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Community Engagement Incentive Award: Susan Groenke (2014)

Crossing the Bridge to Academic Discourse: A Collaborative Exploration of What High School Seniors Need to Know to Write Well in First-Year College Composition Courses-Year 2

Susan Groenke, associate professor of English education,  and has established a collaborative partnership between University of Tennessee freshmen English instructors and Knox County Schools English teachers. The partners are now building a cohesive framework for college-ready writing to better enable incoming university students.

“Ultimately, both Knox County secondary students and UT-Knoxville college freshmen are whom we want to benefit most from this partnership,” said Groenke. “As they reap the benefit of writing instruction attuned to their needs and the larger goal of helping them succeed, and stay, in college.”

Susan Groenke

Susan Groenke

Groenke cites recent reports indicating that 61 percent of high school English teachers receive minimal-to-no preparation for writing instruction in their teacher preparation programs.

“Many states require no writing courses for teacher certification,” Groenke added.

She estimates that 50 percent of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level writing. In order to curb drop-out rates associated with writing illiteracy, first-year composition instructors at UT and 12th grade English teachers in Knox County Schools evaluated materials used at both institutions.  Their joint review included syllabi, writing assignments and task sheets, so that formats taught during the students’ senior year of high school would transition them into freshmen year of college.

“The impact is broader in that teacher knowledge and secondary writing curriculum are affected,” said Groenke. “We see this partnership as a long-term endeavor.”

Year two worked as an assessment of college-ready writing skills established in year one of the UT-funded project.

The partnership’s review of connections and disconnections between the Common Core State Standards, first-year composition instruction and secondary writing instruction is based on resolving uncertainty about what is expected of teacher knowledge.

“It is our hope that this new knowledge, for both secondary and college-level teachers, will impact writing instruction and student learning at both the secondary and university levels,” said Groenke.

Knox County Schools

Project Report Cross the Bridge to Academic Discourse: A Collaborative Exploration of What High School Seniors Need to Know to Write Well in First-Year College Composition Courses-Year 2