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This article draws on a research project undertaken in a state secondary school that explored ways of engaging students in the content area of science. The paper argues that high school teachers teaching in specialist areas can better cater for student needs through attention to a pedagogy that is literacy focused. This is particularly relevant in content area subjects in the secondary school where many teachers have not had access to pre-service literacy training and, traditionally, teaching approaches have been content focused. Moreover, contemporary schools are now places characterised by linguistic, cultural and social diversity and coupled with Australia’s push for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), it is helpful if science teaching incorporates productive (student engagement) and inclusive (student diversity) approaches. A discursive analysis of classroom talk excerpts from three science lessons is used to make comparisons: one from early in the project where the nature of science teaching was investigated and two as a result of findings from investigating the first. The talk was coded using an IRE (initiation-response-evaluation) structure to show how student activity and engagement increased as a result of a pedagogical change. The findings of this research have implications for the way content areas are taught in some secondary schools.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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