A retrospective of a university-based reading program

Marguerite Marie Phillips, University of Pennsylvania


This is a qualitative study of the recollections of three adolescent female high school students who were enrolled in a literacy program at the University of Pennsylvania ten years ago. The purpose of this study was to utilize the retrospectives to describe which aspects of the Program had the most enduring impact on the lives of the participating students. Most past studies have evaluated educational programs through quantitative measures such as evaluation of enrollment data and academic records (Dennis-Rounds, 1988; Harris and Hansson, 1986; Renkiewicz, 1985), test comparisons (Rothenberg, 1990; Harris and Hansson, 1986) and survey methods (Dennis-Rounds, 1988). However, valuable information can also be obtained through the memories of the program participants. This information can play a valuable role in future program planning and implementation. Moreover, follow-up studies conducted after many years can reveal the effect that the program has had on the lives of the program participants. Most follow-up studies are conducted after a short period of time, such as an academic semester (Bers, 1982), two semesters (Austin Independent School District, 1983), or one or two years (Kershner, 1990; Dennis-Rounds, 1988). However, these short-term accounts do not reveal the same information that could be gathered from a study that probes the memories of the students over many years. Information collected through a long-term, follow-up study can go beyond mere skill measurement to a description of the importance that the learning has had on individuals' lives. In this study, the recollections of three students who had participated in the literacy program were collected after ten years. Personal interviews with the students and family members focused on their memories of the literacy program in order to find out what they remembered from the program and how it had affected their lives. These stories (Greene, 1991; Noddings and Witherell, 1991; Carter, 1993) imbue the research with significant data. Analysis of the data revealed several patterns. The students felt that the college environment had greatly influenced them and had acted as a catalyst for them to read, write, speak, and connect what they had learned in the classroom to their own lives. Particular places on the college campus had special meaning for them. Parental involvement and pride in their children's education also tended to continue past the conclusion of the program. Finally, personal connections among students, teachers, parents and other significant people that played a part in the Program were an important contributing factor that influenced the students' memories. This study demonstrates that college environments can play an influential role in enriching the lives of high school students. Therefore, programs that take place on college campuses can influence the participants' decisions to attend college. An additional finding indicates that parental involvement (Cohen, 1993; Headman, 1993) is essential in continuing the learning experiences provided by an educational program.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Phillips, Marguerite Marie, "A retrospective of a university-based reading program" (1995). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9540035.