Tim Shanahan argues for the value of disciplinary literacy, contrasting the concept of disciplinary literacy to other commonly used practices for teaching literacy in grades 6-12. Dr. Shanahan defines disciplinary literacy as development of the unique reading skills required for literacy in different content areas. He notes that, while content area reading is useful for students scoring in the bottom 25%, disciplinary literacy may prove useful for students with varying levels of reading skills.
Implications For Teachers:
Content area teachers may benefit from increased training on the integration of content-relevant literacy strategies that will promote content area reading and understanding for all students.
Teachers and schools should work to promote students’ basic and intermediate literacy skills in the early and middle grades so that literacy in the upper grades can focus on understanding content (i.e., disciplinary literacy).
Content area reading is an effective practice for students with low reading skills and should continue to be used by teachers; however, teachers should understand the importance of disciplinary literacy and prepare students to approach content area texts using context-relevant strategies.
Educators should be cautious applying approaches to literacy that are used in other environments, without first considering the similarities and differences between those environments and the context in which they are working.
Students should be taught that pictures within text differ in their role. For example, some may be describing/defining nouns, verbs/ processes, relationships, etc. Also, there are differences between technical drawings and other drawings/photos.
In sciences such as chemistry, students must fully understand experiments or processes. There are close connections among prose, graphs, charts, formulas, etc. Students should be taught to read back and forth from the text to tables, graphs, etc. Corroboration and transformation are major reading strategies.
Other Information of Note:
More research on disciplinary reading is needed. However, the activities involved in disciplinary reading developed thus far suggest some learning benefits.