Facilitating A Conversation: Literacy Across the Curriculum

Where do we start when the goal is to inform faculty that the school improvement plan includes a focus on literacy across the curriculum?

I know the thought might automatically go to the inevitable groans of “I don’t have time for that;" however, behind those groans is some truly great thinking. This occurs when conversation is valued over compliance in the initial process.

1.     Start with what may seem obvious to some: what is the definition of literacy? There needs to be a consensus amongst faculty on what literacy actually means.

According to LiteracyAdvance.org, Literacy is “The ability to read, write, speak and listen, and use numeracy and technology, at a level that enables individuals to express and understand ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, to achieve their goals, and to participate fully in their community and in wider society. Achieving literacy is a lifelong learning process.”

2.     Lay a foundation for understanding the levels of literacy: basic, intermediate, and disciplinary. We used Doug Buehl’s book Developing Readers in the Academic Disciplines as a resource. Understanding that disciplinary literacy is at the highest level of literacy really clicked for some faculty.

3.     Brainstorm what it means to read in each of the academic disciplines. What does it mean to read through a scientific lens? A literary lens? A mathematical lens? Or any of our other academic disciplines? We need to define “What a literate person looks like?” through each of our own disciplinary lenses. Starting with the literacy area of reading is relatable for most faculty members.

4.     Divide into curricular areas. Within these groups, have a faculty leader facilitate the conversation on what a literate student looks like in that content area. I know it may seem elementary, but the blank person outline really worked (after the comments that it looked like a dead body outline-insert laughs).

 Example of a blank literate person outline.

Example of a blank literate person outline.

5.     Collect literate people outlines and dismiss faculty.

6.     Facilitators will then coalesce the ideas. Theresa and I noticed that there was a natural categorization happening. Ideas fit into one or more of the following areas: Standards, Thinking, Methods, Fears, and Content.

Our next steps are to take our findings to administration and plan our next professional development with the faculty. Look for that blog soon.