So How Exactly Does One Read In College?

Karen Manarin, English Professor at Mount Royal Univeristy in Canada, focuses on teaching students how to read a college text. Her emphasis on reading stems from a continuous issue that educators see all too often in a college classroom- students struggle with collegiate reading and writing. Her research project, as outlined in her article “Reading Value: Student Choice in Reading Strategies” discusses why students struggle with reading comprehension in college. But more importantly, she suggests strategies to address these issues.

Her article explains how she examined the reading strategies of students enrolled in her critical writing and reading course, which is a general education course taken by students with varied majors. Her research analyzes the trendy reading strategies of her students, how courses promote learning, and the myriad obstructions students encounter when they read and write. She identified key proven strategies such as: predicting, monitoring, questioning, critiquing an image, fixing it, making inferences, summarizing, evaluating and synthesizing. She then used these strategies to reframe her course outline.

But prior to introducing the above stated key strategies, she assigned reading logs to help her understand what tools and strategies students were currently using to decipher the readings. She discovered that most students responded to the text by making personal connections, which she considered a sophomoric strategy restricted to certain types of texts. She also noticed they used imagery, which she also considered an elementary technique to respond to a text. Understanding students’ limited use of textual responses was insightful. She began to teach students more sophisticated academic strategies, such as how to connect multiple texts or how to discover the author’s intention or thesis.

She found that students lacked contextualization and schema, and this led her to teach these concepts as well. The newly taught strategies shifted the students’ reading logs, as they were able to articulate why and how they used various readings strategies she had introduced. The exercises also helped students find value in reading. Manarin describes this process as “…comprehension [that leads] to confidence, persistence, and success.” She argues that finding value in reading leads to instrinsic motivation which then leads to deeper learning.

Examining their initial reading choices permitted Manarin to guide them towards reading strategies that were more effective, and they also began to read more critically. Manarin stated that reading amongst college graduates continues to decline, and perhaps this was the impetus that led her into this reading research project. She states that reading is critical to learning and to participating in civic engagement. Manarin fundamentally believes that if we do not begin to include reading skills and strategies in our curriculum, then it becomes a dereliction of professorial duties. Agreed.

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