Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Janet C. Richards


communities of practice, disciplinary literacy, historical literacy, reading, writing


In this inquiry, I investigated three Advanced Placement United State History teachers' beliefs, knowledge, and implementation of disciplinary literacy pedagogy in their Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) classrooms. My interest in disciplinary literacy evolved from my own experiences as a high school social studies teacher and middle school intensive reading teacher. With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, whose emphasis is, in part, on discipline-specific literacy, across the United States in 2014-2015, I recognize the need for research relevant to discipline-specific practices in the classroom. I want to contribute further to the understandings of disciplinary literacy pedagogy.

According to the extant literature, teaching discipline-specific literacy practices is one way in which teachers approach social studies classes. However, it is not the most common model teachers' use. Moreover, the majority of the literature on disciplinary literacy pedagogy focuses on reading practices as opposed to reading and writing. Insufficient information exists in the disciplinary literacy literature base on discipline-specific reading and writing pedagogical practices in the secondary classroom.

In this research, I utilized a qualitative design, specifically a descriptive case study to gain an understanding of three teachers beliefs, knowledge, and implementation of disciplinary literacy pedagogy. Data were two interviews with each participant, my observation notes, concept maps of a historical literacy teacher, classroom artifacts/documents, and a researcher reflexive journal. I chose descriptive coding for my within-case analysis and pattern coding for my cross-case analysis. After multiple readings of the data, I analyzed the interview transcripts, the concept maps devised by each of three historical literacy teachers, my observation notes, and classroom artifacts/documents using descriptive coding and pattern coding and categorizing themes. The following themes emerged from the coding process: Shay 1) implemented historical thinking skills and strategies specifically, he identified the importance of historical people, places, and events, encouraged the use of primary sources as evidence, and contextualized historical documents in class instruction; he 2) acquired disciplinary literacy beliefs and knowledge during his college preparation; and he 3) utilized collaborative groups in his classroom instruction. Michelle 1) acquired disciplinary literacy knowledge and beliefs in graduate school; 2) developed disciplinary knowledge as an Advance Placement grader; 3) prioritized questioning and manipulation of evidence in classroom instruction; and 4) varied instruction in her class according to the levels of her students. George 1) implemented intermediate literacy strategies in his classroom instruction; 2) acquired knowledge and beliefs about disciplinary literacy in graduate school; and 3) believed relevance of the content was crucial in meeting the needs of his students.

Through cross-case analysis, I discovered seven common themes and two differences. All three teachers 1) believed in student-centered classrooms was the best pedagogical choice for classroom instruction; 2) utilized document analysis in the history classroom; 3) established communities of learning in the classroom; 4) believed civic efficacy was the purpose of social studies learning; 5) utilized close reading and text-dependent questions in the classroom; 6) apprenticed their students in the argumentative genre; and 7) varied their instruction to meet the needs of their students. Two differences emerged, which also adds to the production of new knowledge involving the study participants. All three teachers1) exhibited varied levels of understanding of text, literacy, intermediate literacy, and disciplinary literacy, which influenced their pedagogical choices in the classroom and 2) demonstrated varied understandings of what constitutes a writing strategy.

Within my recommendations for teacher education, I address disciplinary literacy pedagogy and content-area literacy courses. Recommendations for future research include research on comprehensive literacy, disciplinary literacy pedagogy, and collaboration among teacher educators and discipline-specific professors. It is especially important that discipline-specific teacher incorporate the disciplinary literacy pedagogy in the classroom because of the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards recommend students to not only utilize discipline-specific literacy skills in the classroom but also to be able to transfer knowledge from one discipline to another. Thus, research on comprehensive literacy--a combination of discipline-specific literacy practices and curriculum-wide literacy practices and disciplinary literacy is warranted in the literacy community.