Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

The Impact of an Attained English Competence on Subsequent Course Success

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

The Impact of an Attained English Competence on Subsequent Course Success

Article excerpt

Educational institutions are value-added suppliers of academic capability Community colleges, while focused on access and diversity, operate within this framework. Unlike other institutions, however, remediation is a much greater part of their mission. It is consequently important to show that remediation has value. This article examines the impact of English attainment on success in subsequent general education courses. It fìnds a strong relationship between the two. Moreover, that relationship is not mainly a function of students' initial or placed level but is found to be a function of the last attained level. The implications of this for community colleges and for students entering college at low levels of ability are discussed.

Introduction

An on-going issue is the effect of college on students. PascarellaandTerenzini (1991), in their synthesis of research on the subject, examine the effects of college upon completion. They specifically look at the development of verbal and communication skills from freshman to senior years and find that a 20 percent percentile rank improvement occurs during the college years in verbal abilities. This study also seeks to examine the development of English competence and its importance. Instead of looking at that competence upon exit from college, it looks at the relationship of English competence to success in subsequent general education classes in a community college setting. It goes beyond the question of the impact of English competence in other general education classes to the question of whether it is the development of this competence or the initial academic talent a student has in English that leads to later success. Specifically, this study starts by drilling down in one general education class, an introduction to Psychology, and seeks to determine whether it is the first English class passed (a proxy for academic talent) or the last attained English level (a proxy for developed competence) that is related to success in Psychology. It then generalizes the approach to all classes.

Whether student success is a function of academic talent or a developed competence is central not just for education in general but for community colleges in particular. Community colleges are often seen as second chance institutions for students who have not adequately developed their academic competence at prior educational institutions. Remediation is consequently a primary function. At City College of San Francisco, where this research was done, there are seven levels of English, five of which are below English IA, the course that fulfills the English requirement at four-year transfer institutions. The question of whether it is the first or last English level that is related to success in general education classes is central, because, if it were the first English class (talent as judged by placement) , the cynics would be right. Community colleges deal with students whose difficulty in learning - as evidenced by their educational attainment in high school - severely limits their English skill and subject matter acquisition in college. If it were the last English class they achieved (the competence they develop), it would mean that students at very low levels of ability, by working their way up the English sequence, can offset whatever educational deficit they may have at entrance to community colleges through later educational attainment.

The original impetus for this study came from a request by the Psychology department at City College of San Francisco to help set an English prerequisite for Psychology 1 . A number of Psychology instructors felt that English level was important to student success in their classes. In the process of doing the analysis it became clear that, from a course perspective, the only issue was the relationship between English ability and success in Psychology. The first or last English class that a student took was immaterial; however, from a student's perspective (and perhaps society's) whether it was the first or last course was critical. …

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