Reflective Comments for the March 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the January 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in SPCH 275 and ENGL 135 during the March 2018 session at that institution. After a brief outline of each course and statistics about it, impressions and implications for further teaching are discussed.

SPCH 275: Public Speaking

Students enrolled in SPCH 275 during the March 2018 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, including the weightiest, related to the overall course project; others were presentations meant to offer practice in speech-giving and homework reflecting upon performance in the presentations. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are

20180300 SPCH 275 Grade Breakdown

  • Online Discussions
    • Two threads in each of Weeks 1-7, 15 points each
  • Homework Assignments
    • Week 1, 20 points
    • Week 2, 20 points
    • Week 3, 20 points
    • Week 4, 25 points
    • Week 5, 50 points
    • Week 6, 25 points
    • Week 7, 30 points
  • Weekly Presentations
    • Week 1, 25 points
    • Week 2, 35 points
    • Week 3, 50 points
    • Week 4, 100 points
    • Week 5, 50 points
    • Week 6, 100 points
  • Course Project
    • Weekly Work, Weeks 2-7, 15 points each
    • Final Presentation, 150 points

Unlike before, most assignments were assessed holistically, with assessment being conducted more gently in light of less formality.

The section met on Wednesdays from 1800-2150 in Room 108 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 5
  • Average class score: 698.91/1000 (D)
    • Standard deviation: 174.36
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 0
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 1

Attendance was recorded with each class meeting. Despite that, 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 during the March 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 are

20180300 ENGL 135 Grade 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
      • Second Draft- 80 points
      • Final Draft- 120 points
      • Reflective Postscript- 50 points
    • Participation- 45 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 Saturdays from 0900-1250 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 13
  • Average class score: 597.97/1000 (F)
    • Standard deviation: 269.96/1000
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 2
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 5

Despite shifts in assessment that meant attendance was able to influence grading, 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 (one submitted none of the major assignments and only a handful of the minor ones)–and suffering grade penalties as a result.

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Impressions and Implications

There is always something to say about the teaching that goes on during a session. Some of it is held over from earlier work; I continue to go off on tangents, for one thing, although they seem to have been better integrated into the lectures and discussions this session than in many previous ones. And absenteeism continues to be a problem, as does non-submission; I do what I can to prompt showing up and turning work in, but I teach adults, and my hold over them is sharply limited.

Assigned topics–in this case, curricular reform–did not go over as well this time as in the past. The speech class accepted the topic, but not as much was done with it as might be hoped. I want to put that down to it being the first time I’ve taught the class at the present institution; being less familiar with it meant that I did not know what problems were likely to occur, so I could not correct for them. But I do not think I can ascribe all of the difficulty to that.

The composition class largely avoided the topic, many students noting to me that they did not feel competent to treat it. Given the non-traditional student body with which I work, I can understand the concern, although I argued to them that they, having lived outside academe and in the “real” world (problematic as that term is), are well-positioned to see what does and does not correspond to the demands imposed outside the ivory tower. Still, given that few if any attempted it, I feel I must adjust my approach.

That said, I will make at least one more attempt to use the specific topic; the ENGL 216: Technical Writing class I am assigned for the May 2018 term will be treating it, with my thinking being that the more advanced students will have more agency with the topic–and restricting them from the pallid institution-suggested topics will produce better, more engaged work. Further, if I am given another section of ENGL 135, it will return to a fall-back for me: humor. I can hope that future students will enjoy their work more, and that I will have an easier time reading, as a result. And, if I am given another section of the speech class, I will convert the weekly course project work to participation scores much as I have done with an assignment in ENGL 135.

All of this, of course, assumes that I will continue to have the opportunity to teach. I am aware of my contingent status and therefore appreciate that each offer of a course is a gift whose endurance I cannot take for granted. As such, I remain grateful for the opportunity to put to use those skills that years of study have developed in me and for the chance to help others cultivate their skills and themselves.

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