In today’s fast-changing knowledge society, young people need to quickly grasp the ‘rules of the game’ for building different kinds of knowledge. This project will explore how teachers apprentice students into the principles for knowledge-building embodied by academic subjects using the multimodal and digital resources of modern classrooms. Through in-depth case studies of entire units in secondary school Science and History, the project examines how their distinctive epistemic and semiotic principles are unfolded through teaching practice. Its outcomes will advance theoretical and professional understanding by bringing together sociological and linguistic approaches to give crucial insights into how schooling can support lifelong learning.


  • ARC Discovery Project, $360,241 (Administered by the University of Sydney)



Research partners

  • Associate Professor K. Maton, University of Sydney (Project lead)
  • Professor J.R. Martin, University of Sydney
  • Professor Len Unsworth, LSIA
  • Dr. S. Howard University of Wollongong

Research problem

To succeed in today’s knowledge society, young people need to quickly grasp the organising principles for building different forms of knowledge. This interdisciplinary project explores how teachers marshal the resources of modern classrooms to apprentice students into subject-specific principles for knowledge-building in Science and History.


Following an extensive audit of teaching resources in use in years seven and eight science and history, and recruitment of schools and teachers in the first year of the project, detailed video data collection of classroom interaction in the conduct of two-week units of work in year seven science and history in three schools and all student work produced in those work units has now almost been completed. Analysis of this data has just begun. Data collection and analysis of year eight history and science units of work will be undertaken in 2015. The work to date has involved the development of innovative classroom video data collection techniques and new approaches to data coding are now being pursued. A number of problematic issues relevant to pedagogies for knowledge building have become apparent in preliminary data inspections. These include the manner in which literacy practices are developed within the subject area teaching and the practices by which the teaching of history and geography are integrated into a single subject area in some secondary school contexts.


Maton, K. (2014). Close encounters of the third kind: Exploring education with Legitimation Code Theory and systemic functional linguistics, 41st International Systemic Functional Congress and X Latin-American Systemic Functional Congress, National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, April.

Gill, T., Maton, K., Martin, J.R., Unsworth, L., & Howard, S.K. (2013). Riding the next wave: Facing challenges for linguists posed by knowledge-building, ASFLA Annual Conference, Melbourne, October.

Martin, J.R. (in press., accepted Sept, 2014). Exploring content: building knowledge in school discourse. L T Lai, A. Mahboob & P Wang [Eds.] Proceedings of the 8th International Free Linguistics Conference. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.


November 17, 2016

LSIA Research Team

Professor Len Unsworth

Research Status


Research Partners

Associate Professor K. Maton, University of Sydney (Project lead)

Professor J.R. Martin, University of Sydney

Dr. S. Howard University of Wollongong



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