Research School Network: Guest blog: Implementing Disciplinary Literacy by Rebecca Edwards Rebecca Edwards is Deputy Head Teacher at Devonport High School for Boys


Guest blog: Implementing Disciplinary Literacy by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca Edwards is Deputy Head Teacher at Devonport High School for Boys

by Kingsbridge Research School
on the

Although our journey of developing the understanding and implementation of disciplinary literacy strategies with staff is still underway, the implementation plan and the process of developing that plan is firmly in place.

For anyone new to implementation planning, I would like to share my three top tips’ and explore how these have impacted on the success of our disciplinary literacy journey at Devonport High School for Boys.

Top Tip #1

Plan with the end goal in mind.

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Like many schools we have had a teaching and learning literacy focus for numerous years. Four years ago, that focus was very much about developing oracy skills. The majority of staff had an understanding of the importance of literacy activities being embedded within teaching across all subjects and taking responsibility for it within their own planning and teaching.

Following the publication of the EEF Guidance Report, Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools’, it was natural to further develop our whole school literacy focus towards disciplinary literacy. Having explored our strengths and areas for development with the team of school middle leaders, supporting the use of disciplinary vocabulary stood out as a significant need.

Having a clear vision of what it would look like’ when students had grasped the use of disciplinary literacy in their written work and verbal interactions was vital to ensure that the implementation plan was fit for purpose. Our vision is for every student to be confidently and accurately using Tier 2 and Tier 3 disciplinary vocabulary.

Top Tip #2

Make small, clearly defined changes with a big impact.

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When considering the disciplinary literacy implementation plan in its entirety, one of the key aims in developing it was to make sure that the active ingredients were suitably devised so that their intended impact was communicable and observable, and clearly linked to our desired outcomes.

Our approach to disciplinary vocabulary requires, for example, that:

There are planned opportunities to develop and practise key vocabulary, which means:

- Planned vocabulary development is built into schemes of work
- Tasks that get students to use and talk about the key vocabulary are built into schemes of work

Teachers provide explicit explanations of key vocabulary, which means:

- Teachers define vocabulary and give directive context (context that helps illustrate its meaning)
- Teachers give usage examples and ask students to generate examples

These adaptations to teaching require little additional workload but have high leverage in terms of the outcome. They are therefore among the main active ingredients within the plan and over time have become the norm in terms of planning learning activities which embed the development and use of disciplinary vocabulary across the curriculum.

Top Tip #3

Review, review, review.…..and adapt if necessary.

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As with any school improvement priority it is important to review not only what you are doing but the impact that the changes are having across teaching and learning and on student outcomes.

The implementation plan therefore had built into it clear points for formal review as well as more informal meetings of middle leaders with the implementation team, to share best practice ideas and to gather responses to determine impact.

Review points also helped to identify where additional support and training was needed to be planned in for staff too and this meant that the plan had the fluidity to evolve.

Currently we are only part way through our implementation journey. However, the initial plan has provided us with a structural framework which means that a common goal is shared and will be recognised in the outcome that we are aiming for.

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