For some time, History teachers have noted that students' reading comprehension and writing skills are two areas of concern in our classrooms. The students are reluctant readers and writers, become disengaged when these types of activities are introduced into lessons, and have low self-efficacy in relation to these skills. Moreover, our subject area is perceived by student as being 'one of the hardest' because of the heavy literacy demands required to access the content.
The development of literacy in students has long been a focus in schools with a plethora of research and strategies available to teachers to ensure the development of literate students. Of late, however, there has been a shift in the focus area of literacy development, particularly at a Secondary School level with growing recognition of the importance of disciplinary-based literacy for the academic development of students. In particular with the study of History, literacy skills are essential for the development of historical knowledge, understanding and communication, where students interact with a variety of sources to access key information. The need for students to have and develop a strong foundation in literacy is imperative (see Green, 1988; Schleppelgrell, et. al., 2008; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008,2012;Nokes, 2010; Fang 2012; Nagy & Townsend, 2012; Monte-Sano, et. al., 2014; Allender & Freebody, 2016; De La Paz, et. al., 2016; Education Endowment Foundation, 2019 for research already established in this area).
My research will investigate the nature of literacy in a discipline-specific context, namely the History classroom. It will explore the particular reading and writing strategies that are critical to students studying History, and the short and long-term gains that can be made in implementing these targeted literacy strategies to specific domains. The domains identified in the Education Endowment Foundation Report of 2019 (EEF, 2019) will provide the broad framework for the development of discipline-based literacy strategies:
I hope to be an early adopter of this framework by identifying key literacy strategies that will improve student reading comprehension, vocabulary and writing outcomes in the context of the History classroom. This PhD research project will become a case study for the adoption of school-wide discipline-specific literacy strategies. I aim to develop a diagnostic Literacy Assessment Tool (LAT) specifically for History that measures student literacy levels relative to the subject at entry and exit points in Years 7, 9 and 10. In addition to this, I hope to develop a suite of discipline-based literacy instruction that can redress gaps identified by the diagnostic tool. These will be published freely for use by History teacher across the State to improve their students' ability to read and write in History.
De La Paz, S., Monte-Sano, C., Croninger, R., Jackson, C., Piantedosi, K., 2016, 'A Historical Writing Apprenticeship for Adolescents: Integrating Disciplinary Learning With Cognitive Strategies', Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 52(1), pp. 31-52.
Education Endowment Foundation, 2019, Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools: Guidance Report, retrieved 20/7/19 from https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/Dublic/files/Publications/Literacv/EEF_KS3_KS4_LITERACY_GUIDANCE.pdf
Fang, Z., 2012, 'Language Correlates of Disciplinary Literacy', Top Lang Disorders, vol. 32(1), pp. 19-34.
Green, B., 1988, 'Subject-specific Literacy and School Learning: A Focus on Writing', Australian Journal of Education, vol. 32(2), pp. 156-179.
Monte-Sano, C., De La Paz, S., Felton, M., 'Implementing a disciplinary-literacy curriculum for US history: learning from expert middle school teachers in diverse classrooms',
Nagy, W., Townsend, D., 2012, 'Words as Tools: Learning Academic Vocabulary as Language Acquisition', Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 47(1), pp. 91-108.
Nokes, J., 2010, 'Observing Literacy Practices in History Classrooms', Theory and Research in Social Education, vol. 38(4), pp. 515-544. Robert, P., 2013, Revisiting Historical Literacy: towards a disciplinary pedagogy, Faculty of Education, University of Canberra, A.C.T., retrieved 26/7/19 from http://www.canberra.edu.au/researchreDOSitorv/file/83fbcef9-3dlf-2dfc-id93-5aa05c38i5c5/l/full_text_preprint.pdf
Schleppegrell, M., Greer, S., Taylor, S., 2008, 'Literacy in history: Language and meaning', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 3i(2), pp. 174-187.
Shanahan, T., Shanahan, C., 2008, 'Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents: Rethinking Content-Area Literacy', Harvard Educational Review, vol. 78(1), pp. 40-59.
Shanahan, T., Shanahan, C., 2012, 'What is Disciplinary Literacy and Why Does it Matter?', Top Lang Disorders, vol. 32(1), pp. 7-18.