Faculty perceptions of the implementation of integrated developmental reading and writing in a Texas community college

Date

2018-08

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Abstract

Texas has become more focused on increasing community college completion. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) took specific actions aimed at encouraging community colleges to improve students’ matriculation through developmental education coursework. A performance-based funding model was adopted and became fully operational in the 2016–2017 academic year. In addition, the state implemented an integrated developmental reading and writing course to hasten students’ progression into credit coursework. Rather than offering separate courses in reading and writing, students are placed into a single course that addresses both reading and writing learning objectives. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of community college faculty who have taught an integrated reading and writing course. The study was conducted at a community college in Texas. Participants were faculty who were employed by the college to teach developmental reading and/or developmental English. Data collection for the study consisted of the lens of the researcher, semi-structured faculty interviews, focus group, course participation data for the integrated developmental reading and writing course, grade distribution data, and a course syllabus from each faculty member. In addition, the Humanities division meeting notes were reviewed to acquire the language and ideas of faculty members and division leadership during the transitional period. To establish trustworthiness of the study, the researcher used member checking, triangulation of data, and peer debriefing.
The findings of this study indicated that participants perceived that conceptually the integrated reading and writing course was a useful approach for improving students’ skills because the instruction was much like that used in the first credit English course. They also expressed that the integrated course may be a beneficial approach for accelerating the highest performing students through developmental education more quickly. However, they experienced challenges in implementing the course. These challenges included time constraints of teaching both reading and writing in a single semester course, difficulty in balancing the time spent teaching reading and writing, and inadequate training and materials provided prior to teaching the course. The findings also indicated that participants used some common support strategies to assist students in successfully completing the integrated course including the use of the Writing Center, paired courses, study strategies instruction, and community building. Participants also used some common instructional strategies that they perceived enhanced students’ learning. These strategies comprised of the use of technology, collaborative learning, and flipped classroom. The results of this study suggested several implications and recommendations for higher education practice. Community colleges must rethink the concept of remedial education to focus on instruction that helps students experience instruction that is more similar to that of the first credit English course. Using an integrated reading and writing instructional approach can help students transition into credit coursework more quickly than using separate courses in reading and writing. With administrative support, community college faculty must also be involved in developing integrated reading and writing curriculum that is truly integrated and meets the needs of students at their own institutions. Community colleges must also be provided additional funds to implement broad curriculum reform like that of the integrated reading and writing course. Cutbacks in state funding for higher education have made implementing curriculum changes like integrated reading and writing even more challenging. A final implication was that community colleges must assist students in matriculating into credit courses, so they can go on to earn certificates and degrees to meet current and future job demands.
The recommendations for future higher education practice included providing training to faculty prior to implementing an integrated reading and writing course. Allow time for the faculty to work together to transform two separate courses in reading and writing into a single integrated reading and writing course. The investment of time and energy into curriculum development will assist faculty in producing an integrated reading and writing curriculum that meets the needs of students at their own institution. It is also recommended that students be provided the option of taking the integrated course along with a credit course. This arrangement may allow students to apply what they are learning in a relevant context. The final recommendation was to provide more specialized advising for students who are enrolling in accelerated coursework and allow them to self-select the option that they feel best suits their needs. As indicated by participants in this study, accelerating instruction in the integrated course was useful for the highest performing students as measured by an initial placement test; however, it may not be the best option for other students who need more time to learn and apply course content. The findings of this study demonstrated a need for additional research. This may include quantitative studies to measure student performance in the integrated course and subsequent credit courses. Longitudinal studies are also needed to determine persistence and graduation rates for students who successfully completed an integrated reading and writing course at the study institution with particular attention given to analyzing the impact of the integrated reading and writing course on minority students. In addition, mixed methods studies could be conducted to measure student performance at several community colleges that have implemented the integrated reading and writing course to determine which instructional model results in the highest retention, persistence, and graduation rates. Additional qualitative studies should be conducted to better understand the students’ perspectives and experiences who have taken an integrated reading and writing course. Finally, more research should be directed at analyzing the most effective approaches used for implementing broad scale curricular changes. This could better inform states’ higher education coordinating boards and community college administrators how to implement lasting positive change in developmental education.

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Keywords

Community college completion, Integrated reading and writing, College reading, Developmental reading, Developmental English, Remedial English, Remedial reading

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