Negotiating "problem space": Student needs assessment in a community college academic support center as a basis for reflective practice for learning specialists

Deborah Lynne Moeckel, University of Pennsylvania


This study investigates the use of the Assessment Interview Process (AIP) in Cayuga Community College's Academic Support Center (ASC) from the perspective of the learning specialist/interviewer as a means both of providing learning specialists with a process for understanding students' study problems and of forming the foundation for reflective practice among the learning specialists in the Center. Recent scholarship has established the value of using an interactive assessment interview in lieu of standardized tests to assess student study problems in a university context, paying particular attention to the voices of the students involved. In contrast, this case study examines the use of the AIP in a community college setting from a learning specialist's point of view. This study is unique in that the learning specialist conducting the interviews which are used as data is also the researcher conducting the study. The method of this ethnographic form of practitioner action research is both descriptive and exploratory. Assessment interviews between the researcher and three different students were tape recorded and transcribed. Think-aloud protocols were then performed by the researcher on the original interviews. Staffing meetings with other Learning Specialists on the ASC staff were then conducted in response to the original interviews. Finally, a journal was written by the researcher to bring closure to each data unit. The interaction between the researcher and the students provided the central core of data from which reflections and insights from these reflections from the researcher and the ASC staff were obtained. The central finding of this study is that the AIP used in this fashion can provide a rich source of information not only about how students think, but also about how learning specialists think while making assessment decisions in dialogue with students, and about the knowledge sources which are drawn upon while doing so. This study adds the dimension of reflexivity to the AIP and contributes new information to the discussion of reflective practice in education.

Subject Area

Community colleges|Teacher education|Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Moeckel, Deborah Lynne, "Negotiating "problem space": Student needs assessment in a community college academic support center as a basis for reflective practice for learning specialists" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727262.