Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 31 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 17 students enrolled, unchanged since the last report. Fifteen attended, as verified by a written activity, discussed below.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last report. Seventeen attended, as verified by a written activity, discussed below.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last report. All attended, as verified by a written activity, discussed below.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the last report. Eighteen attended, as verified by a written activity, discussed below.

Discussion covered concerns of previous classes’ readings and materials, as well as concerns of ongoing progress on the LitNarr. The last twenty minutes of class time in each section were taken up with a riddle activity; some discussion of a similar activity appears in previous teaching materials, here, and more is likely to come.

Student participation was

  • Adequate in Section 025,
  • Adequate in Section 044,
  • Reasonably good in Section 084, and
  • Less robust than could be hoped in Section 102.

Students are additionally reminded of upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • Profile PV, 18 September 2015 (bring a print copy to class)
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Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 28 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 17 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, as verified by a quiz, discussed below.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Seventeen attended, as verified by a quiz, discussed below.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Eighteen attended, as verified by a quiz, discussed below.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, as verified by a quiz, discussed below.

Class time was taken up with review and comment on the LitNarr PV. Per the LitNarr assignment sheet, a quiz was taken from the presence and extent of the LitNarr PV in class.

The survey mentioned earlier closed at 1700 today.

Students are additionally reminded of upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • Profile PV, 18 September 2015 (bring a print copy to class)

Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 26 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 17 students enrolled, two having dropped and one having added since the previous report. Sixteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Eighteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Eighteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Discussion in all sections asked after concerns from previous classes before treating a number of assigned readings. Noted also were concerns of formatting a paper appropriately for the class and peer review.

Student participation was

  • Good in Section 025,
  • Good, if somewhat distracted, in Section 044,
  • Good in Section 084, and
  • Reasonably good in Section 102.

The survey mentioned earlier is still available to students who have not completed it.

Students are additionally reminded of upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr PV, 28 August 2015 (bring a print copy to class)
  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)

Sample Literacy Narrative: Wrestling with Tasks and Lukianoff and Haidt

What follows is a sample of a literacy narrative such as my students are being asked to write for the LitNarr assignment in the Fall 2015 term at Oklahoma State University. It conforms partially to the content guidelines expressed on the LitNarr assignment sheet for that term (the article read for it differs from those available to students), and it adheres to the length requirements, although the formatting will necessarily differ due to the different medium of presentation. How the medium influences reading is something well worth considering as a classroom discussion, particularly for those students who are going into particularly writing- or design-intensive fields.

I hold multiple degrees in English. I teach writing and literature, and I work as a freelance writer, drafting reading guides to popular works of fiction and distilling the reports of others into easily digestible forms. It is therefore to be expected that I do and have done quite a bit of reading. What is perhaps less to be expected is that I have no recollection of learning how to read. I do not recall being taught the names and sounds of letters; I recall school lessons treating them, certainly, but I also recall thinking that I already knew what was being taught in them, and more besides. Indeed, I do not recall a time when I could not read and when I did not read, and I do not recall struggling with reading. It is, for me, a habit trained through many repetitions into a reflex, something that occurs for me as easily as breathing, as the blinking of my eyes, or the beating of my heart. Reading is not a thing I do anymore; it is a thing that happens for me, and I make such a comment not out of hubris but as a simple statement of how things are.

When I am obliged to have my students carry out a literacy narrative, then, and am compelled by my professional practice to draft one alongside them in the hopes of offering them a model to follow, I often find myself at something of a loss. Most literacy narratives discuss the formation of identities as writers and readers, but I am not aware of myself as having formed such an identity. So far as I can recall, I have always had one; I have always been a reader, and I have no watershed moment in which I “became” a writer. Lacking such a thing, I encounter different problems in drafting a literacy narrative than my students do, although I certainly face problems. It is partly to help surpass my own issues, then, that I asked my students to focus their literacy narratives on the experience of reading one of three selected pieces by Frank Bruni. I can easily mimic the task, although not by detailing my own reading of those pieces. Doing so would do much of my students’ work for them, and they would be denied an opportunity to improve. Instead, I read Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s September 2015 piece in The Atlantic, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” and my account of that reading is what follows.

I first encountered the piece in my usual online reading; I start most mornings by checking several email accounts and poring over my social media feeds for items of interest, and the piece came up as I did so one morning in mid-August 2015. The tagline, “In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education–and mental health,” caught my attention. It did so not only because of the mention of the college students I teach, but also because it bespeaks the kind of trigger warning–notice that content may be present in a course or its readings that reenacts trauma upon students–that has been hotly contested in a number of the publications that cater to those in the academy. I copied the article’s URL and emailed it to myself, meaning to print it out later, and I let it rest for a time.

At length, however, I returned to the piece, pulling up its URL and printing out a copy so that I could review it with pencil in hand, as is my custom. Long experience has taught me that the reading I do in support of my professional identity is best done with me ready to make annotations, even if only simply underlining key points. I turned to doing so, finding quickly that Lukianoff and Haidt do, in fact, treat the phenomenon of trigger warnings, citing a number of examples that range from the reasonable to the egregious. I am not at an institution that requires or encourages trigger warnings, so I am somewhat removed from the direct experience of the phenomenon, but I am well aware of it, and I share the fears of many academics that such warnings, although intended well, will serve to stifle the kind of free academic inquiry that informs the best classroom teaching and will be used by students not to avoid retraumatization, but the work of learning.

I had thought that I would find emphasis on those points, largely because my background led me to the expectation. I was surprised, however, to find that Lukianoff and Haidt take a different approach. One of their points is that such warnings indicate a belief in the fragility of the college student psyche, and I found myself taken aback by the assertion even as I understood their reasoning. I have had students who did need to be protected, and I have had others whom I have wanted to protect. At the same time, it is my task to confront students, to challenge them, and I found myself conflicted–I still do, in fact–about how to negotiate the two, the desire to protect and the duty to confront. I do not want to reenact trauma on my students who have been traumatized already, and I do not want to enact trauma on those who have not, but I cannot refrain from presenting not only the materials with which I am charged but frames through which to approach them and the rest of the world. It is a position I do not know how to occupy stably.

I pressed on in my reading, finding that the article discusses the compartmentalization of culture and the intensification of demands made upon students. My surprise and confusion faded; I found myself in familiar ground. For I have seen the minds of those around me shrink as they hear less and less the voices that disagree with them, that call into question the ideas upon which they base their conceptions of themselves–or even less vital things. And I have been the object of intensification, seeing the demands placed upon those who would hold even entry-level positions in my field and similar fields to mine. Long gone are the days when a doctorate assured an enduring job, let alone a master’s or a baccalaureate; publications and club memberships galore are obligatory, at least nominal involvement in myriad fields while maintaining the outward appearance of perfection at any cost. But that I found myself in a thinking-space familiar does not mean I found myself in a comfortable one; that I recognize the truth of Lukianoff and Haidt’s statements does not mean that truth is easily accepted.

Moving on, I came to the article’s statements about the conflict of trigger warnings and cognitive behavioral therapy. The authors assert that the two are mutually exclusive, that avoiding a thing does not prevent reinscription of trauma, but that it instead incises that trauma more deeply into the psyche of its sufferer. The classroom, then, becomes a controlled environment for encounters with what evokes the traumatic, a place where healing can begin. That revelation woke something in me, something pleasant and unexpected. I have long been accustomed to students regarding my classes as sites from which to flee and upon which to reflect with aspersion; I know what my attrition rates have been, and I have looked at the comments students have left me in the past. To be presented with the idea, and from outside academia (and there is much to be said for having the outside perspective), that my class could instead be a place from which students draw not only knowledge and understanding, but also healing, was uplifting. There is a joke that my doctorate is the wrong kind with which to attend to people’s health, but if the Atlantic piece is true, then it gives the lie to that joke–and it makes my work more worthwhile, justifying again what I do through my writing and reading.

I know that my reading experience is atypical. Few if any who enter the professoriate are “regular” readers, and this is more true of those who study languages and literatures than for those in other fields. But I also know that not all who come into a classroom are “typical” readers, themselves, and they tend to be underserved by the conventional materials upon which teaching tends to rely. There are reasons to focus such materials as they generally are, but that does not mean people who come to college English classrooms with “non-standard” experiences find much with which to connect in them. Perhaps, as I work through my own difficulties in relating to my mainstream students–and they are people, decent and hardworking, with whom I want to connect–I can offer to the less “typical” reader something of use.

Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 24 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 18 students enrolled, one less than at last report. Sixteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. Seventeen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Discussion in each section asked after concerns from previous classes before turning to readings informing the LitNarr and the assignment sheet for the same.

Student participation was

  • Adequate in Section 025,
  • Good in Section 044,
  • Good in Section 084, and
  • Adequate in Section 102.

The survey mentioned earlier is still available to students who have not completed it.

Students are additionally reminded of upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr PV, 28 August 2015 (bring a print copy to class)
  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)

Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 21 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Seventeen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Eighteen attended, verified by a brief written exercise.

Discussion in each section asked after concerns from previous classes before announcing a piece of homework in the form of a survey (about which more appears below) and moving to fundamental concerns of rhetoric.

Student participation was

  • Not as robust as desired in Section 025,
  • Limited in Section 044,
  • Reasonably good in Section 084, and
  • Not as robust as desired in Section 102.

The survey mentioned earlier appears online here. Completion of the survey will result in a minor assignments grade awarded; the grading scale was discussed during class time. Completion earlier will be of more benefit than later.

Students are additionally reminded of upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr PV, 28 August 2015 (bring a print copy to class)
  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)

Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 19 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. Eighteen attended, verified by submitted assignment, as noted below.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, one student having dropped and another added since last report. All attended, verified by submitted assignment, as noted below.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. All attended, verified by submitted assignment, as noted below.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. All attended, verified by submitted assignment, as noted below.

Class time for all sections was taken up with completion of the diagnostic exercise. In it, students were asked to relate their overall experience with literacy. After review, the diagnostic will be used to inform future discussion and instruction, as well as to help undergird the LitNarr. Students are reminded of the following upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr PV, 28 August 2015 (bring a print copy to class)
  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)

Class Reports: ENGL 1113: Composition I, Sections 025, 044, 084, and 102- 17 August 2015

Section 025 began as scheduled at 1030 in Engineering South 213A. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled. Eighteen attended, verified by roll call.

Section 044 began as scheduled at 1330 in Classroom Building 108. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled. Eighteen attended, verified by roll call.

Section 084 began as scheduled at 0830 in Morrill Hall 306. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled. Seventeen attended, verified by roll call.

Section 102 began as scheduled at 1230 in Classroom Building 221. The class roster listed 19 students enrolled. All attended, verified by roll call.

In each section, discussion covered concerns of the syllabus and course calendar. Print copies of the combined document were distributed to students present; it is archived online here. Student participation was

  • Limited in Section 025,
  • Adequate in Section 044,
  • Reasonably good in Section 084, and
  • Limited in Section 102

Students are advised that they will write a diagnostic exercise in class on Wednesday, 19 August 2015. They are also advised of known upcoming assignment due dates:

  • LitNarr PV, 28 August 2015 (bring a print copy to class)
  • LitNarr RV, 4 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)
  • LitNarr FV, 11 September 2015 (submit a copy via D2L before the beginning of class)

Reflective Comments about the 2015 CEAT Summer Bridge Program

As I have repeatedly discussed, I had the privilege of teaching in the 2015 Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology’s Summer Bridge Program. Over the three weeks of the program, I worked with a number of excellent students to help prepare them not only for the writing they will do as first-year students at the school, but also the writing they can expect to do later in their collegiate careers and as professionals afterwards. While I offered comments throughout the program on daily progress, a final set of reflective comments seems to be in order. In what follows, I offer a breakdown of my class’s composition and performance before summarizing my impressions of the experience and what implications it has for my continued teaching. Included afterward is a copy of the lecture notes I compiled while conducting lecture; how useful they will be without context, I am unsure, but they are provided, nonetheless.

Class Demographics

At the beginning of the program, I had 29 students enrolled in the one section of the program’s technical writing class assigned to me. On the final day of the program, I had 25 still with me; five of my students withdrew from the program, and one added. A survey of the students remaining in the program, one conducted anonymously through a Google form and offering a small grade reward (as noted here) returned 24 results. Questions on the survey asked after student age, gender, race (working from 2010 US Census Bureau definitions), ethnicity (ibid.), socioeconomic status, major, minor, and GPA, and offered open-response questions regarding the conduct of the course as a whole.

Student ages clustered around 18, with 21 of the 24 respondents indicating it as their age. One reported being 17; two reported being 19. As the Summer Bridge Program is intended to help incoming first-year students, the ages reported are not surprising; they correspond to the largely traditional undergraduate student body at the institution.

Nineteen respondents identified as male, four as female; one opted not to self-identify gender. (Options given were “female,” “intersex,” “male,” “trans,” “prefer not to identify,” and “other”. The attempt was made to be both inclusive and respectful of self-identification. Suggestions for how to better handle future attempts are welcome.)

Twenty-one respondents identified as White, eight as American Indian or Alaska Native, three as Asian, one as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and one as Black or African-American. Students were allowed to select multiple categories; that some did so is certain. Only two respondents self-identified as Hispanic; no respondents opted against ethnic self-identification.

Socioeconomic class self-identification was self-determined; respondents left open-response answers. Most responded with some variation of “middle class,” with three opting not to self-identify. Students were asked to elaborate; only one did, indicating “upper middle-class” status as a result of differences in parental salaries and work.

Thirteen students reported majoring in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, the clear majority. (Capitalization of majors and minors is offered to clarify fields of study.) Three reported majoring in Chemical Engineering, and three others reported majoring in Electrical & Computer Engineering. Two reported majoring in each of Architecture, Mechanical Engineering Technology, and an undefined Other. One reported majoring in Civil & Environmental Engineering, one other in Industrial Engineering & Management.

Minors were left as an open-ended question. Many respondents noted not intending to take a minor or being uncertain about doing so. Of those who offered affirmative responses about minors, five indicated opting for a minor in a business field. One reported opting for each of Psychology, Computer Science, Biosystems, Chemistry, Japanese, and Mechanical Engineering.

All 24 respondents indicated being incoming freshmen. Two thirds report having no prior college GPA; one eighth of the respondents report already having a GPA of between 3.0 and 3.499, and slightly more than a fifth report already having a GPA above 3.5. One third of the respondents appear to have already earned college credit.

Information regarding course content will be reported to the Program directorate for review and adjustment of curricula moving forward. It may also be used in other professional development capacities.

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Class Performance

Of the 25 students remaining enrolled in my section of the Program writing component, the performance of eleven was assessed by an outside grader hired by the Program; the other fourteen were assessed by the instructor of the course. Although the Program does not report figures for calculation of GPA, it does measure student performance internally, using the data in part for scholarship awards; tracked were student attendance and performance on assignments assessed against program-standard rubrics on the United States-traditional percentile scale (i.e., 90%+ earns an A, 80-89% a B, etc.).

Attendance was most frequently determined by a sign-in sheet, as daily reports of class activities attest. Of the 25 students remaining enrolled, 19 attended all course meetings. Five incurred one absence, and one incurred two.

Of the 25 students remaining enrolled, four earned the equivalent of an A; the high score was a 93.9. Fifteen earned the equivalent of a B, four a C, one a D, and one an F; the low score was a 58.4. Average course score was 83.526. Low scores resulted in most cases from failure to submit one or more assignments.

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Impressions and Implications

Overall, the experience of teaching in the Summer Bridge Program was a good one. The students seemed to benefit, and the exercise was enjoyable in itself. (The two do not necessarily coincide.) Other online commentaries have expressed a desire to see the Program, or programs like it, expanded, as students coming into other fields of study are also likely to benefit from the kinds of things offered.

In assessing my students’ performance, I made a point of writing several hundred words of commentary in response to the submissions I received; typically, I provided between 200 and 300 words commenting on each assignment. A number of students expressed their gratitude for that effort via email and in the responses to the aforementioned survey–even as I did not offer line-by-line proofreading commentaries, which has been my common practice. I have seen many students complain of the lack of line-by-line “correction,” which I tend to resist as not giving students the opportunity to practice doing so for themselves. I have seen few who seem to appreciate–or, as happened many times in the Program, work to incorporate–the stylistic and other non-“grammatical” comments I leave. That I have seen evidence that my comments have done some good encourages me to continue to make them.

In those selfsame comments, I was able to work out better explanations for some of the principles of writing I hope to convey to my students–particularly those in the upcoming Fall 2015 term, in which I will be teaching composition exclusively. I had already had some ways of expressing those principles, although less effective than I could have hoped, as students tended not to reflect understanding them. Perhaps the revised presentation will do more to motivate students to adjust their work in favor of the new information. (That I am able thus to model writing to learn also pleases me.)

If the opportunity arises, I will gladly teach for the Program again.

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Summer 2015 CEAT Summer Bridge Writing Teaching Page

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 6 August 2015

Class began slightly later than scheduled, at 0905 in PS 141. The class roster listed 25 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, verified by submission of forms.

Discussion asked after reflections on the writing component of the summer bridge program and treated concerns of college life. Student participation was good.

Students are advised that Prof. Elliott will be traveling over the weekend. Summative comments on the program will have to wait until his return early next week.