In what ways has your work changed your thinking about students’ transitions or your teaching?
One important lesson learned by our cohort was the complexity and lack of a shared understanding regarding reading instruction. Most of the college faculty assumes that students already possess the skills necessary for success when they arrive on campus, and few teachers appear ready to explicitly teach rhetorical reading strategies within their own discipline. Contextualized, discipline-specific instruction by expert readers in academic subject areas are necessary to model college-level reading for students; the more direct that instruction, the easier it is for students to achieve reading proficiency.
We also realized that the issue of “teaching reading” is not just a college one. High school ELA teachers also assume that students enter their classrooms with many of the critical reading skills needed for success. We do understand that students read at different levels; however, the attitude of many teachers reflects a lack of understanding or a lack of training on how to best assist struggling readers in the classroom. With the implementation of the CCSS, that attitude is changing as high school teachers realize the need to scaffold tasks and activities so our most vulnerable readers can find success and gain the reading skills needed to become college-ready.
Our cohort created this toolkit item because we want to begin the conversation and challenge the boundaries of conventional thinking when it comes to reading instruction at the high school and college level. It is our hope that high school teachers and college instructors will begin to understand that without a clear understanding of the reading skills students must master for success in an ever-changing job environment, we will continue with business as usual and end up leaving many students on the outside looking in as they lack the promised literacy skills our public education system should provide.