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Literacy Levels Among College Students

Literacy Levels Among College Students - Faculty Focus Article

Postsecondary students may struggle with reading disciplinary material for deep understanding. While PSE students are considered adults and expected to have this skill prior to entering PSE many do not have the skills needed to construct their understanding of content based on text analysis and synthesis. The artcile mentions Jeanne Chall's Stages of Reading Development and suggests that at least some PSE students  are still at the "Reading for New" stage while others are at the "Multiple Viewpoints" stage.


  • Years ago as a teaching assistant in composition, I did an experiment on reading comprehension by asking students to read and outline a specific article. It was not particularly difficult to understand although it presented information that would be new for them. My students generally did not pick up what were to me obvious structural indicators of main points. Instead, they focused on information that was familiar to them, especially if it had some emotional connection, and would identify that  as the main point of the article. So my conclusion is that higher-level reading skills (basically discourse analysis) need to be taught for many or maybe most postsecondary learners.

    Mary Pringle April 20, 2017 - 10:48am

  • I agree about requiring a course in discourse (or content) analysis. When I was working on my BA (English) in English, I took a stylistics course (which was taught by a linguist). I don't think that I have ever deconstructed the English language with such intensity as I did in that course. She had us counting the number of adverbial phrases, the number of negatives used in a single page of a novel (I choose Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury). Some students found it a very clinical approach, I thought it was fascinating.

    I remember an undergraduate anthropology (sort of a mix of sociobiology, ethology, and biological anthropology) course in which students were asked to analyse scientific articles on a particular subject (generally related to animal behaviour (sometimes human, primate)), not necessarily in the discipline of anthropology, e.g. kin selection in ground squirrels. It really taught me to read closely, carefully and critically. Because the articles (which the students chose, based on certain parameters) were not in the discipline I was studying and because we were limited to a single-spaced page in which to summarize and critique the article.

    Sandra Law April 20, 2017 - 11:05am

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