Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


(Re)Conceptualizing Content Area Literacy: Drawing on the Past to Impact the Future


School of Education


College of Education

Date Range



Traditionally, content area literacy calls educators to provide instructional support for adolescents as they interact with academic texts and disciplinary content. Despite efforts to teach secondary teachers how to implement content area literacy in the classroom, researchers have noted resistance to taking up literacy within content classrooms. We offer a way to impact adolescent literacy by taking up interdisciplinary instruction as the backdrop by which we engage teachers in learning about content area literacy. In this new context, content area literacy is (re)conceptualized from a self-centered approach, looking within one's own discipline, to a holistic approach where all disciplines recognize the literacy needs and requirements within and across the disciplines. The theoretical framework that guides this study draws on the social aspects of learning and literacy. Forty-five participants from two universities voluntarily participated in this qualitative study. The data collection included: email correspondence, teacher artifacts, surveys, observation notes, and researchers' journals. We analyzed the data using Strauss (1995), while also working from Richards's (2000) validity metaphor of crystallization. The following themes emerged: Discipline learning - Transparency developed as the teachers came to understand the literate practices within each discipline Conversational learning. The teachers socially constructed their knowledge of content area literacy and interdisciplinary instruction through dialogue Resistance learning. The teachers' resistance comes from an imposed resistance they sense from the structures and individuals within schools. The conclusions and implications of the study lead to encouraging teacher educators to implement interdisciplinary instruction as a way to (re)conceptualize content area literacy.

Conference Name

Reading the Past, Writing the Future

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

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