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

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the March 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, and following closely the patterns established in previous practice, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in ENGL 216: Technical Writing during the May 2018 session at that institution. After a brief outline of the course and statistics about it, impressions and implications for further teaching are discussed.

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 work0place and in later stages of the course project. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are below, with relative weights shown in the figure below:

Grade Breakdown

  • 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
  • Online Discussions
    • Weeks 1-5, 20 points each
    • Weeks 6 and 7, 80 points each
  • Homework Assignments
    • Weeks 1-4, 50 points each
  • 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 Mondays from 1800-2150 in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 8
  • Average class score: 679.625/1000 (D)
    • Standard deviation: 208.849
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 2
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 2

Numbers of students receiving each of the traditional letter grades are indicated below:

Final Grades

As in my previous session teaching the course, attendance was assessed as part of classroom activities; a component of the discussion grading each week was given to in-class attendance and participation. Consequently, attendance data is available; on average, four students attended each class meeting, with 33 total absences noted. The absences, and their concomitant rate of non-submission, exerted negative influence on overall student performance.

Student Absences

On the whole, I think the session was reasonably good. I was fortunate enough to have returning students, which is always helpful; those who have been in classes with me know what to expect, and it is gratifying to see them build on skills I know they have rehearsed. (This is true with adult learners no less than with more traditional students–at least for me.) And I was lucky to have diligent, dedicated students, as well; those who apply themselves with a will are always better to teach than those who do not, even if the latter have more innate talent and better preparation than the former.

Carry-over from the previous session of teaching the class proved helpful. Continuing to use examples from practice not necessarily part of academe was advantageous for the students, and being able to employ materials from the earlier session made the job of preparing for class easier to do. More refinement needs to be done to the selection process–I want to align the examples more, although I am not sure in which direction I want to align them–but the general idea remains a good one.

As ever, concerns remain. I wish I had some better way to motivate attendance and assignment-submission (which were the major factors diminishing student grade-performance–and their more important but less valorized development as writers). How many assignments were missed is shows below:

Assignments Missing

Too, I would have liked to have seen more of my students apply themselves to the topic I had emphasized for the course project; I think they would have gotten more use out of it and done better on their work, overall. The problem, though, is that my students are adults at a for-profit institution; they are under no illusions that they are in their programs to earn credentials in the pursuit of better job prospects. That situation makes it difficult for them to take the time to consider options and delve into materials deeply–and it vitiates against doing anything more than the minimum to pass off the course. The matter bears more consideration.

As ever, I appreciate having had the chance to teach again, and I look forward to having others in sessions yet to come.

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