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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Levels of Reading Ability Among Minority Graduate Students

Kathleen M. T. Collins, Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie.

Poor reading ability has been identified as cause of underachievement among undergraduate students. However, reading deficiencies usually are not identified at the college level until students are far into their programs of study. This failure to diagnose reading difficulties early stems from the fact that reading ability is rarely evaluated at college; yet, ironically, outcomes from reading are assessed both formally and informally throughout students' college lives.

Even less attention has been paid to the reading ability of graduate students, likely because educators assume that these students, who are among the highest academic achievers, have strong reading skills. Yet, recently, a positive relationship between graduate students' reading ability and academic achievement has been found. However, studies in the area of reading have focused either exclusively or at least primarily on White graduate students. Conversely, scant research exists studying the impact of reading ability on the achievement of minority graduate students.

Thus, this study examined 105 African-American graduate students' levels of reading comprehension and reading vocabulary, by comparing their scores on the Nelson Denny Reading Test (NDRT) to scores obtained by two samples of White graduate students and a large normative undergraduate sample (n = 5,000).

The African-American graduate students obtained significantly lower scores on the reading comprehension and reading vocabulary portions of the NDRT than did all three comparison groups. Even more disturbing was the fact that 13.73% of the African-American graduate sample attained reading vocabulary scores representing the 1st percentile of the undergraduate norm group, while 11.75% of the sample attained reading comprehension scores representing the 1st percentile.

A canonical correlation analysis revealed a strong relationship between these reading ability variables and achievement in research methodology courses. Implications are discussed.


Kathleen M. T. Collins  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Kathleen M. T. Collins is an Assistant Professor teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of special education, teacher preparation, and assessment. Her professional interests include the impact of curricular reform and teacher self-efficacy on special education students' performance. Dr. Collins also conducts action research projects on topics such as the role of reading comprehension, critical thinking, and cooperative learning on college students' performance.

Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies
Howard University

Dr. Onwuegbuzie, who has taught professionally at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education, strives to promote the teacher-as-researcher movement, developing skills in teachers in the areas of research and program evaluation, thereby empowering them to seek out innovative and effective instructional strategies geared towards school improvement. Dr. Onwuegbuzie?s research interests include the effect of cooperative learning on performance outcomes among college students.

  • Minority Graduate Students
  • Reading Comprehension

(30 min Conference Paper, English)