J. Beaumont1, K. Sanabria2

1Borough of Manhattan Community College (UNITED STATES)
2Hostos Community College (UNITED STATES)
Among the most pressing challenges facing community colleges in the U.S. is the need to offer appropriate instruction to the thousands of students who enter college with reading and writing scores below established benchmarks. These scores bar students from taking courses both in general education and their majors, which is a particular hurdle for students entering STEM disciplines. Furthermore, failing scores are often coupled with English language learning needs, and the spectrum of applicants is highly diverse.

In fact, the increasingly porous division between "ESL-proper" populations and the growing cohort known as Generation 1.5 further complicates these questions. Rather than being two distinct groups, this collective population is best seen as falling between two ends of a continuum. Limiting the advancement of many of these students is the fact that they may be unfamiliar with college discourse and expectations, and resistant to efforts focused on reading and writing, which many do not perceive to be directly linked to their academic and career goals. Thus, the need to develop reading and writing skills is seen as an arbitrary net holding students back from realizing their objectives.

This joint research project explores and documents the experience of faculty teaching these classes, engaging faculty from two campuses in collaborative inquiry group discussions. The thorniest issues concerning the classroom experience revolve around the following: Placement and assessment; Appropriate curriculum design; The various needs of students who score just below cutoff points; Articulation among levels; Providing appropriate instruction for students who fail to advance following a language intervention; and most worrisome, the daily experience of faculty teaching students with a wide range of reading and writing proficiency. There is a marked need to identify and scale up successful practices and observations in these areas.
The presenters will explain the benefits of peer observation and interaction. Their work is supplemented by ethnographic research in their respective programs, allowing for a detailed and in-depth investigation of the setting and participants. In order to maximize the potential of their collaboration, inquiry group sessions are organized in order to spark further involvement and permit faculty to share best practices, adding breadth and depth to their discussions. Given the size and importance of the community college applicant pool, such discussions are urgently needed.