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.



April 8, 2009

Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations

Shaughnessy, Mina P. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Basic writers are not unintelligent; rather, their writing is riddled with errors because they are confused about the basic structure and patterns of sentences and academic prose. Shaughnessy defends her focus on the errors of basic writers by arguing that in order to teach basic writers, teachers must understand what the range of basic writing errors are, why students might be making them (shuttling between two different codes, second language issues, unfamiliarity with written English tenses, structures, and punctuation), and how teachers might help their students write better through addressing these errors (assignments and in-class exercises.) Shaughnessy’s drive is to demystify the common errors basic writers make (punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, syntax) so they can move towards expressing their complex ideas and thoughts in equally as complex and intelligent prose. Shaughnessy does not prescribe a curriculum or program, arguing that each basic writing program must be created for the context of the students’, teachers’, and institutional expectations and circumstances.

Quotable Quotes

Errors “are unintentional and unprofitable intrusions upon the consciousness of the reader” (12) Teachers shouldn’t ignore error or argue for theoretical conceptions of the relativity of error (diversity of linguistic structure) in a basic writing classroom because that type of approach dismisses two important points. First, students are hyperconcerned about error and want to know about it and fix their errors. Second, errors force a reader to extend more effort to understand the writer, an effort that not all readers make and thus results in a loss of communication.

Her book wants to cultivate “a readiness to look at these problems in a way that does not ignore the linguistic sophistication of the students nor yet underestimate the complexity of the task they face as tehy set about learning to write for college” (13).

“Far from being eleventh-hour learners, these students appear in many ways to be beginning their lives anew.” (291)

“College both beckons and threatens them, offering to teach them useful ways of thinking and talking about the world, promising even to improve the quality of their lives, but threatening at the same time to take from them their distinctive ways of interpreting the world, to assimilate them into the culture of academia without acknowledging their experience as outsiders” (292)

Notable Notes

Basic writing pedagogy must be taken up seriously as an area of scholarship, study

Context – early 1970s open admissions, City College (CUNY system), no guide for how to teach these students who had never before been in college, instructors just see a “chaos of error”

Data – hundreds of placement essays from entering students at City College 1970-1974

confusion and unawareness lays at the heart of the issue. Students need explicit instruction, need to be shown the patterns and structures, templates of writing sentences and academic prose passages.

need to fix errors without disrespecting the culture and language backgrounds of the students

Chapters: handwriting and punctuation; syntax; common errors; spelling; vocabulary; beyond the sentence; expectations

problem – does not adequately address linguistic differences, boils things down to looking at the errors in the student text without looking outside the actual paper, the larger history and social context

lots of pattern-practice, sentence-combining, learn how to express abstract thoughts and longer arguments

January 23, 2009

Shaughnessy, “Diving In”

Shaughnessy, Mina P. “Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, 3rd ed. 321-326.

Citing that it is the teachers of basic writing, not the students, who need to change in order to succeed in the academy, Shaughnessy outlines four stages teachers of basic writing progress through in learning about basic writers and accepting the challenge of teaching them. The four stages, as Shaughnessy describes them, are Guarding the Tower (exclusionary policies and attitudes); Converting the Natives (trying old pedagogical techniques to help a few students who seem promising); Sounding the Depths (confronting the contradictions in the expectations of students’ many discourse communities); and finally, Diving In (committing to study and change teaching practices to answer the challenges of the new student populations.)

Quotable Quotes

“Are they aware, for example, after years of right/wrong testing, after the ACTs and the GEDs and the OATs, after straining to memorize what they read but never learning to doubt it, after “psyching out” answers rather than discovering them, are they aware that the rules have changed and that the rewards now go to those who can sustain a play of mind upon ideas – teasing out the contradictions and ambiguities and frailities of statements?” (324)

“The greatest barrier to our work with [basic writing students] is our ignorance of them and the very subject we have contracted to teach” (325)

“Diving in is simply deciding that teaching them to write well is not only suitable but challenging work for those who would be teachers and scholars in a democracy” (326)

“By underestimating the sophistication of our students and by ignoring the complexity of the tasks we set before them, we have failed to locate in precise ways where to begin and what follows what” (325).

Notable Notes

medical terminology used to describe basic writers

put onus on teachers, not students, to find the solutions.

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