Reinventing Reading: Identifying and Describing Threshold Concepts for College Readers
AuthorSweeney, Meghan A
AdvisorDetweiler, Jane A
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Reinventing Reading: Identifying and Describing Threshold Concepts for College Readers examines academic literacies across the curriculum. Specifically, this dissertation takes on Doug Downs's call for a theory of reading with a principle of use by exploring how college readers use texts in various communities of practice. Building an interpretive lens that combines learning theories, such as threshold concept theory by Jan Meyer and Ray Land and communities of practice theory by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, and a mediated action framework by James Wertsch, I develop a theory of reading with a principle of use by identifying threshold concepts of rhetorical reading and describing how students use concepts as they move from less to more expert readers in their disciplines. Based on classroom observations and interviews with diverse college students (multilingual, monolingual, Generation 1.5, first-generation college students, from working and service class families), this study explores the act of college reading in various communities of practice, including biochemistry, psychology, and social work. I find that particular threshold concepts of rhetorical reading--audience awareness and identifying value and descriptive assumptions--enable the act of reading and improve students' writing practices. Further, my analysis shows that threshold concepts can transfer from one community of practice to another thereby transforming students' rhetorical reading and writing practices; however, histories, identities, multiple goals, and cultural tools enable or constrain movement thereby mediating students' reading and writing practices. My description of college students' academic literacies moves the discipline toward a theory of reading that can improve reading and writing pedagogy across the curriculum because it shows how students who develop facility with threshold concepts develop extra reading strategies.