Concluding Thoughts on the Spring 2017 Term at Schreiner University

In keeping with my practices from earlier terms and teaching jobs, the comments below offer information about the demographics and class performance in the two sections of ENGL 1302: Literature & Composition I taught during the Spring 2017 term at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. Overall impressions and implications for future work are discussed below, as well, and best versions of course documents are presented.

Student Demographics

Demographic data derive from a survey administered online to students during the term–discussed here. As enrollment changed after the survey was administered, final figures will necessarily differ–and because survey answers are anonymous, which adjustments need to be made to represent final data are unclear. Accordingly, the demographic report retains its original information, however belatedly presented.

In the survey, students were asked a number of questions. Some pertained to teaching practice; responses to them are elided in the current report (see “Impressions and Implications,” below). Those pertaining to demographic data, however, asked after section of enrollment, age, gender identity, racial and ethnic identities, socioeconomic status, classification at the institution, GPA, school of enrollment, and major and minor fields of study.

The question about section of enrollment inquired as to whether respondents were enrolled in Section 02 or Section 03 of the course. Seventeen responded in the former, although three responses appear to be duplications. Fourteen responded in the latter.

The question about student age asked respondents to select only one answer from among “Under 17,” “17,” “18,” “19,” “20,” “21,” “Over 21,” and “Prefer not to respond.” Sixteen respondents identified as 19 years of age, seven as 18, four as 20, and one as over 21. No other responses are recorded.

The question about gender identification asked respondents to select only one answer from among “Male,” “Female,” “Prefer not to say,” and “Other.” Seventeen responded as male, ten as female, and one as other. No other responses are recorded.

The question about racial identification asked respondents to select all appropriate choices from those listed in 2010 US Census Bureau data. Two students identified as Asian, one as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, three as Black or African American, 23 as White, and four as Some Other Race.

The question about ethnic identification also asked respondents to select the appropriate response from 2010 US Census Bureau data. Ten students identified as Hispanic; 18 disavowed being Hispanic.

The question about socioeconomic status asked students to select one response from among “Upper class,” “Upper middle class,” “Middle class,” “Lower middle class,” “Working class,” “Lower class / Underclass,” “Prefer not to identify,” and “Other.” Sixteen responded as middle class; six as upper middle class; three as lower middle class; and one each as lower class / underclass, prefer not to identify, and other. No other responses are recorded.

The question about institutional classification asked students to select one response from among “Freshman,” “Sophomore,” “Junior,” “Senior,” and “Prefer not to identify.” Twenty-three identified as freshmen, four as sophomores, and one as a junior. No other responses are recorded.

The question about GPA asked students to select one response from among the following: “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.” Eleven responded with a GPA of 3.5+; nine with 3.0-3.499; three with 2.0-2.499; two with 2.5-2.999; and one each with 1.5-1.999, 1.0-1.499, and a preference not to respond. No other responses are recorded.

The question about School of major asked students to place themselves in one of the three Schools at the University: the School of Liberal Arts, the Trull School of Sciences and Mathematics, and the Callioux School of Professional Studies. Students could also identify as undeclared majors, and they could opt not to identify. They could also fill out an “Other” response if they double-majored across Schools. Nine identified as in Liberal Arts, nine as undeclared, four in Trull, four as other, and two in Callioux.

The question about major field of study was a short-answer response, presented as follows: “What is your major? (If you are a double-major, list both majors. If you are undeclared, please note it. If you prefer not to identify, please type ‘Prefer not to identify.’)” Four respondents identified as being each of psychology majors and undeclared majors. Three identified as Greystone preparatory students, bound for service academies. Two responded as each of political science and programming majors, with two others opting not to identify. One responded as majoring in each of business and marketing, business economics, business management, education, engineering, English and history, English and psychology, exercise science, history, math, and nursing.

The question about minor field of study was presented as follows: “Do you have, or intend to take, a minor? If so, in what? (If you are unsure, please type ‘Unsure.’ If you prefer not to identify, please type ‘Prefer not to identify.’)” Eight students responded as unsure about minoring, while six noted having no minor, and another three disavowed wanting a minor. Two each noted minoring in education and Spanish, while two others preferred not to identify. One each noted minoring in communication, computer information technology, outdoor leadership, photography, Spanish and Latin American studies (as distinct from Spanish), sports management/coaching, and theater technology.

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Class Performance

The students in both sections, Section 02 and Section 03, were asked to complete a number of assignments throughout the term: an essay on poetry, an essay on drama, an essay on prose, and an essay on a work in any selected genre, in draft and submission versions; a series of vocabulary quizzes; a final exam deriving from those quizzes; and an overall impression of professionalism. Each was scored using a scale of A+ through zero, and scores were unevenly distributed, as noted below:

  • Poetry Essay, 15% of the total course grade
  • Drama Essay, 15% of the total course grade
  • Prose Essay, 15% of the total course grade
  • Choice Essay, 15% of the total course grade
  • Final Exam, 10% of the total course grade
  • Minor Assignments, cumulatively 15% of the total course grade
  • Student Professionalism, 15 % of the total course grade

Unlike previous terms, attendance did not directly factor into grading. Missed assignments still counted against students, but the idea of tracking non-attendance for grade penalties in and of itself is not one that has continued to suggest itself as a useful classroom practice for me. In the absence of institutional mandate, then, I did not grade students down for not showing up.

Section 02

Discussion of individual assignments and individual student performance exceeds what is appropriate for such a report as this. Overall data is not, however, and for the section, it includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 14
  • Average class score: 72.661 (C-)
    • Standard deviation: 19.151
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 1
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 1
  • Total student absences: 71
  • Average student absences: 5.071
    • Standard deviation: 8.172

The class suffered from relatively high attrition; initial enrollment was 20, and one student attended class only nine times (out of more than 40). Said student was the one outright failure, given that the absences were accompanied by thoroughgoing non-submission of assignments.

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Section 03

Discussion of individual assignments and individual student performance exceeds what is appropriate for such a report as this. Overall data is not, however, and for the section, it includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 16
  • Average class score: 79.136 (C+)
    • Standard deviation: 12.382
  • Students earning a grade of A (90%+): 3
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 60%): 1
  • Total student absences: 49
  • Average student absences: 3.063
    • Standard deviation: 3.733

The class suffered from attrition; initial enrollment was 20. One student withdrew because information came in that the student had taken an equivalent course at another institution and credit therefore was accepted. The other three withdrew from other concerns entirely. Non-submission was something of a problem for the student who failed the course; two of the four major papers never came in from that student.

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Impressions and Implications

What can be taken from the report is not entirely clear; it has been announced to me that I will not be teaching at Schreiner in the Fall 2017 term, and my return thereafter is doubtful. Indeed, my return to any teaching other than that I maintain at DeVry University in San Antonio is doubtful; I have sent out hundreds of applications to such jobs, and none have gone favorably for me. As such, I am largely leaving academe for the time–and possibly for all time.

Even so, and despite certain early difficulties in the semester, I am pleased with how things turned out in the classes themselves. I had a number of fine students who engaged with writing as a process and ended up finding excellent ideas–one, for example, focused on difficulties of transcription in a paper, while another grappled with higher-level literary criticism. I appreciate the efforts such students made, and I have found my way into at least one other paper as a result of working with them–which I also appreciate.

If it is the case that the Spring 2017 semester at Schreiner is my last “regular” teaching gig–my work at DeVry is necessarily Other to it and to academe more generally–then it was a good term on which to end.

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Course Documents

The two sections of the course worked from the same syllabus and course packet, combined into a single document that was made available to students in print and online. It was supplemented by two assignment sheets, one prompting a diagnostic writing exercise, the other expressing standards for the papers required throughout the term. They have been compiled into a single document, and slightly edited to address some–but likely not all–of the issues in both; I am sure there are others that have escaped my attention.

G. Elliott ENGL 1302 Combined Course Document

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