Continuing a practice iterated at the end of the Spring 2016 instructional term in Stillwater, Oklahoma, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in ENGL 135: Advanced Composition, Section 60174, at DeVry University in San Antonio, Texas, during the July 2016 instructional session there. Overall impressions and implications for instruction are also discussed.
Unlike previous terms, however, demographic data were not tracked and best versions of course documents are not compiled. The relatively small class, combined with newness at the institution and some policies, made inquiring thereabouts inadvisable, and institutional policies insist on particular treatment of enough course documentation to prevent a complete record from being compiled.
Assessment in the eight-week session moved at a rapid pace. It centered around the completion of a single research project, the traditional-to-second-semester-composition conference-length paper, having students through a series of unevenly-weighted assignments leading to the generation of such a paper:
- Topic Selection, 50 points
- Source Summary, 35 points
- Research Proposal, 50 points
- Annotated Bibliography, 100 points
- First Draft of the conference paper, 75 points
- Second Draft of the conference paper, 80 points
- Final Draft of the conference paper, 125 points
- Reflective Postscript, 50 points
Other assignments, including information literacy and APA assessment modules (35 points each), as well as weeks of online discussions (40 points for each of six weeks, 60 points for the seventh), supplemented work on the conference-length paper, offering student practice in finding and parsing information and in writing to a broad audience.
Most assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution. Other assignments were assessed by rubrics of similar form, announced to students in advance of assignments being due and returned to students with comments once assessment was completed.
The section was scheduled to meet on Thursdays from 1800-2150 in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University. Its overall data includes
- End-of-term enrollment: 9
- Average class score: 471
- Standard deviation: 298.789
- Students earning a grade of A (900 points or more): 1
- Students earning a grade of F (below 600 points): 6
- Total student absences: 25
- Average student absences: 2.778
- Standard deviation: 2.299
End-of-term enrollment represents a substantial decline from a peak of 16 students enrolled at the first class meeting. Absence rates were substantial; all but one student incurred at least one absence from among the eight class meetings, and one failed to attend any of them. Most classes saw three or four absences. Additionally, a great many students failed to submit one or more assignments; only two students show up as having completed all expected work.
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Impressions and Implications
It had been some time since I had taught at a for-profit institution, and so I had forgotten some of the challenges that seem to associate themselves with such schools. In particular, I had grown unaccustomed to the high absence and low assignment submission rates that were on display during my class in the July 2016 session at DeVry, and while they did have the effect of making grading easier, the disjunction between expectation and realization was somewhat disconcerting. Moving forward, though, it should be less of a problem.
In teaching this time around, I did work to address some of the concerns voiced by students in an earlier survey, the report of which is here. Namely, I have tried to adjust my manner to be less condescending and derisive. I do not have data to attest to the effectiveness of my efforts, although I have made sure to offer valedictory messages in written commentaries returned to students and to be explicit about identifying areas of strength or potential strength. My tendency towards tangents also received some moderation, although I continue to be aware that I am prone to them.
I think I had some success in my classroom work, though. Teaching non-traditional students again illuminated for me some of the reasons I had had difficulties previously, and the simple fact of having the work to do served to remind me to be grateful–and to work in a way that indicates the gratitude. The latter is likely to be particularly helpful as I move into the September 2016 session at DeVry and more fully into the Fall 2016 instructional term at Schreiner University–as well as into possible future work.
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