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Center for Teaching and Learning

Focused Inquiry Groups (FIGs) - BSI:  Reading Apprenticeship

Reading Apprenticeship - Members - Cindy Hicks

Reading Apprenticeship Faculty Inquiry Group

Instructor Review

2008 - 2009



One of the challenges with basic skills English students involves having them experience how one needs to read for college. All of my students answered that they could read, and in the sense that they can decode and often literally understand text, they were correct. Students have great difficulty applying (analyzing, synthesizing) what they read in order develop a reasonable response to an inquiry, however. They often describe this difficulty as resulting from their inability to remember what they have read, and, in a sense, this, too may be correct. They may have difficulty remembering because they do not recognize how text is organized; do not recognize and know how to solve reading problems; are unable to determine a purpose for reading; and are still developing a sense of what discipline-specific reading looks like. My goal was to give the students access to my and their reading processes in order to enable them to apply their reading to solving the problems posed by the inquiry questions they were working with.

My RA Research Question
How will regularly and intentionally involving students in metacognitive routines affect their participation in class, their perception of themselves as readers/learners, and their ability and willingness to question in deeper, more interesting ways?


Data Sources Collected
Student Information Sheets, Personal Reading Histories, 4 CERAs, 3 TttT (attached to CERAs); Evidence/Interpretation T-Chart; 4 TttT with partners’ rough drafts of essays; Reading Survey; students’ use of the reading in their essay; student retention and pass rates; various Classroom Assessments related to the memoir assignment, including: Finishing and expanding upon a sentence starter, “Reading the memoir is like…”; a current article summary + connection to memoir; golden lines and relation to possible themes. Because of the amount of data collected, I followed four students: Jonathon, Laurie, Nathan, and Denis, selected because they all received credit and enrolled in my second-semester class, enabling me to do follow-up observations. The data I’ll be analyzing closely includes: the CERAs, TttT, the classroom assessment, the summary of an article related to the memoir, and the reading survey.


For the detailed analysis of the four students followed, please see attached document.

Talking to the Text
I introduced TttT immediately in the term, modeling it with the course syllabus, and then having the students complete TttT with the syllabus. Students then pair-shared their TttT with a partner, and then the whole class discussed the syllabus. I followed a similar routine with each TttT activity through about midterm. At midterm, I modeled less and occasionally asked the students to TttT when they were reading at home. Students always shared with a partner and then with the whole class.

I may have made a mistake with my modeling TttT. I started always with the assignment, and recommended students pay particular attention to the information needed to develop a response to the inquiry question. This focus may explain why the TttT I collected so often included summaries of the content. Also, students didn’t note difficult passages, even when TttT with difficult text. One student, in particular, noted in his CERA that he was able to get the information he needed to write the assignment from the class discussion.


Discussion of Semester’s Observations
While I was disappointed with the pass rate of my English 101A students this semester, I did accomplish one of my goals. The students I studied closely did appear to develop a better sense of how the two types of text we studied—case studies and the memoir—were organized. They began to recognize patterns in the two genres.
In retrospect, I realize my goal statement for the class was flawed: there is way too large a gap between “give the students access to their reading processes” and “apply their reading to problem solving.” I needed to much more carefully plan for all that comes between recognition of process and problem solving.

I engaged the students in too few strategies for solving reading problems. Students didn’t identify specific reading problems to solve very often, perhaps because the early cases were easy to read and by the time they came to the more difficult reading, they looked for other ways to get the information they needed to accomplish their writing assignments. I focused the students too much on solving the dilemma posed by the inquiries before I had laid the groundwork for them to “move through the metacognitive funnel.” It’s becoming a delicate balance I need to achieve—helping the students become more proficient and independent readers, and, at the same time, helping them apply their reading in order to write their essays.

Even so, I am able to answer my inquiry question based on this semester’s observations. I regularly and intentionally involved students in metacognitive routines, especially TttT, CERA, and think/pair/share, and I did observe increased participation by the students in class. Their perceptions of themselves as readers/learners changed for some of them. Those who indicated slightly less confidence in themselves as academic readers seem to realize that academic reading is a complex task. Though few of the students were questioning in deep and interesting ways, most of them were asking better questions by the end of the semester than they were at the beginning. Twenty-eight students stayed in the class through the entire semester, and 24 persisted to another semester in college.
My plan for better achieving the balance between reading and writing instruction, practice, and learning is to more consistently engage the students in more metacognitive routines, providing additional scaffolding, for example, for metacognitive journals, effective use of T-charts, prereading activities that involve some reading of the text, unlinking TttT with the writing assignment at first, and keeping TttT focused on the four dimensions of the metacognitive conversation. I also want to be certain that the routines include students’ identification of difficult text and strategies for dealing with the difficulty.

Two of the students I studied closely provided insight into how I can better support their learning in their descriptions of how they learned something: both indicated they learned by doing with an “expert” mentor available to help them. In other words, the apprenticeship model worked for them.

As I become more proficient at Reading Apprenticeship, I am beginning to see more clearly where and how I can improve my own teaching in order to better support my students’ learning. Even though fewer of my students were able to pass my Fall semester English 101A than usually do, they taught me a lot about my need to plan better, to be more consistent in the routines I introduce, and to provide my students with experiences that help them make the specific reading/writing connections they need to make.



Full Report - includes detailed analysis of each of the four students followed

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