Reflective Comments for the November 2017 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

Returning to a practice begun in past years but that was allowed to lapse, comments below comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in ENGL 216: Technical Writing and ENGL 135: Advanced Composition at that institution during its November 2017 session. Overall impressions and implications for instruction are also discussed.

ENGL 216: Technical Writing

Students enrolled in ENGL 216: Technical Writing during the November 2017 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, and the weightiest, related to the overall course project; others were homework meant to practice skills used in the workplace and in later stages of the course project. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values arePercentage Breakdown

  • Online Discussions
    • Weeks 1-5, 20 points each
    • Weeks 6 and 7, 80 points each
  • Homework Assignments
    • Weeks 1-4, 50 points each
  • Course Project
    • Topic Proposal- 20 points
    • Annotated Sources- 50 points
    • Outline and Back Matter- 50 points
    • First Draft- 70 points
    • Front Matter- 40 points
    • Final Draft- 100 points
    • Presentation- 60 points
  • Final Exam- 150 points
  • Total- 1000 points

As before, most assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution. Some few were assessed holistically, with assessment being conducted more gently in light of less formality.

The section met on Tuesdays from 1800-2150 in Room 107 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University, moved into the more congenial room from its original location. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 6
  • Average class score: 704.45/1000 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 208.26
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 0
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 2

Owing to shifts in assessment, attendance was not recorded as strictly as in past sessions, when it influenced grading. Perhaps as a result of that shift, absenteeism was a problem in the course. Perhaps concomitantly, non-submission of assignments was also a problem, with several students failing to submit one or more major assignments–and suffering grade penalties as a result.

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ENGL 135: Advanced Composition

Students enrolled in ENGL 135: Advanced Composition during the November 2017 session were also asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, and the weightiest, related to the overall course project; others were homework meant to practice skills used in the workplace and in later stages of the course project. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values arePercentage Breakdown

  • Discussions
    • Weeks 1 and 7, 60 points each
    • Weeks 2-6, 30 points each
  • Homework
    • Information Literacy Module- 30 points
    • APA Assessment Activity Module- 30 points
  • Course Project
    • Topic Selection- 50 points
    • Source Summary- 100 points
    • Research Proposal- 50 points
    • Annotated Bibliography- 100 points
    • First Draft- 75 points
    • Process Review- 45 points
    • Second Draft- 80 points
    • Final Draft- 120 points
    • Reflective Postscript- 50 points

As before, most assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution. Other assignments were generally 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. Some few were assessed holistically, with assessment being conducted more gently in light of less formality.

The section met on Thursdays from 1800-2150 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 6
  • Average class score: 521.68/1000 (F)
    • Standard deviation: 287.12
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 0
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 2

Owing to shifts in assessment, attendance was not recorded as strictly as in past sessions, when it influenced grading. Perhaps as a result of that shift, absenteeism was a problem in the course. Perhaps concomitantly, non-submission of assignments was also a problem, with several students failing to submit one or more major assignments–and suffering grade penalties as a result.

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Impressions and Implications

Compiling such comments as these across terms and currently working in the non-profit sector prompt some adjustments to the current report from previous iterations. One such is the current format, which attempts to do more to offer paratextual cues than previous iterations. Another is the increased incorporation of graphics into the report, made in the hopes of easing access to the data contained.

To return to more normal discussion: as noted above, absenteeism and non-submission were the main problems during the session. Attendance was low throughout the term, with some class meetings seeing one student or none in attendance. Similarly, submission rates suffered, with more assignments seeing incomplete submission than not–as the figures below attest.ENGL 216 Non-SubmissionENGL 135 Non-Submission

Discussions with colleagues on campus suggest that the problems were not restricted to my classes. In some ways, it is a comfort to know that it’s not just me. In other ways, it’s a concern, as I have to wonder what it will mean for the whole of which I am part.

Other concerns persist from previous teaching. For one, I remain prone to tangential discussions, and, at this point, the idea that I will be able to set them aside is laughable. If and as I continue to teach, they will have to be accounted for and accepted.

This session, when I remembered to bring “real-world” examples of various types of writing into my classroom (I would often plan to, but I would not write the plan down or remember it amid teaching), the students who did attend seemed to get much out of it. I will therefore be making a point of doing more such as I move forward. Indeed, as I have started to plot out the January 2018 session, I have already begun to incorporate specific example texts into required threaded discussions. So that much should be helpful.

I am and remain grateful for the opportunity to continue teaching. After the loss of other academic employment and the end of years of searching for it, remaining even as involved in academe as part-time employment at a for-profit school allows is a welcome thing. Getting to see students grow and mature as scholars and budding professionals has also been gratifying. I hope I will continue to have the chance to do both.

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In Response to Coleen Flaherty

On 18 December 2017, Coleen Flaherty’s “Where the Grass Is Greener” appeared in the online Inside Higher Ed. The article reports results from a Cornell working paper that suggest those who earned doctorates in humanities and social sciences and who left academia for non-academic non-profit work are more satisfied with their work than those who remain in academia–and, it seems, those who work in for-profit jobs. The study also seems to suggest that women in academia do not suffer from choosing to have children to so great a degree as has often been supposed. Flaherty presents opinions of several involved with and concerned with the Cornell study, as well, illuminating the work further and, ultimately, presenting an interesting read.

What Flaherty presents also corresponds with my own experience of such things. While I am not now and have never been a tenured or tenure-track faculty member–and have, indeed, given up on the idea of being so–I did complete a doctorate, and I did (and do) work in academe, but I do most of my work for a non-profit substance abuse treatment facility in the Texas Hill Country (as I have noted, I think). And I am in contact with no few of my former classmates and coworkers, many of whom are tenured or on the tenure track–and what they tend to share more or less publicly suggests that the life of the mind is far from the idyllic, indolent life many outside it believe it to be. At the same time, although I do face some problems in my current primary line of work, I find myself generally satisfied with my lot in life.

Why would I not be? I am paid by the hour, so that if I work more, I earn more. The job is inside work with no heavy lifting. I get paid holidays and leave time, and I am clearly on the side of good. My job helps people help people, and that has not always been the case with what I have done in the classroom. My skill-set is respected and appreciated, and I am able to deploy more of it than I was in the classroom or the research carrel–as well as deploying my specialized training in interesting ways. And, unlike the humanistic research I have done, I never have to wonder about whether or not my current work matters in people’s lives; I know that what I do and what I help make happen makes people’s lives better.

Yes, I know that my experience is idiosyncratic and anecdotal. Yes, I know that it cannot be taken as representative on its own. But I also know that enough such testimonies can be, and that adding mine to them, adding my small confirmation to the study Flaherty reports, helps enough such testimonies emerge that something might be done with them. And I know that I, at least, am better off working where I work than I might well be otherwise, and I am content with it.

Class Report: ENGL 135, 14 December 2017

After skipping the last meeting due to weather, class time was given over wholly to the completion of the Reflective Postscript. Details about the assignment are included in the standard course shell. Students are advised that it, and any work form Week 7 not previously submitted, must be turned in before the end of day Saturday, 16 December 2017, to be awarded credit. The session ends at that time, and later submission cannot be accepted.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Rm. 114 of the DeVry San Antonio campus. The class roster listed six students enrolled, a decline of two since the last regular meeting (and a surprise to see at so late a date in the session). Of them, two attended, verified informally. Student participation was as expected. Office hours were cancelled due to personal obligations.

Class Report; ENGL 216, 12 December 2017

Class time was given over to the Final Exam, details about which are in the course shell. Students are advised that it, and any work form Week 7 not previously submitted, must be turned in before the end of day Saturday, 16 December 2017, to be awarded credit. The session ends at that time, and later submission cannot be accepted.

The class met, as usual, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the DeVry San Antonio campus. The class roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Of them, one attended, verified informally; student participation was as expected. Office hours were cancelled due to personal obligations.

Class Report: ENGL 135, 7 December 2017

Owing to concerns of weather and travel, class was cancelled with permission from University supervision. An assignment meant to compensate for the cancellation was posted to the course shell and is due as a Word document before 0059 on 11 December 2017; its submission will count as attendance for the missed class.

Other assignments coming due and to be graded as normal are

  • Discussion Posts, due online before 0059 on 11 December 2017
    • Remember that this week’s discussions are prescribed by the University; see the grading rubric in the Files portion of the course shell.
  • Course Project: Final Draft, due online before 0059 on 11 December 2017 as a Word document

Students are reminded that next week’s class meeting will be given over entirely to the Reflective Postscript assignment. The classroom will be opened at the scheduled time, and the instructor will be present, but no other activities are planned.

Class Report: ENGL 216, 5 December 2017

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of presentations and treated an example of a report. Attention was also paid to upcoming assignments, of which the most imminent are

  • Online Discussions, due before 0059 on 10 December 2017
    • Remember that the current week’s discussion grading differs from earlier weeks; information is in the course shell.
  • Course Project Second Draft, due before 0059 on 10 December 2017 as a Word document
  • Course Project Presentation, due before 0059 on 10 December 2017 as a narrated PowerPoint file

The class met, as usual, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the DeVry San Antonio campus. The class roster listed seven students enrolled, a decline of one since the last class meeting. Of them, four attended, verified informally; student participation was reasonably good. No students attended office hours.

Initial Comments for the January 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

Not too long ago, I signed my teaching contract for the January 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, Texas, which extends from 1 January through 25 February 2018. I am pleased to note that I will be working with a single set of students across the eight-week span, a group enrolled in ENGL 216: Technical Writing. I was assigned the course during the November 2017 session, and I found it a relatively congenial experience. That I get to approach the class again pleases me.

It does so in part because I will be trying something new to me in the coming session. I have noticed an unfortunate decline in attendance, as I have attested in blog posts throughout my time teaching at DeVry. It is my hope that doing more to put my lectures and the like online for students to access will improve student performance, and I hope also to guide my students more directly than I have tended to do in the past. (I recall having better results with them when I have defined tasks more narrowly. But that may be faulty recall, admittedly.)

Too, I can use the practice in developing materials. I have not been attending to this webspace nearly so much as I ought to, and having more to put here will be of benefit…