"Differences in Analytical Text-Based Writing Across Four Levels of Community College Composition Courses"
Fourth-year doctoral student Jane S. Nazzal (left), Professor Emerita Carol Booth Olson (center), and UCI Writing Project Research Scientist Huy Chung (Ph.D., ‘15, right) have authored a new article in Teaching English in the Two-Year College (Vol. 47, No. 3. pp. 263-296, National Council of Teachers of English).
The title of the article is “Differences in Academic Writing Across Four Levels of Community College Composition Courses.”
Nazzal, who is specializing in LLT and EPSC, studies academic writing, educational policy, higher education student success and persistence, and faculty professional development, with a focus on community colleges. She maintains her faculty position in the English department of a southern California college while pursuing her doctoral studies. Nazzal is advised by Professor Olson and Assistant Professor Rachel Baker.
Olson co-founded the UCI Writing Project in 1978 and served as director until 2019. Currently a professor emerita, Olson directs both the WRITE Center and the UCI/National Writing Project. During her distinguished career, Olson was awarded more than $50 million in research grants to advance the teaching of reading and writing. She authored several books, including The Reading/Writing Connection, and published over thirty journal articles on interactive strategies for teaching writing, fostering critical thinking through writing, applying multiple intelligences theory to language arts instruction, using multicultural literature with students of culturally diverse backgrounds.
As Writing Project Director of Research, Chung oversees the research efforts of the Pathway Project’s OELA and i3 grants. Since completing his doctoral studies specialized in Learning, Cognition, and Development and Language, Literacy, and Technology, he has managed and worked on three federally funded programs regarding formative assessments in mathematics, testing accommodations for English Learners, and an evaluation of the Writing Reform and Innovation for Teaching Excellence (WRITE) professional development program. Chung’s research foci follow his commitment to teacher education and professional development for English Language Arts teachers.
Writing is a critical skill that can impact students’ academic and economic trajectories, particularly for community college students, most of whom are considered underprepared by various placement measures and do not persist to transfer-level work (Bailey and Jaggars, 2016).
Widespread reform is currently underway across the country with initiatives in several states to improve the persistence and completion rates of community college students. Reform efforts include the shortening or elimination of lengthy pre-collegiate course sequences and elimination of high-stakes placement tests with the aim of placing students directly into transfer-level composition courses. However, these changes “will not magically make such students prepared for college work” (Hassel and Giordano, 2015) and questions persist about the type of instruction and support students need to succeed (Nazzal, Olson and Chung, 2019).
In order to explore differences in the writing of students placed into one of three precollegiate composition course levels and those placed in the transfer-level composition course at a particular institution before the implementation of placement policy reform, an analytical text-based writing assessment was administered to college students across four course levels. Two types of analyses were performed that examined the following: 1) the frequency of specific writing features, comparing them across course levels and 2) elements of high-scoring papers. Key findings include: 1) statistically significant differences in the presence of certain writing features between college-level and precollegiate level students and 2) the identification of four writing features that are characteristic of high scoring papers.
As the range of student preparedness in transfer level composition courses widens and faculty are met with the challenge of addressing a broader spectrum of student needs, results presented in this study can be used to inform the development of targeted curriculum for assisting faculty in supporting student success.