Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Middle and Secondary Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Norton-Meier, Lori

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Chisholm, James

Committee Member

Chisholm, James

Committee Member

Howell, Penny

Committee Member

McFadden, Justin

Committee Member

Wolph, Jean

Committee Member

Saul, Wendy

Author's Keywords

disciplinary literacy; student voice; authentic writing; middle school writing; writing to learn; SciJourn


This qualitative research study explores the experiences of six middle school students with science news writing (SciJourn) after they have transitioned to high school. The qualitative method of case study was used with the data analyzed through the method of constructivist grounded theory. SciJourn is a disciplinary approach to science literacy that allows students to choose and research their own topic, interact with experts in the field, construct their own knowledge, and have the opportunity to publish in an on-line science newspaper ( Theoretically, this research draws on science as social practice where literacy learning is cognitively complex, is situated in the social character of human understanding, and involves social co-participation situated in a learning community. With the renewed focus on science literacy and an emphasis on Writing in the Disciplines (WID), research has shown that a shift from general to disciplinary literacy strategies has significantly increased students’ skill and achievement with both higher and lower achieving students. v The six case study students who participated in SciJourn in middle school wrote reflective letters, were interviewed twice, and three participated in a group interview/group activity. Data analysis using the constant comparative method of grounded theory revealed the themes of Learning Language (increased knowledge of writing process and structure), Learning through Language (interest in science content and knowledge of science practice), and Living Language (students found meaning in their experience). Analysis showed the significance of including authentic disciplinary literacy assignments in all content area classrooms. The following appear to be the essential elements that increase the meaning and value of the SciJourn experience for the students: Choosing own topic, having a connection, having a partner, interacting with the outside world (family, editor, experts, audience), and the opportunity to publish. In addition, the key understanding of Negotiation with self and others (peers, family, the editor, experts, and/or an audience) revealed an emotional experience that contributed to increased engagement in the writing process and supported the development of confidence in their ability to complete an authentic writing assignment to a publishable piece.