Category Archives: Education

Education Week: ‘Soft Skills’ Pushed as Part of College Readiness

Resiliency and grit, along with the ability to communicate and advocate, are all crucial life skills. Yet, experts say, many teenagers lack them, and that’s hurting college-completion rates.


Teachers should also give students longer, more complex assignments for which they need to do research, work in groups, and develop a broader set of strategies, [David Conley, PhD] added.


via Education Week: ‘Soft Skills’ Pushed as Part of College Readiness.

Reading Instruction for ALL Students: A New Policy Brief from the NCTE

A new policy brief from the NCTE outlines the importance of reading instruction at every level of students’ education. The following passage, on approaches to reading that aid in the comprehension of challenging texts, may be of partticular interest to college faculty:

research shows that reading comprehension depends on a more complex approach [than “close reading”]. Specifically, reading comprehension results from the integration of two models, text-based and situation-based. The text-based model focuses on the way words are organized into sentences, paragraphs, and whole texts. The situation model refers to the meaning that results from integration of the text-based approach with the reader’s prior knowledge and goals. Close reading is aligned with the text-based approach, and it encourages students to see meaning as one right answer to be extracted from the text. Close reading is often conflated with providing textual evidence for making a claim about a text, but any approach to reading can insist on warrants for interpretations of texts. By itself, then, close reading cannot ensure that students will develop deep understandings of what they read.

In addition, the brief includes a nice list of “Implications for Instructional Policy” that offers practical suggestions and proven strategies that “support students’ learning to read complex texts across grade levels and disciplines” (16).

A free PDF of the entire policy brief can be downloaded at:

College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges

Yes, our own Lane CC makes an appearance in the data. We outstrip other institutions by FAR in per-completion spending, but this is likely tied to the fact that our rate of student “completion” is so very, very low. That, of course, is based on an incredibly narrow definition of “completion,” which doesn’t include part-time students, students who transfer for completion, students who stop-out, and students who’ve attended college before, ever. (And yes, that’s pretty much Lane’s entire student body.) Still, the data are interesting, particularly in light of the move toward “achievement compacts” (away from FTE) and emphasis on college “completion” that was recently endorsed by Governor Kitzhaber–a plan that is currently being promoted across the state by the OEIB. You can do side-by-side comparisons by institution or by state, and did I mention that the graphics are awesome? It’s definitely worth taking a look:

College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges.

National Grammar Day 2010: Ten More Common Grammar Myths, Debunked « Motivated Grammar

Happy Grammar Day! National Grammar Day 2010: Ten More Common Grammar Myths, Debunked « Motivated Grammar.

Storytelling for Social Justice: Lakota Students Reject Stereotypes

Recently I’ve given a few presentations around campus discussing my work on diversity and a pedagogy of/for social justice. One focus of those presentations has been the role of rhetoric and ideology, through what education theorist Lee Anne Bell calls “stock stories,” in either preserving or disrupting historical patterns of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination that operate along the axes of difference.

Following along those lines, I wanted to share this multimedia project by Lakota students of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, created in response to ABC’s reductive representation of Native Americans in the recent 20/20 special “A Hidden America: Children of the Plains.” One of the reasons I find this video so compelling is that it demonstrates how students themselves can use storytelling to make their own interventions for social justice–in this case, a multimodal “transforming” story, to once again draw upon Bell’s framework:

More Than That

You can also listen to an NPR story about the students and their project here: Through Video, Lakota Students Reject Stereotypes : NPR.

This will make you smarter (really)

A fascinating new contribution from the folks over at Edge is now available. This year’s collection centers on the question: “What scientific concept will improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”

Last week I was talking to my WR 115 class about “reflective learning” as one kind of meta-cognition, and this book could potentially help expand our metacognitive abilities–both students’ and teachers’–in a big way. In terms of writing and especially the teaching of writing, we ask our students to get metacognitive every time we put them together to workshop drafts of their essays, when they think/write about their own writing experiences and practices (in postwrites, revision plans, self-assessment, etc), and when they reflect back on their work in our composition courses as they prepare final portfolios, just to name a few.

Those of you thinking about Lane’s core abilities (which are currently under revision) and/or considering undertaking a critical thinking assessment project will find this book especially timely and, at least from what I’ve seen so far, a pleasure to read, to boot. You can find a description and some wonderful excepts from the text over at Brainpickings (a personal favorite and fabulous resource for all things “cultural” for the curious mind):

This will make you smarter (really).

Write to Learn in Energy Management

Yesterday I gave a brief presentation on how to improve student writing for our Energy Management program. I included the main points below under the broader rubric of “sometimes less is more”–both in teaching as well as in writing. In looking at a few additional resources that I could recommend for the EM faculty, I found this related journal article on using microthemes in fish and wildlife management courses, including a thoughtful rubric (another topic I touched on in the presentation). I’ll continue to add to this post as I build a Teaching/Writing Toolbox for for Energy Management at Lane.

Improving Student Writing: How to Do More with Less

For Starters:

  • make your own assumptions about writing and your expectations of students explicit
  • identify learning goals or outcomes for each assignment
  • use a rubric to assess student writing
  • share the rubric with students
  • give students an assignment sheet, and include the above in it

Middle of the Road:

  • low stakes writing—more small assignments (e.g., muddiest point / clearest point; microthemes): increases comprehension and fluency in writing about content
  • use multiple drafts for high stakes assignments
  • use a portfolio / delayed grading model
  • have students keep an error log for technical and mechanical issues in writing (punctuation, sentence boundaries, etc)
  • don’t “correct” student error; identify it, explain its rhetorical impact, and offer a few suggestions for how the student can address the issue
  • have students assess themselves using the rubric before submitting an assignment

Wrapping it Up:

  • keep it simple (less is often more when it comes to commenting on student writing as well)
  • don’t mark everything
  • spend the most time commenting on the issues in student writing that REALLY matter to you


Visions of Students Today

Visions of Students Today. (A Michael Wesch remix)

Citation Obsession? Get Over It! – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Citation Obsession? Get Over It! – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Bedford Bits: Ideas for Teaching Composition

Bedford Bits: Ideas for Teaching Composition.