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Reading Like a Writer, Teaching Like a Reader: Guiding Students Towards “Good Reading” in First-Year Composition

  • Author(s): De Piero, Zack Kramer
  • Advisor(s): Adler-Kassner, Linda
  • et al.
Abstract

This study examined how graduate students in humanities disciplines guide students’ reading during their work as teaching assistants (TAs) in first-year (FYC) composition courses. Situated within an independent writing program, the “genre studies” approach to this FYC course is informed by the threshold concepts of the composition discipline, alongside teaching for transfer (TFT) and writing about writing (WAW) theories of postsecondary writing education. In surveys and follow-up interviews, twenty-four TAs described the role(s) that reading behaviors—what student-readers think, feel, or do before, during, or after the act of reading, thus incorporating the range of cognitive, affective, behavioral, and social outcomes of any reader-text transaction—played in their reading pedagogies. A comprehensive review of composition scholarship, coupled with TAs’ responses in a pilot study, yielded the following fourteen reading behaviors that writing instructors attempt to cultivate in their students: being motivated to read, skimming and scanning, annotating texts, comprehending content, conducting a close reading, reading rhetorically, applying visual literacy, deconstructing genres, reading critically, reading like a writer, summarizing and paraphrasing, using sources in papers, analyzing samples, and discussing a text with classmates.

A broad framework emerged from TAs’ responses which situates readers’ activity at specific points in an iterative reading-writing cycle. Depending on the immediate purpose for reading, instructors’ reading pedagogies (and their student-readers’ activity) are governed by two broad domains: reading for textual consumption and reading for textual production. Acros these domains, TAs guide students’ reading across six total dimensions. Four dimensions are situated at specific points in the reading-writing cycle: intratextual foci, extratextual expansion, intertextual integration, and transtextual embodiment. Two other dimensions, readerly stance and reader-response, permeate the reading-writing cycle. TAs oftentimes resolve bottlenecks by more proactively cultivating reading behaviors in the reader-response dimension by eliciting students’ individual reading experiences and thereby recalibrating their reader-text relationships.

The findings also hold implications for transfer research: TAs’ dual disciplinary enculurations across humanities disciplines, alongside their exposure to the composition field via their TA training practicum, create unique orientations to postsecondary literacy that offer researchers new ways of conceptualizing the the role(s) of reading in FYC from the perspective of instructors with considerable experiences outside the composition field. From this interdisciplinary perspective, TAs perceive different roles for guiding students’ in FYC and introductory-level humanities courses in which they’ve previously taught. In FYC, TAs’ reading pedagogies privilege reading behaviors in the textual production domain, whereas in introductory-level humanities courses, TAs primarily guide students towards adopting reading behaviors in the textual consumption domain. Further, based on this analysis, numerous TAs don’t envision reading and writing as interconnected processes. TAs can reconceptualize the transfer of students’ literate activity in FYC and across academic contexts by cultivating metadisciplinary reading lenses such as genre, discourse community, and reading like a writer that can strengthen readers’ textual consumption and textual production.

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