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Building a House on Sand: Why Disciplinary Literacy Is Not Sufficient to Replace General Strategies for Adolescent Learners Who Struggle

Faggella-Luby, Michael N.; Graner, Patricia Sampson; Deshler, Donald D.; Drew, Sally Valentino

doi: 10.1097/TLD.0b013e318245618e
Disciplinary Literacy

There is growing interest in disciplinary literacy instruction as a primary means of improving adolescent literacy outcomes. At times, this disciplinary framework has been represented as a replacement for the more broadly known general strategy instruction. However, disciplinary literacy, a potentially powerful idea, cannot replace general strategy instruction for all adolescent learners because adolescents who struggle with reading and writing do not possess the foundational skills and strategies necessary to learn proficiently. To support this thesis, the authors differentiate between general and discipline-specific strategies, examine the learner characteristics and setting demands that must be addressed in secondary schools, identify trends in the research base for discipline-specific reading comprehension and composition strategies when students who struggle are included in the subject population, and highlight implications from the findings for practitioners related to service delivery that incorporates both disciplinary literacy and general strategy instruction in high schools.

Department of Educational Psychology, Center for Behavioral Education and Research, Neag School of Education, Storrs, Connecticut (Dr Faggella-Luby); University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, Lawrence (Drs Graner and Deshler); and Department of Teacher Education, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain (Ms Valentino Drew).

Corresponding Author: Michael N. Faggella-Luby, PhD, Department of Educational Psychology, Center for Behavioral Education and Research, Neag School of Education, 249 Glenbrook Rd, Unit 2064, Storrs, CT 06269 (

One of the authors (Dr Deshler) wishes to disclose that after validation studies were completed on the Strategic Instruction Model instructional strategies and routines described in this manuscript, some have been published and are available for purchase. The remaining authors have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins