A Case Study of Literacy Teaching in Six Middle- and High-School Science Classes in New Zealand

  • Aaron WilsonEmail author
  • Rebecca Jesson


This chapter reports a case study of the literacy practices and knowledge of six science teachers in Auckland, New Zealand (NZ). In NZ, the national curriculum requires that students develop sophisticated, subject-specialised literacy in science. However, little is known about actual patterns of literacy teaching and learning in NZ science classrooms. Participants were six teachers of science from schools serving low to middle socio-economic status communities. Two teachers taught Year 7 (students aged 11–12 years), two taught Year 9 (13–14 years) and two taught Year 11 (15–16 years). The data included observations of literacy teaching in science lessons, interviews with teachers and measures of teachers’ subject literacy pedagogical content knowledge. Data from all three sources indicated that teachers considered vocabulary to be the key to literacy learning in science, and the literacy teaching observed was consistent with this. This vocabulary teaching tended to focus on definitions, supplied by the teacher and learned through repeated practice activities. Texts used in science lessons were most commonly short, teacher designed texts. Students had few opportunities to read science texts independently. We identify a need to expand the learning outcomes that are valued, from a primary focus on assessed science content to a broader focus that encompasses reading, writing, disciplinary and critical literacy outcomes. We see an opportunity to frame students, rather than teachers, as being responsible for the reading and writing of science text and to move from constrained to open-ended literacy learning tasks. Finally, we identify a need to move beyond short-term strategies towards a focus on generative teaching so that students are in a position to read and write the texts they need as citizens or as emerging science professionals.


New Zealand disciplinary literacy adolescent literacy science teacher observations 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Woolf Fisher Research Centre, School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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