Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Who should be in charge of teaching reading and writing in college?

Addressing reading and writing in college

“Students don't know how to write. They do not understand what they read. They do not read”. These complaints, coming from teachers, appear throughout the entire education system, starting from primary education, all the way to college. And the responsibility always seems to fall to someone else: the primary education institution should have done something that it didn't, parents should have done something too, etc. And also, they say, secondary education (or a college entrance course) should train students to reach higher education already knowing how to write, read and study.
There is a certain fallacy in all of this, which implies a simultaneous complaint and rejection to deal with teaching to read and write in college. The reasoning stems from a hidden premise, an assumption that, once revealed, turns out to be false. It is assumed that academic writing and reading are general skills, learned (or not learned) outside of a disciplinary structure, and not specifically related to any specific discipline. The idea that reading and writing are separate and independent from the learning of each discipline is as widespread as it is questionable. Many researchers state, however, that reading and writing at college level demands learning a particular form of discursive production and text consultation for each individual subject, and the possibility of receiving guidance and support from those who master and participate in these practices.
Without detracting from the valuable work performed by reading and writing workshops being offered in the beginning of university courses, it seems that this work is inherently inadequate. That is, the nature of what must be learned (reading and writing specific texts for each subject in the context of disciplinary and academic practices) requires an approach that belongs to the context of each individual subject. A course in reading and writing, separated from the effective contact with the materials, methods, and the conceptual and methodological problems of a particular scientific-professional field serves as a reflexive activity towards the production and comprehension of texts, but does not prevent the discursive and strategic difficulties that students meet when they are challenged to belong to the academic community. 


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