Chapter 1: page 7

Premise #3: Growth Mindset

You have probably heard this term before, because really, it is a foundation for all learning. Still, some of our students come into our classes every semester and proclaim that “Reading and writing is not for them,” or “Literature is not my thing.”

While everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion and we all have unique strengths and attributes, we try our best to change the way our students think about reading and writing in college. Mostly, we expand their view of the possibilities of college reading and writing.

Depending on various factors from audience, to the academic discipline, to the assignment prompt, college writing is different from high school. If you are reading this textbook, you are preparing your mindset to be open to these differences, to use strategies that match your learning styles, and to succeed as a college reader and writer—which will help you thrive in all parts of your life. By viewing college reading and writing with a more open perspective, and viewing your own diverse ways of learning with a more strategic point of view, reading can be for everybody. It just takes a growth mindset, where finding your learning style, negotiating an appropriate level of challenge, and having an open, flexible mindset all come together to help you grow as a reader and writer. To expand just a bit, one of the most fundamental lessons I teach my students about the importance of having a flexible mindset in college is developing the courage to take risks, experiment, and truly grow as readers and writers. We read (and watch) various types of texts, including various TED Talks and other videos. Further, my classes discuss English as a living language that has been debated in Composition Studies for 45 years, with a living document entitled “Students Right to their Own Language.”

In this document authored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), they argue that English is not a fixed language, yet has still been used to uphold fixed standard for achievement tests where naturally those who have continually “failed” come out believing that “reading and writing is not for them.” Once students find out that various Englishes are legitimate and valid in the real world, even in the academic community and within scholarly discourse, their perspectives on English changes. Once students like you know that you are allowed to have your own voice as an academic writer—once you are able to develop a more flexible mindset about “English” through various reading and writing experiences included in this textbook—you will be better prepared to grow as readers and writers.

The Importance of Narrative

Every premise in this text up until now is based on the importance of one’s experience to who they are as a learner, reader, and writer. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Your experiences matter, because who you are as a learner matters. Your identity is shaped by your experiences, which is why in our courses when we begin talking about your academic identity, we start with The Writing Project, an essay project about how your identity has been shaped until now; about who you are before you entered our classrooms. Essays that deal with personal experiences and identity are called narratives, and generally tell a personal story or stories that have greater symbolism and/or meaning for how the author sees themselves and defines their identity. The following narratives by influential academic and popular figures will be models of how to tell stories with larger significance and meaning for your identity, and help you plan and develop your own personal narrative in the Writing Project.

Supplemental Reading #2:

How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua

Supplemental Reading #3:

Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

Supplemental Reading #4:

excerpts from Learning to Read by Malcolm X


Experiential Learning

Now that we’ve established that your past experience is important to who you are as a learner, “active learning” is how you will learn best as a college student. Active learning as a college student is when you engage in more experience-based and project-based learning where you ask your own questions, solve problems on your own, teach each other in groups, and learn through interaction with your professor and their ideas, as opposed to passively taking in ideas through reading and lecture.

Beyond the active learning methods that we both practice inside our classrooms [and virtual classroom spaces], both Dan and Jolie promote broader types of experiential learning at SFSU. Jolie also teaches a Community Service Learning component of her First Year Writing course, involving students in 20 hours of community service work integrated with their writing projects. Dan is the Director of the Experimental College, where students take their questions, past knowledge, and experience into designing and teaching their own 1-unit course at San Francisco State, and has a few former Writing students who will teach in the Fall semester. We highly recommend readers of this text to engage in any such active and experiential learning opportunities your University offers; beyond learning in new ways, studies have shown that engaging in such opportunities, including Study Abroad, networking in student organizations, and gaining experience-based internships, students are happier, more successful, and ultimately get more from their college experience.

The Supplemental Readings below discuss various aspects of how experiential learning and extracurricular / co-curricular activities increase retention and graduation rates in college.

Supplemental Reading #5:

The Dropout Dilemma by Jonathan Whitbourne

Supplemental Reading #6:

“The College Dropout Crisis” by David Leonhardt and Sahil Chinoy

%d bloggers like this: