Learning Sciences Institute Australia

Developing a Metalanguage Tootlkit for Academic Literacies in the Middle Years

Overview

Two completed design-based research studies have been synthesised in this overarching project. It addresses the literacy challenges faced by teachers and students in the middle years, through explicit language instruction embedded in curriculum or discipline teaching and learning. These projects, known collectively as ‘4×4 projects’ were conducted by the author in collaboration with over 100 teachers of Australian middle years students in a range of curriculum areas, including English and the Arts, Science & Technology, Geography, History, Commerce and Health.
While attending to the need for students to develop generic academic skills and to recognise patterns of language which traverse academic, civic and everyday discourse, the projects were based on understandings that learning the particular literacies of a curriculum area is vital to accessing and demonstrating learning of that subject. Such an understanding is consistent with the approach known as discipline literacy, which has been contrasted with content area or generic literacy due to its concern with developing knowledge, skills and strategies consistent with those used by experts in a particular field.

A major outcome of the projects was a framework to support teachers’ development of a functional metalanguage for middle years discipline literacy instruction. The framework is based on design-based studies conducted with one hundred teachers in five schools over three years. In its focus on discipline literacy instruction in diverse socio-cultural settings, the project responds to contemporary international curricula for English and literacy and the need for a strong evidence base for professional learning design.

Funding

  • National Partnership Grant $110,000s

Industry Partners

  • Belmore Boys High School. NSW
  • Richmond High School, NSW