Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Jump Start to Resolving Developmental Immigrant Students' Misconceptions about College

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Jump Start to Resolving Developmental Immigrant Students' Misconceptions about College

Article excerpt


The authors of this article discuss a one week Introduction to College class, designed to address developmental immigrant students' misconceptions about college. These misconceptions, often caused by discrepancies between expectations and reality, create obstacles to these students' obtaining academic success. This pre-college summer class resolves many of the misunderstandings and misconceptions before college starts - ensuring a smoother transition to college and a greater chance of success.

Generation 1.5 (immigrant) students are a growing phenomenon in the United States, a growing population in higher education and a growing population in developmental classes. Though many of these English language learners are enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the country, they are often unable to compete at a collegiate level in reading, writing, and mathematics. The linguistic cleavages, as well as the discrepancies between expectations and reality among these students, have created obstacles to their obtaining academic success.

Generation 1.5 is defined as immigrant students who come from non-English speaking backgrounds and who have "traits and experiences [that] like somewhere between those associated with the first and second generation. (Rumbaut & Ima, 1988, p.103). These students, for the most part, come to the United States at some point during their schooling period; thus, they are partially foreign-educated and partially US educated (Roberge, 2003) and tend to "live" their native culture at home and their adopted culture at school. What complicates their academic situation is that many of these students have had an interrupted exposure to formal education in their native countries because of war or poverty, causing them to have less than age-appropriate foundational knowledge when they arrive in the United States. Yet, despite this lack in knowledge, they are placed in age-appropriate classes, thereby entering our educational system without the crucial academic information necessary to compete at the same level as their American counterparts. (The term 'American' is used here to refer to the United States or those citizens who are native to the U.S. The Generation 1.5 students at our university use this term when referring to the country or its people.)

Nevertheless, these students graduate from American high schools, often with a high grade point average, and enter college. The reality, however, is that most graduate from American high schools in an "in-between position in terms of their language and literacy" (Roberge, 2003). Therefore, many are placed in developmental classes in college and have difficulty succeeding in these classes.

Background information

Generation 1.5 students make up one fifth of the freshman class at Penn State, Delaware County. In order to address the special needs of this population of students, we created a developmental program for them, The American Studies Course Cluster (ASCC) (Goldschmidt & Ziemba, 2003). This program, now in its fifth year, provides a rigorous core curriculum of developmental, research and technology-based courses, and, at the same time, provides intrusive, individualized academic support services to build language skills and to examine and reflect upon the values and mores of American culture. The initial program was comprised of a one-semester cluster of courses; however, through the years, we have added a summer component, the 30-Hour Program (Goldschmidt, Notzold, & Ziemba-Miller, 2003) and a second semester of support-related courses. Yet, we believed that a piece of the program was still missing. We found this piece in the new, one week Introduction to College class that is offered the week prior to the start of the fall semester. This class addresses the root of these students' problems: A mismatch between their academic expectations and their academic reality. In other words, despite the tremendous success of the ASCC (Goldschmidt & Ziemba, 2003), we have come to believe that many of the problems that Generation 1. …

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