Secondary Education and Content Literacy in Inclusive Classrooms

Secondary Education and Content Literacy in Inclusive Classrooms

Nichole Lynnette Smith (North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, USA) and Dawn C. Waegerle (North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0204-3.ch032
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Abstract

The purpose of this research study was to examine the impact on teachers' understanding and use of content literacy strategies at the secondary level. Teachers' perceptions, perspectives, understanding and implementation of content literacy practices were examined over six months to determine study effects. In the voluntary professional development (PD) series, participants completed pre- and post- PD surveys, pre- and post- PD focus group interviews, pre- and post- PD peer and researcher observations, along with online and face-to-face PD sessions. It was expected that the participants' content literacy teaching practices would increase by participating in this multidimensional sustained PD project.
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Introduction

Literacy in the secondary grades is very different and more complex than the literacy children encounter in the elementary grades (Fang & Schleppegrell, 2010). Early elementary literacy focuses on specific foundational reading skills needed to become a fluent reader, while in upper elementary grades that skill focus becomes reading to learn. At the secondary level, students must use complex literacy skills to construct meaning from many types of text to communicate understanding in a variety of ways (Gritter, 2010; Hyslop, 2010; Misulis, 2009). Because of the complexity of literacy at the secondary level, basic reading and writing are no longer enough to engage with the ever increasing knowledge and growth in content available through the internet and other media. Content area teachers must include sound research and evidence-based literacy practices in their instruction (Alvermann, Friese, Beckman, & Rezak, 2011; Moje, 2008; Trent, 2012). Many teachers are not fully aware of the breadth of the scope of literacy components that may be included in their instruction, which in turn enhances students’ skill and ability (Miller, 2010; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). Secondary teachers particulary need additional research and evidence-based content literacy professional development and instruction that easily incorporates into various subject areas (Moje, 2008). This professional development should include sixth through twelfth grade teachers who teach math, science, english, social studies, the arts, career and technical education, etc. Additional instructional knowledge and skills will become transformative to their teaching practice as they further develop broad literacy proficiency for students to meet current and future needs for our society.

This research study examined the impact sustained professional development (PD) had on secondary content area teachers’ understanding and use of content literacy strategies in diverse inclusive classrooms. Teachers’ perceptions, perspectives, understanding and implementation of content literacy practices were examined. In the voluntary PD program, consisting of 20 contact hours over six months, participants completed pre- and post- PD surveys, pre- and post- PD focus group interviews, pre- and post- PD peer and facilitator observations, along with online and face-to-face PD sessions. The PD facilitators aimed to increase the participating secondary teachers’ understanding and use of evidence-based content literacy teaching practices.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Diverse Inclusive Classrooms: A classroom that contains a wide array of students at varying learning abilities. Students in these classrooms may be of average, below average, or above average intelligence, as well as receive Exceptional Children (EC) or English as a Second Language (ESL) Services.

Sustained Professional Development: Professional development that occurs over an extended period of time where engaged participants share experiences and resources while practicing learned strategies, observing each other in action, and discussing what they have learned.

Content Area: The specific discipline area that one teaches or focuses on. Most often, content areas in secondary grades are math, science, English, social studies, the arts, and career and technical education.

Content/Disciplinary Literacy: Literacy skills and strategies that are applied to the specific content/disciplinary areas to support disciplinary and literacy development.

Professional Learning Community (PLC): A professional development group typically in the same group or district that meets regularly to collaborate and develop instructional practices to support students’ learning.

Continuing Education Unit (CEU): A unit of learning credit provided to in-service teachers. One unit is the equivalent of one hour of learning. Learning credits may be awarded for professional development completion, conference attendance, graduate work, etc.

Secondary: A term used to describe sixth through twelfth grade students and their teachers.

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