Initial Comments for the July 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered two classes for the upcoming July 2019 instructional session at DeVry University: a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition (which I am teaching even now) and a section of ENGL 112: Composition (which I last taught during the November 2018 session). Both are co-sat, as was the case for the SPCH 275: Public Speaking section I taught during the recent March 2019 session; they combine an on-site hybrid group with an online-only group.

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Image by David Senior for Flower Darby’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “How to Be a Better Online Teacher,” which I likely ought to read; used for commentary.

ENGL 135 appears to have gone through a redesign, which means the materials I’ve prepared for past students will not be applicable, or not as much so, as they are for the present session. There do appear to be fewer deliverables, though, which means I will likely not have as much work to prepare things as I have had in the past–or as much work to grade, which also has its attractions. I’ll need to review the course in more detail before I proceed, however, but that’s not particularly onerous.

ENGL 112 also appears to have gone through a redesign since I last taught it, so I’ll need to review the course and generate new materials in response to it, as well. Honestly, though, it is good for me to do so. Refreshing my teaching from time to time is helpful; it keeps me from growing complacent. I have seen many instructors at several colleges and universities grow fixed in their ways, inattentive to developing knowledge in their subject areas and in teaching, generally; it has not helped the students to be mired in the understandings of thirty years ago and more, nor has it helped those of us who have done more recent work in the academic humanities, to have such be the case. Nor yet is it good for the world outside to have things root in the exhausted soil of conclusions decades out of date and unresponsive to the many things learned since.

The session spans 8 July to 31 August 2019 (that’s what my contracts say, anyway). On-site meetings for ENGL 135 will be Thursdays at 1830 US Central Time in Room 106 of the San Antonio Metro Campus; on-site meetings for ENGL 112 will be Wednesdays at 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. Synchronous online sessions will occur at the same times; sessions will be recorded for later viewing. Office hours will be online on Mondays at 1800 US Central Time; other meetings may be made by appointment.

As ever, I appreciate having the chance to do this again. I’d hate to think that I’d get no use out of the studying I did to learn how to do it…

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A Reflection on #Kzoo2019 from an #AcademicExpatriate

Over the weekend just past, I was once again in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, hosted by Western Michigan University. Once again, attending was a good thing for me, even if I was only there for part of the proceedings (rather than the whole event, as I have generally been–though that has not been the case most recently). It was also good to have gotten done what I took a brief hiatus to get done, and I am looking forward to getting back to work at home and on the various projects that are represented in this webspace. But there are some things that I do need to address about the conference before I move on.

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It looks much the same as last year–but not quite exactly–in this picture I took.
I still cannot take credit for the title, though, even if I might continue using it.

I could remark on the commonplaces of the Congress. Issues of accommodation and access deserve consideration, after all, even if I am not necessarily the best equipped or the best situated to offer that consideration. Yes, I can crack wise about the conditions of my room, shown in the relevant picture (which originally appeared on my Twitter feed, @GBElliottPhD), and I do note that there is some value for me, if perhaps less so for others, in being a bit removed from the comforts and convenience of my daily life. But I am also aware that things which serve as comforts and conveniences for me are much more important for others, and I am trying to be better about listening to scholars of differing abilities about such things.

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The aforementioned picture of the room. Not bad, in all.

Also important to note–because I am not about to get into the issue of comparing circumstances, and I have no desire to be taken as moving towards that issue at all–is the more-pronounced-than-usual whiteness of the Congress this time around. There was a boycott of it by a number of scholars, and I am sympathetic to it. (I was also not as aware of it as I perhaps should have been, for which I apologize.) What I read of the comments about it going into the Congress (which is less than I likely ought to have done, for which I apologize) suggested that one thing I could do to demonstrate support was to call attention to the issue in my own panels–and I believe I did so. In a business meeting I chaired, as well as in my paper presentation, I made explicit the need to do better with such things. For example, the conclusion of my presented paper:

Further study of other religious practices at work in medieval Europe than those commonly associated with medievalist tropes would also seem to be warranted, particularly as concerns depictions of in-milieu disadvantaged populations and their correspondences with real-world counterparts and analogues. Entirely too little has been done in that vein, with putatively mainstream audiences focusing more on themselves and those like them than upon respectful examination and appreciation of difference, and it has allowed rhetorics of ignorant hate to flourish entirely too much. It falls to further work on this project, and on any project, to work against such things with all possible vigor; I can hope that refinements to the current paper will serve that end.

I acknowledge that my backgrounds in racial and ethnic studies, in feminist studies, in gender studies more broadly, and in disability studies, as well as in many other areas of inquiry, are not as robust as could be imagined or hoped. The positions from which I have approached academe have shaped me in ways that have highlighted other issues that intersect with such fields but are not congruent with them, and I know I have had the privilege of looking at other things. I do not claim to have any particular expertise in them. But I can apply the expertise I have to at least point out the gaps in itself; I can refuse to pretend that my inexpertise with a thing means the thing is not worth expertise. No few humanities scholars complain of those outside the academic humanities ignoring the broad field because they do not work within it; how many of them will do he same thing with smaller areas of inquiry closer to them? I, at least, will try not to do so.

It is a small thing, I know, put against a large, large problem. But it is to be expected that the work I would do would be small; I am largely out of academe, an expatriate rather than an exile only in that I am allowed to return from time to time at gatherings such as the International Congress on Medieval Studies. I can hope that, in the coming years, others who have been here and would be here can well be here again–and I know that they can only be so, and should only be asked to be so, when they are treated with consideration and dignity. And I believe them when they tell me that they have not, even when and where I have not seen it.

Help me fund continued travel?

Reflective Comments for the March 2019 Session at DeVry University

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the January 2019 session at DeVry University, and following closely the patterns established in previous practice, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in my section of SPCH 275: Public Speaking during the March 2019 session at that institution. After a brief outline of the course and selected statistics about it, impressions and implications for further teaching are discussed.

Students enrolled in SPCH 275 during the March 2019 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many were irregular formal presentations; others included homework assignments preparing for and reflecting on the presentations, as well as ongoing online discussion. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are below, with relative weights shown in the figure below:

SPCH 275 Grade Breakdown

Point values sum to 1,000.

Homework and presentations were assessed by adaptations of University-provided rubrics. Discussions were assessed through an instructor-developed rubric.

The section met concurrently on-site and online in Room 105 at the San Antonio Metro Campus on Thursdays at 6pm, US Central Time, with online office hours generally being held Mondays at 6pm, US Central Time. Its overall data includes:

  • End-of-term enrollment: 27
  • Average class score: 699.9259/1000 (D)
    • Standard deviation: 229.339
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 6
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 6

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

SPCH 275 Grades Earned

Additionally, since the class met at a prescribed time, it was possible to take attendance. Most students in the section missed at least one class meeting; some missed quite a few more, as indicated below (with the figure being classes missed, students missing that many classes, and percentage of students falling into that category):

SPCH 275 Students by Number of Absences

I must confess that this was not the best session of teaching I’ve done. Part of the issue is that the University is trying co-sat courses in an effort to fill classes; physical sections are paired with online-only. The idea is that each instructor will be able to help more students and that the students will benefit from exposure to yet more diverse viewpoints. In practice, however, it makes more work for instructors, and for those who will insist on a work-life balance, on keeping a part-time commitment a part-time responsibility, that additional work translates into less effective instruction. Or such was the case with me this time around.

I am pleased to note that more students earned A and B grades in the class than earned D and F grades. And I note, once again, that the chief cause of low grades among my students was simple non-submission of work; I can only award one score to assignments requested and not submitted. Admittedly, as part of a means to protect myself during the session, I operated under a restrictive late-submission policy, and some students ran afoul of that.

I am also pleased to note that things seem to have gone slightly better this time than last time I taught the course. It had been a year since I had a speech class, and I have evidently improved, if only slightly, in my teaching; the average score was slightly better, and I had higher percentages of students earn A grades this time than last. (The percentage of F grades awarded was reasonably similar.) So there is that to consider, as well.

As before, I am pleased to have had the opportunity to teach once again. I have been offered it at least once more (there is some suggestion there are more such opportunities to come), and I remain aware of my contingent position in the classroom. Keeping it, for what it’s worth, has been helpful.

Class Report: SPCH 275, 25 April 2019

After making some procedural notes, discussion turned to presentations of the assigned impromptu speech for those students present on-site and live online. Some feedback on speeches was provided for those who presented.

Class met as scheduled, beginning at approximately 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. The class roster listed 27 students enrolled, unchanged from last week; seven attended on-site or live online.

No students attended the week’s office hour.

Students are reminded that, for those who did not present their impromptu speeches tonight, recorded presentations are due by the end of day Saturday, 27 April 2019, as the session closes at that time. Any petitions for incomplete status must also be submitted by that time, per University guidelines.

Reflective comments on the session will be forthcoming after the session closes and assignments are graded.

Class Report: SPCH 275, 18 April 2019

After making some procedural notes and addressing questions from the previous meeting and before, discussion turned to concerns of visuals and of color schemes. Discussion worked from some basic websites, which were introduced to the class. Time to work on assignments was offered to students, as well.

Class met as scheduled, beginning at approximately 1800 US Central Time in a WebEx session necessitated by travel difficulties. The course roster listed 27 students, four fewer than at the previous regular meeting; seven attended on-site or live online. Student participation was reasonably good, given the circumstances.

No students attended the most recent office hour; the next and final office hour will be Monday, 22 April 2019, at 1800 US Central Time.

Students are reminded about the following upcoming assignments, due through Canvas before the end of day, US Central Time, on 21 April 2019:

  • Discussion Thread: Persuasive Speech Progress Check
  • Persuasive Speech (preferably as a PowerPoint file)
  • Persuasive Speech Documentation, including an outline, references list, visual aids, and self-evaluation (preferably as a Word file)

Initial Comments for the May 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered and accepted a class for the May 2019 instructional session at DeVry University, a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition. I’ve taught the course several times at the school, most recently in the November 2018 session, so I am confident I will be able to do so successfully again. Certainly, I welcome the opportunity to do so.

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It’s a nice idea.
Image from Faculty Focus, used for commentary.

So far as I know, there have not been changes to the instructional sequence at play in the course, so I think my earlier examples will continue to work for the students. If there have been changes, I will see about drafting new ones to suit. As a reminder, those examples can be found linked below:

The class will meet online only, which will be something of a relief. I will be spared the commute I have in teaching on site, which will save me a fair bit of money. And I will likely continue my practice of holding office hours online on Mondays at 6pm US Central Time; it works as well as anything else, so I have no reason to alter it.

I am sure I will have additional comments about things as the session progresses. I still have to get through the March 2019 session, so it will be a bit. But I am still happy to have the opportunity I have to earn a little bit more by doing what I spent so long learning how to do. I remain an academic expatriate even so, but I might as well enjoy having a little bit of support while I can.

Class Report: SPCH 275, 11 April 2019

After addressing questions from earlier in the session, discussion turned to concerns of argumentation and returned to concerns of sourcing before speaking to assignments.

Class met as scheduled, beginning at 1800 US Central Time in a co-sat session focused on Room 105 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed 31 students, one less than at the previous regular meeting; nine attended on-site or live online. Student participation was reasonably good.

No students attended the most recent office hour; the next office hour will be Monday, 15 April 2019, at 1800 US Central Time.

Students are reminded about the following upcoming assignments, due through Canvas before the end of day, US Central Time, on 14 April 2019:

  • Discussion Thread: Preparing the Persuasive Speech
  • Discussion Thread: Conducting Research
  • Annotated Bibliography (as a Word document)

Class Report: SPCH 275, 28 March 2019

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of visuals (including accessibility) and sourcing (including parsing sources) before turning to upcoming assignments.

Class met as scheduled, beginning at 1800 US Central Time in a co-sat session focused on Room 105 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed 32 students, unchanged from last week; ten attended on-site or live online. Student participation was somewhat subdued.

Students will please note that the regular class meeting for next week, 4 April 2019, will not take place normally. There will be an amended activity available.

No students had attended the most recent office hour; the next office hour will be Monday, 1 April 2019, at 1800 US Central Time.

Students are reminded about the following upcoming assignments, due through Canvas before the end of day, US Central Time, on 31 March 2019:

  • Discussion Thread: Brainstorming for Your Informative Speech
  • Discussion Thread: Selecting a Topic
  • Informative Speech Outline (as a Word document)

Class Report: SPCH 275, 21 March 2019

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of audience analysis and understanding, working from examples to note how audiences might be successfully addressed. Class then treated various figurations of language before moving on to discuss upcoming assignments.

Class met as scheduled, beginning at 1800 US Central Time in a co-sat session focused on Room 105 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed 32 students, a decline of one from last week; ten attended on-site or live online. Student participation was quite good.

No students had attended the most recent office hour; the next office hour will be Monday, 25 March 2019, at 1800 US Central Time.

Students are reminded about the following upcoming assignments, due through Canvas before the end of day, US Central Time, on 24 March 2019:

  • Discussion Thread: Peer Review of the Self-Introduction Speech
  • Discussion Thread: Speaking with Style
  • Rhetorical Analysis (as a Word document)
  • Week 3 Pulse Check

Class Report: SPCH 275, 14 March 2019

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of the communication environment and various patterns of argumentation. Reminders about upcoming work followed, and time to practice impromptu speeches and to work on assignments was offered.

Class met as scheduled, beginning at 1800 US Central Time in a co-sat session focused on Room 105 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed 33 students, a decline of one from last week; nine attended on-site or live online. Student participation was reasonably good.

One student had attended the most recent office hour; the next office hour will be Monday, 18 March 2019, at 1800 US Central Time.

Students are reminded about the following upcoming assignments, due through Canvas before the end of day, US Central Time, on 17 March 2019:

  • Discussion Thread: Preparing for the First Speech
  • Self-Introduction Speech
  • Reflection on the Self-Introduction Speech (as a Word document)
  • Week 2 Pulse Check