Reading challenge in professional Bachelor's degree programs

Unni Lind, Jakob Matthiesen, Rikke Stauning Klestrup, Ramanan Balasubramaniam, Sanne Lehmann, Anne-Marie Hougaard Navntoft, Lasse Kvols Dohn

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalPaperResearchpeer-review

Abstract

University Colleges in Denmark provide education to a wide range of professions from basic education to continuing education. The Professional Bachelor's degree program is a 31/2-4 years medium-length higher education. This study takes place at the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences and includes four professional bachelor's degree programs: Pedagogy; Social worker, Administration and Disaster & Risk.
Students at University Colleges in Denmark has different educational experiences. Almost half of the students is from families where the parents do not have a higher education, and one in five students have primary and secondary school or vocational school as their highest completed education (Danske Professionshøjskoler 2022). In addition, over the past twenty years, there has been a significant increase in the admission of students in higher education. In professional bachelor's degree programs, there has been an increased admission of 45%. This has lead to a change in student composition. In 2009, students with the 25% lowest grades from primary and secondary school was 10% but in 2019 it was 20%. Students with the 25% lowest grades from high school have risen to 31%, and students from low-income homes and educationally alien homes have risen to 27% in 2019 (Falkencrone et al. 2022:17). In addition to this young people and adults' desire to read is declining (Hansen et al. 2021) and "Respondents, where one or possibly both parents have a long higher education, have better reading skills than respondents where both parents have an education at primary and secondary school level" (Rosendahl et al. 2013:31). This has given rise to a study of newly started bachelor students reading skills at the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences at Copenhagen University College. The study includes reading screenings and qualitative interviews.
Screening of the students’ reading skills at the start of their study shows that 75% of the students are untrained and weak readers. Only 25% can be described as safe and experienced readers. Whereas 60% of the students can benefit from training: reading speed, reading comprehension, and written language elements. Some students in this group read so insecurely that it affects reading comprehension and speed. This means that they probably will experience problems and challenges with large reading volumes. Finally, 15% read, but with big challenges. This group has a limited vocabulary and a lack of basic knowledge of e.g. grammar, spelling rules.
The qualitative interviews identify the students' reading strategies and first experiences with the study. The untrained and weak reader seems to be particularly challenged at the beginning of the study. Furthermore the students are preoccupied with efficiency in their study. The students' reading strategy, use of reading questions and perception of what they read, is about minimizing time and quickly get the points in the texts. They explains it by referring to the amount of reading material and a time pressure in the study and to obligations in their everyday lives. The students emphasis reading approaches, teaching and texts that quickly present the professional points, and that are be easy to read. Text reading emerges primarily as a means of quickly acquiring, what they think, is relevant skills. Finally help to the study is sought from family, girlfriend or friends, while no one mentions the possibility of seeking help from fellow students or teachers. They emphasize that a good teacher is structured and clear in his messages, but at the same time they point out that the teachers fail to include their prerequisites in the organization and implementation of the teaching.
Method (400 words)
The purpose of the Study is to provide input to the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences, regarding development of education and training that can support the students' study skills and the education with differentiated teaching. In the Study, the following two survey questions were formulated: What reading skills do the students begin their study with? And what reading experiences do students achieve during the first year of study? Methodologically, the study is organized as a Mixed Methods study (Creswell 2012). That included screenings and interviews. All students in the first semester were offered to participate. Participation was voluntary and all participants was thoroughly informed about the study and were asked for a written consent. This allowed us to combine data from their admission to the study, with data from the screenings. Interviews were conducted on basis of dialog with interested students, who were in the screened classes. All data is treated confidentially and anonymized.
The Quantitative Research part consisted of reading screening of 1979 students out of a population of 4400. These data were subsequently statically analyzed with admission data, such as admission basis, age and years since graduation. In the period 2021-2022, students in three admissions have been offered reading screening. The Reading Test for Adults 2 were used. This is an official reading test developed and approved by the Ministry of Children and Education (Undervisningsministeriet 2018). It is based on the following reading model: Reading comprehension = decoding x Language comprehension equivalent to Text reading = Word reading x Language comprehension. The test consists of three subtests: Text reading (reading comprehension), Vocabulary and Word reading (decoding). The intention of the test is to give insight to the adult's general reading level (text reading). It operates with five steps, in the study these are divided into three color categories: Red: Reading, but with very big challenges (reading course levels 1-2); Yellow: uncertain reader (reading course levels 3-4); Green: confident in reading and writing. The Qualitative Research part consisted of 22 qualitative one hour individual interviews (Brinkmann 2013). The 22 students were from the four professional programs. The interviews were based on a common themed interview guide, which included previous experiences with to study and reading, experiences with texts in study, teaching, reading strategies and reading desire, and where they seek help (networks, group work, teacher).

Conclusion (300 words)
The quantitative part of the study shows that the professional bachelor's degree programs: Pedagogy; Social worker, Administration and Disaster and Risk, are admitting a large group of students who can be described as untrained and weak readers. 75% are characterized by being uncertain and challenged readers. They have problems with reading comprehension, speed, limited vocabulary, etc. The interviews show that the students reading strategies and study experiences is not matched by their reading challenges when entering the program. Reading is regarded as a means of obtaining useful knowledge quickly. Efficiency is central in the students understanding of reading, and it can be understood as an instrumental response to both internal and external demands (Rosa 2014). The students are concerned with minimizing the use of time, quickly finding the academic points in the text, and that texts are clear and easily communicated. Reading is not seen as having other qualities than a means of quickly acquiring relevant skills. This interacts with other approaches, such as frequent testing, unclear test and requirement formulations, a large fragmentation of themes (Matthiesen, 2021).
University Colleges in Denmark admit a larger group of students with weak study prerequisites than earlier. This means that The Professional Bachelor's degree programs have a greater task in helping these students into in education, and supporting students with weak study prerequisites. However, the interviews point out that the programs is challenged. Involving the students' prerequisites in the teaching and organization of the teaching is a complex didactic challenge. It requires development and initiatives aimed at both the students and the teachers. The presentation sets the stage for a discussion on how to meet and teach this student group. How do we deal whit a differentiated student group, which is characterized by being untrained and weak readers as a general problem.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • learning, educational science and teaching
  • education, professions and jobs

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