You Know More Than You Think You Do

One of the themes of today (and today’s reading) could be “You Know More Than You Think You Do” about reading in academic contexts. You do! I mean, you’ve been doing reading for academic purposes for years now and for at least 3 years in college. You English majors also have some serious reading chops.

But don’t get a big head about it–you also need to communicate that knowledge to other people, leading discussions in which you and your tutees look over materials and discuss how to “decode” them. And my other caveat is that reading, like writing, is also discipline-specific, taking on different purposes and protocols as we slide from disciplines like English into history, business, sociology, engineering, or nursing. I once met an engineer who read “backwards”!

My theme comes from a recent article by Elizabeth Wardle in Inside Higher Education called, appropriately enough, “You Know More Than You Think about Teaching Writing.” In it Wardle makes this strong statement:

The guiding belief of this program is that faculty who have language and theory for understanding and explaining disciplinary writing can innovate writing assignments and instruction in their various fields in ways that disciplinary outsiders could never do for them. In other words, that our job as writing specialists is not to give other faculty cool “tips and tricks” or proselytize assignments or activities we think they should use. Rather, that if they have the tools they need, then as disciplinary experts they will come up with innovations that meet their students’ needs in context. 

What does this mean for us? Well, in part it means we should figure out what you all already know about reading for academic purposes. After our presentation today we’ll do just that.

Sticking with our theme, I’d like you to break into groups. I’ll lead you through two “rounds” of work sorting out what we know about reading. We’ll organize ourselves by some of the areas Griswold mentions:

  • Actual instruction in reading
  • Engaging critically with texts
  • Different kinds of texts calling for different reading strategies
  • Relevant ideas from literacy theory (332) or reading lit for future teachers (341)
  • Development as fluent/fluid readers
  • Challenges of academic reading

Huddle with your team and think of things you already know in the above areas: ideas you have, strategies you use, ways of handling the “reading load,” ways of working with text. Then make sure someone grabs a marker and writes them up under that section of the board!

Once we’ve done that–and perhaps talked for a few minutes about it–get back into your groups and use your Google-ability to give us more insight. What would Google Scholar say on these topics? What would the sources in Griswold’s article suggest are methods for tutoring or teaching reading, either in-text or in Works Cited?


Hey! I'm a professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the English dept. at Chico State. Also disc golf player, indie music listener, and vanilla Marxist.

Leave a Reply