Critical reading and writing (CRW) in first year psychology: Mass screening and targeted assistance


  • Jacquelyn Cranney
  • Gwyn Jones
  • Sue Starfield
  • Sue Morris
  • Kristy Martire
  • Ben Newell
  • Kwan Wong


Many beginning students struggle with their university study because their high-school experience did not yield the basic or academic literacy skills essential to tertiary learning activities. A diagnostic program was designed to identify and assist students in developing psychology-specific academic literacy skills in the large Introductory Psychology 1A course at The University of New South Wales. In an early lecture period, all students were required to make a written response to a text passage (CRW test). This test required them to take and argue a position. Trained assessors marked their responses according to a number of criteria that ranged from spelling and grammar to the logic of their argument (the position taken was irrelevant). The bottom-scoring 50 students were then contacted and offered special tutorials to assist them with writing their laboratory report. Following these, a second CRW test was offered to the assisted group of students as well as to a control group of students (a second chance to make up percentage points). Students who participated in the tutorials showed improvement on some, but not all, assessment criteria. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of discipline- vs. non-discipline-specific assessment criteria, and in terms of a cost-benefit analysis of the exercise.