Content Area Reading and Disciplinary Literacy: A CASE FOR THE RADICAL CENT ER by Brozo, et al.

from Google

In the center of the mat, a referee begins to count.
Content area literacy (CAL) with its "every teacher is a reading teacher" mantra is spread eagle in the ring.
Disciplinary literacy jogs in place with arms raised high. 

Brozo, et al. seem to be saying, "Wait! This fight should not have taken place. Can't we get along? Some of my best friends are disciplinary literacy (DL) experts and sneak the ideas in their CAL courses."

Of course, I’m just joking, but the article has some serious things to say.
Here are my notes:


content area literacy
disciplinary literacy
Decades of research suggests, "general reading and writing strategies can find expression in a variety of content classrooms. It is further believed that these strategies will increase engagement in reading and learning, improve literacy skills and abilities, and lead to greater knowledge acquisition....” (p.354)
Disciplinary literacy experts argue content area literacy should be replaced with disciplinary literacy.
They also acknowledge that research suggests some strategies may hinder rather than help.

Disciplinary literacy emphasizes that "the text itself and the goals for reading the text dictate the reading processes" (p.354).

Disciplinary literacy experts also suggest students should be initiated into a discipline. Brozo, et al. are skeptical of this and wonder about struggling students, a topic addressed fully in Building a House on Sand: Why Disciplinary Literacy Is Not
Who Struggle” by Faggella-Luby, et al.

Possible Solution: The Radical Center
How can we use the best of both worlds to help students?


Other Questions raised in the piece
Answer/Response suggested by the piece
Do you think content area teachers resist content area strategies?
Maybe this happens when teachers haven’t been presented the strategies within the right context or they haven't been given the opportunity (autonomy) to decide which strategies to use.

Do you think general content area strategies prevent students from becoming experts in disciplines?
If so, perhaps this is due to a lack of communication between the content area teacher and the literacy expert. The content area teacher probably needs more help slowing down and really thinking about the process used to read and write in his or her particular discipline.


  • Yes, we need to have healthy conversations whether you’re Team CAL or Team DL or somewhere in the radical center.
  • DL and CAL seem fundamentally different to me.
  • CAL can service DL. Meaning, I believe there are strategies and practices in CAL that can help students learn to do the work of a discipline.
Want to read it?
"Content Area Reading and Disciplinary Literacy: A CASE FOR THE RADICAL CENTER" by William G. Brozo, et al. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 56(5) February 2013 doi:10.1002/JAAL.153