Four Years in the Making: 12 BYU Professors Publish Book with MSE Faculty Member Roni Jo Draper
For the past four years, twelve BYU professors from across campus have met every two weeks to discuss how to better prepare middle school and high school teachers. Roni Jo Draper, the Teacher Education professor who spearheaded the collaborative discussions, is now publishing a book based on the conversations.
“When we began, we had no idea it would turn into a four year project,” Draper said. “But the ideas we have been discussing are interesting and powerful for teachers of all subjects and grade levels.”
Draper’s group consists of professors in a variety of fields, such as music, fine arts, history, mathematics, biology, engineering, and visual arts, the bi-weekly discussions focused on literacy and what literacy means in each of the respective disciplines.
“Literacy as it is discussed in the book is used differently than our normal understanding of the word,” Draper commented. “Literacy in this sense means being able to understand, create, and negotiate texts in a specific field in a way that others can interpret and gain meaning.” So whereas an artist may become literate in the art field by learning to understand the use of color, shape, light, contrast, and texture, so may a mathematician become literate in the math field by learning how to use and interpret equations, symbols, proofs, and graphs.
The book, (Re)Imagining Content-Area Literacy Instruction, includes 11 chapters, eight of which are written by the participating faculty members and explain how literacy looks in each of the discussed fields. “What’s really different about this book is that those who are discussing the literacies are actually those steeped in the disciplines. Previously, this work has been done by literacy educators alone,” Draper said.
Most universities offer literacy classes for teachers of all disciplines, Draper explained, but because BYU doesn’t, Draper wanted to discuss how she and other content-area teachers could incorporate literacy ideas into the method classes already provided. She commented, “We wanted all our education students to have access to these ideas without having to create a separate course.”
The book also addresses the reasons for the frequent conflict between literacy educators and content area teachers and explains ways to prevent misunderstandings that occur between the two. Most importantly, the book helps prepare future teachers to develop curriculums that better prepare their students to become more literate in each field.
20 September 2010