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Title:Understanding the transition from high school to college for eight student writers
Author(s):Filkins, Scott Ryan
Director of Research:Dressman, Mark A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dressman, Mark A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McCarthey, Sarah; Mayo, Cris; Prendergast, Catherine
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):College-level writing
High school writing
College readiness
Abstract:The purpose of this three-semester qualitative study was to better understand, from a student’s perspective, what it means to transition from high school to college as a writer. Drawing on student interviews, school-based and out-of-school writing, process logs, think-aloud protocols, and interviews with students’ family members and teachers, the study also sought to understand how and why students’ composing processes changed in the transition to college, the instructional contexts they found most and least helpful, and the contribution the transition made to students’ larger life narratives. Taking a sociocultural view toward writing development, but also acknowledging the evidence of development residing within changes of written products and processes, the study found, first of all, that most of the participants were successful in their transition to college writing, despite the popular narrative that US high school students are underprepared (Arum & Roska, 2011; Tinberg & Nadeau, 2011). Their transition narratives varied significantly, however, because of a number of factors, including the different writing experiences they had in high school, their varying attitudes and beliefs about writing, the different college contexts they encountered, and the wide range of writing experiences in which they engaged there. More specifically, students in the study reported varying (and sometimes contradictory) beliefs about the importance of becoming more independent in their transition to college. They widely agreed that the reading demands of college were new and overwhelming, and their responses to these demands were deeply interconnected with their writing processes; most commonly, students used writing tasks to decide what actually needed to be read. Another key source of development for some students was engaging for the first time with the new expectations of writing in disciplines other than English, despite having written in other content areas in high school. The last pair of findings relates to students’ need to understand and negotiate new audiences for their writing in college. Students perceived a new degree of distance between themselves and their teacher-readers as they transitioned to college, and they reflected on how that distance affected (mostly negatively) their writing processes. Students also found themselves newly responsible to advocate for themselves about and through their writing. Equipped by school writing instruction that framed argument as presentation of evidence, they drew on other communicative experiences to craft writing that asserted their authority while also attempting to preserve the authority of the audience. Taken as a whole, the findings for this study suggest, first, the need for high school teachers to consider the social facets of writing as legitimate and necessary areas of study and instruction for college preparation. Second, high school and college teachers can potentially better serve students by recognizing the ways in which their personal relationships serve as a resource for student writers. Last, high school and college teachers, as well as students, families, policymakers, researchers need to increase awareness and understanding of the ways in which sociocultural factors such as racial and cultural identity inform all aspects of the transition, particularly when students are moving from a high school that is, in fact, more diverse than the college or university context to which the transition occurs.
Issue Date:2017-04-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Scott Filkins
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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