Cross-Disciplinary CRAs

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 14:57 -- Hillary Procknow

This entry marks the first in a series of five that will explore the College Readiness Assignments (CRAs) in each of the 5 subject areas for which they are available.

We’d like to begin our trek into the subject areas by investigating the Cross-Disciplinary CRAs.  While cross-disciplinary simply refers to the fact that these CRAs can be used in many subject areas, it is also interesting to note that the Glossary of Education Reform cross references the definition for cross-disciplinary with the entry for 21st century skills, defining them as “skills [that] can be applied in all academic subject areas, and in all educational, career, and civic settings throughout a student’s life.”  These are the kinds of skills the CRAfT team has focused on, because previous research indicates their critical importance for success in both college and career.

The Cross-Disciplinary CRAs, as each of the other CRAs available on, were developed in conjunction with both high school and college faculty.  The Cross-Disciplinary CRAs, though, are meant to be used to prepare students for college and career in any subject, and can be used by teachers not only in math, science, social studies, and English, but also in art, music, health, economics, psychology, and other courses offered at your school.

Below are the Cross-Disciplinary CRAs and some suggestions for how they might be used in a variety of classrooms. 

Choosing the Best Websites to Support Your Argument - This assignment asks students to access, evaluate, and make use of credible, appropriate websites and other Internet resources for the purpose of targeted research.

  • Science – Students can evaluate various websites for their credibility regarding scientific information.  For instance, students might investigate which websites give accurate information regarding nuclear power, climate change, or vaccinations.
  • US Government – This CRA can help students of history determine whether or not a website offers accurate or biased information regarding political parties and policies. might be a helpful source in getting started here.
  • Economics – Students can search for information regarding the economy and use the activities in the CRA to understand who is providing that information, who owns the servers, and how they can better evaluate their sources of information.
  • Home Economics – There are always strong opinions regarding the role and make-up of families, how to raise children and manage a home.  Using this CRA, teachers can help students learn the skills they will need to wade through several varying opinions to figure out which sites offer valuable information as well as which sites might have an agenda.

Exploring a College Textbook - This assignment asks students to navigate and examine college textbooks. For the final product, students write a 2-page analysis of the textbook used in the exercise.

  • This can literally be used in any subject area.
  • Consider borrowing a textbook from your local university or community college for the course you teach so students have the opportunity to get acquainted with the organization of a college text.
  • Speaking from experience teaching a developmental reading and writing college class, students are often surprised when they go through this CRA. They begin to recognize that textbook authors arrange information deliberately (and sometimes not very well!), and that the graphics and captions in the book are meant to help them.

The Climate of College: Planning for Your Future - This activity challenges students to think about life after high school: Where do they hope to be? What do they want to be doing? More importantly, what is it going to take to get there, and what will the environment be like once they arrive?

  • College Preparatory Courses (like those required in HB 5) – The skills required in this CRA not only hone students’ research abilities, but also help them think about what they will need to succeed in college.
  • Art – Do you have students who are set on majoring in art in college?  Help them decide which colleges are helping their students develop their artistic abilities and placing in jobs when they graduate.
  • Career Days – If your campus or department holds a career day, consider using this CRA so students can broaden their understanding of the many aspects they need to consider for college. Perhaps your chemistry class wants to know what avenues and careers to think about if they want to study chemistry; this is a great resource for doing so.

Words, Words, Words: Learning and Using New Vocabulary - This assignment asks students to predict, investigate, and confirm the meanings of words, reflect upon appropriate contexts in which to use their new words, and construct brief passages in which the words are used appropriately.

  • Music – Here are interviews with famous musicians that might pique students’ interest: Yo-Yo Ma, Gary Burton, Renée Fleming.
  • Math – Ask students to read this interview with a mathematician who talks about the importance of creativity in math.
  • Art - This article is not only full of words that will challenge students, it also gives students who are considering a career in art an idea of what to expect and what to work towards.

You can also find a number of these Cross-Disciplinary CRAs in the independent study CRAs.  The independent study CRAs present all the necessary material with graphics and videos and require little to no teacher supervision.  Students can use these to strengthen their readiness skills, and teachers can assign them for students who might need additional help, or even for extra credit.

In addition to our Cross-Disciplinary CRAs, there are CRAs in the other subject areas that might apply to your particular subject.  For instance, Debate: The Art of Persuasion, Rhetorical Analysis I: Understanding Speeches, and Reader’s Analysis: Author, Purpose, Audience, and Meaning can be used in several subject areas.  As the educator, you choose the text you want your students to work with.  In math, for instance, you could ask students to research the relative benefits of using calculators in class, then let them debate the topic.  Science students might analyze the Russell-Einstein Manifesto; economics students can read Progress and Poverty.  The CRAs listed here are found in the ELA portion of our website, but they are appropriate for getting students to read, write, and think critically in all subject areas.

To reiterate, cross-disciplinary skills are meant to help students build their key cognitive and foundational skills, skills they will need in both college and career.  Let us know how you use these CRAs in your class by logging in when you arrive at and leaving a comment on that CRA’s page.  Share with us and your fellow educators how you adapt CRAs to address the content of your classroom and the needs of your students.

In our next blog, posted February 10, we will continue our series on the different CRA disciplines when we hear from one of our English Language Arts experts, Dr. Leta Deithloff.