, 2006). This research project was supported by the  Literacy and Numeracy Innovative Projects Initiative .

Three subtypes of early literacy learning disabilities, a phonological knowledge difficulty cohort, an orthographic knowledge difficulty cohort and an oral language knowledge difficulty cohort was provided with a literacy intervention pathway that matched its literacy learning profile. Each pathway consisted of sessions of 30 minutes duration. Each intervention were administered either individually to students or to small groups.  
All of the interventions improved students’ reading accuracy and comprehension.  While they did not differ in their effectiveness in enhancing accuracy, they did differ in improving comprehension; the oral language comprehension extended comprehension more than the other interventions.  Similar levels of accuracy or comprehension gains were made for teaching students individually or in pairs.

Sample lesson plans to demonstrate the high reliability literacy teaching procedures. (Munro,  J.,  2003).   This paper provides examples of how the high reliability literacy teaching procedures can be integrated into topics taught regularly in secondary schools.

High reliability literacy teaching procedures: A means of fostering literacy learning across the curriculum in secondary schools? This paper provides the high reliability literacy teaching procedures we have used successfully to improve literacy in secondary schools.

What is a useful way of conceptualizing the multiple demands of reading. Successful reading comprehension requires the integrated use of several areas of knowledge. The article: Plumbing the levels of reading: An information processing model of literacy Learning, (Munro, J. 1999) describes one possible model. The paper is a summary of the Keynote presentation to the Biennial Conference of the Australian Resource Educators Association, Melbourne, June 1999.

What do we mean by phonological and phonemic awareness? How do these processes affect learning to read and spell? The paper Phonological and phonemic awareness: Their impact on learning to read prose and to spell, (Munro, J.1998) reviews recent research on phonological and phonemic awareness.

Integrating phonological, semantic, phonic and orthographic teaching. Many schools, teachers and parents are looking for a teaching program that integrates phonological, phonemic, semantic, phonic and orthographic teaching in a systematic way. This article describes a teaching program that does this. The effectiveness of the program has been shown repeatedly in school improvement. It was the teaching program that was used at Bellfield Primary School in Victoria in 1997- 2005 and led to the significant literacy improvement there. A version of this paper was published as: Munro, J. (1998a). The Phonemic-Orthographic nexus: The Phonemic-Orthographic Literacy Program. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 3(2), 15-21.

Professional Development Program Materials

Effective literacy intervention strategies Parts 1-3: A model for fluent reading, The developmental pathway and Characteristics and causes of reading difficulties.  (Munro J.,  2003).  This paper summarises the framework we use for understanding reading disabilities.

Effective literacy intervention strategies Part 4 : A diagnostic pathway for reading difficulties. This article describes the approach to diagnosing reading disabilities developed by Dr John Munro Munro. The approach involves collecting information about students’ knowledge at a number of phases.  

Effective Literacy Intervention Strategies   Part 5 : Intervention strategies.   (Munro J.,  2004).   This paper summarises our approach to teaching students who have reading disabilities.

Links to other web-based literacy resources developed by Dr Munro

* Dr Munro designed and developed the Language Disorders Program for the DEECD.  The link for this project is <>  

* Dr Munro designed and developed the the VELS English Continuum.  You can see the continuum at <>      

* Dr Munro designed and developed a range of literacy professional development materials as part of his contribution to the school improvement project Achievement Improvement Zone conducted in the Northern Metropolitan Region.  You can access the overview page at  and  powerpoints used to teach each of the ‘High reliability literacy teaching procedures’  by clicking on the Literacy.button  or going to

* You can see the high reliability literacy teaching procedures developed by Dr Munro  being implemented in regular classroom teaching at

* You can see how the quality of the approach to literacy teaching and provision was evaluated iby  the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy and Recommendations  in its Teaching Reading  Report  entitled  Quality teaching and ongoing professional learning published by  Department of Education,  Science and Training in December 2005 at

* A chapter  written by  Dr Munro outlining his recent research on comprehending strategy teaching is  Munro, J.  (2009).  Enhancing reading comprehension through explicit comprehending strategy teaching. Chapter 9 in Wyatt-Smith, C.,  Elkins, J.  and Gunn, S. (Eds.). Multiple Perspectives on Difficulties in Learning Literacy and Numeracy. New York: Springer.   The text is described at


Back to Index