Class Report: ENGL 216, 14 February 2018

For the Valentine’s Day edition of the class, discussion opened with questions from the previous class meeting and before. It continued with notes about style and mechanics before examining an example of student work and a professional example. Further, assignments were discussed, such as

  • Course Project: Final Draft, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 19 February 2018
  • Course Project: Presentation, to be submitted as a PowerPoint file before 0059 on 19 February 2018
  • Discussion posts, to be completed online before 0059 on 19 February 2018

Students were afforded time to complete class surveys, as requested by administration. Students were also reminded that the Final Exam will take up class next week; the classroom will be open at the regular class time, although it may be closed early if no students attend on-site.

Class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged since the last meeting; two attended, assessed informally. Student participation was reasonably good. No students attended office hours Monday from approx. 1800 to approx. 1900 online (office hours are scheduled to 2000, but an hour in, with no attendees, they were ended).

Students are advised that office hours for Week 8, which would have occurred on 19 February 2018 at 1800, are cancelled in favor of the instructor’s daughter’s birthday.

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Class Report: ENGL 216, 7 February 2018

After addressing some few procedural notes and questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of front matter, order of composition, and review. An example of earlier student work was treated at some length. Assignments were discussed, such as

  • Course Project: Front Matter, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 12 February 2018
  • Discussion posts, to be completed online before 0059 on 12 February 2018

Class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged since the last meeting; three attended, assessed informally. Student participation was reasonably good. No students attended office hours Monday from approx. 1800 to approx. 1900 online. (Office hours are scheduled to approx. 2000, but after an hour without student attendance, they were closed.)

Since I Have It to Do Again–For at least One It…

Not too long ago, I made a post to this webspace in which I noted the perils of “If I had it to do again” and laid out what I might do if ever I did. Also not too long ago, I made a post noting that I received another teaching assignment from the small bit of academe in which I remain. As I thought about the latter, the former came to mind, and, since I have it to do again in at least one small area, I figured I ought to give some thought to how I would do it.

Now, for some context: the class that I was assigned is a second-semester composition class. Students enrolled in it are supposed to have completed the first-semester class, so they should have some introduction both to the college environment and to how college-level writing (a term which is nebulous at best) or academic writing works. The second-semester class is supposed to build upon that introduction, traditionally culminating in a conference-length paper (i.e., eight to ten pages of double-spaced, 12-point text, or some 2,600 to 3,250 words, plus references). At the school where I am assigned the class, the paper emerges from a series of assignments that center around a set of general topics from which the students are asked to select one–and therein lies the problem.

The issue is not necessarily n the assignment sequence itself. While it could be improved upon (as everything can), it is reasonable and seems to work decently. What the issue is is the selection of topics. For one, they are too broad, requiring students to do more work to narrow their focus than most who sit for the class are equipped to do–even with explicit, targeted coaching and prompting. For another, they are supposed “high interest” topics such as dieting and gun control, topics which have been exhaustively detailed and on which no real progress in discussion has been made in the United States that I have seen. Worse, they are topics with which most of my students–adults who already have formed and largely set opinions–do not engage with, having little stake in them. They end up parroting media talking points rather than actually generating new thoughts and trying to create new knowledge, largely because they do not feel they are in a position to do so.

Because the topics are promulgated by the school as standards, I shall continue to accept them, of course. I can hardly not. But what I will do, since I do have it to do again, is suggest to my students, strongly, that they take up an alternative topic, one in which they have some investment and engagement–and one with which I have had success with students in the past (such as here). In effect, I will ask my students to look at their curricula, identify one major change that needs to be made, and argue why that change is the change that needs to be made. As such, the students will have a topic with which they have direct involvement, which is a motivating factor; they will have a narrow topic, which allows for detailed work and more sustained argument; and they will have a directly discernible audience, which will allow both for analysis of that audience and more effective address thereof.

I’ll be working up materials in more detail, of course, but I know that the students will have easy recourse to primary source material (their own course catalogs and other schools’), secondary source materials (the contents of ERIC come to mind, as does the Occupational Outlook Handbook, particularly since most or all of my students seek their degrees specifically for job prospects and career advancement), and tertiary/critical sources (namely accreditation requirements and theories of education both academic and popular). And I know that at least one student will argue that the composition course requirements should be lightened or eliminated–there always is at least one–and I have a wealth of information about that particular line of inquiry for reasons that I think are obvious.

Not many people get the chance to do things again, I know. I have been lucky in that I have been given the opportunity, and more than once. (I am less lucky in that I have also blown it more than once, but that’s another matter, entirely.) I mean to seize upon this opportunity; I hope that it will lead to a good end.

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

Not long ago, I made a few comments about the March 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, noting with appreciation that I had been offered a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition. I have been at work developing materials for that class, and I am happy with how things are proceeding in that line.

I am also happy to note that I have been offered another class, one I have not yet taught at the institution, although it is similar to one that I have taught elsewhere–namely SPCH 217: Public Speaking. From what I have seen of the course so far, it is similar to the HUM 110 class I taught at the now-defunct Technical Career Institutes, so that while it has been some time since I taught such a class, I am not coming into it all unaware of what I need to do and what I need the students to do. Materials are on their way to me now, so that much is to the good, and I look forward to seeing how I can make things better.

Class Report: ENGL 216, 31 January 2018

After addressing some few procedural notes and questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of graphics and their integration into documents. Some review of paratext was needed, and ethics of graphics received some comment. Class time was spent interrogating an example previously emailed to students. Attention was also paid to upcoming assignments.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are coming due:

  • Course Project: First Draft, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 5 February 2018
  • Discussion posts, to be completed online before 0059 on 5 February 2018

Class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged since the last meeting; two attended, assessed informally. Student participation was good. No students attended office hours Monday from approx. 1800 to approx. 1900 online. (Office hours are scheduled to approx. 2000, but after an hour without student attendance, they were closed.)

If I Had It to Do Again…

The phrase “If I had it to do again” is always a dangerous thing, applying later knowledge to a past event and so introducing a paradox, and possibly reshaping memory to suit a thing that did not happen and fragmenting the world a bit further every time. But it is an alluring danger, one that seems inescapable, and I have found myself mired in it far too many times. And even when I know that I will not have it to do again, I find myself giving thought to what I would do if I did.

For example, I’ve taught first-year college composition many, many times since I started teaching at the college level in 2006. Often enough, I have had a prescribed sequence of assignments in doing so–more often than not, in the event, whether at a technical college in New York City that is now vanished or at a Big 12 school after I had earned my doctorate. But I have, from time to time, been given broad control over teaching such classes. In one, I feel that I did a fairly decent job of things, shaping assignments such that I was able to teach them well and get good work from my students in return. (Indeed, I remain singularly impressed with the efforts some of those students made; it is why I continue to write letters for them when they ask me to do so.)

It was only in one, however, that I did so. In the other, a first-semester composition class, I ended up teaching essays in the somewhat dated modal tradition, asking students to write description and narrative and the like. They did decently enough, to be sure, but I feel as if I missed an opportunity with them–the more so, now that I look back upon the experience with reasonable certainty that it was the last chance I had to teach the way I would prefer to teach the class. For I am certain that the kind of academic job that would allow me to do so is forever outside my reach (and I am working on getting okay with that circumstance, although I am not at that point yet).

If I had it to do again, I think I would teach first-semester composition as a focus on rhetorical analysis–only. I would guide my students through reading pieces–it doesn’t matter what pieces, really–and distilling from them summaries of content, of expected primary and anticipated secondary audiences, of choices of authorities to employ, of likely effects of those choices, of gaps in reasoning, of deficiencies for other audiences than expected, of the effects of layout choices (such as my listing these ofs in-line rather than in bullets or my lack of pictures amid my text), and of other things whose names escape me at the moment, and into interpreting what those things mean and how they do so. Parsing the information out seems the set of skills they need–that all of us need–and the practice in doing so students would get who sincerely and diligently (issues too often in my classes, to be sure) conducted the analyses such a class would request would help them to do that.

I know it is not exactly a revolutionary idea that I would do such a thing if I had it to do again. I know that many of the trained rhetoricians and compositionists I know and have known do such things when they teach first-year composition. (I also know that it is comparatively rare that they do so; most teaching of first-year composition is done by people off of the tenure track, and, it seems, more by those who specialize in areas other than rhet/comp than by those who do.) And, again, I know that I am not likely ever to have the chance to teach again a class that I have ordered as I would like it to be. But if it is ever the case that I have it to do again, I know what it is I mean to do, and why.

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

I know that I’ve had a lot to say about DeVry University this week, what with my usual class report and a recent addendum to an older post. But more news keeps coming in on that score, to wit:

Although I’ve not yet signed the contract for it, I have been offered a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition for the March 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio. The session runs 26 February through 21 April 2018; the class is slated to meet on Saturdays from 0900 to 1250 in Room 106 of the San Antonio campus. I still have a bit of time to begin to prepare and refine materials, and I look forward to doing again the work of teaching.

Among those materials will be an alternative assignment, one that follows the sequence prescribed by the University but that treats a different topic altogether. I have the hope that it will prove more amenable to students’ engagement than those previously assigned–and that they and I will gain more from it as a result.

Addendum to “Reflective Comments for the November 2017 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio”

A while ago, I posted a set of comments in which I looked back at the work I did during the November 2017 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, Texas. At the time, I thought they would be the last word I had to say on the subject–but that has not proven to be the case (obviously). Information I received this week has given me cause to add to those comments–and happily.

The results of my end-of-course evaluations got back to me this week. One of the two classes I taught, ENGL 135: Advanced Composition, rated me at 3.53/4.00 overall, with all students who responded reporting that I met or exceeded their expectations. The other, ENGL 216: Technical Writing, rated me at 3.90/4.00 overall, with all but one report noting that I exceeded expectations (and that one said I met them).

To be honest, the reviews are far better than I am accustomed to receiving from students. I am glad to have gotten them–and gladder to be doing something right in the classroom. I suppose my earlier assertions about needing to continue particular practices have some backing; I am glad that I am doing more in that line, even if I still do go off on strange tangents from time to time.

Class Report; ENGL 216, 24 January 2018

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of formality and complexity of reports, as well as persuasive techniques. Class focus was on applying principles from the textbook and lecture to in-class examples, with the idea that examining application will enhance student performance. Attention was also paid to upcoming assignments.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are coming due:

  • Course Project: Outline, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 29 January 2018
  • Week 4 Homework, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 29 January 2018
  • Discussion posts, to be completed online before 0059 on 29 January 2018

Class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged since the last meeting; two attended, assessed informally. Student participation was good. No students attended office hours Monday from approx. 1800 to approx. 1900 online. (Office hours are scheduled to approx. 2000, but after an hour without student attendance, they were closed.)

Class Report: ENGL 216, 17 January 2018

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of procedural writing, research and documentation, and ethics. Class focus was on applying principles from the textbook and lecture to in-class examples, with the idea that examining application will enhance student performance. Attention was also paid to upcoming assignments.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are coming due:

  • Course Project: Annotations, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 22 January 2018
  • Week 3 Homework, to be submitted online as a Word document before 0059 on 22 January 2018
  • Discussion posts, to be completed online before 0059 on 22 January 2018

Class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged since the last meeting; four attended, assessed informally. Student participation was good. No students attended office hours Monday from approx. 1800 to approx. 1900 online. (Office hours are scheduled to approx. 2000, but after an hour without student attendance, they were closed.)