This three-paper dissertation was conducted to explore how motivation and engagement, in addition to cognitive aspects, should be considered in disciplinary literacy instruction and assessment in high school classrooms. The studies, which were based on a five-year collaborative school-university partnership, were conducted to explore the relation between literacy engagement and learning of high school students in social studies classes.In the first study, I explored the perspectives shared by social studies teachers in planning instruction and applying a disciplinary literacy approach in their classes. Specifically, I investigated how teachers’ discourse from collaborative planning sessions and interviews evidenced their understanding of and beliefs about the importance of teaching disciplinary literacy and engaging students in literacy and learning. From the analysis of the collaborative meeting conversation transcripts and interview data, three themes emerged: texts use, cognitive instructional practice, and motivation-enhancing practice.
In the second study, I explored how one social studies teacher embodied motivation and engagement in her instructional practices in disciplinary literacy learning. Findings were gleaned through an in-depth analysis of field notes and classroom artifacts. The study clarified how the participating teacher incorporated cognitive and motivational aspects in literacy concurrently to engage students as part of disciplinary literacy instruction in an instructional unit. From the analysis, three main themes, teacher-led practice, multimodal text use, and student-centered activity, emerged.
In the third study, I explored an approach to assessing students’ motivation and engagement related to reading in a discipline. Specifically, I studied how useful the SE components are in enhancing students’ reading engagement and achievement by analyzing students’ responses to SE components when reading a discipline-specific text and responding to open-ended and questionnaire items. The findings demonstrated that if these SE components are supported, enhanced, or taught by teachers, students’ reading engagement is improved.
Overall, these studies demonstrate that teachers should make motivation and engagement more explicit in teaching disciplinary literacy in their classes. Future studies should augment and explore discipline-specific instructional practices to enhance student engagement in reading by considering a range of engagement dimensions that can supported with explicit instruction and guidance.