Our Problem of Practice

What Significant Problem of Practice did Your Intervention Target?

Our problem of practice began with the following concepts (See White Paper):

  • Both faculty and students lack a clear definition and understanding of the unique challenges of college-level reading.
  • Students lack understanding of the gaps in reading skills they bring to college.
  • Students do not recognize the difference between reading fluency and comprehension and the essential components of college-level reading.
  • Instructors across sectors may fail to recognize gaps in student preparedness.

Through dialogue about these concepts and related research, we have developed a problem of practice that promotes collaborative discussion among high school teachers and college instructors about the differences between the skills that high students should have when they arrive in college, as well as the skills they need when they begin their specific post-secondary studies. Through this process, teachers will develop a shared definition of college-ready and college-level reading.

Problem of Practice:

Develop a shared, cross-sector understanding of the difference between college-ready reading and college-level reading in order to ensure that expectations and instructional approaches are aligned.

Research (See White Paper) connects college-level reading abilities to other key areas of college success, including:

  • Information literacy
  • Writing ability
  • Critical thinking
  • Synthesis of knowledge across disciplines
  • Sustained critical inquiry

The conclusion could be that high school teachers should move their students toward demonstrating college-ready reading by graduation, while college instructors should move their students toward success with college-level reading. This cannot happen unless and until all teachers and instructors become part of the conversation regarding the difference between the two and collaborate to develop an agreed upon definition that will affect instructional practices.

Our secondary problem of practice developed as we moved forward in our implementation and data-gathering phase. It became clear that once teachers reached a definition of college-ready and college-level reading, application to student learning was necessary in order to fulfill the requirement that high school students attend college prepared to face the challenges of reading more complex texts.

 What Common Core State Standards Relate to this Problem and How?

Prior to the Common Core State Standards, Washington State’s Language Arts Standards were aligned with Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) up to grade 10. Teachers and districts found themselves challenged to fill in a two-year gap for juniors and seniors using a variety of methods ranging from annual meetings with local colleges to using national standard sets like those provided by the College Board. We now have a fully articulated K-12 set of standards with specific skills that progress in complexity at each grade level. This means administrators, teachers, parents, and students understand the expectations for reading, writing, speaking and listening and language skills.

The new challenge with the CCSS comes with secondary schools fulfilling the promise of the career and college readiness standards by increasing their expectations for student achievement in reading and writing. One step in addressing this challenge is to use the CCSS as a foundation to build a connection between secondary and post-secondary teachers. The focus of our work is to support these cross-sector institutions in building a professional learning community around college-ready and college-level reading. While the CCSS provide a better roadmap for Washington State schools than our previous standards, there is still a need for collaboration among secondary and post-secondary teachers to ensure students graduate equipped for college or post-secondary training.