Research School Network: Developing Academic Literacy in Your Subject

Developing Academic Literacy in Your Subject

by Kingsbridge Research School
on the


Lists of key words – that’s the answer! Words on walls, words in books, words everywhere! The more ostentatious the better, so that we can loudly proclaim that WE DO LITERACY.

Such is often the response to a top-down approach to literacy, where boxes need to be firmly – and visibly – ticked. Yet changing the question from what can you do for literacy’ to what can literacy do for you’ can throw up some interesting opportunities – at least it did at a recent twilight session at our college.

Teachers had been given time to develop ideas for disciplined enquiries and a small number had decided that something simply had to be done about their students’ literacy. By chance, Geography, PE, Physics and Business Studies teachers arrived seeking a solution to precisely the same problem: how to improve students’ responses for the extended writing questions in exams. It was not a lack of knowledge, they felt, that was holding their students back, but rather the ability to express it.

So, what to do?

One route that sparked interest came from the Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 Guidance Report (a publication with much to recommend it at secondary too) and the section on teaching writing composition strategies. What if teachers adopted a more explicit approach to the modelling and practising of writing strategies? What if they explicitly taught planning rather than simply encouraging it? What if they taught meta-cognition and self-regulation as part of the writing process?

Thus it is that a group of teachers from a broad range of subjects have elected to experiment with evidence-led approaches to extended writing. Box ticking this is not. Quite what the outcome will be remains to be seen; but it’s unlikely to be more words on the wall.

Scott Davies an SLE for SWTSA and part of the Kingsbridge Research School Team with an interest and expertise in Literacy across Key Stages 1- 4. He is currently working on a project that will bring EEF Literacy Guidance training opportunities to the Southwest. If you are interested in evidence-based approaches to improving literacy for children in your school, send us a message asking to be kept up to date with these developments.

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