Leaning Into Difficulty: A Way of Building Knowledge in a Developmental Reading and Writing Course




McGee, Barrie

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Texas State University, The Education Institute


Recognition of the interconnectedness of the reading and writing processes is not a new concept. Indeed, the developmental nature of reading and writing is shown to have evolved over time (Nelson & Calfee, 1998) and has been the focus of empirical research grounded on three basic theoretical models: shared cognition (two buckets drawing water from a common well), sociocognitive (envisioned as a conversation), and combined-use model (tools that can be used together to build something) (Shanahan, 2016). I am particularly intrigued by the sociocognitive model of reading and writing as a conversation as both mirror closely the spirit of Rosenblatt’s (2013) transactional view of the relationship among the text, the reader, and the author. The theory Rosenblatt promoted requires a paradigm shift that problematizes the dualistic notion of subjectobject, individual-social, and stimulus-response that are insufficient to represent the recursive, “one process” that the knower, the knowing, and the known enact, each conditioning the other in linguistic activities (pp. 926–927). For example, when a student transacts with a text, they draw from linguistic and experiential knowledge bases (reservoirs) to derive an interpretation. Difficulties can arise when knowledge bases are inadequate to form a clear understanding of a text, yet working through the difficulties results in structuring new meaning. The work involved in the struggle is generative (Bartholemae & Petrosky, 1986). Rather than an interaction that may close off the opportunity for students to build new knowledge, ‘“meaning’ happens during the transaction” (p. 929). Rosenblatt and others (i.e., Bakhtin, 1981; Gadamer, 1975; Iser, 1978) provided sound theories to justify designing fully integrated reading and writing (IRW) courses. To clarify, fully integrated as I use it here is distinct in that it references Rosenblatt’s notion of the similar processes that reading and writing share as well as the ideal instruction in which neither reading nor writing are privileged in service to the other but are considered interconnected literacy practices in a dialogically centered classroom. Such instruction, however, is another matter.



integrated reading and writing, developmental education, developmental reading and writing, Rosenblatt


McGee, B. (2021). Leaning into difficulty: A way of building knowledge in a developmental reading and writing course. Journal of College Academic Support Programs, 4(1), pp. 56-59.


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