Since the release of the 2021 Matric Results, UJ SARChI Chair for Integrated Studies of Learning Language, Mathematics and Science in the primary school, Prof Elizabeth Henning has given interviews on several TV channels including SABC, ENCA and Newzroom Afrika (Download the Video).
One important question that Prof Henning raises during one of her extensive interviews on Newzroom Afrika on 20 January 2022 and which still remains to be answered is “What happens to you in the first 5 years of school- how much did you learn at the time when the foundation was laid for your future learning?” Matric performance is the outcome of many years of learning to learn, learning to study and learning to persevere.
Prof Henning, therefore, argues that matric begins in grade one. Furthermore, an important inference she makes about a model for reading as learning, meaning that the successful acquisition of initial literacy is a cornerstone for reading science and maths texts with understanding, along with the texts of history, geography, the arts and so forth.
“If one takes this definition of reading seriously, learning to read is learning to use language and learning to think from written text. A main component of this learning is the expansion of vocabulary and knowledge encoded language in a text,” notes Prof Henning. “Young children learn self-regulation in the early grades much faster than they would later on.”
Her recent research discusses the current recommendations to design local assessment instruments that can capture reading as learning (in English) from grade 3 to grade 6. For classroom teaching, Prof Henning suggests the insertion of maths and science texts into the reading programme, drawing on the content of the curriculum.
Prof Henning leads research in mathematical cognition and language in the early years of school as well as primary school children’s learning of science concepts and reading of science texts. She is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. She combines instructional film production with research. Her team has just started a new venture with fNIRS (functional Near Infra-red Spectroscopy) technology experiments for brain imaging of learning in the Cognition Lab on the Soweto campus.