Operationalizing and validating disciplinary literacy in secondary education

Read Writ. 2018;31(6):1401-1434. doi: 10.1007/s11145-018-9839-4. Epub 2018 Mar 21.


The goal of this study was to define the construct and establish the validity of disciplinary literacy, which has recently gained attention from the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers in Common Core State Standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects [PDF]. Authors, Washington, DC, 2010). After defining disciplinary literacy in the four core disciplines of English language arts, science, history and social studies, and mathematics, scales were developed and administered to a snowball sample of professionals nationwide, with 857 respondents. The data showed evidence of disciplinary literacy as a multidimensional construct with three related factors: source literacy, analytic literacy, and expressive literacy. Based on EFA and CFA results, we can conclude that there are at least three types of literacy in operation among the four core disciplines. The three factors of literacy varied significantly by the four core disciplines of English/language arts (ELA), science, history and social studies, and mathematics, supporting the notion that each discipline uses literacy uniquely. This is the first study of its kind to attempt to define, quantify, and validate the construct of disciplinary literacy.

Keywords: Disciplinary literacy; Literacy in history; Literacy in mathematics; Literacy in science; Secondary education.