Reflective Comments about Spring 2016

Following a pattern continued at the end of the Fall 2015 instructional term, comments below offer information about class performance in the sections of ENGL 1213: Composition II I taught at Oklahoma State University and Northern Oklahoma College during the Spring 2016 instructional term. (Demographic data are addressed in the report of results from the term’s exit survey, here.) Overall impressions and implications for future teaching are discussed, as well, and collected best versions of course documents are presented.

Class Performance

Assessment differed among the sections. Those taught at Oklahoma State University necessarily reflected Program dictates in force there; those taught at Northern Oklahoma College followed a pattern based more upon previous experiences teaching first-year composition and the courses to which it is commonly antecedent. Explanations of each appear below.

Oklahoma State University

For those sections of ENGL 1213 I taught at Oklahoma State University (015, 023, and 040), class performance was assessed by evaluating a series of major (Strategic Reading, Developing a Topic and Locating Sources, Infographic Portfolio, Student’s Own Question, and Final Exam) and minor assignments, as well as such factors as professionalism and attendance, over the course of the instructional term and assigning grades in accordance with that evaluation. Other than attendance, handling of which was determined at the programmatic level, each was scored using a scale of A+ through zero, either directly or as a means of assigning categorical scores to be averaged for a final score. Factors contributing to grading were weighted unevenly, as indicated below:

  • Strategic Reading, 20% of total course grade
  • Developing a Topic and Locating Sources, 10% of total course grade
  • Infographic Portfolio, 20% of total course grade
  • Student’s Own Question, 30% of total course grade
  • Final Exam, 5% of total course grade
  • Minor Assignments, cumulatively 10% of total course grade
  • Student Professionalism, 5% of total course grade

While discussion of individual assignments and individual student performance exceeds what is appropriate for such a report as this, general tendencies within and among the individual sections can be reported.

Section 015

Section 015 was scheduled to meet at 1030 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Classroom Building Room 217. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 16
  • Average class score: 78.812 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 7.808
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 2
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 0
  • Total student absences: 66
  • Average student absences: 4.125
    • Standard deviation: 2.058

Section 015 was the least affected by attrition, losing only three of the peak 19 students enrolled across the term. Of the students who did remain in the class, many were quite active in class discussion, although the activities did tend to move away from the narrow focus of the course–as class reports throughout the term attest. Still, only two students lost points due to absence penalties, although in both cases, the loss affected the overall course grade (i.e., the letter grade reported to the institution).

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Section 023

Section 023 was scheduled to meet at 1130 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Classroom Building Room 121. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 14
  • Average class score: 76.672 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 8.737
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 1
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 0
  • Total student absences: 69
  • Average student absences: 4.929
    • Standard deviation: 2.738

The section lost four of the peak 18 students enrolled across the term. It also suffered substantially from absences, with the largest (but not most common) occurrence of absence penalties to grades. Three students suffered double-digit grade penalties due to non-attendance.

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Section 040

Section 040 was scheduled to meet at 0830 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Morrill Hall Room 206. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 12
  • Average class score: 68.091 (D)
    • Standard deviation: 16.825
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 1
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 3 (two incurred absence penalties)
  • Total student absences: 61
  • Average student absences: 5.083
    • Standard deviation: 2.985

Section 040 was the Oklahoma State University section most affected by attrition, losing six of the peak 18 enrolled students across the term. It also suffered the most problems with late submission or non-submission of assignments, which negatively impacts scores. The section further suffered the largest number of absence penalties, with four students incurring them (although not to the extent of those in Section 023).

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Aggregate Data

Taken together, the Oklahoma State University sections yield the following information:

  • End-of-term enrollment: 42
  • Average score: 75.036 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 12.233
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 4
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 3
  • Total student absences: 196
  • Average student absences: 4.667
    • Standard deviation: 2.616
  • Office hours meetings: 37

Two students each accounted for six office-hour meetings. Another four each accounted for three. Those students who were frequent guests in my office hours found reward in their Student Professionalism scores, as well as often on their graded assignments.

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Northern Oklahoma College

For the section of ENGL 1213 I taught at Northern Oklahoma College, class performance was assessed by evaluating a series of major (Topic Proposal, Exploratory Essay, Annotated Bibliography, Researched Paper, and Final Exam) and minor assignments, as well as such factors as professionalism and attendance, over the course of the instructional term and assigning grades in accordance with that evaluation. Other than attendance, handling of which was determined at the collegiate level, each was scored using a scale of A+ through zero, either directly or as a means of assigning categorical scores to be averaged for a final score. Factors contributing to grading were weighted unevenly, as indicated below:

  • Topic Proposal, 5% of total course grade
  • Exploratory Essay, 10% of total course grade
  • Annotated Bibliography, 15% of total course grade
  • Researched Paper, 20% of total course grade
  • Final Portfolio, 25% of total course grade
  • Final Exam, 5% of total course grade
  • Student Professionalism, 10% of total course grade
  • Minor Assignments, cumulatively 10% of total course grade

While discussion of individual assignments and individual student performance exceeds what is appropriate for such a report as this, general tendencies within the section can be reported.

The section was scheduled to meet Mondays and Wednesdays at 1300 in North Classroom Building Room 311. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 6
  • Average class score: 73.665 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 10.666
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 1
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 0
  • Office hours meetings: 9
  • Total student absences: 15
  • Average student absences: 2.5
    • Standard deviation: 0.764

The section suffered an initial wave of attrition due to shifts in instructor; I was brought in specifically to cover for an instructor who could not discharge the necessary responsibilities, and many students, having expected someone else at the front of the classroom, dropped the course. One other dropped due to taking a job that prevented attendance. One other dropped late in the course due to dissatisfaction with assessed performance. Yet another dropped for a reason that was not made clear. Of the students who remained, however, all submitted all major assignments and most minor ones, which was a pleasant surprise. Two students accounted for all of the recorded office-hour meetings, with one student sitting for two-thirds of them. Performance largely accorded with standard expectations.

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Impressions and Implications

It had been some time since I taught Composition II; the last time I did so was at a previous institution, where I taught but one section of the course, and that during my last term working there. (Information is available here.) Between my lack of practice with the course and the changes to its standards pushed through at Oklahoma State University, I had quite a learning curve for the course. I fell back onto practices developed while a graduate student, knowing that they worked reasonably well then; I want to think that they served at least adequately during the term (in part because of comments received in student surveys).

Throughout the term, I worked to consolidate the work I would need to do to teach two similar but distinct courses. Part of the way I did so was to align both courses to the same theme: curricular issues. Doing so allowed me to draft samples for the students along a single theme, as well: the comprehensive exams from my doctoral program. More importantly, I feel and I have been told that students came away from the experience with better understandings of their fields of study (such that some shifted majors as a result), so the idea of my courses helping students gain such knowledge and the accompanying agency was borne out. In that regard, the semester was a success.

Many of the other impressions I have about the course are discussed in “Report of Results from the Spring 2016 Exit Surveys”; I need not repeat them here (although I would point out to those who complain that my grading is overly harsh that more students earned As in my classes than earned Fs this term, and more of the Fs resulted from the imposition of Program policies than my personal policies). Not all are, however, and among those not voiced previously is one about the timing of classes. In “Reflective Comments about Fall 2015,” here, I note that the 1030 and 1230 classes I taught were somewhat subdued, attributing their restraint to timing. This term, my 1030 class was perhaps the most active of all, which contradicts my earlier supposition. Similarly, the 0830 class I taught in the fall was active, while its spring counterpart was not. I have to conclude that it is some factor other than timing that accounts for the varying levels of participation in classroom activities. What it is is not clear to me, however.

The semester was particularly helpful for future teaching. The final exam in all sections specifically asked for recommended additions to the course sequence, and while it may well not be the case that I teach Composition II in my next position, many of the suggestions made seem like they would be applicable to other teaching venues, as well. How they will be incorporated will depend on the future courses, obviously, but I am in the position of having been able to retain copies of student work. Many students signaled their willingness to have their work used for future development (I retain copies of the forms though which they did so, as well), so I will have resources ready to hand as I make adjustments moving forward.

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Reference Documents

Collected best versions of course documents given to students throughout the term can be found below:

I make them available in the hopes that others will find them of use–as I do with the rest of my instructional materials.

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