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From “Additive” to “Integrative”: Experiences of Faculty Teaching Developmental Integrated Reading and Writing Courses

By: Susan Bickerstaff & Julia Raufman

Abstract

This paper documents the perceptions and experiences of faculty members in the midst of statewide reform efforts in Virginia and North Carolina to integrate developmental reading and writing courses. Using interview and focus group data from 161 faculty and administrators in both states (combined) as well as three detailed case studies of faculty teaching newly integrated courses, the authors describe how departments and faculty approached the task of course integration. While instructors had a generally positive impression of integrating the two disciplines, implementing these new courses was not without challenges.

A common approach to course design, which the authors term “additive,” involved combining assignments and activities from the old standalone courses. They identify a range of factors associated with using the additive approach, including conceptions of literacy learning focused on the mastery of discrete skills, professional development aimed at exchanging activities and materials between reading and writing instructors, and lack of a clear framework for an integrated course design. Instructors using the additive approach reported that they could not cover all of the content/activities from the previous courses under the accelerated course structure, and worried they that they were not able to provide students the literacy skills they needed to be successful in college.

Yet some faculty used or began to adopt an “integrative” approach to course design, in which few standalone components of the previously offered courses remained. Integrative course design tended to emphasize metacognition, extensive text-based writing, and embedded skills and strategy instruction, often offered in a “just-in-time” fashion. Faculty perceived that these more integrative course elements were associated with improved literacy learning.

The findings presented have implications for creating support resources and professional development for departments and faculty who are new to teaching integrated reading and writing courses. The paper includes several curricular examples that can be adapted and used by faculty teaching integrated developmental courses.