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Designing for Travel: A Design Research Collaboration to Develop Practical Knowledge about Disciplinary Reading Instruction


Students encounter an increasing number and variety of texts as they advance from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Among literacy researchers and educators, there is growing recognition that elementary and secondary students need instruction to know how to evaluate these different types of texts and synthesize information across them. One instructional approach is to teach students the disciplinary reading practices that experts use. These disciplinary literacy expectations are now reflected in a number of state learning standards and curriculum frameworks. A disciplinary literacy approach to instruction requires educators to rethink what it means to teach reading comprehension as part of subject matter curricula, such as science and social studies. My dissertation study explored how fifth- and sixth-grade teachers incorporated disciplinary reading practices within their grade-level curricula. I used a collaborative design-based research approach to study how teachers configured, and reconfigured, reading instruction to teach disciplinary reading practices as part of social studies lessons.

Across three cumulative phases of research and design, I partnered with fifth- and sixth-grade teachers at two elementary schools. I focused on the ways the collaborative design process leveraged teachers’ expertise and local curricula while concurrently generating knowledge about practice. In the first phase of the study, I explored how teachers structured reading activities as part of multiple subject area lessons at one school. In the second phase, I worked with the same teachers to design and study instructional routines for teaching students to evaluate and corroborate sources of information about history. In the third phase of the study, I examined how a teacher at a second school incorporated one instructional routine into the social studies curriculum. I attended to how the design process supported the travel of the instructional routine to the second school. This study contributes to our understanding of how elementary school teachers can reorganize social studies lessons to help students become active and critical readers of texts about history, how researchers can support teachers to incorporate historical reading practices into their social studies curriculum, and the ways a collaborative design process can build local capacity for instructional change and improvement.

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