Academic journal article Reading Horizons

The Metalinguistic Protocol: Making Disciplinary Literacies Visible in Secondary Teaching and Learning

Academic journal article Reading Horizons

The Metalinguistic Protocol: Making Disciplinary Literacies Visible in Secondary Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract

Concerns about adolescent literacy continue to be highlighted in regards to the challenges of reading and learning from academic text. Recent efforts to address these concerns have led to an examination of the disciplines and their specialized ways of thinking and using language. In this article I discusses a metalinguistic protocol in a think-aloud process as a framework to use in university content area literacy courses with secondary preservice teachers to examine the language and thinking as it is used in the disciplines of knowledge and to address the implications of disciplinary literacies for teaching and learning in secondary schooling.

Introduction

This activity really showed me the importance of prior knowledge and experience when approaching a text. The ability to access meaning, in certain cases, may be no more than a question of learning a bit about what you are about to read.

-Ashley, Spanish major

Recent conversations about disciplinary literacies (McArthur, 2007; Draper, Broomhead, Petersen Jensen, Nokes, & Siebert, 2010; Lee & Spratley, 2010; Moje, 2008; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008) have sparked an interest in issues related to secondary teaching and learning including the improvement of content area literacy instruction at the university level. As new perspectives emerge and we seek to "foreground" the field (Moje, p. 96) by recognizing the unique literacies of the disciplines inclusive of the knowledge, discourses, and social practices that contribute to professional identity, consideration of instructional approaches to make this visible are part of the next step.

I have used a metalinguistic protocol in a think-aloud process as an instructional approach with secondary preservice teachers in university content area literacy courses that I have taught for the last five years in order to raise awareness and begin conversations about disciplinary literacies. The metalinguistic protocol serves as a framework to help preservice teachers think about language and thinking as it is used in disciplinary texts and includes discussion about the implications for their future teaching with adolescent students in secondary schools. Preservice teachers bring a great deal of knowledge and expertise in their disciplines along with professional identities that have been integrated, over time into their daily lives and work. Because of this expertise, they often take for granted what they know, how they think, as well as how they navigate text in their field. In the course, I use the metalinguistic protocol and think-aloud process to open up conversations about socially situated literacies (Gee, 1999) which includes disciplinary literacies and the complexities involved in reading disciplinary texts.

Using think-alouds as a tool for exploring cognitive processes related to language and thinking is not new. They can, in fact, be traced back to the time of Socrates. Think- aloud protocols have been used in reading (Afflerbach, 2002; Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995) as well as disciplinary studies (Wineburg, 1991, 2001). Braunger, Donahue, Evans and Galguera (2005) used a think-aloud protocol in a reading apprenticeship assignment in their secondary teacher preparation courses to examine the challenges of reading and learning from academic texts. I have adapted the metalinguistic protocol using the work of the forenamed researchers for the purpose of making explicit the unique language and thinking of the different disciplines.

It is generally accepted that the disciplines consist of four broad academic areas of study: science, mathematics, social sciences and the arts and humanities. Each of the disciplines has its own unique knowledge structure and ways of thinking; use of language or discourse; and ways of looking at or reading the world. Woolman (2000) suggests science as an empirical way of knowing using logic to think with the scientific method; mathematics as a logical way of knowing using mathematical methods for thinking; social sciences, such as history, as a factual way of knowing pre-determined by authority with cause and effect thinking about how the past informs the present; and the arts and humanities as aesthetic ways of knowing and communicating thinking through the language of the sign systems such as literature, art, music, and dance or athletics. …

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