A Majority of College Students are Unprepared for Academic Writing

Photo of Education Secretary (2009-). The orig...
Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Previously, we considered reasons most college students struggle to write an academic essay: Time management and a deficiency in physical and emotional energy. This week we will turn to yet another likely reason first-year composition courses are often begrudged by college students. An often overlooked factor is that many students enter college unprepared. http://www.facultyfocus.com/tag/unprepared-students/. This may partially be an unintended consequence of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

NCLB policies (http://www.ed.gov/esea) ushered in an era of standardize “high-stake” testing for all public school students. It is no secret that teaching to a test reduces the likelihood that creative expression and thinking outside the box is encouraged in the typical classroom setting. Although the Act has been somewhat streamlined under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s watch (http://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/duncan.html), generally speaking some first- year students continue to have underdeveloped abilities to think creatively and critically which negatively affects their first-year college experience which often times includes composition courses or writing classes. These outcomes are heighten by students’ low meta-cognitive skills or their inability to recognize their own shortcomings. In some instances, students have the desire to move forward but may lack the ability to perform. This may translate into student frustration with assignments or coursework as a student may not be aware of what he or she does not know. What does this all mean for a student sitting in a first-year composition class? College level writing requires students to use

a robust amount of information to produce a quality of writing that is representative of higher-order thinking. It has been my experience that with each successive semester, student attempts to demonstrate mastery of these skills is often stymied for the abovementioned reasons.

As a writing instructor, it has been my observation that this disconnect between a student’s ability and an instructor’s expectations can be reversed if a student is ready to dig in their heels and to commit to additional readings. However, I recognize for today’s students, a one-size fits all approach is not practical.

I am open to hear how other educators feel regarding this concern. How do we prepare students today for first-year college writing courses and for tomorrow’s citizenry?

Tisha Saccarelli

6 thoughts on “A Majority of College Students are Unprepared for Academic Writing

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for linking to my post on your site! However, I am unable to read your full post, “College Students are Unable to Think Critically”. When I click on “more”, I receive an error message or a “not found” message. I look forward to reading your full post and including a link to your post on our home page.

      Many Thanks!
      Tisha Saccarelli

  1. I’m sad to say we are facing the same problems here in Mexico, down to the same root of standardized tests.

    There are indeed reading and writing courses at the beginning of the curriculum here, but in those instances what teachers do is follow the program and use the workbook, never giving kids any kind of leeway to participate in creative writing activities, if only to practice their basic spelling and syntax.

    1. Joe, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve often wondered about what we should do as educators to initiate a paradigm shift. Unfortunately, I think it may take more than educators assuming the role of activist. I believe our entire societal approach to primary and secondary education needs to be reevaluated. This may sound radical but I think a “radical” change is necessary if we want our students to have the necessary tools to succeed in a post-secondary world.

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

      Tisha

  2. I am truly pleased to discover these website posts that transmit plenty of actionable ideas – thanks for committing your time to your audience.

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