Indiana State University Newsroom

University, classroom teachers develop disciplinary literacy program

September 17, 2013


Dozens of teachers from across central Indiana returned to their classrooms this fall prepared with strategies to help students better understand what they're reading in specific subject areas along with ways to use assessments to improve student learning.

Educators at the upper elementary, middle and high school levels took part in the first phase of a "train the trainer" project aimed at disciplinary literacy, assessment, and infusing technology into instruction

Disciplinary literacy means "content specific" literacy, explained Jill Bohnert, business and computer technology teacher at Eastern (Greene) High School in Solsberry.

"Textbook reading is completely different in computer courses vs. English or math. It's more content specific," Bohnert said.

Using PowerPoint presentations, Smartboards and iPads, Bohnert was among 38 classroom teachers from 17 Indiana school districts who participated in the Enhancing Disciplinary Literacy Using Technology and Assessment (EDLUTA) program. Indiana State University's Bayh College of Education faculty, along with faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences are conducting the two-year project in partnership with the Randolph Central and Vigo County school corporations.

The teachers who participated included instructors in science, math, English, business and technology, and social sciences.

"It's been very productive and it's been a good mix," Bohnert said. "We had professors come in and show us how to use different strategies in their content areas and how we can use them in our content area. It's been very beneficial."

Teachers such as Bohnert who went back to school themselves for four days of intensive workshops during the summer learned such things as how to design web pages and incorporate web sites into their lessons. They also learned how to use various disciplinary literacy and assessment strategies to increase student learning.

Teachers also shared ideas they had developed for their own classrooms with their colleagues, said Christine Davies, a math teacher at Terre Haute South Vigo High School.

"Everything involving technology is beneficial to me," Davies said. "I like using the different web sites and feeding off of other teachers and seeing what ideas they have, co-labbing with them and sharing ideas and concepts we've accumulated over the years. We have teachers that are relatively new to the profession and some of us are more seasoned. It's exciting."

Elementary teachers who teach all subject areas found the project especially helpful.

"What I've picked up on and what I'll use in my classroom are some great web sites that I'll use with my kids together in a group- like computer lab atmosphere," said Rachel Williams, a fifth grade teacher at Davis Park Elementary School in Terre Haute. "The students will also be able to use them at home or if they ever go to the public library and log into a computer."

Williams said she was pleasantly surprised to learn how much technology is available to teachers free online, such as Google Voice, a free telephone service linked to Google's gmail e-mail; and Picasa, a photo-editing suite; and Edmodo, a "school friendly" alternative to Facebook.

"As technology changes I feel like I'm always behind," said Kristen Cole, who teaches English at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.

During sessions on web site development, Cole said she found today's technology to be more "user friendly" than she recalled from her college days and she will now be more likely to keep her own web site up to date.


The EDLUTA project is intended to improve classroom implementation of Indiana education standards, including those related to disciplinary literacy, which will result in improved student performance," said Diana Quatroche, professor and chair of the department of elementary, early childhood, and special education in the Bayh College. Seminar sessions took place on the Indiana State University campus and at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute. Other seminar sessions took place at Cascade High School in Clayton and Westchester High School.

"The Vigo County School Corporation is very fortunate to have a long-standing partnership with Indiana State University in promoting pre-service activities and teacher development," said Karen Goeller, the school corporation's deputy superintendent. "We had more than 500 students in extended learning programs at Sarah Scott Middle School this summer and are pleased that ISU wanted to join us at Sarah Scott with high quality staff development activities. We appreciate Dr. Quatroche working with our staff to coordinate the professional development with K-12 standards and our current curriculum and help us deliver engaging activities to meet the needs of all learners."

Teachers who took part in this year's first phase of the project will be asked to join instructors from Indiana State and participating school corporations to train new participants in 2014 and content-area assessment methods will be developed, Quatroche said.

"This will promote a systemic, sustainable professional development infrastructure which will continue beyond the scope of this proposal," she said. "As the literacy demands of our nation have increased and changed, as technological capabilities have expanded and been made widely available, millions of adolescents are left behind without the skills necessary to compete in our global economy. This project ensures that federal school improvements, as outlined by the No Child Left Behind Law, are met and exceeded."

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education funded the EDLUTA project with a $323,000 grant under its 2013 Improving Teacher Quality Partnership grant award program. Participating teachers were recruited from across Indiana school districts with priority given to those from high needs schools.

While the emphasis may be on 21st century technology, some teachers taking part in this summer's seminar found new ways to use tried and true technology from the 20th century.


"We talked about a strategy with sticky notes. When students are reading, maybe a homework assignment, they can put sticky notes in their texts with questions they have," Cole said. "Many times, students will say, ‘I had a question last night but now I can't remember it.' By me making an assignment or giving them points for using (sticky notes), they're going to do it more."

Photo: - Dena Irwin, technology instructor at Shakamak High School, shares tips about building a web page to fellow teachers participating in a disciplinary literacy seminar at Indiana State University, (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Elementary, middle and high school teachers from across central Indiana became students again for five days this summer for a disciplinary literacy seminar in which Indiana State University partnered with the Randolph Central and Vigo County school corporations. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Diana Quatroche, professor and chair, department of elementary, early, and special education, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-2821 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or



Story Highlights

Teachers from 17 school districts across Indiana retrurned to their classrooms this fall prepared to help students with disciplinary literacy, understanding content-specific reading, thanks to a partnership with the Bayh College of Education.

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