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We know that many students who enter our colleges and universities are underprepared for the various challenges they face. We also know that, for a number of these students, the more traditional forms of academic support offered to them, like pre-curriculum or remedial courses in specific subject areas, simply have not been getting the job done. It comes as little surprise, then, that institutions across the nation continue to experiment with ways to support the academic success of underprepared students. Some, for example, have implemented a co-requisite model of instruction, which eliminates remedial courses in favor of integrating developmental support (in the form of a course, a lab, or additional activities, etc.) as part of, or offered concurrent with, their corresponding college-level courses.
The community colleges in NC are required to implement such a co-requisite model of instruction by 2020, and there are far-reaching implications for this mandated shift for those who direct, teach, or otherwise offer support for the community colleges’ courses in English composition, including ENG 111 and 112. For a number of years now, An Insider’s Guide to Academic Writing (IGAW) has assisted ENG 111 and 112 instructors and students across the state as they worked to meet the goals and achieve the outcomes of their courses. We believe it can continue to be a valuable resource for NC community colleges' faculty and students as they transition to a co-requisite model of instruction for their courses. To that end, we’re providing some suggestions below for how IGAW might help support the co-requisite model.
One challenge that students in need of developmental support often face is a lack of familiarity with the college experience, including expectations for their academic work. As we indicate in our Preface, IGAW is designed specifically “to help college students, new to the world of higher education, to learn the territory, language, skills, codes, and secrets of academic writing.” Chapter 1, “Inside Colleges and Universities,” for instance, is designed to help students learn the “territory,” to investigate their local college or university context, and to position themselves as learners within their specific context. The chapter further helps students to identify college-level expectations for their research and writing and invites them to explore how writers learn to write in new contexts.
Additionally, Chapter 2, “Writing Process and Reflection,” is concerned with fostering students’ metacognitive awareness. Metacognitive awareness is a critical component of academic success for all students, but especially for those who may be underprepared for, or who struggle to acclimate to, college. The book supports such awareness by helping students identify and understand their own writing processes and by emphasizing the value of reflective practice through guided activities. All of these elements work together to help students identify critical parts of their own writing process, develop mechanisms and habits to support those elements, and build confidence in their approach to writing assignments moving forward.
Part 1 of IGAW also provides support for students’ analysis of various rhetorical situations using models that they can easily transfer from one writing situation to another. Students receive step-by-step support for the development of their own arguments, including guidance on conducting research and integrating primary and secondary sources as part of their arguments.
The heart of IGAW, Part 2, is its writing-in-the-disciplines approach, which, at its core, is about facilitating students’ enculturation into the various academic contexts they are likely to encounter as part of their college experience. The chapters in Part 2 attend to students’ development as “insiders” by asking them to investigate, analyze, and participate in the literate practices of professionals and other students working across the disciplines, including the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. In this way, IGAW makes students’ learning immediately applicable to their college experiences. The book’s attention to enculturation, or to the process of students’ development as academic “insiders,” is particularly important for underprepared students, who often lack familiarity with the habits of mind and “codes” of communication specific to disciplinary communities.
For students who struggle to see the applicability of academic writing to their futures, Part 2 also provides students with opportunities to apply the transferable skills they learn throughout the book to a variety of popular career paths, including health fields, education, business, criminal justice and law, among others.
Along with the material in the book itself, there is additional support in the LaunchPad for IGAW. In the digital space, we have included comprehension quizzes for every reading in the book, so that instructors know right away whether a student is off track. It also includes LearningCurve, which is adaptive grammar and citation quizzing. For students who already ‘get’ a given topic, they can complete the quizzing easily, moving through increasingly difficult material. When students struggle, they are given additional questions and the questions respond to their answers, becoming easier or more difficult as they work through the material. Guidance for finding solutions is also provided so that students are never perpetually ‘stuck.’ These resources can help to take some of the learning necessary to get on-level out of the classroom without leaving a struggling student unsupported.
With its writing-in-the-disciplines approach to composition, IGAW introduces students to the communication practices of various academic and applied fields and works to make those practices less mystifying. In so doing, it welcomes students into the fold, making academia less daunting and their chosen careers more achievable. We created An Insider’s Guide with the idea that it could help all students succeed, regardless of the experience they are bringing to their composition classroom. We’d love to hear ideas that you have for how to engage with a co-requisite model, regardless of the teaching materials you’re using.
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