Developing Disciplinary Literacy Pedagogy in the Sciences

Project Number
OER 48/12 TKS

Project Duration
May 2013 - March 2017


Disciplinary literacy is the ability to use the specialised language and multimodal representations of a discipline to participate effectively in the knowledge construction and social practices of the discipline. Consisting of two phases, this 2½ year research project aims to examine physics and chemistry teachers’ current teaching practices in the area of disciplinary literacy and subsequently develop and evaluate pedagogical strategies that can better support their instructions on disciplinary literacy. In the first phase, the naturalistic observation will function as a baseline study to provide (1) a context for the subsequent design of strategies that cater to the specific needs of the participants and (2) a basis for comparison between the intervention and baseline studies. In the second phase, several disciplinary literacy strategies will be developed in partnership with the collaborating teachers. As these strategies are implemented in their classrooms, the ensuing classroom practices will be analysed and compared with those from the baseline study. In particular, multimodal discourse analysis will be used to examine the classroom practices at a microanalytic level focusing on how scientific knowledge is dynamically constructed through the multimodal interactions of the participants and the texts they are reading or producing. This level of analysis and the comparison between the baseline and intervention studies will help to reveal the characteristics of a disciplinary literacy approach to science teaching. In addition, the second phase will also examine the effects of the disciplinary literacy strategies on student learning from a range of quantitative and qualitative data sources (e.g., test scores, students’ written work, interviews). Being the first of such intervention study in Singapore, this project is a timely response to the growing attention towards literacy in the content areas among researchers and practitioners both locally and overseas. New curriculum standards in the USA and Australia are increasingly foregrounding disciplinary literacy as necessary skills for 21st century learning in the subject areas instead of the traditional mastery of content knowledge. In Singapore, under the Whole School Approach to Effective Communication (WSA-EC) initiative piloted by the Ministry of Education, disciplinary literacy is also becoming an important agenda in the teaching of science, mathematics and humanities. As such, the anticipated findings from this research project will partially fulfil the increasing demands for theoretical and practical knowledge in this area. It also has the potential to be a proof of concept for future intervention research in disciplinary literacy in other subjects.

Research Themes

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 11 (2013): Disciplinary Literacy in Science

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