Postsecondary Content-Area Reading-Writing Intervention: Development and Determination of Potential Efficacy
Purpose: Almost half of all college freshmen in the U.S. are in community colleges, and among these students, approximately 42% enter with pre-college reading and writing skills. Remediation of basic skills has been identified as one of the five major missions of community colleges. However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of community college developmental education. Failure and dropout rates are high, and literacy performance even among advanced remedial students is poor. The poor outcomes may stem in part from inappropriate instructional approaches, including: lack of direct, explicit instruction in reading and writing skills; lack of instructor preparation to teach reading and writing to low-skilled students; lack of instructional time; and limited connection of remedial reading and writing instruction to discipline-area content knowledge. This study addresses these problems by developing, testing, revising, and retesting an intervention that provides guided practice and transfer instruction in several reading and writing skills, contextualized in science content.
Project Activities: The researchers will develop the Content Comprehension Strategy Intervention, a curricular supplement that provides guided practice in reading comprehension and writing skills using text from science textbooks of the type that students will encounter in later course work. The Content Comprehension Strategy Intervention focuses on summarization and clarification of information and generation of questions about science text; provides preparation for tests that students must pass to exit remediation; and teaches for transfer.
Products: The products of this project include an intervention manual for developmental education, and published reports.
Setting: The data will be collected in developmental education (remedial) programs in three community colleges in New York, Florida, and Texas.
Population: Participants are 1200 students enrolled in 48 upper-level developmental education courses at three different community colleges. Participants are low socioeconomic status adults mainly of African American and Latino background, aged approximately 18-35 years. Many aspire to science-intensive degrees in nursing, allied health, and technology, but are hindered by low academic skills.
Intervention: The intervention to be developed is the Content Comprehension Strategy Intervention, a curricular supplement that provides guided practice in reading comprehension and writing skills using text from science textbooks of the type that students will encounter in later course work. The Content Comprehension Strategy focuses on summarization and clarification of information and generation of questions about science text; provides preparation for tests that students must pass to exit remediation; and teaches for transfer.
Research Design and Methods: This project will employ an experimental design with groups randomly assigned to conditions, and pre-tests and post-tests. The potential of contextualization is determined by comparison with the use of generic (non-science) text of similar text structure, readability, and text density to the science text. Classrooms will be nested in instructional treatment (treatment and no-treatment control), and students in the treatment condition will be nested within instructional conditions.
Control Condition: A no-treatment control group will receive standard remedial education classes offered by the community colleges.
Key Measures: Measures including the Nelson-Denny Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Tests, and a battery of project-developed pre- and post-tests to measure written summarization skills for science, science knowledge, science interest, science vocabulary knowledge, the ability to generate science questions, and near and far transfer of the various skills. Community college institutional data will be used to assess and track outcomes on passing the standardized test needed to exit remediation, as well as retention, course grades, grade point average, and graduation.
Data Analytic Strategy: This development project is intended only to obtain evidence of the potential efficacy of the intervention; initial analyses will be at the level of the student.
Nongovernment report, issue brief, or practice guide
Perin, D., and Hare, R. (2010). A Contextualized Reading-Writing Intervention for Community College Students. CCRC Brief. Number 44. Community College Research Center. Teachers College, Columbia University.
Perin, D., Bork, R.H., Peverly, S.T., Mason, L.H., and Vaselewski, M. (2011). A Contextualized Intervention for Community College Developmental Reading and Writing Students. CCRC Working Paper No. 38. Community College Research Center. Teachers College, Columbia University Working Paper.