Developmental Reading and English Assessment in a Researcher-Practitioner Partnership
This paper reports findings from a researcher-practitioner partnership that assessed the readiness for postsecondary reading and writing demands of 211 students in developmental reading and English courses in two community colleges. An assessment battery was designed for the study, comprising two standardized tests and five project-developed tasks. The project-developed measures were two text-based writing tasks similar to those typically assigned in college classrooms (a summarization task and a persuasive essay), a self-efficacy scale, a teacher judgment questionnaire, and a qualitative student retrospective report. The text-based writing measures were keyed to high-enrollment, introductory-level general education courses that had significant literacy demands.
The results pointed to areas where students needed improvement in order to be ready for literacy tasks at the introductory postsecondary level. There was a discrepancy between the relatively low reading and writing skills as assessed through performance tasks and relatively high student self-efficacy ratings and teacher judgments. This finding suggests the possibility of an unrealistic amount of confidence in students’ ability to perform college-level reading and writing tasks. Correlations between assessment measures tended to be moderate, suggesting that the measures were tapping different skills. A series of hierarchical regressions modeling the text-based writing skills suggested that improvement in text-based summarization may require particular attention to reading comprehension skills, while improvement in text-based persuasive essay writing may depend more on developing general writing skills. Students’ retrospective reports indicated that although participants had some difficulty stating the requirements of the summarization task, they described appropriate strategies to complete it. Overall, the study’s findings point to the need to examine approaches to instruction, curriculum, course structure, and placement policy that may improve students’ college readiness.
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