A Design-Based Research Intervention On Motivating Teachers To Feel Capable Of Designing And Implementing Effective Disciplinary Literacy Instruction

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A Design-Based Research Intervention On Motivating Teachers To Feel Capable Of Designing And Implementing Effective Disciplinary Literacy Instruction

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Recently, educational reading research transitioned from studying general comprehension in secondary school settings to studying disciplinary literacy, foregrounding the reading, writing, speaking, thinking, and other discursive practices unique to each academic discipline (Moje, 2008; 2015; Moje et al., 2008; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008; 2012). During this transition, academic mantras like “reading like a historian” or “reading like a scientist” were coined to communicate that classroom literacy experiences should emulate the practices of disciplinary experts working in the field (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008; 2012). However, to be able to read like disciplinary experts effectively students must employ literacy strategies coupled with disciplinary thinking processes (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008, 2012), which is often at odds with how students read outside of academic settings (Alvermann, 2001; Hyland, 2012; Moje, 2006; 2015; Moje et al., 2008). Therefore, adolescent readers may struggle to comprehend academic texts without disciplinary literacy instruction that modifies and scaffolds expert disciplinary literacy practices so they are accessible to novice students as they develop literacy abilities and dispositions that emulate expert practices. Even though secondary teachers often assign reading to “cover” content (Alvermann & Moore, 1991; Calder, 2006), they do not explicitly teach comprehension or disciplinary reading strategies, instead prioritizing content (Greenleaf & Valencia, 2017; Lester, 2000; O’Brien, Stewart, & Moje, 1995, Yore, 1991). In this study, I designed an intervention to motivate three history teachers to feel capable of designing and implementing effective disciplinary literacy instruction. Prior to the intervention, I collected verbal protocol data from three Frederick Douglass teachers and 20 students in which they thought out loud while reading a primary source document. During the design-based research (DBR) intervention (Barab & Squire, 2004; McKenney & Reeves, 2012), the three teachers and I collaboratively analyzed the teachers and students’ verbal protocol transcripts to identify literacy abilities and dispositions. Together, we designed disciplinary literacy instruction for the primary source document, and one teacher participant, Jane, taught the text in class two weeks later. I observed Jane’s disciplinary literacy instruction when she taught the primary source document to evaluate the success of the intervention. Findings from this study demonstrated that the DBR intervention motivated the three teachers to design effective disciplinary literacy instruction that met their students’ literacy needs, and the teachers felt capable to implement effective disciplinary literacy instruction by witnessing their own more expert literacy abilities and dispositions. The larger implications of this study show the importance of positioning teachers as disciplinary experts who are ideal mentors to scaffold disciplinary reading for their students.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2018. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: David O'Brien. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 163 pages.

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McDonald Van Deventer, Megan. (2018). A Design-Based Research Intervention On Motivating Teachers To Feel Capable Of Designing And Implementing Effective Disciplinary Literacy Instruction. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/215213.

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