Reflective Comments for the January 2019 Session at DeVry University

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the November 2018 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 ENGL 062: Introduction to Reading and Writing during the January 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 ENGL 062 during the January 2019 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, and the weightiest, were weekly written assignments leading to several short works; others included a series of quizzes and reading activities, as well as ongoing online discussion. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are below, with relative weights shown in the figure below:

ENGL 062 Grade Breakdown

Homework assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution. Discussion was assessed through an instructor-developed rubric. Quizzes and reading exercises were assessed as standardized testing conducted as part of University-wide course requirements.

The section met in Room 114 at the San Antonio Metro Campus on Mondays at 6pm, US Central Time, with online office hours generally being held Thursdays at 6pm, US Central Time. Specific grade data, as well as attendance data, are not being reported due to the small size of the class; there are not enough students for their information to be presented in aggregate.

I note that attrition seems to have affected the section. No student attended all class meetings, and assignments were not submitted that should have been. Given the small size of the class, however, I do not know how representative the results can be taken to be. I am not pleased with them, however, so I shall have to look for ways to do better in succeeding sessions–and I am already being assigned to teach more.

I continue to be glad to have the opportunity to have taught. Although it is not my primary professional focus anymore, it remains a good thing to do. Contributions to help me keep doing it are welcome.

Class Report: ENGL 062, 25 February 2019

For the final class meeting of the session, there would have a brief reminder of an administrative note from last week before a short question-and-answer period. The remainder of class time would have been given to student work on the week’s written assignment, a reflective and planning postscript.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. None attended.

The office hour that would normally be held on 28 February 2019 is cancelled.

Students are reminded that the postscript is due before the end of day Saturday, 2 March 2019. The session closes at that time, so no work can be accepted afterwards.

Reflective comments on the session are forthcoming.

Sample Assignment Response: Reflective and Planning Postscript

For the final sample of the session, I’ll be drafting the kind of postscript that students in the class are asked to compose. They are prompted to look back at their self-assessed strengths and weaknesses in reading and writing, then to articulate in one paragraph how they plan to overcome those challenges that presented themselves during the session before, in another paragraph, noting how they mean to continue to improve upon their performances as they move forward through classes. Students are asked to submit those reflections in an APA-formatted document. Consequently, I’ll be doing much the same.

It seems apt.
Image from Pinterest.

To begin my own work on the exercise, I once again set up an APA-formatted document in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type, with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I constructed my title page and stubbed out my main text as appropriate, inserting running head and pagination as needed. And I then pulled up my own self-assessment from the first week of the session, which I reproduce here from the online discussion:

To offer an example:

  • What do I do well as a reader?
    • Through dint of practice, I read swiftly and deeply. That is, I can make my way through texts quickly, and I both retain much of what I read and assess it against / integrate it into what I already know relatively easily.
  • What do I do well as a writer?
    • I write regularly and often, working to address multiple audiences through multiple venues–and I think I do well at it.
  • What could I improve upon as a reader?
    • I could read more than I do. The past few years have not seen me with as many books in hand as I ought to have–and certainly not so many as I used to have.
  • What could I improve upon as a writer?
    • I could also write more than I do, sending what I write to publication venues that might reject me and would offer more honest critique than I often get.

I look forward to your responses.

With that list before me, I considered how I had worked to address the challenges I’d identified, drafting a narrative report of that work as my first paragraph of response and making sure to include explicit reference to my earlier words to help my readers understand my topic of discussion.

The second paragraph required a bit of adjustment; I’m not enrolled in any future classes, and I am not likely to become so. (I toy with the idea of going after an MBA, but that’s a later concern–if it ever becomes one.) But the fact that I am not in any formal education at this point does not mean that I cannot look for ways to improve my performance further, and reflecting on that allowed me to draft materials for the second requested paragraph.

The materials composed, I worked to make the writing more accessible to my expected primary audience, again acknowledging a consistent issue in my work. Once it was at a place I felt comfortable giving it to that audience, I reviewed my work for alignment with the orthographical standards at work in the course. Finding no deviations, I rendered the document into an accessible format once again, which I present here as what I hope will be of useful service to my students and others: G. Elliott Wk 8 Sample Assignment Response.

This won’t be my last go-around; I’ll still appreciate help.

Class Report: ENGL 062, 18 February 2019

After making an administrative note–student evaluations are open–discussion addressed questions from last week and earlier classes, as well as about previous work. It then moved to concerns of student writing and workshopping student papers before noting upcoming assignments, as below.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. Two attended; student participation was reasonably good.

An online office hour will be held online on Thursday, 21 February 2019, at 1800.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 17 February 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Active Reading and Polishing Your Essay (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 7 Reading Exercise (online)
  • Week 7 Quiz (online)
  • Essay 2 Revision (due online as a Word document)

Sample Assignment Response: Revised Response Essay

Last week, noted here, I posted a sample of a response essay, another piece working to emulate the work my students are asked to do. I felt obliged, for several reasons, to address a slightly different prompt than that offered to them, but I still feel that the model offered was useful. But there is more to do, both for the students and on the piece I offered, for which reason I proceed now to narrate my process for arriving at a model for the revised essay expected of students and to provide the model arrived at. I do so in the continuing hopes that my students and others will benefit from my efforts.

Sometimes, you succeed beyond expectation.
Image from

The week’s assignment asks students to take the draft provided the previous week and expand upon and revise it with comments from the instructor. While the previous week would have admitted of a partial draft (I did not offer one), the current exercise requires a completed draft, albeit one admittedly brief. Aside from the expectation of fuller development (“fuller” instead of “full” because every piece of writing can be refined further), requirements follow those of the previous week’s work.

To mimic the exercise, I began by opening the previous week’s assignment and saving it under an updated name; doing so allowed me to retain a base copy in case things went strangely during revision while still letting me make updates–and helping me to find them. Then, as with a previous revision exercise, I printed out a hard copy of the text on which to make my initial edits. (I might note, too, that when I review my own work in hard copy, I rarely use red ink, preferring blue ink or pencil. Both stand out from the black ink of the printed pages while avoiding the glaring sense of “problem” that arises from red ink. Pencil allows for more adjustment, though it tends to smear a bit, while blue ink tends not to do so.)

As I went through the earlier draft, I did so looking first for ways to make the content more accessible. I expect that relatively few of my students–my anticipated primary audience–are familiar with the content I discuss, so I have a particular burden to make that content clear and understandable. Additionally, as I reviewed my work, I found that I was not satisfied with how I had transitioned into a couple of paragraphs, so I adjusted those transitions, as well as making the aforementioned changes to content.

With my on-paper notes ready, I moved into adjusting the electronic text. As before, I worked from the end of the paper back to the front, so that my changes did not move others that would need making. And I made sure to save my work repeatedly; I’ve lost papers before, and even so brief a work as the present exercise would be an annoyance to redo. I also reviewed the text for readability; again, accessibility to the primary expected audience is a concern, and I know my tendencies well. But the document tested out as at an acceptable reading level while still reading how I would have it, so I accounted it good enough.

The essay revised, I gave it another quick review to ensure that its orthography was as it should be. Nothing showed up to that review, so I rendered the document into an accessible form that I present here in the hopes that it, too, will be helpful: G. Elliott Wk 7 Sample Essay.

Seriously, please help me keep on doing this!

Class Report: ENGL 062, 11 February 2019

After addressing questions from the previous week and before, discussion returned to concerns of summary; a review seemed warranted. Discussion moved on to treat concerns of organization and of paratext after.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. One attended; student participation was excellent.

An online office hour will be held online on Thursday, 14 February 2019, at 1800.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 17 February 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Planning & Organizing and Visual Literacy (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 6 Quiz (online)
  • Essay 2 Draft (due online as a Word document)


Sample Assignment Response: Draft Response Essay

Last week, noted here, I had another instance of encountering an assignment for students that did not demand a new sample from me. I was fortunate to have already developed a number of samples of the kind of work students were asked to do, so I gathered an assortment of them for ease of reference and left them for the students to read through. There was some pushback from them on how I want things done–I am of the opinion that summaries need to identify their subjects, which not all of my students seemed to appreciate–but they seem to have done largely well with the exercise.

Image result for tabletop role playing games gif
It’s like that sometimes.
Image from Odyssey.

The assignment for the present week appears to be another such thing. Students are asked to expand upon their summary work by writing a response to the issue treated by the summarized piece, and the examples of summaries that I had provided to students contain responses. As such, I thought I had already done the work for this week that I sought to do to help the students. But that is not entirely accurate.

For the present week’s assignment, students are asked to write a draft of a response essay. It needs to be in APA format, and it needs to make formal reference to an outside source–in the present case, the article that had been summarized in the previous week’s work. A four-paragraph structure is suggested by the University; introduction, one paragraph relating and explaining personal experience with the subject, another summarizing the article and explaining its relevance, and conclusion. And that expanded structure suggests that I compose a sample to help guide students.

To do so, I began by stubbing out a document according to the APA format template my students and I had developed in the class. That done, I looked at my current-to-the-writing news feeds for an article to summarize and respond to; as is ever the case, I do not want to do the students’ work for them in putting together examples for their use. Nor yet do I want to be too narrowly constrained against future iterations of the class for which I write the examples. Ultimately, I pulled up an article I had long bookmarked for another project; it seemed appropriate to turn to it for the present work.

Having decided upon a piece to which I would respond, I entered its information into the required References list, looking at APA standards to do so. I then read it, annotating it for summary. And it seemed a simple thing to then draft the summary, since I would either be responding to it or prefiguring it, so I did so.

With the summary written, I then considered whether my own comments would precede or succeed it. The former would have the advantage of leading from my own situated ethos to the invented ethos of outside documentation, corresponding to traditional rhetorical ordering by placing what might appear to be a stronger point in the stronger position. The latter, though, would figure my work as a more direct response, moving from the abstract to the concrete in a way that often reads well for students. Given that the piece is meant as a sample for students, the latter course suggested itself more strongly, so I drafted my own comments after giving the summary.

As I drafted, a thesis emerged for me. I took it, rephrased it slightly, and put it in the “expected” position–just before the body of my essay begins. I then drafted an introduction to move readers into the thesis smoothly. I followed that with a conclusion that moves forward from the thesis into an idea of what can be done with that thesis, a style of conclusion I typically prefer in shorter academic pieces.

The draft compiled, I gave it a quick review to ensure that its orthography was as it should be. Nothing showed up to that review, so I rendered the document into an accessible form that I present here in the hopes that it will be helpful: G. Elliott Wk 6 Sample Essay.

Please help me keep on doing this!

Something Else That Would Have Been a Sample Assignment Response

Earlier in the session, I found myself thwarted in my attempt to provide a sample assignment response when the first week’s assignments were quizzes alone. As I sat down to draft a response for the fifth week’s assignment, though, I found myself having the opposite problem. Instead of encountering an assignment I could not meaningfully or ethically exemplify for my students, I encountered one I have already abundantly exemplified for them. Instead of having no work that could be done, I had ample work that had already been done–which is a much better situation to be in than that I had had before.

Seems apt.
Image from the Harvard Business Review.

What the students are asked to do in my class this week is read an article, write a summary of it, and write a response to it. I have no shortage of such things already available, in this webspace and elsewhere, even if they are not necessarily in the APA format requested by the institution. But I’ve practiced that format enough with my current students that I do not know that I need to give it them again, so, instead of making an offhand reference to where they can find examples in this webspace, I’ll give a list of a few of them that seem to have attracted most attention:

I hope they provide useful models of content for my students and for others to follow.

Help fund more quality instructional materials, please!

Class Report: ENGL 062, 28 January 2019

After addressing questions from the previous week and before, discussion turned to introductions and conclusions before moving to address concerns of revision. In-class practice was offered on the latter.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. One attended; student participation was excellent.

An online office hour was held on Thursday, 24 January 2019, at 1800. None attended. The next will be online at 1800 on Thursday, 31 January 2019.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 3 February 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Vocabulary and Revising Essays (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 4 Quiz (online)
  • Graded Reading Activity (online)
  • Revised Essay (due online as a Word document)

Sample Assignment Response: A Revised Response Essay for ENGL 062 at DeVry University in San Antonio

To follow up on the work of last week and before, continuing what I’ve found to be a useful pattern, I mean to press on in drafting sample assignments to help my students better understand what they are asked to do for the class. I also press on on in the hope that my efforts will prove to be of both that benefit and others to readers yet unknown to me. In doing so, I narrate my process of composition and present another sample paper near the end of this blog post.

I figured I’d relate it to the previous…
Image from

For the present assignment, students are asked to revise the drafts they submitted during the previous week in light of instructor comments about them. Submission guidelines remain the same as for the previous piece.

Accordingly, to complete the exercise myself, I opened the editable copy of the paper I had written, saved it under a new filename, and printed it out. When I review my own work, I do so more effectively from paper as a result of years of practice doing so, and I try to cater to my strengths when I do such work. Printed copy in hand, I pored over my earlier work, looking for places I could tighten phrasing–particularly in the long body paragraph of the earlier paper. Where I could, I marked such passages and penned changes between the printed lines. I then transferred the comments back into the editable paper, working from the end of the paper towards the beginning so that the changes I made would not displace other phrases I needed to change.

With that done, I again reviewed the piece for readability by applying the Flesh-Kincaid reading level test. It again returned a result in line with what I had hoped to find. I was thus able to proceed to review style and mechanics in the work. After making the adjustments that needed making, given exercise requirements and ease of reading, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here in the hopes that it will be of use: G. Elliott Revised Sample Essay.

I can still use more support as I work to support my students more.