What college instructors notice about incoming freshmen*

Strengths Weaknesses

nEnthusiastic, creative, ambitious

nParticipate in discussions

nWilling and ready to explore ideas, learn skills, “engage as readers, writers, thinkers”

n“Competent” writing, “basic English”

nCritical and analytical thinking (28)

nDeveloping and supporting arguments/theses (18)

nResearch and citing sources (15): integrating quotes effectively and correctly (9), especially to do more than cite source to “prove” or say “this expert agrees with me.”

nVarious writing issues (29):  formal style (4), writing about literature (3), cohesive focused essay (3), organization (3), development of engaged ideas (3).

nVarious reading issues (24):  close/critical reading skills (6), not well read (5), unengaged with reading (4), lack of experience with difficult texts (2).

nStudent learning behavior (18):  lack of independent thinking (4), teacher pleasing (3), unmotivated (4).

nBasic skills (16):  grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, syntax.

nToo much reliance on the 5-paragraph essay (too formulaic) (8)


*This table is based upon an open-ended question at the end of the survey that asked college instructors to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the students they saw in their freshman writing classes.  105 college instructors responded.  Each number in parentheses is the number of instructors who volunteered a response that fit under that particular category.

Items in red are the specific categories that appeared the most frequently.