Integrating Reading and Writing for College Success: 10 Maxims for Developmental Students
Recorded by Kim Flachmann
NADE Conference on February 23, 2012
Kim Flachmann states that often, the way developmental students learn is not just based on their preferred learning styles, but also the “baggage” they bring along with them, which can include family issues, a language barrier, a lack of respect for education and educators themselves, little to no reading or writing instruction, consistent failure in high school, and a general lack of guidance. She believes, however, that students can rise above whatever their personal circumstances may be if educators just place the responsibility for acquiring skills and knowledge firmly on the students. The student-teacher relationship should be considered a partnership if they’re going to succeed. The ten maxims that Kim explains in this podcast, in her experience, have helped students achieve this level of learning responsibility by also creating an environment that will foster good work.
The first maxim is, “Students build confidence in their ability to read and write by reading and writing.” Providing students with a lot of ungraded writing opportunities takes a bit of the pressure off of them while still providing them with the practice they need in order to improve.
The second maxim is, “Students learn best from discovery and experimentation rather than from instruction and abstract discussions.” If students can discover how reading and writing work for themselves with a little guidance from instructors, they are more likely to retain that information.
Maxim number three is, “Students profit from studying both professional and student writing.” Pieces of professional writing serve as excellent models for students and give them the opportunity to discover what makes each piece work so well. Student writing helps them see what they are capable of accomplishing themselves.
The fourth maxim is, “Students need to discover their personal reading and writing processes.” It’s easy for students to read and hear about typical approaches for reading and writing, but what they really need to do is experiment with these different processes to find out what works best for them.
Maxim number five is, “Students learn both individually and collaboratively.” Peer work should be built into classes wherever possible towards the beginning of the semester so that students can learn from their peers, but slowly progress to more individual work as they learn and come into their own learning styles so that the responsibility shifts from a group one to a personal one.
The sixth maxim is, “Students benefit most from assignments that actually integrate reading and writing.” Research indicates that students learn best when reading and writing are integrated. This can be accomplished by asking students to annotate when they read or reading notes while they write.
The seventh maxim is, “Students learn how to revise by following clear, constant guidelines.” When it comes to developmental students, revision without constant guidelines does not tend to work.
The eighth maxim is, “Students learn grammar and usage rules by editing their own writing.” Students should identify and correct the problems in their own writing, or in their peers’ writing, rather than complete isolated grammar exercises.
Maxim number nine is, “Students should be able to transfer their reading and writing skills to all their college courses.” Students should go beyond just completing what’s asked of them and actually understand what they’re doing so that those skills can be carried with them wherever they go.
The tenth and final maxim is, “Students must think critically or analytically to succeed in college.” Students should not only be able to analyze an idea but also integrate it with their own ideas.
In order to reach the ultimate goal of critical thinking, the key is metacognition, because once students understand how reading and writing work, they can take those skills out into the world with them and have them come naturally.
Kim Flachmann teaches English and directs the writing program at California State University Bakersfield. She starts with the reality that learning for developmental students often depends upon more than their basic learning styles. External issues such as family problems, incomplete language acquisition, a lack of respect for education in the home, no sustained reading or writing instruction, no access to reading materials in the home, constant high school failure, disrespect for authority, and a general lack of guidance in their lives. However, no matter those challenges, all students can rise above when the responsibility for learning is placed on students themselves.
If the ideas here are interesting to you, and you would like to see more of this author’s work, search our catalog to learn more and request free exam copies.