Adopting a Disciplinary Literacies Perspective

Disciplinary literacy honors the traditions, stances toward texts, uses of texts, and ways of naming and talking about texts and literacy practices that emanate from the disciplines and the time-tested practices.  At best, literacy experts who work with teachers in various disciplines need to spend a considerable amount of time studying the disciplines of teachers they work closely with, perusing the texts, talking with those experts about how the texts are planned and written and for what purposes texts are used and why.  Literacy experts in areas suich as content literacy, writing across the curriculum, academic literacies (there are multiple names for these subfileds) find that teachers in various disciplines already have approaches or "strategies" for engaging students, facilitating their understanding through writing, reading, discussing, and collaborating that are remarkably similar to the ubiquitous "acronym" strategies in literacy.  Or, if literacy teachers name one of these strategies, colleagues in the discipline might note that it is just like. . . . that they already use.  The meeting of the minds and hearts of literacy teachers and scholars with their subject area peers requires a shared understand of teaching and learning as it is defined within both the discipline as well as within literacy.  It also requires an understanding of the literacy practices that professions associated with each discipline use in the real world and how this understanding trickles down to student learning and instruction.     

Thus, rather than teaching literacy as a set of generic practices applied or infused to all disciplines (O'Brien, Stewart, & Moje), it is important to ground uses of literacy learning within the knowledge and beliefs specific to disciplines (Moje, 2011).  As the report, Literacies of Disciplines: A Policy Research Brief, issued by the National Council of Teacher of English (2011) noted:

Instruction is most successful when teachers engage their students in thinking, reading, writing, speaking, listening, and interacting in discipline-specific ways, where literacies and content are not seen as opposites but rather as mutually supportive and inextricably linked.  When put next to literacies, then, disciplines represent unique languages and structures for thinking and acting; disciplines are spaces where students must encounter, be supported in, and be expected to demonstrate a plurality of literacies.  (p. 4)