Approximations of disciplinary literacy in English Language Arts: an analysis of high school students' developing understanding of literary analysis
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This study investigated the approximations of disciplinary literacy in high school English Language Arts students’ writing. To study the development of these disciplinary conventions, the portfolios of written literary analyses were examined from fourteen twelfth-grade students over their last two years in high school. The conceptual framework for analysis of data was informed by a developmental approach. Intermediate forms, approximations, or incremental moves students made as they progressed toward the more expert or conventional forms of literary discourse were identified. Analysis focused on macro-characteristics of literary analysis, adapted from the literature on literary studies, rhetoric and composition, and systemic functional linguistics, including Appreciation, Interpretation, Textual Evidence, Warrant, and Response to Literature Genres. Analysis included a cross-case descriptive analysis of macro-characteristic scores on a rubric designed for the study and a cross-case analysis of literary discourse approximations as seen in students’ writing portfolios. Analysis of scores on midterms and finals found that students’ scores increased from Year 1 to Year 2, with Appreciation scores increasing the most. Analysis of literary discourse approximations resulted in several findings: 1) Development in Interpretation was characterized by increasing accuracy of comprehension, logical consistency, and depth of interpretative meaning; 2) Development in Appreciation was characterized by a growing awareness of the role of the author in a literary text; and 3) Response to Literature Genres demonstrated a range of genres, including Character Analysis, Thematic Interpretation, Thematic Analysis, Critical Response, and alternative or hybrid genres. Thematic Analysis is a proposed new genre that differed from the Thematic Interpretation on the elements of subject, audience, and purpose. Additional analysis of student writing portfolios found a growing awareness in many students of the values and beliefs of the academic literary community, or habits of mind of literary disciplinary literacy, including 1) Increased level of familiarity with the audience’s common knowledge in the field, as demonstrated in use of definitions; 2) Understanding of the value of multiple interpretations of literature, as demonstrated in use of graduation resources, such as epistemic hedges or epistemic boosters; and 3) Ability to engage with multiple voices, as demonstrated in instances of intertextuality.