Date of Award

5-17-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Nancy M. Hayward, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

Bennett A. Rafoth, Ed. D.

Third Advisor

Carole B. Bencich, Ed. D.

Abstract

This case study observes five first-term college students as they adapt, apply, or reject academic literacy practices in two of their core courses at Georgia Southern University. This information is intended to help the teacher-researcher as well as her university identify how students make the difficult transition from high school to university literacy expectations. During the sixteen-week fall semester, the researcher observed students in their classroom environments, interviewed each individual twice, and conducted two group interviews with the volunteers. These volunteers also submitted a writing sample from each class observed. In addition, the two professors of these students also gave an informal interview with the researcher to explain their expectations and observations of typical difficulties they see their students experience. Finally, the researcher triangulated the data in order to identify emergent patterns of student adjustments and reactions to literacy practices. The data indicates that students need more explicit teaching of assumed, basic literacy practices. Most students in the study could not identify teaching styles to aid in their note-taking practices. Additionally, students rarely attempted to pre-read their assignments since they had little experience in anticipating what to look for or connect with in the text. Closely connected to these findings were the confidence levels of each student; if they had confidence in their abilities to learn or try new methods, they seemed to adapt or adjust more quickly than students who had little confidence in their literacy practices. In order to address the literacy difficulties of first-term students, the university’s efforts to enhance its student-centered mission need to increase. One of the major areas for improvement is in encouraging faculty to teach with more explicit methods so that more students can move from where they are situated in their literacy competence to where the faculty expect their students to be. In addition, on a national level, research studies in composition, education, and cognitive development need to have more collaborative efforts in publication. These findings, when combined, could allow more practitioners to understand a broader spectrum of interrelated issues concerning literacy development and aid teachers in more quickly addressing student performance.

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