Academic Literacy: A Statement of Competencies Expected of Students Entering California's Public Colleges and Universities

This document reports what faculty from all three segments of California’s system of higher education think about their students’ ability to read, write, and think critically. It echoes the lucid arguments made for literacy in the Statement of Competencies in English Expected of Freshmen, which appeared in 1982, but it necessarily revises and updates that earlier document.

In the past two decades, California’s educational landscape has been swept by substantial changes in pedagogy, advances in technology, and new emphases on critical reading, writing, and thinking across the curriculum. These changes have transformed the field, and they have shaped this report in ways that could not have been foreseen twenty years ago.

Like the earlier report, this document was produced by a faculty task force appointed by the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS), which is comprised of the Academic Senates of the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges. Unlike that earlier document, this report is based upon the responses of faculty from many disciplines requiring students to read, write, and think critically.

The task force invited faculty who regularly teach introductory or first-year courses to participate in a Web-based interview study that asked the following questions. (A transcription of that survey appears in the appendices.)

  • What do they expect of their students’ reading, writing, and critical thinking?
  • How well are their students prepared for those expectations, and why or why not?
  • How do they expect their students to acquire these skills, experiences, or competencies that they are missing at matriculation?

We also asked those faculty to identify other factors that contributed to their students’ academic success:

  • What attitudes or predispositions—”habits of mind”—facilitate student learning?
  • What kinds of technology do faculty use or intend soon to use with their own classes?

This report summarizes responses to these questions and describes patterns that emerged in the answers. It then combines our colleagues’ views with research and our collective professional experience to produce specific recommendations that will improve the level of literacy among first-year students in all segments of higher education in our state.

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