Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Member

Phillip Wilder

Committee Member

Jeff Marshall

Committee Member

Rachelle Savitz

Committee Member

Mikel Cole


National science proficiency scores in America have failed to show significant improvement for years (, 2019). Although policy reforms have come and gone in attempt to influence these trends, Disciplinary Literacy (DL) theory currently stands center-stage as one of the most recently espoused approaches to improving students’ scientific illiteracy. However, the field of DL theory is ideologically fragmented and offers little in terms of applicable strategies for practitioners (Fang, 2012a). Consequently, enacting DL instruction requires teachers to draw on highly specialized disciplinary knowledge and experience to inform their application of an incomplete DL theoretical framework (Saraceno, 2019). Yet, research shows that specialized disciplinary education and experience has been a weakness of many teacher certification programs (Brown & Melear, 2007). Therefore, the goal of this multi-case study was to examine the DL instructional practices of three secondary science educators— who did have professional disciplinary experience and acquired their teaching credentials through alternative certification programs—to better understand how DL theory can and cannot be operationalized in secondary science classrooms. Findings revealed that institutional expectations and lack of support/resources were the most significant contributors to instructional challenges faced by participating teachers. Findings also suggested an effective pattern of approaches to solving common problems among participants. The conclusions drawn from this study have implications for teacher preparation programs, professional development designers, and administrators who want to support DL instruction in their schools. Moreover, each participant demonstrated practical responses to real classroom challenges that can inform other teachers’ future instructional decisions in similar contexts. Lastly, the findings of this study lay groundwork for future research on the challenges to DL instruction, practical applications of DL theory, DL in teacher certification and professional development programs, and using GOAT and/or DLPCK as theoretical frameworks for analyzing teachers’ classroom instructional activities.



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