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Transdisciplinary Literacy for Third Millennial Students

Posted on: June 15, 2021

In this blog Enrique A. Puig and Kathy S. Froelich, authors of Teaching K-12 Transdisciplinary Literacy, discuss the importance of transdisciplinary literacy.

We are all living through the impact of a pandemic that has opened our eyes to the importance of an abundance of education. Clearly, an abundance of education includes the language arts, mathematics, sciences, social studies, and arts. The intermingling of all these disciplines is what has ultimately led to solution-seeking behaviors that is helping find cures and engaging communities to help each other. Silos of knowledge has never helped humanity move forward. Consequently, an abundance of education means creating conditions for learning that foster transdisciplinary literacy learning. With that said, how do we promote transdisciplinary literacy learning that focuses on the reciprocity of the disciplines to generate new thinking?

What should transdisciplinary literacy instruction address?

Proficient learners are perpetually becoming transdisciplinary literate. That is, proficient learners draw from disciplinary funds of knowledge (Moll et al, 1992) and experiences to comprehend and create what Rosenblatt (2005) refers to as a poem or a defensible interpretation. Therefore, transdisciplinary literacy instruction needs to address process and content that take students from only subject-centered experiences to solution-seeking experiences that will promote and prompt minds to think beyond conventional minimum core standards.

What do we need to do to make forward shifts in transdisciplinary literacy instruction?

Watchwords are words or phrases used to express a person’s or a group’s fundamental purpose or conviction. Learning, teaching, and leading are critical watchwords in education today. Ample literature documents the importance of coherence or flow (Fullan & Quinn, 2016; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017) in professional learning and its impact on student learning (Hattie, 2009).  In our work with teacher-colleagues and teacher leaders, we have found that when schools do not have a coherent K-12 transdisciplinary literacy framework that considers student learning from kindergarten through 12th grade, instruction (as well as learning and leading) unravels from grade level to grade level.  When this occurs, instruction, teacher leaders, and the work of literacy leadership teams tend to be all over the road and nearly impossible to sustain and expand success; never mind guide students in the right direction (Pennell, 2020).  Hence, it may be one of the causes of why we see standardized test scores drop from elementary to middle school, and further from middle school to high school.  In order for professional learning experiences to sustain and have intense effects on student learning, consideration needs to be given to the implementation of a coherent K-12 transdisciplinary literacy framework that support teacher-colleagues in supporting students intentionally and imaginatively over time.  Additionally, we have found that to amplify the implementation of a coherent K-12 transdisciplinary literacy framework, the work of high quality, knowledgeable, and passionate teacher leaders (such as school-level, administrators, district-level administrators, and literacy coaches) in conjunction with a knowledgeable literacy leadership team is invaluable.

How can we implement a coherent framework for transdisciplinary literacy instruction?

Teaching K-12 Transdisciplinary Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework for Learning and Leading presents a core of illustrative extensively researched instructional practices tempered by years of common sense teaching experiences in tandem with the experiences of many mentor and distance teachers.  It is intended to fill the void in school reform models that utilize a collaborative leadership model supported by knowledgeable teacher leaders as lead learners in an era of core standards and high stakes testing.  Although this text can definitely stand alone to support teacher-colleagues and teacher leaders in implementing appropriate instructional practices, especially within Multi-Tier Systems of Support and Response to Intervention/Instruction (RtI2), it is intended as a companion volume to other texts to accelerate forward shifts for everyone in a school system – from teacher leaders to teacher-colleagues actively involved in curating multisensory learning environments.  

Why should we focus on transdisciplinary literacy learning and instruction?

Curating present day transdisciplinary multisensory K-12 learning environments may include computers, electronic interactive white boards, downloadable books, virtual realities, augmented realities and more; but truly powerful instruction occurs with a vigilant, vigorous, sensitive, and mindful teacher supported by mentor-colleagues over time to make informed instructional decisions (Puig & Froelich, 2011). Teaching K-12 Transdisciplinary Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework for Learning and Leading is written for teacher leaders, teachers, schools, and school systems to educate (not just school) and cultivate third millennium students who not only think outside of the box, but who design boxes to think outside themselves and serve as springboards for others as we all become transdisciplinary literate.