Theses Doctoral

“It’s Like a Puzzle With a Million Pieces”: The Productive Possibilities of Conflict in a Teacher Inquiry Group

Gustafson, Carmela

A large body of recent research calls for expanding what it means to teach literacy in the content areas. This includes movement away from conceiving of content literacy instruction as generic literacy strategies superimposed on content-area text. Instead, the focus is on the discursive literate practices of the disciplines, including ways of thinking, acting, and believing. This disciplinary literacy perspective addresses the literacy demands specific to disciplines such as history and views literacy as socially situated.
Little research has been done to find out how teachers respond to expectations to incorporate literacy in their content area classrooms, and few opportunities exist for teachers to explore the literacy practices inherent in the disciplines, or to collaborate on how these might be taught. Thus, this practitioner research focuses on a teacher inquiry group formed to explore literacy in the middle and secondary social studies classroom. Consistent with practitioner research and an inquiry as stance perspective, the productive and generative potential of tension and conflicts was considered. The talk and activities of teachers were documented as they participated in the group to illuminate the discourses on which teachers drew when they talked about literacy, and to demonstrate how, in this context, teachers might collaboratively interrogate, transform, and generate knowledge around literacy in social studies.
This study contributes to conversations about literacy instruction in subject areas specifically by attending to teachers’ perspectives. The talk was analyzed using a modified discourse analysis approach, framed by perspectives on language described by Gee and Bakhtin. Findings show that the typical discourse patterns of the inquiry group talk were shaped by curricular and institutional expectations that produced normalized notions of what counts as reading and texts in social studies classrooms. Disciplinary discourses were also evident. Additionally, the inquiry group talk was shaped by discourses of student ability that suggested links to racial, socio-economic, and developmental factors, as well as special education labeling. Moments of intensity that arose out of tensions or conflict resulted in the interrogation, transformation, and generation of knowledge around literacy in social studies; it broadened to include discipline-specific practices while continuing to encompass generic ones.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Siegel, Marjorie
Ghiso, Maria Paula
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2019