Critical Voice by Terry Locke

Some fundamentals of cross-disciplinary literacy

The following propositions reflect work in progress. They represent a kind of conceptual framework for the development of teacher professional learning in relation to disciplinary literacy.

  1. A discipline is a scholarly meaning-making tradition with its own characteristic procedures/methods and typical textual practices (literacies or discourse).
  2. To do science means participating in the discourse of science.
  3. The meanings produced in the context of a disciplinary community are socially and historically contextualized and are not fixed or absolute.
  4. All disciplinary knowledge is built upon a conceptual framework specific to the discipline.
  5. A concept is an abstraction or generalization from experience that enables higher-order thinking. In this sense, a concept is a tool.
  6. Literacies are cognitive, socially constructed and technologically mediated practices, utilizing agreed-upon systems of signification, to make sense of and communicate messages about experience.
  7. Disciplinary literacies differ in terms of the modalities they use to construct and represent meaning.
  8. School subjects are not the same as disciplines, but have disciplinary connections.
  9. A school subject is the recontextualisation of one or more disciplines so as to constitute a body of knowledge, practices and attitudes, constrained by a range of contextual factors and intended for student engagement.
  10. The professional content knowledge of teachers includes disciplinary knowledge related to one or more of New Zealand’s eight “learning areas”.
  11. The professional content knowledge of teachers includes a knowledge of the literacy practices associated with the subjects they teach.
  12. These literacy practices will have some connection with the literacy practices of the disciplines related to these subjects (learning areas).
  13. Teachers need some metalinguistic knowledge related to the disciplinary literacies they are required to teach.
  14. Teachers need to know what it means to compose texts related to the disciplinary literacies they are responsible for. This ideally means identifying as writers of such texts.
  15. Disciplinary literacies are associated with particular genres.
  16. Genres are types of texts associated with specific contexts characterized by relatively stable conventions related to content and linguistic/representational resources used.
  17. All genres are multifunctional but characterized by certain salient functions.
  18. Function is the work done by the language/representational resources utilized at any point in a text.
  19. Functions include narrative, argumentation, description and explanation.
  20. Explaining one’s understanding of a concept in language demonstrates one’s mastery of the concept.
  21. There is more than one way to represent a concept.
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