A Window into the Secondary School Day: Examining 10th Graders' Literacy Experiences Across English, Social Studies and Science
Adams, Carol Margaret
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Adolescents are not meeting the increasingly sophisticated literacy demands of the 21st century. Research shows that students require instruction in middle and high school to successfully navigate and comprehend the range of discipline specific texts they encounter and yet most teachers are not prepared to meet those needs. The field of adolescent literacy is grappling with how to define disciplinary literacy in the secondary content areas and to identify the ways in which students, as novices rather than subject area experts, ought to engage with texts. The purpose of this study was to examine the literacy experiences of three 10th grade students as they navigated the literacy demands and expectations of their English Language Art, World History and Ecology classes and to analyze how each student responded to those demands. Framed by the RAND heuristic for reading comprehension, the literature on disciplinary literacy, and by sociocultural and ethnographic principles, this case study paid close attention to the relationship between each content area context, the nature of the literacy instruction, how texts were used and implicated in content learning, the design and enactment of text-based tasks, and the skills and dispositions of the focal students. Over a period of two months, observations in each content area class and weekly interviews with both students and teachers were conducted with the goal of providing a rich description of each student's experiences. Findings from this study show that in the absence of disciplinary literacy instruction and opportunities to engage deeply with texts, students approach their texts and text-based tasks in much the same ways across their content areas, despite their efforts yielding only surface level comprehension. This research illuminates the gaps between disciplinary literacy and the everyday experiences of secondary students and their teachers and urges educators and researchers to consider how students' literacy experiences in one class may impact those in other classes.
- Education - Seattle