Sample Assignment Response: A Reflective Postscript for ENGL 112 at DeVry University

To conclude from earlier work (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I will carry out the assignment my students are asked to complete for their final week of the session: a brief reflective postscript. Considering work that has been done and what work is yet to be done is a useful thing, and I nourish the hope that the example I might offer will help my students and others do find such use in their own work.

Memory is a tricky thing.
Image from Psychology Today.

For the exercise, students are asked to address a series of University-provided prompts in short paragraphs that should total some two pages of text when typed in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman on letter-sized paper with one-inch margins. The prompts ask students to consider their work and advancement during the course, especially as pertains to the commentary essay of the last few weeks of class. It is a fairly common exercise, both at the University and in colleges more generally, so it is likely students will encounter it again–and, as noted, reflection is good practice, in any event.

For my own work, I began by setting up a document in line with the expressed formatting standards. That done, I copied the prompts over from the University into the document, highlighting them in green so I could easily see what I would be addressing and would remember to delete the copy-over before completing my work.

At that point, I moved directly into drafting my responses, considering my answers to the questions posed as I went along. The questions are open-ended, but not so open-ended that they demand much delimiting. As such, answering them proved relatively easy to do–which makes sense, given the time I’ve spent on the project reflected upon and its topic.

The content made ready, I deleted the imported prompts and reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Reflective Postscript. May it and its predecessors prove of benefit now and in time to come!

This session’s done, but other classes await; help me help them, too!

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Class Report: ENGL 135, 17 December 2018

Following up on the previous report, students were asked to comment on issues of design for their final papers (focusing largely on images and their integration into the text), as well as concerns of APA formatting. They were also asked to complete and submit their final papers; the present week asks for reflection on their work and its connection to their future plans.

The course roster showed 18 students enrolled, one fewer than last week; 16 participated in online discussion during the week. No online office hour was held on Monday, 10 December 2018, owing to other concerns.

Students are reminded that an office hour is scheduled for tonight, Monday, 17 December 2018, at 6pm CST. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on Saturday, 22 December 2018:

  • Discussion Thread: Looking Ahead
  • Course Project: Career Connections (due online as a Word document)

In Response to Noah Smith

On 26 November 2018, Noah Smith’s “America Is Poorer Than It Thinks” appeared on Bloomberg.com. In it, Smith articulates prevailing definitions of poverty–absolute poverty, determined by government figures, and relative poverty, determined by standing relative to the local median income–before arguing in favor of material in/security as articulated by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs. Smith offers examples of Maslovian material insecurity and extrapolates from them based on others’ research. Smith concludes with the assertion that a better, more complete definition of poverty such as that deriving from Maslow’s ideas can help in addressing poverty, which developed nations ought to do.

When the wallet looks like this…
Image from Getty.

I’m familiar with Maslow and his hierarchy of needs from the coursework I did to earn teaching certification in those long-ago days when I thought I’d be at the front of a high school classroom for my profession. As such, the idea that insecurity about basic physical needs could inform a definition of poverty seems sound to me–but I’ll admit to not being an economist. If such an idea holds, though, then it seems that Smith’s central assertion is correct; if poverty is insecurity regarding material needs, then many, many more people are impoverished than income alone would indicate. In my own case, working one full-time job, one part-time job, a contract gig, freelancing, and still not making enough that I can afford usable health insurance coverage or put back enough money that I can afford to be out of work for very long at all, the definition fits, even though I am aware that matters could be far worse than they are.

And that leads to another point, one on which Smith does not touch, though he motions that way. One of the things, at least in my part of the world, that prevents many people from seeking help is not so much pride as a sense that asking would indicate ingratitude for what is already had, that things are not worse than they are. Folks above the poverty line, even if only by a bare margin, know they are not “impoverished,” at least in that narrowly technical sense, so they do not seek assistance, even though there is no measure by which they are doing well. Less bad is still bad, but the way things seem currently constructed makes such matters an either/or proposition, and many people feel themselves on the wrong side of it who might not if they had a better rubric by which to assess themselves and their situations. It would not be a panacea, to be sure; there would still be people who would worry that they are not badly enough off that they ought to ask for a hand up. But they might at least act from a better idea of how matters stand, which would help.

I could use a hand staying further away from poverty. Your contribution is welcome.

Class Report: ENGL 112, 12 December 2018

After addressing a procedural concern and asking about questions from the previous week and before, discussion turned to concerns of revision. Concepts were discussed and a practice in the process offered. Upcoming assignments received attention. Time was allotted to students to conduct their own work and to complete surveys of instruction.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 106 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed 10 students enrolled, a decline of one from previous weeks. Five attended; student participation was good. The regularly scheduled office hour on 10 December 2018 was canceled.

Students are advised that the office hour scheduled for Monday, 17 December 2018, at 6pm Central Standard Time is expected to occur. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 16 December 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: Revision Process and Peer Reviews (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Commentary Final, due online as a Word document

Sample Assignment Response: A Commentary Essay for ENGL 112 at DeVry University

To continue on from earlier work (here, here, here, here, here, and here), I will do more to round out the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their seventh week: a finalized commentary paper. I continue to hope that, despite the errors that are in any work, what I do will help my students and others to better understand what they are asked to do and so help them do it better.

Keep on doing it.
Image from tenor.com.

For the exercise, students are asked to revise their work from the previous week as needed and to add to it the remaining bulk of their papers, bringing their commentaries to a full five pages (1500 to 1750 words) plus title page and references list.  To complete it, I began by opening the document I’d made for last week’s exercise and saving it again as a new file for the final. (Keeping the earlier version separate allows for more radical revision in some circumstances.) Looking over it again, as it had been a few days since I had last done, so, I noted that I still had not settled on a thesis because I was still puzzling through my issue. I noted also that I had addressed appropriation but not appreciation; it was to the latter that I set myself.

I picked up writing where I had left off, moving directly into drafting as I thought through the issue and angle I had set for myself in the earlier work. As I drafted, too, I was able to determine a thesis, which I inserted into the usual place for such statements in first-year composition papers–the end of the introductory paragraph–before ensuring that connection to it sufficed throughout the rest of the text. I also made sure I offered the kind of conclusion to the paper–not filling out the repetitive “tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, and tell ’em what you told ’em” model, but moving ahead from the thesis–I want to see from my students and, indeed, from most of the writing I read.

The content made ready, I reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Commentary Final. I hope it will help others.

Help me keep doing this, please!

Class Report: ENGL 135, 10 December 2018

Following up on the previous report, students were asked to assess each other’s work on presentations related to their ongoing projects and to submit the same for instructor review and feedback. Presently, they should be working to complete their course projects, which are due this week.

The course roster showed 19 students enrolled; 18 participated in online discussion during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 3 December 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that no office hour is scheduled for tonight, Monday, 10 December 2018; other obligations have called the instructor away at that time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 16 December 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: Designing the Course Project and APA Workshop (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Course Project, Final Draft (due online as a Word document)

On Reading a Nearly Local Paper

I have noted in another place that my wife and I started taking the main San Antonio newspaper, the Express-News, not long before the recent US Thanksgiving holiday. In that other place, I’ve taken to doing with the Express-News what I used to do with the New York Times, back when I lived in The City and had subscription access to that newspaper through my then-institution or through that shrine to human knowledge, the New York Public Library.

If there is a temple at which I might pray, this might well be it.
Image from nypl.org.

The thing is, I do not live in San Antonio. I work there, currently part-time, as I think I’ve made clear (here, for only one recent example), and my brother and his family live there, but I do not. My wife does not. As such, the Express-News is not my local paper. And if it is the case, as I’ve elsewhere noted, that part of the reason for reading a newspaper in the current environment of rapidly produced, rapidly accessed media is in aligning with a community, then my taking the Express-News instead of the six-days-a-week main newspaper of my hometown, or the weeklies in the town and the county of which it is the seat, says something about how I view myself.

San Antonio is the seventh most populous city in the United States, per the city’s website as of 30 November 2018, although it does not, in many cases, act like a large city. It does not have the self-importance of New York City, to be sure, nor the high profile of Los Angeles or Chicago. It does not have the self-aggrandizing tendencies of even smaller cities such as Austin (which, given the state capitol and several other things less polite to name, appears to have an inferiority complex), nor has it the social cachet of Dallas/Ft. Worth or Houston. Yet it still exerts substantial influence on the nation, hosting some of the best trauma- and burn-treatment centers on the planet, as well as the US Air Force’s Basic Training Command. Surprisingly, it also serves as a center of medieval studies, with the online version of the Annotated Chaucer Bibliography hosted at UTSA and the current-to-this-writing Chaucer Bibliographer, Dr. Stephanie Amsel, a graduate of the same institution.

Knowing such things, what it might mean that I align myself to San Antonio, as opposed to, say, my hometown is something I might guess at, but none of us see ourselves clearly in mirrors. There is always some defect in the surface, some impurity in the air, some imperfection in our very eyes that prevents a view as good as we might hope to have. I do not think it prudent to analyze myself in such a way. But I imagine that others might take a turn at doing so; I wonder what the biographical tidbit my subscription betokens might do to add to such a critique.

Help me keep producing content; send some money my way. Think of it as a holiday gift.

Class Report: ENGL 112, 5 December 2018

After addressing a procedural concern and asking about questions from the previous week and before, discussion turned to concerns of theses and integrating sources in support of the present week’s writing assignment.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 106 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed 11 students enrolled, unchanged from previous weeks. Eight attended; student participation was good. An online office hour was held on Monday, 3 December 2018; no students attended.

Students are advised that the office hour scheduled for Monday, 10 December 2018, at 6pm Central Standard Time is canceled against an event the instructor must attend. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 9 December 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: Position-based Writing and Integrating Research in APA Style (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Commentary Draft, due online as a Word document

Sample Assignment Response: A Commentary Rough Draft for ENGL 112 at DeVry University

To continue on from earlier work (here, here, here, here, and here), I will go further along the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their sixth week: a draft of a commentary paper. I continue to hope that my efforts will assist in my students’ work and others’ to write better and help still others to do the same.

From teachingenglish.org.uk, which seems reasonably appropriate for discussing discussion in a college English class…

For the assignment, students are asked to generate the first three pages (excluding title page and references) of a five-page commentary essay–in effect, a position paper of the sort I’ve taught in one form or another before (here, here, here, and here, among others). Introduction, thesis, and an at-least-cursory overview of current discussion of the topic are requested, as is the beginning of the argument’s development. More will follow, of course, but three pages should be enough to establish the idea to be borne out, to provide it context, and to start developing it. Additionally, the project is a continuation of last week’s work, so what was done previously should still fit the current purpose.

To begin my response to the exercise, I opened my proposal and summary from the previous week. I also opened a new document, formatting it for submission; I set up a title page, main text, and references list, putting the whole into double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. The title page, running heads, and page numbers were set as they ought to be, while the internal title and references note were centered horizontally, and lines for references set up with half-inch hanging indentations.

With the formatting set up, I began to bring things into the new document from the old. The specific issue, the balance of appropriation and appreciation in my topic, was the first to come over; although not a thesis, as such, I copied it twice, highlighting the second in green and positioning it to serve as a moving target as I developed further materials. I also stubbed out space in which to position the thesis to come, as well as for some items I knew from the earlier work that I would want to put in place: definitions of terms relevant to the discussion. Those were highlighted in teal to remind me to attend to them.

From there, I moved to fill in context for my discussion, giving a description of my topic. I looked through earlier work done in the present session to begin with, since I could reasonably include that material in my current work without trouble.  Some details in that line were forthcoming, and I was happy to incorporate them into my work to offer background. I supplemented them with my own experience, as well, since I have it to bring to bear.

A passable attempt at an introduction started, I moved to insert my relevant definitions, working from the two sources identified in the previous exercise. Citations pulled earlier also made their ways into the appropriate part of the paper, developing a short references list. I found that I needed more material for my definitions to make sense, so I ran another search for material in Academic Search Complete and found a particularly useful piece, which I incorporated similarly to the other pieces I’d noted.

It also occurred to me that I would need to incorporate primary source materials into my project. Knowing that I would be making use of it–a thing cannot be discussed without reference to that thing, particularly in a scholarly context–I incorporated the primary source into my references list. And with that done, I used the materials to offer an overview from which to conduct further discussion.

With context reasonably established, it came time to begin to reason out the argument and to work towards a thesis. When I entered the project, I did not know how the matter would fall out, so I began writing with the intent to learn as well as to convey information and understanding to my audiences. And I had to address what I saw as a glaring issue; it seemed to need doing, and it seemed to emerge well from the way in which I had established context. Too, it allowed me to meet the requirements of the exercise and position myself to undertake the next.

The content made ready, I reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making and eliminating highlighted passages, I rendered the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Commentary Draft. May it, like its predecessors, be helpful!

I continue to appreciate your support as I develop yet more material for my students and others to use to improve their own.

Class Report: ENGL 135, 3 December 2018

Following up on the previous report, students were asked to assess each other’s work and to submit an expanded draft of their ongoing projects for instructor review and feedback. Much the same thing is asked of them presently, though a presentation rather than a static paper is requested.

The course roster showed 21 students enrolled, a loss of one from last week’s 22; 17 participated in online discussion during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 26 November 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that another office hour is scheduled for tonight, Monday, 3 December 2018, at 6pm Central Standard Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 9 December 2018:

  • Discussion Thread: Presentation Peer Review (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Presentation (due as a PowerPoint or similarly accessible file)