Report of Results from the Fall 2016 Surveys

Continuing a practice most recently iterated near the end of my tenure in Oklahoma, I asked students after their impressions of the courses I taught at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, during the Fall 2016 instructional term there. Students were emailed a link to an anonymous Google survey and were offered a grade reward to encourage participation. Initial announcements were made in class on 16 November 2016, and the surveys were open until approximately noon on 21 November 2016, so students had ample time to address the surveys. One form was linked; students filled out different question sets depending on their enrollment, although broad similarities exist among the questions about demographic and academic data, as well as course details. Responses are reported in order, and impressions and implications thereof are discussed afterwards.

Note that, as many of the questions follow prior practice, much of the report will follow earlier reports in content. Repetition is made without further comment.

 Demographic Data

In each class, students were asked to self-report their age, their gender of identification, their race, their ethnicity, and their socio-economic status. Available answers to the first were “Under 17,” “17,” “18,” “19,” “20,” “21,” “Over 21,” and “Prefer not to respond”; students were allowed to select one answer.

  • In ENGL 1301, ten students report being 18, nine 19, and one over 21; no other answers were reported.
  • In ENGL 2340, two students reported being 18, one 19, one 21, and four over 21; no other answers were reported.
  • In ENGL 3333, two report being each of 21 and over 21. No other answers were reported.

Available answers to the question of gender were “Female,” “Male,” “Prefer not to say,” and “Other”; students were allowed to select one answer. (Choices were restricted from earlier surveys due to an overall lack of selection by students.)

  • In ENGL 1301, 13 students self-identified as female and 6 as male; one opted not to identify.
  • In ENGL 2340, 4 students self-identified as female and 3 as male; one self-identified as non-binary/androgynous.
  • In ENGL 3333, 2 identified as each of female and male; no other answers were reported.

Available answers to the question of race were “American Indian or Alaska Native,” “Asian,” “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander,” “Black or African-American,” “While,” “Some Other Race,” and “Prefer not to identify”; definitions follow 2010 US Census Bureau standards. Students were allowed to select multiple answers.

  • In ENGL 1301, 1 student identified as Asian, 2 as Black or African-American, 1 as both Black/African-American and White, 2 as Some Other Race, and 14 as White; no other answers were recorded.
  • In ENGL 2340, 8 students self-identified as White; no other answers were recorded.
  • In ENGL 3333, 2 self-identified as White and 1 as Some Other Race; one opted not to respond.

Regarding ethnicity, students were asked whether or not they identify as Hispanic, following the 2010 US Census Bureau definition of the term. Available answers were “Yes,” “No,” and “Prefer not to identify”; students could select only one answer.

  • In ENGL 1301, 9 report being Hispanic, 10 report not, and 1 opted not to identify.
  • In ENGL 2340, 2 report being Hispanic; 6 report not.
  • In ENGL 3333, 3 report being Hispanic; 1 reports not.

Available answers to the question of socio-economic status were “Upper class,” “Upper middle class,” “Middle class,” “Lower middle class,” “Working class,” “Lower class/Underclass,” “Prefer not to identify,” and “Other.” Students were allowed to select one answer.

  • In ENGL 1301, 1 self-identified as lower middle class, 13 as middle class, and 2 each as upper middle class and working class; 2 others opted not to identify.
  • In ENGL 2340, 2 self-identified as lower/underclass, 2 as upper middle class, 1 as lower middle class, and 1 as middle class. One opted not to self-report, and another claimed to be a “student.”
  • In ENGL 3333, 2 identify as middle class and 1 as working class; the other opted not to identify.

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Academic Data

Students were asked to indicate what course in which they were enrolled, their classification, current GPA, School of major, major, and minor. Available answers for the course question were those I taught at Schreiner University during its Fall 2016 instructional term: ENGL 1301: Rhetoric & Composition, ENGL 2340: World Literature through the Renaissance, and ENGL/THRE 3333: Shakespeare: Comedies & Sonnets. Each respondent was asked to select only one answer.

  • ENGL 1301 received 20 responses.
  • ENGL 2340 received 8 responses.
  • ENGL 3333 received 4 responses.

Available answers for the classification question were “Freshman,” “Sophomore,” “Junior,” “Senior,” and “Prefer not to respond.” Students were allowed to select only one answer.

  • In ENGL 1301, 14 report being freshmen, 3 report being sophomores, and 3 gave no answer.
  • In ENGL 2340, 3 report being freshmen, 1 a sophomore, 3 juniors, and 1 a senior.
  • In ENGL 3333, all report being seniors.

Answers regarding GPA were “3.5+,” “3.0-3.499,” “2.5-2.999,” “2.0-2.499,” “1.5-1.999,” “1.0-1.499,” “Below 1.0,” “No GPA recorded yet,” and “Prefer not to respond”; students were allowed to select only one answer.

  • In ENGL 1301, three students report a GPA of 2.0-2.499, three more 2.5-2.999, seven 3.0-3.499, one 3.5+, and six report having no recorded GPA.
  • In ENGL 2340, one student reports a GPA of 1.5-1.999, two 3.0-3.499, three 3.5+, and two no recorded GPA; no other answers were reported.
  • In ENGL 3333, two report a GPA of 2.5-2.999 and two report a GPA of 3.0-3.499.

The question about Schools of majors was expressed as “In what School is your major? (If you have a double-major that crosses Schools, please fill out the “Other” line, below. Indicate which Schools host your majors.)” It admitted of the following answers: “School of Liberal Arts,” “Trull School of Science and Mathematics,” “Callioux School of Professional Studies,” “Undeclared,” “Prefer not to respond,” and “Other.” Students were allowed to select only one answer.

  • In ENGL 1301, 5 report majors in the Callioux School, 7 in the Liberal Arts, and 6 in the Trull School; two other answers are recorded.
  • In ENGL 2340, 6 report majors in the School of Liberal Arts and 1 in the Trull School. One opted not to identify.
  • In ENGL 3333, all report a major in the School of Liberal Arts.

The question about majors was expressed as “What is your major? (If you are a double-major, list both majors. If you are undeclared, note it. If you prefer not to identify, please type ‘Prefer not to identify.’).” It admitted of a short-answer response. After coding to consolidate equivalent answers, the following results emerge:

  • In ENGL 1301, one student reported majoring in each of Arts Management, Communication Design, Education, History, Management, Marketing, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Multidisciplinary Studies EC-6, Pre-law, and Theater; two reported majoring in each of Exercise Science, Health Science, and Psychology. Three reported majoring in English, with one of them double-majoring in History also and another double-majoring in Psychology also.
  • In ENGL 2340, one student reported majoring in each of Exercise Science, History, Public Health, and Theater. Four reported majoring in English.
  • In ENGL 3333, all report majoring in English.

The question about minors was expressed as “Do you have, or intend to take, a minor? If so, in what? (If you are unsure, note that you are unsure. If you prefer not to identify, please type ‘Prefer not to identify.’)” It admitted of a short-answer response. After coding to consolidate equivalent answers, the following results emerge:

  • In ENGL 1301, two students reported minoring in Computer Information Technology; one reported minoring in each of Communications, Mathematics, Music, Psychology, Religious Studies, Spanish, Sports Management, and Teacher Certification. Six expressed uncertainty about minoring, and four indicated not taking a minor.
  • In ENGL 2340, one student reports minoring in each of English, Photography, and pursuit of teaching certification. Two disclaim minors, and three express uncertainty.
  • In ENGL 3333, all report having no minor.

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Course Details

While students in each course were asked the same questions about demographic and academic data, they were asked different questions about course content. Some differences were only in specific wording, reflecting the different assignment sequences across the classes. Students in ENGL 1301, however, were asked an additional question, one bearing in on their later work.

ENGL 1301

Students in ENGL 1301 were asked six questions about the course:

  1. Of the assignments in the class (Desc PV, Desc RV, Desc FV, Narr PV, Narr RV, Narr FV, IllDef PV, IlLDef RV, IllDef FV, C/C PV, and the riddles), which has been the most helpful? How has it helped you?
  2. Of the assignments so far (Desc PV, Desc RV, Desc FV, Narr PV, Narr RV, Narr FV, IllDef PV, IlLDef RV, IllDef FV, C/C PV, and the riddles), which has been the least helpful? What has made it less helpful than it could be?
  3. What one thing would you like to see your instructor start doing in the classroom? What would make it good to see?
  4. What one thing would you like to see your instructor stop doing in the classroom? What makes it bad to see?
  5. What one thing would you like to see your instructor continue doing in the classroom? What makes it good to see?
  6. For the FinEx, which of the following options would you like? Select one and only one; the choice with the most responses will be the one written for the class.

The sixth question is treated in relevant assignment materials; its results are not rehearsed in the current report.

Of the responses to the first question, one reported each of the Desc FV, the Desc RV, the Narr PV, and the Narr RV as most helpful. Two reported each of the IllDef FV and IllDef RV as most helpful. Three reported each of the IllDef as a whole and the Narr FV as most helpful. Four cited the riddles. One claimed all exercises helpful; one other opted against individual assignments in favor of the instructor. Reasons reported often addressed the challenges presented as prompting improvement.

Of the responses to the second question, one cited each of the C/C PV (too recent to have impact) and the Narr RV (preconceived notions) as least helpful. Two cited each of the IllDef FV (confusing), the IllDev PV, the IllDef RV, and the riddles (insufficiently challenging). Three cited the Desc PV (bad peer review, first assignment learning curve). Additionally, one student set aside all exercises in favor of the instructor, another condemned the Desc as a whole (too easy), yet another the IllDef as a whole (confusing and low grades), and still another all of the PVs (other students’ comments are unhelpful). Two reported no unhelpful exercises. One gave an unclear answer, noting dissatisfaction with peer review.

Of the responses to the third question (paraphrased), four noted a desire for more in-class activity, two asked for narrower breakdown of concepts, two others for more overt engagement, one for tighter focus, and one for a greater variety of activities. One reported uncertainty, and another responded in jest. Eight responded with some variation on “nothing.”

Of the responses to the fourth question, one asked for an end to each of calling-out, the “evil laugh,” peer reviews (useless), reading certain texts aloud (“Any college student who can’t read shouldn’t be here.”), and reflecting on readings (insufficient participation from other students). Five asked for an end to tangential discussions. Two expressed uncertainty, and another eight responded with a variation on “nothing.”

Of the responses to the fifth question, one addressed the in-class tangential discussions. Two addressed in-class exercises; three addressed each of examples given and the overall assignment sequence. Five offered some variation on instructor approachability, in class and out, and six addressed excitement and enthusiasm.

ENGL 2340

Students in ENGL 2340 were asked five questions about the course, mirroring older practice:

  1. Of the assignments in the class (Ppr 1 PV, Ppr 1 RV, Ppr 1 FV, MtEx, Ppr 2 PV, Discus, or quizzes), which has been the most helpful? How has it helped you?
  2. Of the assignments so far (Ppr 1 PV, Ppr 1 RV, Ppr 1 FV, MtEx, Ppr 2 PV, Discus, or quizzes), which has been the least helpful? What has made it less helpful than it could be?
  3. What one thing would you like to see your instructor start doing in the classroom? What would make it good to see?
  4. What one thing would you like to see your instructor stop doing in the classroom? What makes it bad to see?
  5. What one thing would you like to see your instructor continue doing in the classroom? What makes it good to see?

Of the responses to the first question, one cited Ppr 1 FV as helpful (instructor feedback). Two cited Ppr 2 RV (feedback again). Three cited the quizzes (vocabulary-building). One cited both discussions and quizzes (diverse view and vocabulary), and one the papers as a whole and discussions (improvement as a writer and diverse views).

Of the responses to the second question, one reported each of the MTEx (needless, given other assignments) and Ppr 2 PV (poor feedback). Two each reported the Discus (tedious) and peer reviews (poor feedback). One reported the papers as a whole (humor has no place in academia), and one reported nothing unhelpful.

Of the responses to the third question, two were offered in jest and three were variations on “nothing.” One response asked for group work, while another asked for mandatory student-led discussion, and yet another asked for more specific focus on assigned readings.

Of the responses to the fourth question, two asked for restraint in the humor in the class, one asked for less professor-led and more student-led discussion, another asked for gentler peer-review grading, and yet another asked for fewer tangents. The other three offer variations on “nothing.”

Of the responses to the fifth question, all directly or indirectly address instructor energy and enthusiasm. Four also address the humor in the class.

ENGL/THRE 3333

Students in ENGL/THRE 3333 were asked five questions about the course, mirroring older practice:

  1. Of the assignments in the class (PProp, Expl, AnnBib, Discus, or the homework assignments), which has been the most helpful? How has it helped you?
  2. Of the assignments so far (PProp, Expl, AnnBib, Discus, or the homework assignments), which has been the least helpful? What has made it less helpful than it could be?
  3. What one thing would you like to see your instructor start doing in the classroom? What would make it good to see?
  4. What one thing would you like to see your instructor stop doing in the classroom? What makes it bad to see?
  5. What one thing would you like to see your instructor continue doing in the classroom? What makes it good to see?

Of the responses to the first question, two report the Expl as helpful in that it promoted beginning work. One reports the Annbib as useful because of the new approach to research. Another reports homework assignments as being helpful in the same way as the Expl.

Of the responses to the second question, three complain of the Discus, citing it as tedious and overburdensome. One reports that nothing has been unhelpful.

Of the responses to the third question, two ask for more focused lecture. One asks for more student-led discussion, and another asks for multimedia work to address divergent learning styles.

Of the responses to the fourth question, one asks for less discursive work out of concern that key concepts will be missed. Another asks for less of an attempt to display intellect, while another asks for certain jokes to be restrained. The fourth endorses all current classroom practices.

Of the responses to the fifth question, one prizes the supplied examples, while another applauds references made. A third lauds the open discussion format of the course, and the fourth encourages the humorous thrust of the course.

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Impressions and Implications

Before other discussion can take place, a couple of comments must be made. Some results are adjusted to account for errors in the forms sent out found only after the survey was emailed (and the errors are regretted). Also, some clear duplicate results (including at least one announced as such) were deleted. Reporting discrepancies therefore must be considered, as in earlier, similar exercises, limiting but not eliminating the usefulness of results.

The demographic data collected do not stand out as particularly surprising; they largely accord with expectations of the levels of classes involved and with general understandings of traditional college student populations. Similarly, academic data do not stand out as unusual, given the classes involved. Such theoretical implications thereof are addressed in earlier reports made of similar surveys; they need not be repeated again here.

As has been the case in the past, I am happy to see the validation that has come in from students. Each class has at least one student who reports being well served by current practice, and it is flattering to see that at least some of the efforts being expended are appreciated. Also pleasing is the demonstration that at least some of the students are comfortable enough to crack wise, which bespeaks some belief in agency and comfort with the setting sufficient to permit humor. And that the humor in the classes, generally, receives commendation is gratifying.

That said, there is clearly still room for me to improve upon my classroom work. Some results from the simple fact of a new teaching environment; the Fall 2016 term is my first at Schreiner, and some adjustment period is to be expected. Some remains grounded in my own persistent patterns; I remain prone to sidebar discussions and being led far afield from my central points in my speech, and students continue to be distracted by my doing so to some degree. My efforts to address the issue thus far have not yielded as much progress as might be hoped.

Going forward, I expect that I will follow one prevailing thread of commentaries, at least, and eliminate peer review sessions from my teaching. In honesty, I have maintained them largely because I see them discussed with favor in major publications, but I seem not to have a handle on how to administer them. I think I have made enough attempts at the exercise to find that it does not work well with my teaching; it can be discontinued.

Other issues do not necessarily present themselves so clearly, given mixed opinions voiced among the students. As ever, though, all that can be done is to try to improve–and I shall continue to work to that end.

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