Chapter 2. Drawing upon applied linguistics to attain goals in an interdisciplinary chemistry–applied linguistics project

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Students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), like students in other tertiary-level areas, benefit from learning to read and write in their disciplines as they progress in their studies. This chapter reports on a successful collaborative project that brought together faculty in chemistry and applied linguistics to analyze the language of chemistry in four types of disciplinary writing (i.e. genres). Findings were used to design instructional materials and develop a discipline-specific course, to be taught by chemistry faculty, aimed at improving students’ disciplinary literacy skills. The focus of the chapter is on the contributions of various subfields of applied linguistics to project goals, emphasizing the contributions of English for Specific Purposes, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, and language teaching pedagogy. Interdisciplinary partnerships, such as the one showcased in this chapter, are particularly fruitful when disciplinary-language issues are at stake. STEM faculty and faculty in language-related disciplines can combine their different but complementary resources to achieve goals that might not be possible to attain independently. With a heightened understanding of disciplinary language and the literacy practices specific to particular STEM fields, meaningful instructional materials and discipline-specific classes can be developed to give students access to and control of the literacy practices and genres valued by STEM fields.


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