I am appreciating this discussion. I think I bring a rather different  
perspective to the issue than do those of you who have weighed in so  
far. This may, in part, be due to the differences in student  
populations we work with, but also, I am sure, because of my  
theoretical training and perspective. For instance, I don't  
customarily address any of the five areas that Rebekah mentions  
(except, perhaps, comprehension, a term which I believe is not very  
useful), and I am confident that for virtually every student I work  
with their difficulty lies outside of these areas. Similarly, while I  
would agree with many of Sara's comments about students' not yet  
possessing a full range of study strategies and the knowledge and  
skills necessary to apply them flexibly, I wouldn't say that they  
don't understand the meaning of the term "study". In general I would  
say that they are working with a different understanding and set of  
expectations born of their previous experience in different settings  
with different demands. This is not a purely semantic distinction.  
 From a constructivist point of view, it's imperative that we  
recognize what knowledges, expectations, skills, strategies etc. our  
students bring, not just what they don't possess. Many, many of my  
students approach studying in similar ways to one another that are not  
likely to be effective in the UC Berkeley context but clearly were  
effective in the past (UC Berkeley is a highly selective institution).  
I think the most parsimonious explanation of this observation is that  
their K-12 experiences led them to develop these notions of studying,  
but that those are not adaptive here. They will need to develop new  
beliefs, knowledge, strategies and, in many cases, values in order to  
get in sync with the cultural practices here and be successful.  
Transitioning to a research university from high school or community  
college is for most students like traveling to a foreign country in  
terms of literacy and learning.

Again, this may be due in part to differences in student populations,  
but I don't locate reading "problems" in the student. For the most  
part I see competent, intelligent students who are facing unfamiliar  
tasks and expectations in their coursework here, for which, because  
they are unfamiliar, students have not yet developed strategic  
approaches. So, I spend a good deal of my time with students helping  
them to understand the university cultural practices and contexts they  
are reading in and helping them to develop tools to ascertain the  
types of expectations for each course they take. In short, I teach  
students strategies for how to determine the immediate, situational  
expectations around learning with text and demonstrating their  
knowledge. This often requires explicating the mission of the research  
university (RU) and contrasting it with K-12 and community college  
missions, explaining that RU faculty are disciplinary experts and not  
trained to teach (and the implications for students), helping students  
understand the purposes and conventions of scholarly genres (e.g.  
monographs and research articles), making concrete how differences in  
curriculum design and instruction at RUs have  important consequences  
for their learning demands, and showing how each course can be like  
the professor's fiefdom with many idiosyncratic features and demands  
that require course-specific ways of reading. So, as you can see, by  
the time we address some or all of these topics in the context of a  
specific course (using the syllabus, texts, assignments), there is not  
much time left to work on phonemic awareness, fluency, etc. I am often  
struck by how much benefit to their approaches to reading students  
report getting from sessions where the only thing we read is the  
course syllabus and the vast majority of our time is spent discussing  
issues that ostensibly have noting to do with reading from  
conventional perspectives on college reading. That's not to say we  
don't often work on specific texts from their courses, we do. But this  
work tends to reinforce and concretize the points made earlier, and I  
rarely, if ever, work on reading generally separate from particular   
courses and texts.

Returning to the issue of why it is that students don't recognize (or  
want to do so) the difficulties that they are having academically as  
being rooted in their reading, I can think of a couple of plausible  
explanations. One, which I actually think is less significant, is that  
the stigma associated with "poor" reading competency prevents students  
from seeking out assistance. A second related explanation could be  
that the conceptions  students have of what competent reading is-- 
fluent decoding of words--inhibits them from recognizing when they  
have the kinds of reading issues we are discussing. If you think  
reading is merely fluent decoding of words and you can do that, then  
if you are having difficulties making sense of text and demonstrating  
your knowledge on tests etc., there must be some other cause, right?  
This, I think, is a common belief among the general public and not a  
few reading educators: reading is reading is reading. This simplistic  
conception of reading contributes to the flood of self-diagnosed  
"dyslexics" and ADD sufferers, who, I am guessing you also see in your  
work in recent years. Students come to me having difficulty reading,  
know they can competently decode, know they are "smart" enough,  and  
thus attribute their difficulties to some kind of non-visible  
"disability," never considering that their difficulties might have   
other origins besides their brains. The point is, our students are  
part of the general population who think that reading is a simple  
skill, and that they have mastered this skill; so we should not be  
surprised that they don't recognize their academic difficulties as  
being due to reading and learning with text issues.  How do we address  
this problem? Change the way that our society thinks about the many  
varieties of reading, I suppose. As Goethe is purported to have said,  
"I have spent a lifetime learning to read."


On Jan 9, 2009, at 8:36 AM, Sara Weertz wrote:

> This is a topic of great interest to me. I hope the input and  
> discussion
> continues. Barbara Kirkwood brings up an excellent point in that  
> students
> freely admit they are not "good" at math or are not "good" writers  
> and yet
> have difficulty admitting they do not know how to read well or think
> critically. Nic Voge points out the fact that students seeking help  
> often
> incorrectly present the issue. I particularly appreciate Lucy  
> McDonald's
> discipline-specific approach to reading assistance. I would, however,
> suggest we consider an additional factor: students, in general, do not
> understand the meaning of STUDY,  the attached variables (study skills
> strategies), or that there are different ways to approach studying
> (course-specific ways). For example, math study skills strategies are
> different than history study skills strategies.
> At the beginning of each term, we survey students enrolled in classes
> supported with SI and tutoring. The survey is a brief questionnaire (6
> questions) asking students to explain how they study and how much time
> (hours per week) they put into their studies. The last 2 survey  
> questions
> ask students what grade they want and what grade they expect for the  
> course.
> Over the years, our survey analyses never cease to amaze me. Nearly  
> 100% of
> those surveyed say they want to get an A or B and they expect to get  
> an A or
> B in the course. (I believe they are sincere-all want to do well).  
> The red
> flags come with their answers to the other questions, as these same  
> students
> indicate they devote only 1 or 2 hours of study per week to each  
> course and
> utilize very few study skills strategies. The majority of students  
> respond
> as such-
> *	They rarely take notes during class
> *	Even if they take notes during class, they don't read/review their
> notes (certainly not within 24 hours of the lecture)
> *	When taking notes, most simply copy what's on the board or in ppt-no
> one listens to what the instructor is saying
> *	Those attentive during lectures assume they will simply remember
> everything (and then are surprised when they don't test well)
> *	Very few compare their lecture notes with notes from their textbook
> reading
> *	No one attempts to develop potential test questions, based on
> readings and lecture-that's just too hard when you don't know the  
> subject
> material
> *	Discussion of course material outside of class is nil
> *	Only students with multiple heads develop study activities such as
> flash cards and matrices
> *	Few review or consult the course syllabus after the first day of
> classes
> *	Some still skip the first day because the can't be concerned with
> the course logistics
> *	Many don't want to "bother" the instructor during office hours to
> ask questions or get advice
> *	Too many do not read the assigned chapers before class because it's
> too difficult to read 80+ text pages in one hour's time
> *	Rarely do students put together a time management/study schedule
> *	Cramming still appears to be the popular mode of study-many, many
> students do not even crack the text until days before an exam
> We use the same survey when conducting course-specific Study Skills
> Workshops. These workshps offer us an opportunity to talk to  
> students and
> get a more indepth look at their study habits, as well as their true
> feelings about studying.
> Spring 2009, we will add one last survey question, a rhetorical  
> question
> which follows those regarding grade expections: How do you plan to  
> do this?
> We don't expect students to answer this question outright, but  
> rather hope
> it will help them set the stage, so to speak, formulating a plan for
> success.
> sal
> Sara L. Weertz
> Director, Supplemental Instruction
> Contact Information <>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the  
--bell hooks
The university...becomes subversive...when students are encouraged to  
learn how to learn.
--Robin Lakoff
Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
Study Strategies Program Coordinator
University of California, Berkeley
Student Learning Center
136 Cesar Chavez Student Center  #4260
Berkeley, CA 94720-4260

(510) 643-9278
[log in to unmask]

Nicís Available Meeting Times Fall 2008

Office Hours

After class Thursdays (4-5) and Fridays 4-5.

By-Appointment Hours

Mondays: 3-5

Tuesdays: 2-3

Wednesdays: 10-12

Thursdays: 10-12

Fridays: 1-2 & 3-4

To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web browser to

To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]