The research project arranged in Nazarbaev Intellectual School in Petropavlovsk, illustrates the background, reasons for and the importance of developing of students’ academic writing skills and will allow teachers to improve their teaching and support students in effective studying and deep understanding of science subjects.
Keywords: literacy, research project, teaching languages, deep understanding science subjects, NIS experience transmission.
Данная статья освещает исследовательский проект «Развитие академической грамотности через комплекс учебных программ», который проводится в Назарбаев Интеллектуальной школе химико-биологического направления г. Петропавловска. Автор описывает предосылки, причины и важность организации проекта в рамках сначала методических объединений языковых дисциплин и затем в рамках всей школы, освещает изученную литературу по данной теме и делится проведенным объемом работы по развитию академической грамотности учащихся через глубокое понимание такого преподавания учителями всех предметов.
Ключевые слова: академическая грамотность, исследовательский проект, преподавание языковых дисциплин, понимание естественных предметов, трансляция опыта школы НИШ.
Strong literacy skills lay at the heart of a student’s ability to learn and succeed in school and beyond. “Literacy is an essential skill for student in becoming successful learners and as a foundation for success in all learning areas. Success in any learning area depends on being able to use the significant, identifiable and distinctive literacy that is important for learning and representative of that content area. 
The importance of literacy is also linked to social justice equity and equality issues. Students who do not develop literacy skills are in danger of becoming disempowered and of having greatly reduced life opportunities. And while, as Cope and Kalantzsis  argue this maybe “ a delusion to think education could ever be an instrument that ameliorates society’s most fundamental ills” many teaches working with disadvantaged students hold on to the hope that their work will transform the lives of their students in positive ways. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting authority  classifies literacy as the “ability for students to become literate through the development of knowledge, skills and dispositions, in order to interpret and use the language of learning and communicating within school and life beyond compulsory education.’’ The ability to read, view, write, listen, speak, and create oral, visual, print and digital texts, whilst using language in a way that targets a variety of languages and contexts enables a student to develop literacy skills. 
At our teaching practice at Nazarbaev Intellectual School (NIS) English teachers estimated from monitoring language skills that undeveloped academic writing skills is the first issue that students came across from the beginning of school year. It was an essential consequence of limited time of previous standards of teaching foreign languages directed for teaching and developing communication versus writing. Therefore, we identified research question of our action research from simple teaching written tasks to more general meaning of multiliteracy approach in educating process where language teachers are engaged together with subject teachers. It was essentially pointed out that the teaching of writing should be developed very powerfully and consistently across the curriculum.
The teaching of literacy across the curriculum is now firmly embedded in most Western Education systems. Whilst the Language and Literacy strand, of the subject English, or the first language, has as its primary focus the sequential development of the key literacy skills associated with reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening, “ students need to become literate across a range of subject areas … each of these areas has specialized and sometimes idiosyncratic literacy practices and conventions. 
All teachers now must not only see themselves as teachers of specific content areas, such as mathematics, Geography, History but also as teachers of literacy. In order to respond effectively to the literacy learning need of their students all teachers need to become highly effective in the practices of literacy teaching and learning. “All teachers then should be aware of the literacy complexities and challenges of the tasks they ask their students to do, and be skilled and expert at planning, coordinating and orchestrating learning activities”. (Henderson & Exley, 2012) The days of assuming that students learn these skills in subject English, (Russian or Kazakh) and that the teachers of these subjects have the sole responsibly of teaching these skills is long gone and will never return. Although English teachers initiated to develop a rigorous project that would take into account the above issues and challenges.
The first objective in our action research was to determine the specific genres that learners would encounter throughout the curriculum in years 7–12 in all subject areas. Mapping of written tasks that students come across at school curriculum, ‘clarifying theories’ context’ and ‘literature review of the action research’ showed the necessity to do wider approach to literacy in our school. It was identified that many teachers were not explicitly teaching the literacy skills needed in subject areas rather they were assuming that students were learning these skills in English, Russian or Kazakh language lessons. Students were becoming confused about the way teachers were approaching the explicit instruction of genres, both the syntactic features and the schematic structure. Some teachers were explicitly teaching the writing of the same genre, in different subjects; however, they were using different models and language to describe the schematic and syntactic features of each genre. Assumptions, about learner’s proficiency and skill in being able to write common genres, had also resulted in students receiving no explicit teaching of some genres. It was also identified that many teachers lacked enough literacy skills themselves.
To overcome the issues English, Kazakh and Russian language teaches conducted several workshops where they determined the common terminology for teaching writing and compiled the “Writing guide” to assist NIS students in improving their written communication.
In order to ensure that all learners received the appropriate explicit teaching of the syntactic and schematic structure of each genre encountered in the NIS curriculum it was considered to create a whole school guide to the teaching and writing of genres. Like all teachers, subject specific teachers need to understand that learning to become literate is a complex process. In order to be an effective teacher of literacy, in any subject area, teachers need to be able to connect theory with practice and be able to articulate ‘why they are doing what they are doing’ (Wilkinson). Henderson (2012) argues that planning for literacy teaching is complex and necessary.
While there are many competing theories as to what constitutes the most effective literacy teaching evident in schools today, what is widely agreed upon is that ‘there is no one size fits all curricular and pedagogical model for literacy teaching and learning and that the effective literacy teacher will need to have a wide repertoire of practices.  In order to develop a wide repertoire of practices, the subject area teacher needs to consider all perspectives and theoretical viewpoints represented in the research literature and shape these perspectives and viewpoints in such a way that they cater for the needs of individual students in their own unique contexts. Specifically, the teacher of specific subject area need to become familiar with the theories that have become an important part of educational policy initiatives since the late 1990’s and that are currently being enacted in schools across Australia, the UK and the USA.
Humanity subjects are ideal vehicles for the explicit teaching of literacy skills, through the comprehension and composition of this variety of genres and text types these subject typically have two strands: knowledge and understanding and inquiry and skills. Both strands have specific literacies that are unique and fundamental to accessing and demonstrating the educing understandings and essential skills of the subject. That is why our action research group decided to begin firstly with humanity subjects.
After analyzing the map of written tasks across the school curriculum with humanity and science teachers we collectively have come to understanding that exactly argumentative writing is the most needed, consistent and powerful learning tool to deepen dialogical and dialectical learning and thinking.
Teaching dialogical and dialectical thinking is an imperative, as generally speaking, students learn best when they are given the opportunity to express their views and analyze other’s points of view. Even when dealing with a mono-logical problem found in mathematics, for example, students best learn by being given opportunities to learn dialogically (through constructivism) before coming to the correct mono-logical answer. Teachers must establish learning environments where students are encouraged to progress from the dialogical to the dialectical. Simply put, dialogue becomes dialectical when ideas or reasoning comes into conflict with each other. There is then a need to evaluate their various strengths and weaknesses and develop one’s position, verdict or draw conclusions, solve problems, and develop new ideas. Given the challenges that society faces in today’s modern world, it is even more imperative that we, as teachers, develop dialogical and dialectical teaching and learning contexts across the curriculum.
NIS teachers of History, Kazakh in the Modern World, Russian, Kazakh, English and the Sciences considered actively pursue the processes for teaching argumentative writing. In all subjects, there are key technical terms and associated vocabulary that students must learn if they are able to access the key concepts and content of the subject. They need to understand the vocabulary associated with the key content in each subject area. They need to understand the language of maps, diagrams, and photographs. They need to be able to classify and describe, analyze and evaluate, label, write reports and a range of other non-fiction texts and genres. Students are to consider revising similar structures, demands, scaffolding, assessment, and moderation processes no matter the subject. The quality of teaching is widely acknowledged as the largest in-school determinant of variation in student’s achievement. Therefore, this year Action research group of three English department teachers jointly with two international teachers have started the intense professional development seminars for the whole teachers’ stuff via introducing academic requirements of argumentative writing. This group selected the trainers of each department to participate in ‘train the trainer’ model of professional development. The collaborative action research has been started and the long-term outcome of our research work will be literally educated student with deep understanding of dialogical and dialectical thinking.
Based on what we have already investigated, our research group determined that all students need inspired, informed, and dedicated explicit instruction in the specific literacy skills of each subject they encounter. Well-versed in academic literacy and subject content teachers will give them support in developing argumentative writing. In addition to the teaching of specific content knowledge, it will be the quality of literacy teaching and learning practices, in every classroom, in every lesson that will ensure that student learn well in all subject areas.
- Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), General Capabilities: Literacy. Available from www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/General Capabilities/Literacy, 2013
- B. Cope & M. Kalantzsis, ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), p 164–195, 2009.
- Henderson & B. Exley, Planning for Literacy Learning. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press, p19, 2012
- R. Henderson, (Ed.).Teaching literacies in the middle years: Pedagogies and diversity. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press, p 21, 2012