Formalising Disciplinary Literacy Teaching in Primary Science through a Writing-to-learn Approach

Project Number
OER 06/14 TKS

Project Duration
July 2014 - August 2016


Disciplinary literacy is the ability to use the specialised language and representations of a discipline to construct knowledge and participate effectively in the discipline. Despite its central role in accessing scientific knowledge, the teaching of disciplinary literacy is seldom carried out explicitly in schools. Added to this problem, few research examine how to implement disciplinary literacy teaching on a wide scale. This study aims to study the implementation of a particular disciplinary literacy teaching approach in a local primary school: the use of writing activities to learn science (or writing-to-learn approach). Working with a small group of teachers who are currently trying out a writing-to-learn approach, the goal of the study is to formalise their disciplinary literacy teaching practices through four stages of understanding, validating, refining and developing. We will first examine and understand their current implementation of a writing-to-learn approach in the primary science curriculum. We will then validate the writing-to-learn approach by (a) linking the observed teaching practices to the research literature, and (b) collecting and analysing empirical data to identify strengths and limitations in the teaching practices. In the process of validating, we will then refine existing teaching practices and resources for future implementations. Finally, we will develop a model of writing-to-learn based on our experiences and the research data that can be used by other primary science educators. Throughout these stages, we hope to achieve both the theoretical aim of understanding and refining the model of writing-to-learn for the research community, as well as the practical goal of improving the pedagogy of disciplinary literacy teaching and scaling up for school wide implementation. This research project builds on NIE's on-going work on disciplinary literacy, which is an area of research gaining attention in the research and teaching communities, both overseas and locally. Within the Ministry of Education, there is an increasing drive to firstly, get more school teachers highlight the language skills needed for successful learning in various content areas and secondly, scale up these efforts to a school-wide implementation. Currently, NIE's research on disciplinary literacy (by the PI and others) focuses on the early development of disciplinary literacy teaching with one or two teachers per school. The uniqueness of this project is the collaboration with a dedicated and coordinated team of teachers who are occasionally using a writing-to-learn approach in their teaching. Capitalising on their current efforts, this study will focus on their implementation, with the purpose of improving and formalising the curriculum and eventually preparing it for wider adoption and implementation at a school level, both overseas and locally.

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