by David Kangas
What is disciplinary literacy? On a recent wintry morning, a group of students from Bill Tucker’s English 408 class, Cathy Fleischer, Michelle McLemore, Jeff Taylor and David Kangas, all gathered together to explore this very question. Disciplinary Literacy emphasizes that writing and being a writer in different disciplines requires that we let students in on the practices-- the ways of knowing and believing specific to the disciplines we teach.
Cathy Fleischer shared how EMU teachers from different disciplines were collaborating to explore writing within their disciplines; she also offered insight on the challenges students face in the transition from secondary writing to college. Disciplinary literacy emphasizes that teachers need to share with students how real world writers fashion genre and voice within their disciplines. For example, young scientists need to know what is implicit in composing a lab report, or how we communicate the knowledge we make in literary study using blogs.
Disciplinary literacy provides students with ways of connecting things, and Jeff Taylor presented to everyone how he supports middle school scientists with a writing project that explores how claims are made in scientific arguments. Michelle McLemore demonstrated how she engaged her students in an authentic writing experience by providing opportunities to write and research psychology and community problems. David Kangas shared his version of the literature workshop, and how he teaches both texts and student writers in studying literary texts. In each presentation, teachers shared what they found valuable when teaching writing and the ways of knowing, believing and action required by these values. After these presentations everyone circulated to explore student artifacts and to describe what they found, leading to questions about the teaching of writing and learning. The morning was truly professional development for all. If anyone in the EMU community wants to learn more, Cathy Fleischer will be running a Disciplinary Institute again this summer.