The Strategy Use of Struggling Readers in the First-Year Composition Classroom: What We Know and How We Can Help Them

Alex Poole


One key difference between successful and struggling college readers is their use of strategies. The former can understand challenging texts due to their knowledge of how to apply a diverse range of strategies. In contrast, the latter are frequently unaware of when and how to utilize strategies, and, as a result, often cannot comprehend assigned texts. Problematically, research on successful and struggling college readers’ strategy use has rarely taken place in the context of first-year composition. Thus, first-year writing instructors have few tools they can use to meet the needs of the many at-risk students who populate their classes. The following article attempted to help instructors better serve their students by examining the strategic differences between successful and struggling readers in first-year composition courses. The participants filled out a quantitative reading survey called the Metacognitive Assessment of Reading Strategies Inventory (MARSI), along with a demographic profile. The results showed significant differences between the groups overall and on the MARSI’s subscales. In addition, successful readers used seven individual strategies significantly more than struggling readers. Explanations for these results are offered, as are pedagogical recommendations for first-year writing instructors.


first-year composition; reading strategies

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