Revolution Lullabye

November 18, 2014

Jamieson, Reading and Engaging Sources: What Students’ Use of Sources Reveals about Advanced Reading Skills

Jamieson, Sandra. “Reading and Engaging Sources: What Students’ Use of Sources Reveals About Advanced Reading Skills.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Jamieson uses data from the Citation Project and research on student reading skills and source-based writing from 1985 to the present to argue for revised pedagogies in first-year writing courses and beyond that help students acquire the advanced reading skills they need to successfully write source-based research papers. Jamieson contends that college faculty assume students have more sophisticated reading skills than they actually do, and she shows through an analysis of the Citation Project data that students are often working with sources shallowly and on the sentence level.

Jamieson argues that students’ reading difficulties are not the result of Internet-based reading habits; rather, she questions whether the students profiled in earlier research studies in the 1980s and 1990s ever had strong, consistent reading habits.

Jamieson suggests that the traditional research paper, assigned in a majority of first-year writing courses in US colleges and universities, be reframed in order to help students read more deeply, thoroughly, and critically. Instead of asking students to search for and synthesize a dozen or more sources, Jamieson points out that the goals of synthesis and research could be achieved by asking students to write a research paper that includes common course readings and extends the conversation with two carefully-selected outside sources. Jamieson argues that this approach could help instructors focus on teaching reading strategies and summary skills.

Quotable Quotes

“It is my contention that it is an error to assume that the goals instructors believe are being fulfilled by reading are actually the goals their students set out to fulfill by reading. This error leads to additional erroneous assumptions about how and why students read, assumptions that obscure the skills and practices that writing courses across the curriculum should be teaching.”

“Shirley is the student who lives in our collective imagination so strongly that what we believe to be her skills and needs shape curriculum, assignments, information literacy programs, and academic integrity policies.”

“Since I have begun paying systematic attention to the ways students use sources in researched papers, though, I have come to suspect that Shirley never existed. I do not believe that in 1990 there were many college sophomores who were able to read and engage with sources in the way we believed they could. And I don’t believe their children can do so today. This has huge implications for the way we teach and assess student writing and the way we assign and guide student reading. Indeed, I believe it challenges us to entirely rethink our pedagogy and expectations across the curriculum.”

Citation Project data and earlier research “specifically points to the possibility…that first-year writers have uneven success in reading and writing from sources, even from one sentence to the next.”

makes a distinction between misuse of sources and plagiarism: “such source misuse requires a pedagogical intervention rather than judicial action, although I do not mean to in any way minimize the seriousness of the problem by making this recommendation.”

“So, we need to take a second look at Ashley and her peers, a group of students who might be considered the poster children of the first-year writers the Citation Project multi-institutional research has uncovered: well-meaning students who are often anxious about correct citation, sometimes but not always able to paraphrase correctly, and sometimes but not always able to identify relevant sources. These students rarely analyze or engage with the sources they cite and tend to simplify the arguments within them…Viewing this data in the context of research on the reading abilities of students from a generation before them challenges popular assumptions about the laziness of the ‘Google generation’ and emphasizes the need for new responses.”

“In order to engage with our students in this way, instructors will benefit from a less-is-more philosophy. If students are all assigned to read the same sources, summarize them and place them into dialogue with each other, they can evaluate each other’s work and understand that not all summaries are the same.”

“However, if we develop pro-active pedagogies designed to increase the abilities of our students to engage with texts and their understanding of how texts work in general and as sources within academic texts, we may actually avoid the necessity of developing reactive pedagogies to respond to patch writing and other misuse of sources. That seems like a very fine reading goal for us and our students to work toward.”

Notable Notes

Margaret Kantz (1990) published a study focused on “a typical college sophomore” (qtd. in Kantz) named “Shirely.” Jamieson introduces a typical sophomore of 2012, “Ashley,” who could be Shirley’s daughter. Jamieson argues that their problems writing with sources and reading with sources are largely the same, unaddressed in college pedagogy for over twenty years.

Uses Mary Lynch Kennedy’s 1985 study of students writing with sources

Great overview of studies of student reading, writing with and from sources from 1985 through today

explains the methodology of the Citation Project – coding for source use, frequency of source citation, page of source that was cited, type of source, etc. Definitions of the different kinds of source use: 1. direct copying, cited but not marked as quotation; 2. direct copying, cited and marked as a quotation; 3. patch writing; 4. paraphrasing; 5. summarizing

when students write from sources, they are not engaging with whole-text arguments

students need more than one year to acquire consistent, expert reading skills

students often read for research papers with the goal of retrieving information from sources, not synthesizing ideas or understanding the larger conversation

students have trouble transferring reading, summary skills into a larger research paper

Citation Project data:

  • only 6.3% of student papers contained summary; 91.4% of the student papers used quotation
  • 77.4% of all citations were from the first 3 pages of the source; 9.4% were from page 8 or later
  • 56.5% of sources were cited once, 76.1% were cited twice

few college writing assignments (from those collected in research studies about college writing assignments across the disciplines) have explicit guidance on how to read, the goals of reading, how to use sources.

 

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November 17, 2014

Odom, Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn

Odom, Mary Lou. “Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Odom argues that in order to improve students’ reading skills, faculty should adopt some of the pedagogical practices that have worked in writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives. Odom bases her argument on a three-year study of her institution’s WAC program. She looks at student course feedback and reflections from the WAC faculty (called WAC fellows) to describe pedagogical strategies that did work and that did not work to improve students’ reading skills. She shows that just merely asking students to read does not mean they will read well or learn what the faculty want them to learn from the reading.

Among the pedagogical strategies that worked to improve students’ reading were explaining to students the disciplinary conventions of a discipline-specific reading, asking students to engage with a reading on a personal level, and asking students to make connections between the reading they were assigned to read and either other readings or current events. Odom points out that all these strategies are also principles of effective WAC teaching. Among the strategies that did not work was using writing in the classroom or in electronic discussion boards to merely check that students had done the reading. Faculty complained that students in these forums rarely engaged with the texts beyond a cursory level.

Odom argues that problems in student writing can often be traced to students’ poor reading skills, and points out that reading is rarely taught beyond the elementary level: faculty assume students have the reading skills necessary to succeed in college. Reading in the disciplines is as invisible as writing in the disciplines once was, Odom contends, and she suggests that taking a WAC approach might solve this problem and better equip students with the critical reading skills they need to succeed in college and fully participate in contemporary civic life. In order for this to work, faculty need to be willing to reconsider how they ask students to read and what they ask students to do with the reading that they do.

Quotable Quotes

“It has been my experience that when we talk about student literacy struggles and practices in higher education, writing is talked about more frequently, more specifically, and with greater urgency than reading.”

“Reading instruction can be, particularly for faculty who want to move on and teach other content, unintentionally yet easily ignored.”

“Few and far between are the classes that do not incorporate or depend on reading, although reading skills cease to be taught or assessed.”

“Reading has in many ways become an invisible component of academic literacy” – it is not seen as the problem by faculty or students.

“Indeed perhaps the best reason efforts to rethink student reading should look to writing across the curriculum strategies is the WAC movement’s broad goal of improving not just student writing but student learning.”

“In sum, the issue of student reading is more than just complex; it is characterized by a transparency that renders it too easily and too often overlooked. Explicit reading instruction tapers off precipitously after elementary school, and students, teachers, and testing then tend to focus on the texts being read rather than the strategies used to read them. Just as texts alone do not provide meaning in isolation, the act of assigning texts alone does not guarantee that students will read. It is no surprise, therefore, that faculty dissatisfaction with student reading is vocal and widespread across the disciplines. When looking for ways to address this challenge, WAC, already proven to be a transformative force for teachers when it comes to writing, is a natural place to turn. Just as writing across the curriculum encourages faculty to consider the ways they ask students to write, efforts at improving student reading must begin with a conscious awareness that we ask and expect students to read in particular ways that may not always be familiar to them.”

“Our choices as teachers have very real consequences regarding how or if students read.”

How faculty can encourage better student reading across the disciplines: “First and foremost, faculty must see that they have a role – beyond simply assigning texts – to play in student reading behavior. Second, at the heart of this role must be a clear sense of the goals faculty have for student reading as well as a willingness to share those goals with students. Third, faculty must be willing to provide guidance for students reading complex, discipline-specific texts. Such guidance may come in the form of explicit conversation about disciplinary conventions and practices, but more often than not it can be conveyed in thoughtful, authentic assignments that students can connect to on an either a personal or ‘real world’ level. Adherence to these principles will not solve all the challenges of student reading; they can, however, begin conversations and initiate practices about reading that are long overdue.”

Notable Notes

research to look at: Newkirk (2013); Joliffe and Harl (2008); Horning (2007)

When faculty point to a problem in student writing, do they realize that this may be, at its core, a reading problem that is contributing to the lack of student learning?

Reading is an “assumed ability” as writing was in the 1960s and 1970s before composition studies challenged that paradigm (Mina Shaughnessy et al) – writing was shown to be far more complex than what students or faculty assumed.

Research shows that there is big discrepancy between what faculty assume students are doing as they read and what students are actually doing.

faculty have “a rather uncomplicated view of how writing and reading might work together,” such as the belief that merely asking students to write about the readings they read will result in critical engagement with those texts.

problem with assigning writing merely to assess or check that students have completed a reading (“quiz/coercion approach”), “reading compliance”

Freedman, “Reading to Write” in East Asian Studies

Freedman, Leora. “‘Reading to Write’ in East Asian Studies.” Across the Disciplines 10:4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Freedman describes how teaching students specific reading strategies, many developed for English language learners, can help both ELL and native-English speaking students read disciplinary-specific texts better. She describes an partnership at her institution, the University of Toronto, between the East Asian Studies department and the English Language Learning Program that used TA-led discussion sessions to help students in introductory-level East Asian Studies courses develop stronger reading strategies and skills. The TAs taught students specific reading techniques, asked students to apply those techniques on other texts in the course, and asked students to write several low-stakes writing assignments, like reading responses and summaries, that gauged students’ reading comprehension levels. Freedman claims that given feedback from the students, TAs, and faculty involved in this partnership, that students seem to understand the course material more deeply and their writing seems to be improved. Freedman argues that reading pedagogy belongs at the college level for all students.

Quotable Quotes

“Linguistic development, like students’ intellectual development in general, is often uneven and non-linear. Students need to understand that successful performance in academic writing, which may be a more immediate goal, is linked to efforts in other areas which are often invisible to the people marking their papers. (e.g. a grader will comment on an overly general sentence, and it will be identified as a writing problem, but the same grader may not comment on or necessarily perceive the student’s vague grasp of the reading material; the grade is given officially for the quality of the writing).”

“Reading was seen as the most fundamental area to address, underlying the difficulties many of the students have with research, writing, vocabulary, and speaking.”

Notable Notes

need to change the institutional culture around reading – it is not remedial education, but something that is tied to students’ writing and critical thinking

TAs led weekly sessions in each 12-week term (fall, spring) to 25 students. The sessions complemented the lectures (200 students in the lecture.)

low-stakes writing assignments used to gauge reading comprehension included writing an account of previewing strategies, writing summaries, writing informal responses in preparation for a bigger, critical argumentative/analytical paper

TAs used a technique dubbed “question-based active reading discussion” where they came to the sessions with prepared questions, a mix of comprehension and more critical analysis to lead small group discussion

Faculty and TAs noticed less patch writing, less plagiarism in the students’ writing

Reading techniques taught in the TA-led sessions:

  • previewing
  • skimming and scanning
  • active reading
  • learning vocabulary from context clues
  • summarizing
  • distinguishing an author’s opinion from the opinion of a cited source
  • distinguishing between argument and information
  • how information is used in an argument
  • visual mapping of an article

January 4, 2013

The Visual and Beyond: A Symposium on Rereading, Revising, or Perhaps ‘Hacking the Source Code’ of the CWPA Outcomes Statement

“The Visual and Beyond: A Symposium on Rereading, Revising, or Perhaps ‘Hacking the Source Code’ of the CWPA Outcomes Statement.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 179-208.

This symposium in the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of WPA includes six short essays written in response to the editors’ question, “Shouldn’t the Outcomes Statement include [other work]?”  The editors offer the symposium in light of Ed White’s WPA-L comment, “The Outcomes Statement must remain a living document to stay relevant” (179).

CWPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition

Beaufort, Anne. “The Matters of Key Knowledge Domains and the Transfer of Learning in the Outcomes Statement.” 180-187.

Beaufort argues that the CWPA Outcomes Statement could be improved with the inclusion of two key issues in writing studies. First, she argues that the field’s research on the nature of writing expertise (what separates novice from expert writers) could help make more distinct, measurable outcomes.  She also argues that the Outcomes Statement should articulate the goal of writing transfer – how students transfer the skills and knowledge they learn in first-year composition to other writing situations.  She offers five new knowledge domains around which to organize the outcomes: subject matter knowledge; genre knowledge; writing process knowledge; discourse community knowledge; rhetorical knowledge.  Casting the categories as sets of knowledge, Beaufort argues, would make it easier for teachers and administrators to identify gaps in student writing performance (182). She contends that some parts of the Outcomes Statement are too far-reaching and inappropriate for all first-year writers; she states, “Imagine the Outcomes Statement as a lean, elegant (as in precise, concise, clear) document that both notice and expert writing teachers could readily translate into five or six learning outcomes tailored to some degree for any given writing course” (185).

Barbara Little Liu, “Genre Knowledge, Reading, and Faculty Development.” 187-191.

Liu argues that the current CWPA Outcomes Statement assumes a level of disciplinary training and commitment to teaching writing that is not shared by all first-year composition teachers. She suggests that the CWPA offer more professional development for first-year writing instructors, including publishing professional anthologies, promoting professional development, and supporting the publication of more FYC textbooks that focus on rhetorical/genre-based reading, the kind of reading students must do in first-year composition in order to transfer writing skills and knowledge to other rhetorical situations. The Outcomes Statement, Liu argues, should emphasize this kind of reading as much as writing.

“Rhetorical/genre-based reading helps students understand that texts are written by actual people and that rhetorical situations (including genre conventions) affect how readl writers construct their texts. As students learn to parse a text in ways that reconstruct the rhetorical situation and the writer’s rhetorical strategies, they begin to see how they can learn from the strategic choices of other writers to more effectively address the various and new rhetorical situations they will encounter after leaving FYC” (189).

Deborah Mutnick, “Reading to Write and the Economy of Attention.” 191-194.

Mutnick argues that the CWPA Outcomes Statement should be revised to place more attention on the need to teach reading.  Using the results of a reading assessment test performed at her institution (which stated that first-year students were reading on a 9th-grade reading level), Mutnick questions the universal writing requirement at American universities, asking why reading, which is so fundamental to successful writing, is not similarily mandated. Mutnick also argues that the reading practices students develop on the Web work against the kind of close, critical reading they need to do with academic texts (she uses an example of the decoding kind of reading students do in archival research.) Mutnick suggests that the Outcomes Statement specifically address teaching students how to read, select, and evaluate information from the Web.

“Archival research is vertical, slow, deliberate, puzzling, deep, and focused – think preservation, slow cooking, Internet Sabbaths. Reading on the Web is horizontal, fast, accidental, immediate, and shallow. While these characteristics are not exclusive to either domain, the multi-channeled environment of the Web marks the shift from a scarcity of information to a scarcity of attention, requiring us to develop new strategies for sorting out and valuing massive, often contradictory amounts of knowledge that close, deep, slow reading epitomized by archival research helps balance” (194).

Cynthia R. Haller, “Reading Matters: Thoughts on Revising the CWPA Outcomes Statement.” 195-200.

Haller argues that the CWPA privileges writing over reading, and points out that more balanced understanding of reading and writing (that reading does not happen always before writing, that they are ‘a complementary process’ (195) would help first-year composition courses refocus their attention to both rhetorical reception and rhetorical production. Both reading and writing, Haller contends, lead to rhetorical meaning-making. Haller suggests that composition teachers adopt the sense that is implied in the verb “grappling” when teaching students to work with and read texts: by grappling, there is a sense of two-way communication, not a one-way direction of meaning from the text to the student.  She also calls for more research on how students read to help shape writing curriculum (she specifically cites the Citation Project.)

“As Norgaard points out, an appreciation for how human knowledge is organized, stored, disseminated, and accessed can prevent students from viewing their own rhetorical production as isolated from other texts” (199).

“‘Grappling’ captures the recalcitrance of texts. Texts are not simply effete collections of symbols, but have consequences, especially as they are taken up in various contexts of use” (198).

“The popular catchprhase ‘critical reading, writing, and thinking’ suggest that meaning-making is a one-way, cognitive action performed on an object; by contrast, the word ‘grappling’ captures the two-way, absorbed engagement we (and we hope our students) experience when reading texts” (198).

Martha Marinara, “Engaging Queerness and Contact Zones, Reimagining Writing Difference.” 200-204.

Marinara argues that the CWPA statement, with its list of outcomes, falls short of a full, true notion of literacy practices and diversity of teaching and learning.  She uses queer theory to reject the notion that rhetorical concepts or writing conventions are neutral – she points out that queerness rejects stability and questions how power, community, and language intersect and give privileges.  Marinara also critiques the idea of the writing classroom as a “contact zone;” she contends that Pratt’s theory has been appropriated and has turned the writing classroom into a space of tolerance, but not one of diversity.

“Contact zones were appropriated by an uncritical, liberal multiculturalist movement and became apolitical, a safe kind of melting pot, a chicken soup for the classroom” (203).

“What the list [the outcomes] does not do and needs to do is quesiton how the process of teaching and learning – the wicked problem of our teaching practices – supports and maintains the role of difference as a definition, rather than a critical process that promotes a fuller notion of literacy” (204).

William P. Banks, “Queering Outcomes: Hacking the Source Code of the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition.” 205-208.

Banks suggests that truly “queering” the Outcomes Statement would involve not just adding new outcomes or tweaking the outcomes to specifically address how rhetorics are cultural, situated practices but instead, “queering” the outcomes would mean complicating and enriching the theoretical principles from which the outcomes emerge. Banks contends that the Outcomes Statement, as printed, is based on a set of disciplinary values that are static, or that are not universally held by writing teachers, or that are incomplete. He suggests remixing the Outcomes Statement in some interactive (digital?) form so that it can be a dynamic, living document, one that shows the links from the outcomes to emerging research in the many subfields and subspecialities of the discipline.

“So where does this change belong? I think it’s in the foundations, the idological and theoretical underpinnings of the OS document, what’s hidden in the framing paragraphs, and by how what’s hidden becomes visible” (206).

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