Literacy in the Disciplines

by Diane Lapp and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

2 We want to tell you about an exciting project we’ve been working on that connects experts in various disciplines with teachers and literacy professors. We believe that when great minds meet, wonderful ideas emerge. In our series of vidcasts and podcasts, teachers, artists, musicians, engineers, and technologists have wide-ranging conversations about the role of literacy in the disciplines and in their careers. We invite you to take a look at this growing library of conversations about language and how it shapes thinking about a discipline and vice-versa. The voices of the teachers in these conversations put into perspective the preparation of students for college, careers, and citizenry.

These conversations suggest that while significant aspects of disciplinary work cut across the domains of inquiry, there are important differences to which educators might attend as they work with students in disciplinary classes. We found important differences, as noted by disciplinary experts, related to vocabulary, reading and writing patterns and habits, approaches to the use of visual information, and use of sources. At the same time, we found a commonality we should have expected and did not. In almost every case, the disciplinary experts were concerned about their ability to use highly technical or academic language with clients, customers, and colleagues who were not experts in their domains of inquiry. They expressed the need to be precise in their language without overwhelming their intended audience. They all emphasized that the precision of communication was the most important literacy skill in their job success.

3 The teachers as experts of pedagogy in their disciplines frequently elaborated on the points from the disciplinary expert interviews in terms of what their students should learn. Each teacher, as a content expert, understood that they were working with students who needed the ability to understand the world through a disciplinary lens that permitted them to engage in social discourse in academic, political, and workplace environments.

Take part in these conversations by visiting:

— Aurous Publishing