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Technical Report

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Abstract or Description

The problem of literacy is not a writing problem alone. Skills of reading, writing, and reasoning are interactive and interdependent. Nonetheless, instruction in writing at the post-secondary level is seldom integrated with instruction in reading or reasoning. The obstacles facing such an integration are twofold: (1) W e don't have enough knowledge of reading, writing, and reasoning processes in specific task domains to integrate instruction; (2) W e have not, until recently, had powerful enough technologies to deliver instruction as flexibly as students need it in the course of their reading and writing.

W e propose to develop a computer system, WARRANT (Writing, And Reasoned Reading, About Normative Texts) that addresses both these problems. Built on a technology that will reach the college classroom in 2-5 years, WARRANT provides a learner-centered, integrated task environment and flexible guidance for critical reading, reasoning, and writing.

WARRANT combines the power of heuristic learning with learning by feedback from models. WARRANT will offer learners not only explicit strategies for working through a particular reading/reasoning/writing task, but funds of information about how other persons (both novices and experts) applied these strategies (with varying degrees of success) when working through the same task.

The outcomes of our project turn on viewing WARRANT either as a teacher capable of structuring effective learning environments or viewing it as a laboratory that will allow teachers to experiment with different learning environments to see which are effective, which not. Viewing WARRANT as a teacher, Covey and Kaufer will write a text that details effective learning environments for teaching normative reasoning, reading, and writing. Viewing WARRANT as a laboratory, Neuwirth, Kaufer, and Geisler, will write a book for teachers that details how WARRANT can be modified to test the effectiveness of different learning environments.

We plan to use the WARRANT system first in selected pilot courses, and then in our freshman core curriculum courses in composition and philosophic analysis. Formative evaluation of the system and its pedagogy is built into our protocol research agenda.

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