M: Cyndie, you've been doing research on disciplinary literacy for about 20 years now.
In that time, you've probably been asked just about everything possible.
What question comes up most often these days?
W: That's easy. We're doing better convincing teachers that disciplinary literacy is worth teaching,
but they still are hesitant about their students' reactions.
A teacher said to me recently, "I have enough trouble getting my kids to read a textbook chapter. How would I ever motivate them to read in a disciplinary way?"
M: Is that a real question or is it just a mask for teacher resistance?
W: I think it's a real question, and in fact, it's also our biggest problem, because many teachers still don't understand the distinctions between content area reading and disciplinary literacy.
M: What is disciplinary literacy anyway? You said that's different.
W: Disciplinary literacy doesn't promise to make someone a better student.
It invites students to join the disciplinary field itself.
It's a kind of invitation to join a club.
M: Does it mean it invites students to join the "history club" by reading like a historian or the "science club" by reading like a scientist.
W: Right, but it goes beyond that. It says, "We want you to join us. We want to share with you our cognitive secrets, our way of thinking about the world, and how we solve problems.
We want to count you as one of us." In doing that, it both holds out the promise of affiliation, connecting with others is a big motivator,
and the promise of greater competency with challenging tasks -- not competency in being a kid or a student,
but competency in being successful with the kinds of things that adults do.
M: What about assessment? How do we test disciplinary literacy?
W: There aren't any standardized disciplinary reading or writing tests yet,
but one can easily imagine how classroom assessments could change in the future as instruction becomes more disciplinary in focus.
M: Past assessments in history, literature, or science have aimed to find out if students had mastered particular information.
Questions about content would certainly still have a place in disciplinary literacy since knowledge matters in disciplinary literacy too.
But what would a more disciplinary assessment look like?
W: I think a more disciplinary assessment would seek to find out whether students are interpreting such information in a sophisticated way according to the traditions of that discipline.
For example, a disciplinary test in history might ask not only what we know about a historical event,
but how we know about it -- students would be questioned about the source of the information, the reliability of the source, and how the information matches with information from other sources.
In cases where the information is contradictory, the assessment might ask students to determine whose account was more credible, requiring students to weigh evidence using the same kinds of criteria that historians use.
M: Uhmm. That sounds interesting.
W: Or a literature assessment might ask students to engage in deeper interpretation than in the past.
Instead of asking about the theme of a story, for example, an assessment might ask students to determine alternative themes and to decide --
based on text evidence -- which one the author seemed most sympathetic to.
In other words, it would ask the student to participate in the reading more as a literary critic than a student.
M: How should we prepare teachers to teach disciplinary literacy in teacher training institutions?
W: So far, teacher training institutions haven't done a very good job of helping subject matter teachers understand the discourse practices of their disciplines;
so those practices often remain implicit, untaught.
M: I agree with that. But have you seen any good examples?
W: Sure, there are some examples of programs that do make disciplinary literacy practices explicit.
The best of these programmes, in my opinion,
are the result of literacy and disciplinary experts collaborating to determine what these practices are and then engaging students in them.
This is the end of the second interview.
Questions 6 to 10 are based on what you have just heard.
6. According to the woman, what is the biggest problem in teaching disciplinary literacy?
7. What does disciplinary literacy really mean?
8. What would a more disciplinary assessment ask students to do?
9. Which is the best practice in teacher training institutions to promote disciplinary literacy teaching?
10. What is the purpose of the interview?