What's on my mind? Disciplinary Literacy

Over the last few years, I have had a great time following the discussion around *disciplinary literacy.
I'm going to use this space for a while to help me make sense of what I think I know about disciplinary literacy and what I plan to do about it.
By do about it, I mean I will answer the "so what" question by sharing how my knowledge of disciplinary literacy transforms the way I work (e.g., read, teach, write).

For example, I recently ended my content area literacy class by asking students to help me think about disciplinary literacy.

I had asked them to keep a blog, and as they did so, I tried to infuse some of the rationale behind the actual practices bloggers tend to subscribe to, hoping to stress the unique features of blogging/blog posts. In essence, I wanted them to come to see themselves as bloggers.

At one point I asked them if they thought experts in certain disciplines would view using blogs as an authentic practice, and if so, how.

Here are some unedited responses to the question, How might a historian, literary expert, scientist, and/or mathematician use a blog when doing their work? :

  • As a way of reporting about their research
  • They may use it as an informal way to collect their info and data in one place. It may also be a way for people to solicit advice and comments from other people in their field.
  • They could use the blog to take readers "backstage" in their thinking process. They could describe their hypothesis, steps they used, ways they modified their experiments or research, the results they found and how their thinking changed throughout the process.
  • They would use a blog to keep track of all their research
  • Much like the strategies for writing to learn, many of these experts could document their learning and clarify their understandings of content.



Again, my point was just to try to get us to think about how certain genres/formats/platforms (in this case blogs) might be useful to certain disciplines/experts.

* “A disciplinary literacy approach emphasizes the specialized knowledge and abilities possessed by those who create, communicate, and use knowledge within each of the disciplines”
(p. 7, Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32(1), 7–18.).

Figure from:
Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content-area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 40-59.