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Academic Skills

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Active and Critical Reading

Many of our prospective students have little experience of serious, academic reading.

Students need to learn to question authorities, to engage in a conversation with the text, and to approach each reading with clear objectives in mind.

Many of our students need to learn:

  • to pre-read an article or chapter, trying to figure out what it is about and what the author's 'agenda' might be
  • to think carefully about why they are reading something and what they want to get from it
  • to write in their books
  • to summarize what they’ve learned, in their own words
  • to think of the author as a person with a point of view and an argument to make, rather than as an authority with information ['facts,'] to impart.

Mentors need to help students learn how not just to question but to consider varying points of view, to question both others’ and their own points of view and to provide rationale on arguments for their conclusions.

Assessing Writing Skills

Empire State College is a writing-dependent organization. It is essential that we understand our new students’ strengths and weaknesses in this area. Several tools can be used:

  • Application Essays
  • Writing Samples from Orientations
  • Student Self-Assessment.

Probing Writing Skills

If uncertain about a student’s writing skills, you can ask the student for an additional piece of work, perhaps a brief essay regarding where their work at the college will take them.

  • Find out who, within your center, unit or program is responsible for the writing program and work with them to make connections for each student.
  • Students with severe writing deficiencies might work with a writing mentor or enroll in a community college.
  • Students might enroll in a local writing study group.
  • Students might take studies that emphasize critical writing and research skills.
  • Use resources available through Empire State College's Online Writing Center.

It is important for mentors to help their students recognize the crucial and positive role critical thinking will play in their experience.

Critical Thinking and Self-Awareness

  • Critical thinkers are aware of themselves as learners, reflect on their learning, come to know themselves well, and create opportunities for continuing growth.

Critical Thinking and the Evaluation of Perspectives

  • They are aware that multiple points of view may exist on many issues, can recognize and evaluate the perspectives authors represent, are aware that their own ideas reflect their perspective, and ought to be open to challenge.

Critical Thinkers and the Scientist’s Questioning Stance

  • They want to see the evidence, and recognize that new evidence is emerging constantly.