The Role of Text in Disciplinary Learning

Authored by: Elizabeth Birr Moje , Darin Stockdill , Katherine Kim , Hyun-ju Kim

Handbook of Reading Research

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780805853421
eBook ISBN: 9780203840412
Adobe ISBN: 9781136891427


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Over the past 30 years of literacy research, developments in sociocultural theories of literate practice have turned many reading researchers from viewing text as the driver of literacy processes and practices toward understanding who readers are and how contexts mediate text comprehension and production. This turn to readers and contexts has been extremely useful in advancing understandings of how and why people read texts differently in and for different contexts and purposes. At the same time, however, recent literacy theories and research studies have not accounted as fully as they might for how text use and comprehension differ as a function of domains of academic disciplines (e.g., history, mathematics, art, etc.) or of everyday life (e.g., homes, communities, churches, etc.). Researchers have attended to features of different genres of text that might shape people’s comprehension (e.g., Graesser, McNamara, & Louwerse, this volume), but we know less, as a field, about how texts are actually used in different domains. This gap is particularly noteworthy when considering the discouraging data on young people’s comprehension of the complex texts of the secondary and postsecondary levels of schooling (ACT, 2006; Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007). As literacy scholars conduct research to enhance the literacy proficiencies of older readers and ready them for postsecondary and workplace settings, it is critical that they attend to the demands of academic, or disciplinary, texts because such texts are key ingredients of disciplinary work and of human interaction, more broadly conceived.

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