College ready? What can we learn from first-year college assignments?

Jean Donham Ph.D.

Rarely does discussion of high school education lack consideration of the question, “Are high school graduates ready for college and career?” In fact, a driver for the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) has been the concern about college and career readiness of American high school graduates.

Based on 41 assignments gathered from Iowa colleges and universities, this study enhances our understanding of the differences between high school and college academic work by delineating the characteristics of first-year college assignments through a qualitative analysis of college faculty assignment instructions. Certainly, skills such as evaluating information sources, developing a sound research question, and using source information to support an argument or thesis were evident in these assignments. However learner dispositions emerged from these assignments as well especially curiosity, open-mindedness, self-reliance, and perseverance.

Too often, high school educators assume that students arrive at high school with all the information skills they need. However, expectations of college faculty indicate a place for developing advanced research skills and nurturing the dispositions of a researcher in a curriculum for third- and fourth-year high school students. School librarians have important skills and knowledge to contribute to such a curriculum.

See the report of Dr. Donham’s study at


Joining forces for STEM and literacy

At the Iowa Statewide STEM Conference on March 28, 2014, two University of Northern Iowa research centers and the School Library Studies Division announced a partnership to promote high quality STEM and literacy integration.  The Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education, the Richard O. Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy, and School Library Studies will collaborate to support schools and teachers in providing a rich STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) experience for PreK-3rd grade students.


A wild ride through history

Kari Bosma, a teacher librarian in Ankeny Community School District in Iowa, has found that learning history through graphic novels can improve students’ comprehension.  Her study involved fifth grade students learning about events in the American Revolution through graphic novels, such as Paul Revere's Ride by Xavier Niz, and other nonfiction texts. Bosma conducted this study as part of her School Library Studies master’s research in 2010 under the direction of UNI professors Dr. Audrey Rule, Elementary Education, and Dr. Karla Krueger, School Library Studies.