The Double Helix Theory of Teaching


The Interdisciplinary Centre for Research in Curriculum as a Social Practice at the University of Western Ontario and The Language and Literarcy Researchers of Canada are happy to present this virtual talk by Dominic Wyse at the Institute of Education and University College London and Charlotte Hacking at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

This session explicates the Double Helix of Reading and Writing, which is proposed as a new theory and model of literacy teaching. It also shares how outstanding 'real' books written for children can be at the heart of effective teaching phonics, reading and writing, informed by the most up to date research and theory. 

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The Presenters 

Dominic Wyse FAcSS FRSA is Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at the Institute of Education (IOE), University College London (UCL). He is Founding Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy (0-11 Years) (HHCP), a research centre devoted to improving young children’s education. Dominic was President of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) from 2019 to 2022.

Dominic has made a leading contribution to research on curriculum and pedagogy, including national curricula, for more than 25 years. He has led multiple research projects and has published many books and research papers. Dominic’s main research is on effective teaching of reading and writing. His book ‘The Balancing Act: An Evidence-Based Approach to Teaching Phonics, Reading and Writing’ (co-authored with Charlotte Hacking. Routledge Publishing), and a research paper, advanced ‘The Double Helix of Reading and Writing’, a new theory and model for teaching. Dominic’s research on writing developed ‘the ear of the writer’ as a metaphor for effective writing across the life course, for novice and expert writers. This multidisciplinary research was published in the book ‘How Writing Works: From the invention of the alphabet to the rise of social media’ (Cambridge University Press). An original feature of the work was the comparisons made between language and music. Dominic’s research on grammar and writing, in the context of national curricula, has included seminal research papers and more recently a randomised controlled trial to examine a new approach to teaching grammar. The book ‘Teaching English, Language and Literacy - 5thEdition’ (with Helen Bradford and John-Mark Winstanley. Routledge) has been a leading text for teachers and teacher education for more than 20 years.

Charlotte Hacking is Director, Learning and Programmes at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). For over 20 years, she has been creating and delivering professional development programmes for teachers.

Charlotte is an experienced teacher and senior leader who has taught across the primary school age range. Before joining CLPE, she held several leadership posts including Assistant Headteacher, Literacy Lead, Early Years Foundation Stage Lead, Key Stage 2 Lead (pupils aged seven to eleven). Charlotte's special interests lie in Early Years, early reading development, the development of writing, and the use of picture books and poetry to raise children's engagement and attainment. In 2022, Charlotte was awarded the Anna Craft Creativities in Education Prize by BERA. She developed and leads the CLPE's ground-breaking Power of Pictures research, investigating the impact visual literacy and illustration can have on children’s reading and writing. Charlotte also led and developed the CLPE's Power of Poetry research project. She is currently working alongside Farrah Serroukh on the development and delivery of CLPE's Reflecting Realities in the Classroom project. Charlotte has co-written The Balancing Act: An Evidence-Based Approach to Teaching Phonics, Reading and Writing, with Professor Dominic Wyse from UCL, due for release in June 2024. The book dismantles polarised debates about the teaching of phonics, and analyses the latest scientific evidence of what really works. It shows, in vivid detail, how phonics, reading and writing should be taught through the creativity of some of the best authors of books for children and proposes new theory and a new  model for literacy: The Double Helix of Reading and Writing.