RM Winter 2016 FLIP

and participate in the discipline, they gain access and knowledge.

writing processes, common curricular and literacy instructional approaches, tools for assessing adolescent literacies, ways of supporting cultural and linguistic diversity, means of sustaining a literate environment, and awareness of life-long professional learning (South Carolina Department of Education, 2014). While the competencies overlap with the International Reading Association’s policy statement on adolescent literacy (International Reading Association, 2012), and despite the welcome fiscal and political attention provided to the complexity of adolescent literacy, two key problems arise from R2S legislative policy. Limitations of Read to Succeed Legislation First, since conceptions of literacy impact the official curriculum, what counts as learning, and ultimately, the sorting and labeling of students (Alvermann, 2001; Franzak, 2006; Ivey, 1999), R2S, unfortunately, deemphasizes disciplinary literacies and risks depriving adolescents of literate membership in the discipline. Sociocultural notions of literacy, with an emphasis on literacy practices in specific contexts and using situated discourses (Gee, 1996, 2007; Street, 1985) suggest adolescent communication with and across discourse communities is a richer marker of literacy than the discrete ability to pronounce words on a page or infer or summarize or synthesize a text separate from authentic inquiry and the production of knowledge. Making sense of an article on mitosis requires an ability to recognize words in the text, connect concepts to prior knowledge, or deduce the writer’s thesis, but true scientific literacy would involve building on the crosscutting concepts in the text as you assess, validate or critique the chemist’s implications in light of your own recently collected data. Seeing this literate complexity within a discipline, literacy researchers have called for a reconceptualization of the content of secondary school disciplines to afford students opportunities to learn and critique the literacy practices used by disciplinary experts to produce knowledge (Jetton & Shanahan, 2012; Lee & Spratley, 2006; Moje, 2008). While a content area literacy approach advocates teaching students generalized processes for reading and writing in order to help students access any text, a disciplinary literacy approach views literacy practices (including reading practices) as unique to each discipline and inseparable from disciplinary knowledge (Draper et al., 2005; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). In other words, students can develop deep conceptual knowledge in a discipline only by using the habits of reading, writing, talking, and thinking valued and used by the specific discipline (McConachie & Petrosky, 2010, p. 8). Teaching for disciplinary literacies is a matter of social justice. As Moje (2007) argued, “Teaching in socially just ways and in ways that produce social justice requires the recognition that learners need access to the knowledge deemed valuable by the content domains, even as the knowledge they bring to their learning must not only be recognized but valued” (p. 1). More than just equitable opportunities to learn, socially just disciplinary literacy teaching provides access to and opportunities to question, challenge, and reconstruct mainstream knowledge and practices (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). When students are apprenticed into the dominant literacy practices in a discipline and provided with opportunities to critically read, write, reason,

In contradiction, however, we are also in the midst of a rapid national escalation and dependence upon the competency testing of adolescents (and teachers) focused on traditional, narrowed conceptions of literacy. South Carolina is not the first - nor will it be the last- state to adopt more comprehensive literacy preparation coursework for teachers aimed at improving literacy instruction. Yet, the legislation’s narrow focus—as witnessed by the required coursework and literacy standards for secondary students—foregrounds content area literacy, thereby treating perceived student literacy deficiencies with strategy instruction with traditional print texts. In fact, teacher resistance to content area literacy instruction is well established (O’Brien & Steward, 1990; O’Brien, Stewart & Moje, 1995). Secondary school teachers, holding pre-conceived notions about teaching and learning in their discipline (Holt & Reynolds, 1992), have often viewed content area literacy instruction—with the cognitivist view of a pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading instructional process—as time consuming and inappropriate for learning in their discipline (O’Brien & Stewart, 1990) while perceiving literacy to be separate from disciplinary content (Livingston-Nourie & Davis-Lenski, 1998). These beliefs and conceptions stem from their own educational and life experiences (Clandinin, 1985 & Knowles, 1992) and influence literacy instructional decision making in the classroom (Sturtevant, 1993). Barriers to literacy instruction in content area classes may be more attitudinal than pedagogical in nature as PSTs may not just lack an understanding of how to scaffold student thinking with text but may altogether fail to see the importance of doing so as a disciplinary teacher or have a limited understanding of their own literate thinking with text (Hall, 2005). By requiring a three hour content area reading course and not prioritizing disciplinary literacy, R2S deprives adolescents of dominant disciplinary literacy knowledge and relegates literacy to a set of content area skills steeped in teacher resistance. A second problem lies in the legislation’s assumption that traditional coursework in literacy creates highly qualified literacy teachers despite research concerning the ways teachers create “theories in practice” (Schon, 1983) altering views of students, subject matter, and pedagogical appropriateness (Whitton, Sinclair, Barker, Nanlohy, & Nosworthy, 2004, p. 219). Since much of what a teacher learns occurs in practice rather than in preparing to practice, PSTs must learn how to learn about disciplinary literacy and literacy pedagogy in practice (Cohen & Ball, 1999, p. 8). Unlike knowledge for practice that represents a formal body of knowledge garnered through empirical research or knowledge in practice that builds “practical knowledge” through expert teachers, knowledge of practice occurs within inquiry communities as teachers “treat their classrooms as sites for intentional investigation” and “theorize and construct their work and connect it to larger social, cultural and political issues” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 3). When teacher learning is understood as an apprenticeship where teachers appropriate the language and stances of other teachers’ ongoing discourse around literacy, teaching becomes agentive. R2S assumes PSTs will transfer learning from teacher education courses to secondary school classrooms while ignoring how teachers learn to teach in practice.

Reading Matters Commentary

| 76 | Reading Matters | Volume 16 • Winter 2016 | scira.org


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