Disciplinary literacy in the middle years

Year: 2017

Author: Kigotho Kigoho, Mutuota

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The teaching of literacy and numeracy are two of the seven General Capabilities mandated by the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority, ACARA. The middle years present challenges of navigating the curriculum as pupils face the challenge of subject specific literacy as required by the disciplines they need to cover. This paper reports on how the researcher working together with a regular classroom teacher taught seventeen Year 7 students across four disciplines of mathematics, science, history and geography. The researcher had secured a small grant as part of a special studies project that took place over three months. The students were girls in an independent rural school in NSW. When the study commenced, the students were in their last three weeks of term one. The project went on for another four weeks of term two. The researcher taught two periods in a week while the regular teacher taught the rest of the periods. The main focus of the project was to teach writing through personal experience narratives. The research question was: Is there a relationship between the teaching of personal experience narratives and writing proficiency across the disciplines of mathematics, science, history and geography? Students were guided through key language features of the disciplines and then given a task of writing a story related to the discipline. All together a total of five narratives were written as part of the intervention. The students were also encouraged to draw a visual representation of their stories. At the end of the intervention, the students were asked to write a timed free personal experience narrative. The researcher transcribed all the narratives and subjected them to a discourse analysis. Quality was determined by an examination of word knowledge, grammar knowledge, text knowledge and visual knowledge. The analysis showed marginal gains in quality but there were unintended gains in writing quality across disciplines. The students appeared less constrained in their writing and they were quite happy to share the visuals they created with everyone in class making the art of writing more meaningful and a pleasurable activity. The project has potential for development particularly it were to be administered over a full continuous school term.