Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Integrating Metacognition into a Developmental Reading and Writing Course to Promote Skill Transfer: An Examination of Student Perceptions and Experiences

Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Integrating Metacognition into a Developmental Reading and Writing Course to Promote Skill Transfer: An Examination of Student Perceptions and Experiences

Article excerpt

Increasingly, emphasis is being placed on a college education as a necessity for professional, social, and economic mobility in the United States (Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2012). This emphasis has changed the make-up of much of the college-going population as more underprepared students have enrolled in higher education institutions (Cox, 2009; Rose, 2012). Unfortunately, many colleges that work with large populations of underprepared students have low levels of persistence and graduation rates (Bailey, Jeong, & Cho, 2008; Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2008; Lynch, Engle, & Cruz, 2010). Tb help such students, developmental education programs play an important role in many institutions of higher education (Boylan, 2003). Such programs often include courses aimed at helping underprepared students develop the necessary literacy skills to be successful in college courses.

In order to examine the role developmental courses can play in helping students, I decided to study the perceptions and experiences of first-year students as they took a developmental-level integrated reading and writing course in a four-year college in New York City. Although not all the students who take the developmental courses at the college simultaneously take other nondevelopmental courses, many of them take other credit-bearing college level courses concurrently. It was this group of students that I was most interested in for this study because I thought they would help give me the most insight into the ways students describe experiencing and transferring the skills and strategies taught in the developmental course to the college curriculum, as well as their personal and/or professional experiences.

In my experiences and observations as an instructor, a tutor, and a reading/writing coordinator, I have noticed that students often compartmentalize their developmental courses, thinking about them in isolation from their other courses and from their overall learning and development. Research has suggested that this might be a common experience (Bailey et ah, 2008; Lesley, 2004). Unfortunately, some approaches to teaching developmental courses might perpetuate a disconnect from the larger academic experience (Rutschow & Schneider, 2011). For instance, Lesley (2004) cited research from developmental programs indicating that "The majority of remedial literacy programs in place across the nation tend to focus on the memorization of discreet rules devoid of a meaningful, social context" (p. 63). This focus might not help students develop the metacognitive skills they will need in order to successfully regulate their own learning and transfer knowledge across contexts (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Norman, 2010). In an effort to move away from such approaches to the teaching of developmental courses, the integrated reading and writing course under study was designed to explicitly help students connect course content to other contexts by emphasizing metacognitive strategy instruction.

For this research study, I wanted to explore how an intentionally designed developmental course might assist students in recognizing how the literacy skills developed in the course could be helpful to their success in college classes and in other contexts. By focusing on student perceptions during their experiences of taking a developmental course, I wanted to examine the "lived experience" (Creswell, 2007, p. 57) of taking such a course, so the approach taken drew from phenomenological traditions of qualitative research.

In order to capture the perceptions and experiences of students enrolled in a section of a developmental integrated reading and writing course, the following research questions governed the study and its methodology:

1. How do students perceive and describe taking a developmental course in integrated reading and writing that stresses metacognitive skills and strategies as being connected to the rest of their academic, professional, and/or personal lives? …

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