Below appears an authoritative version of the guidelines for the Final Exam (FinEx), superseding any previously published information regarding the FinEx.
The First-Year Composition Program at Oklahoma State University offers only minimal description of the FinEx, noting that it will occupy some five percent of the total grade in the course but making no comment about the form or content of the exercise. As such, in an effort to afford students more agency in determining the shape of their studies, the form and content were left to student vote. Of the 49 students available to vote, 43 responded to an online survey calling for a choice from among four options. Of the 43 respondents, a plurality of 18 opted to write an essay exam arguing that an assignment not already included in the first-year writing sequence ought to be included in it; the audience to be addressed is one that approves of the current sequence but is willing and able to adjust it if persuaded. Consequently, students will be asked to argue that an assignment—whether an assignment to be done in addition to what is already present or one that replaces something already assigned—should be incorporated into the standard course sequence for ENGL 1113 and ENGL 1213.
Students in Prof. Elliott’s sections of ENGL 1213 in the Spring 2016 instructional term at Oklahoma State University will need to perform several tasks to successfully complete the exercise:
- Review the purposes to which first-year writing is directed;
- Review the assignments already included in the mainstream first-year writing sequence;
- Identify a way in which the purposes of first-year writing are not being adequately addressed by the current assignment sequence;
- Develop a writing assignment which addresses the purposes of first-year writing more fully; and
- Compose an argument which explains what the assignment is and how it fulfills a purpose of first-year writing in a manner not already adequately addressed by the current sequence: the FinEx.
Much of the information on this assignment sheet duplicates information for a similar assignment in another version of ENGL 1213 being taught. It is reproduced without comment.
Despite what many profess to believe, first-year writing does have purposes in curricula for all disciplines (as systems of higher education in the United States conceive of them, at least). What those purposes are and are perceived as being vary across audiences; reliable treatments of those treatments are advanced repeatedly and in detail by the National Council of Teachers of English (www.ncte.org) in its policy statements and in its major publications, College English and CCC (both available through the Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State University). The First-Year Composition Program at Oklahoma State University (comp.okstate.edu) also hosts some articulation of specific Program purposes and underpinnings. Investigation of those purposes suggests itself as an activity worth conducting, since knowing what the courses and the Program that hosts them are supposed to do is helpful in developing means to actually accomplish those purported purposes.
Investigation of what assignments are currently offered seems to be worth doing, as well, since knowing what needs to be added or replaced requires knowing what is already in place. Information about the assignments is available from the First-Year Composition Program at Oklahoma State University. Additional information about the assignments in at least one version is available on Elliott RWI, as noted below:
- ENGL 1113: Composition I webpage, https://elliottrwi.com/instruction/osu/oklahoma-state-university-engl-1113-composition-i/
- ENGL 1113: Composition I Reference Document from Fall 2015, https://elliottrwi.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/g-elliott-fall-2015-engl-1113-reference-document.pdf
- ENGL 1213: Composition II webpage, https://elliottrwi.com/instruction/osu/oklahoma-state-university-engl-1213-composition-ii/
In their presentations, statements are made regarding their specific purposes, which should help in determining what course purposes are already addressed, and to what extent.
Ideally, each assignment will contribute in some way to the purposes of the class in which it appears. In total, the set of assignments should address the whole set of purposes towards which the first-year composition sequence is addressed. Ideals are not always or necessarily often realized, however, and it is possible or even likely that some of the purposes of the first-year writing sequence will not be addressed by the assignments provided within it. (Admittedly, this is more likely to be the case with purposes not explicitly articulated by the Program than for those it directly notes.) Identifying such a mismatch is helpful; the purposes of the assignments should be compared to the purposes of the course, and parts of the latter not addressed by the former should be identified and noted. It is upon one or more such parts that the FinEx should focus.
More challenging, perhaps, than identifying a mismatch between purposes of courses and purposes of assignments is identifying ways in which the unmet purposes can be met—yet it is needful. One way to address the identification is to think in terms of genre. That is, students can ask what style or form of writing seems suited to meeting the purpose not yet addressed. Follow-up questions can include:
- How much time is needed to compose a piece in the given style or form?
- In what context or circumstances will the given style or form be produced outside of the composition classroom?
- To what other genres does the given style or form contribute?
- What materials are likely to be necessary for the given style or form to have useful content?
- What other genres contribute to the given style or form?
- What skills are needed to carry out the given style or form of writing?
- What skills are needed to meet the given purpose being addressed?
It is not necessary that the FinEx address all or even any of the questions provided. It is certainly not the case that the FinEx should treat the questions in the order presented; alphabetical order does not make for good argumentative structure. The list is not meant to be exhaustive or restrictive, but to help guide student thinking about how to address the class’s purposes by means of a specific written assignment.
The Norton offers an extensive—although not comprehensive—list of genres. The same is true of the Purdue Online Writing Lab (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/); the “Subject-Specific Writing” and “Job Search Writing” pages usefully compile information about similar types of writing likely to be encountered.
The prior four sections can be taken collectively as comprising a sequence of prewriting. That is, they do not generate independent texts for assessment, but they do stimulate discussion and guide thinking along the way towards producing texts for assessment. For them to contribute to an effective FinEx, however, their results must be consolidated and set down in a form accessible to the expected audience; that is, they must be arranged to present a solid claim and well explained evidentiary support of that claim in relatively polished prose that can be taken in quickly and easily by readers.
Doing so will require students to introduce the course being discussed (i.e., ENGL 1113 or ENGL 1213, depending on which course for which the new assignment is being proposed), identify the purpose for the course that is not being addressed, and articulate an assignment that will adequately address that purpose. How the purpose is not being met by current standards will need to receive some attention. So, too, will what the proposed assignment will require students to do and when it will do so (either inserted among the current assignment sequence or substituting for one of the current assignments), as well as how the assignment and its requirements will address the purpose. A conclusion that motions towards future use and effects will be a good way to end the written presentation: the FinEx.
The FinEx will be composed as an in-class exercise at the date and time prescribed by the University for scheduled classes, noted below:
- Section 015 will meet from 1000 to 1150 on 2 May 2016
- Section 023 will meet from 1000 to 1150 on 4 May 2016
- Section 040 will meet from 0800 to 0950 on 4 May 2016
All sections will meet in the Electronic Classroom, Morrill Hall Room 106. Please note that no food or drink may be had at the computer stations in the Electronic Classroom, per Department policy; students who violate the policy may be asked to leave the room and will be counted absent. (That this differs from usual course policy is acknowledged.) Because the FinEx will be conducted in the Electronic Classroom, student responses to the exam are expected to be submitted via D2L as a single document in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format, as with any major assignment in the class.
The text of the FinEx should be formatted as if to be printed on letter-sized pages with one-inch margins in 12-point Garamond, Georgia, or Times New Roman font. Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of the page, with the student’s surname preceding the number; page numbers and surnames should be in the same typeface as the rest of the document. The four-line heading (student name, professor name, course and section, and date of composition) should be left-aligned, the title centered horizontally; both should be in the same typeface as the rest of the document. The primary text should be left-aligned, its paragraphs indented one-half inch in their first lines and flush to the left margin thereafter.
The rubric that will be used to assess the FinEx can be found here: G. Elliott Spring 2016 ENGL 1213 FinEx Grading Rubric.
Owing to the specific nature of the FinEx, no targeted example thereof is available, although it is possible that one will be generated as the students compose their own. That said, the FinEx is, in essence, an essay exam, with which students are presumed to be generally familiar owing to the instructional climate of “accountability” prevailing in the United States since the early 2000s.
The FinEx is restricted to discussion of ENGL 1113 and ENGL 1213 at the institution. There are other first-year writing courses, but those do not necessarily have prescribed assignment sequences, being offered on an ad hoc basis. As such, they do not present a useful framework within which to conduct the FinEx.
As the final assignment in the course, the FinEx cannot normally be made up. (Indeed, after the FinEx is assessed and final grades entered, the semester is effectively done with respect to the course.) Students absent from class on University business or in response to legal obligations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Other absences will be treated normally. Students who anticipate being absent from class on the assigned day need to make arrangements to sit for the FinEx early.
Students entitled to accommodations for such exercises as the FinEx must arrange for them in a timely manner and must advise the instructor as to those arrangements in a similarly timely manner so that the appropriate materials may be created and delivered where they need to go.
No outside information need be deployed in completing the FinEx. In the event that outside materials are deployed in supporting the FinEx response, they will require informal citation—although that informal citation must still be sufficient for a readership that does not share the authorial/narrative background, experience, and expertise to clearly understand the piece being referenced. Failure to provide appropriate informal citation may be treated as an academic integrity violation.
The FinEx itself is open-book and open-note, but it is not collaborative. Students are each expected to do their own work and to submit original responses to the prompt; the formal prompt will only be issued during the assigned examination periods, although the topic should be clear from the assignment sheet and class discussion.
It has been an enjoyable semester, overall. May you find success in your future endeavors!
Geoffrey B. Elliott
17 April 2016
Updated to include assignment information.