Disciplinarity in Schools: Building knowledge through writing

Teenage boy writing

This symposium has been cancelled.
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This symposium is one of the culminating activities resulting from a three-year Australian Research Council (ARC) study involving leading academics Professors Peter Freebody, James Martin and Karl Maton. In collaboration with these and other researchers on the project, participants at the symposium will:

  • explore the outcomes of teachers and researchers working together on literacy learning strategies that address content area knowledge
  • translate the findings into practical activities relevant to the particular setting in which you work
  • discuss how productive literacy change can be supported in schools and systems.
Program
9.00 Registration (tea and coffee provided)

9.30

INTRODUCING THE PROJECT AND PEOPLE | Peter Freebody
This session will introduce the participants and the project: its aims, conceptual features, design, and findings to date. It will set the scene for the following sessions by the research team and the classroom participants.

9.45

Session 1. WHAT DOES CUMULATIVE LEARNING LOOK LIKE? MAKING SEMANTIC WAVES IN KNOWLEDGE | Karl Maton
Cumulative learning is where students are able to transfer their knowledge across contexts and over time. In this presentation, I will draw on cutting-edge ideas from the sociology of knowledge and education to explore how this knowledge-building is enabled by teaching and learning 'semantic waves'. These waves were discovered in this and other research to be a key characteristic of both teaching and high-achieving writing. They describe where knowledge moves in two ways at the same time: from concrete examples up to abstract ideas and then down again to new concrete contexts (strengthening and weakening 'semantic gravity'); and from everyday language to condensed technical terms and then down again to everyday language (strengthening and weakening 'semantic density'). These movements up and down gravity and density trace 'waves' over time. Using examples from classrooms, I explore how such waves are crucial to high achievement in high-stakes reading and writing, show how they can be modelled by teachers in both sciences and the humanities, and discuss how being taught the ability to wave is central to social justice in education.

10.15

Session 2. HOW DOES LANGUAGE DO IT? SURFING SEMANTIC WAVES IN SECONDARY SCHOOL BIOLOGY AND HISTORY | James Martin
In this presentation I'll look at knowledge building from a linguistic perspective, and explore some of the ways in which words, grammar and text organisation (power words, power grammar and power composition) work together in distinctive ways to enact a discipline. More specifically I'll consider the ways in which the meaning of a word is tied up with its relation to other words, the ways in which grammar builds meaning that is more or less abstract, and the ways in which writing looks forward and back as it predicts and summarises specialised understandings of the world.High stakes reading and writing in secondary school biology and history abounds with unfamiliar linguistic patterns of this kind, excluding many adolescents who are ready to access them but can't master on their own by osmosis – who need in other words to be explicitly taught to read and write the patterns in order to learn them, and digest the knowledge they encode.

10.45 Morning Tea

11.15

Session 3: Parallel sessions. INCREASING STUDENTS' SEMANTIC RANGE: SUPPORTING CUMULATIVE KNOWLEDGE BUILDING AND DISCIPLINE-SPECIFIC LITERACY IN THE EXISTING CURRICULUM
Erika Matruglio – Working with Year 11 History / Lucy Macnaught – Working with Year 11 Biology
Incorporating Karl Maton's theory from Session 1 and James Martin's analysis in Session 2, these parallel sessions will demonstrate the way phase 1 findings informed the second phase of the project. These sessions will focus on Year 11 Biology and History respectively. Each session will begin by briefly summarising key challenges that teachers and students face, including the differences between explaining and discussing key concepts through classroom chat and demonstrating understanding through writing. Next, we will introduce the writing-focused curriculum macro-genre that provided the framework for the teacher-research collaboration. This is followed by a summary of how the teaching and learning curriculum model was introduced in our training day with participating teachers and then integrated with the existing curriculum. Lastly, we will present video clips of teachers enacting this model in classrooms.

12.15 Lunch

1.15

Session 4. IMPROVING STUDENTS' WRITING: JOINT CONSTRUCTION IN THE HISTORY CLASSROOM | Vicky Stevens
This session will present a first-hand account of the collaborative research experience situated in an Ancient History classroom. I will discuss several key aspects of the project, including: the specific teaching context, reasons for participating in the project, students' responses, and future support needed. In particular, this presentation will outline the success of engaging students in teacher-led joint construction of writing, and the collaborating researcher will also present results in students' writing development.

2.00

Session 5: Parallel sessions. COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH REPORT | Timothy Sloane & Christopher Keenan (supported by Lucy Macnaught and Erika Matruglio)
In these sessions the teachers involved will provide a first-hand account of the collaborative research experience. They will discuss several key aspects of the project, including: their specific teaching context, their reasons for participating in the project, students' responses, and future support needed. The collaborating researcher will also present results in students' writing development.

2.45 Afternoon Tea

3.15

Session 6. TEACHER WORKSHOP
The purpose of this session is for symposium participants to consider issues to do with cumulative knowledge building in the light of what they have heard from the presentations of the day. Teachers will workshop in groups to consider questions such as the following:

  • How am I currently teaching reading?
  • How am I currently teaching writing?
  • What strategies do I currently use to manage semantic waving in my teaching?
  • What ideas for change do I now have, given what I have heard today?

3.45

Session 7. DISCIPLINARITY AND KNOWLEDGE BUILDING: WHERE TO FROM HERE? | Peter Freebody
This session will summarise the main themes arising from the sessions during the day, their implications for teaching, and policy, but also for teacher education, curriculum design, and future research in the areas of literacy, curriculum and pedagogy.

4.00 Close

(Note: Each session will provide time at the end for questions.)

Enquiries
E: | T: 02 9351 6329