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Disciplinary Literacy: Why It Matters and What We Should Do About It

Giving access to the tools of knowledge production

At the 2010 National Reading Initiative Conference in New Orleans, keynote speaker Elizabeth Birr Moje discussed the concept and practice of "disciplinary literacy."

Moje said, "If you are working from a disciplinary literacy perspective, you're really trying to work on giving access to the tools of knowledge production and critique. . . . The idea is that you want kids to understand where these ideas come from."

Writing is one vehicle to such understanding, said Moje: "One tool for understanding that is through language, thinking about how we put ideas into oral and written language. That allows us to uncover and then teach and practice different ways of producing knowledge. Once we know how knowledge is produced, then we can critique it, so it isn't really just about teaching kids to be really good science writers, it's giving them access to how science is written so that then they can ask better questions."