Reflective Comments about the 2015 CEAT Summer Bridge Program

As I have repeatedly discussed, I had the privilege of teaching in the 2015 Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology’s Summer Bridge Program. Over the three weeks of the program, I worked with a number of excellent students to help prepare them not only for the writing they will do as first-year students at the school, but also the writing they can expect to do later in their collegiate careers and as professionals afterwards. While I offered comments throughout the program on daily progress, a final set of reflective comments seems to be in order. In what follows, I offer a breakdown of my class’s composition and performance before summarizing my impressions of the experience and what implications it has for my continued teaching. Included afterward is a copy of the lecture notes I compiled while conducting lecture; how useful they will be without context, I am unsure, but they are provided, nonetheless.

Class Demographics

At the beginning of the program, I had 29 students enrolled in the one section of the program’s technical writing class assigned to me. On the final day of the program, I had 25 still with me; five of my students withdrew from the program, and one added. A survey of the students remaining in the program, one conducted anonymously through a Google form and offering a small grade reward (as noted here) returned 24 results. Questions on the survey asked after student age, gender, race (working from 2010 US Census Bureau definitions), ethnicity (ibid.), socioeconomic status, major, minor, and GPA, and offered open-response questions regarding the conduct of the course as a whole.

Student ages clustered around 18, with 21 of the 24 respondents indicating it as their age. One reported being 17; two reported being 19. As the Summer Bridge Program is intended to help incoming first-year students, the ages reported are not surprising; they correspond to the largely traditional undergraduate student body at the institution.

Nineteen respondents identified as male, four as female; one opted not to self-identify gender. (Options given were “female,” “intersex,” “male,” “trans,” “prefer not to identify,” and “other”. The attempt was made to be both inclusive and respectful of self-identification. Suggestions for how to better handle future attempts are welcome.)

Twenty-one respondents identified as White, eight as American Indian or Alaska Native, three as Asian, one as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and one as Black or African-American. Students were allowed to select multiple categories; that some did so is certain. Only two respondents self-identified as Hispanic; no respondents opted against ethnic self-identification.

Socioeconomic class self-identification was self-determined; respondents left open-response answers. Most responded with some variation of “middle class,” with three opting not to self-identify. Students were asked to elaborate; only one did, indicating “upper middle-class” status as a result of differences in parental salaries and work.

Thirteen students reported majoring in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, the clear majority. (Capitalization of majors and minors is offered to clarify fields of study.) Three reported majoring in Chemical Engineering, and three others reported majoring in Electrical & Computer Engineering. Two reported majoring in each of Architecture, Mechanical Engineering Technology, and an undefined Other. One reported majoring in Civil & Environmental Engineering, one other in Industrial Engineering & Management.

Minors were left as an open-ended question. Many respondents noted not intending to take a minor or being uncertain about doing so. Of those who offered affirmative responses about minors, five indicated opting for a minor in a business field. One reported opting for each of Psychology, Computer Science, Biosystems, Chemistry, Japanese, and Mechanical Engineering.

All 24 respondents indicated being incoming freshmen. Two thirds report having no prior college GPA; one eighth of the respondents report already having a GPA of between 3.0 and 3.499, and slightly more than a fifth report already having a GPA above 3.5. One third of the respondents appear to have already earned college credit.

Information regarding course content will be reported to the Program directorate for review and adjustment of curricula moving forward. It may also be used in other professional development capacities.

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Class Performance

Of the 25 students remaining enrolled in my section of the Program writing component, the performance of eleven was assessed by an outside grader hired by the Program; the other fourteen were assessed by the instructor of the course. Although the Program does not report figures for calculation of GPA, it does measure student performance internally, using the data in part for scholarship awards; tracked were student attendance and performance on assignments assessed against program-standard rubrics on the United States-traditional percentile scale (i.e., 90%+ earns an A, 80-89% a B, etc.).

Attendance was most frequently determined by a sign-in sheet, as daily reports of class activities attest. Of the 25 students remaining enrolled, 19 attended all course meetings. Five incurred one absence, and one incurred two.

Of the 25 students remaining enrolled, four earned the equivalent of an A; the high score was a 93.9. Fifteen earned the equivalent of a B, four a C, one a D, and one an F; the low score was a 58.4. Average course score was 83.526. Low scores resulted in most cases from failure to submit one or more assignments.

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Impressions and Implications

Overall, the experience of teaching in the Summer Bridge Program was a good one. The students seemed to benefit, and the exercise was enjoyable in itself. (The two do not necessarily coincide.) Other online commentaries have expressed a desire to see the Program, or programs like it, expanded, as students coming into other fields of study are also likely to benefit from the kinds of things offered.

In assessing my students’ performance, I made a point of writing several hundred words of commentary in response to the submissions I received; typically, I provided between 200 and 300 words commenting on each assignment. A number of students expressed their gratitude for that effort via email and in the responses to the aforementioned survey–even as I did not offer line-by-line proofreading commentaries, which has been my common practice. I have seen many students complain of the lack of line-by-line “correction,” which I tend to resist as not giving students the opportunity to practice doing so for themselves. I have seen few who seem to appreciate–or, as happened many times in the Program, work to incorporate–the stylistic and other non-“grammatical” comments I leave. That I have seen evidence that my comments have done some good encourages me to continue to make them.

In those selfsame comments, I was able to work out better explanations for some of the principles of writing I hope to convey to my students–particularly those in the upcoming Fall 2015 term, in which I will be teaching composition exclusively. I had already had some ways of expressing those principles, although less effective than I could have hoped, as students tended not to reflect understanding them. Perhaps the revised presentation will do more to motivate students to adjust their work in favor of the new information. (That I am able thus to model writing to learn also pleases me.)

If the opportunity arises, I will gladly teach for the Program again.

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Summer 2015 CEAT Summer Bridge Writing Teaching Page

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 6 August 2015

Class began slightly later than scheduled, at 0905 in PS 141. The class roster listed 25 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, verified by submission of forms.

Discussion asked after reflections on the writing component of the summer bridge program and treated concerns of college life. Student participation was good.

Students are advised that Prof. Elliott will be traveling over the weekend. Summative comments on the program will have to wait until his return early next week.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 5 August 2015

Class began as scheduled at 0900 in PS 141. The class roster listed 25 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. Twenty-four attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after concerns from previous classes before moving to treat Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say and miscellaneous other concerns. Student participation was good.

Students are reminded that the Lab Report is due no later than 2359, 5 August 2015.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 4 August 2015

Class began later than scheduled, at approximately 0910 in PS 141. The class roster listed 25 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. Twenty-four attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after concerns from previous classes before moving to treat homework assignments (noted below and in yesterday’s report) and questions of citation. Student participation was good.

Students are reminded that their Synthesis Essays are due at or before 2359 tonight. Lab Reports are due at or before 2359 on Wednesday, 5 August 2015. Please attend to them and review earlier blog posts for information about their grading.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 3 August 2015

Class began slightly later than scheduled, at 0905 in PS 141. The class roster listed 25 students enrolled, two less than at the end of the previous month. All attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after concerns from previous classes before moving to treat concerns of upcoming assignments and of formatting. An example of formatting from class is linked here: Exemplifying Excellent Report Formatting. Student participation was reasonably good.

Students are reminded of upcoming homework assignments:

  • Synthesis Essay, due no later than 2359 on 4 August 2015
  • Lab Report, due no later than 2359 on 5 August 2015.

Students are also asked to complete the survey at http://goo.gl/forms/ISpuQ7p1pi. A grade does factor into doing so.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 30 July 2015

Class began as scheduled at 0900 in PS 141. The class roster listed 27 students enrolled, unchanged since last report. All attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after concerns from previous classes before moving to treat upcoming assignments (noted below). Student participation was good.

Students are reminded of upcoming assignments:

  • Interview 2, due no later than 2359 on 2 August 2015;
  • Synthesis Essay, due no later than 2359 on 4 August 2015; and
  • Lab Report, due no later than 2359 on 5 August 2015.

Attending to them will be helpful.

Edit:

Assignment sheets for the Synthesis Essay and Lab Report are on D2L. Rubrics for their assessment are attached:

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 29 July 2015

Class began as scheduled at 0900 in PS 141. The class roster listed 27 students enrolled, unchanged since yesterday’s report. All attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after questions from previous meetings before critiquing and responding to assigned readings, investigating the application of paratextual features, addressing concerns of shorthand, and treating appropriate deployment of jargon and acronym. Student participation was good.

Students are reminded of several upcoming homework assignments:

  • Interview 2, due no later than 2359 on 2 August 2015;
  • Synthesis Essay, due no later than 2359 on 4 August 2015; and
  • Lab Report, due no later than 2359 on 5 August 2015.

The Lab Report is to be written about the second-week design project, per consultation among the writing instructors. Apologies for the late notice are offered.

Grading of the homework submitted before class on Tuesday is underway. That of Reading Response 3 is likely to follow tomorrow. Students’ patience is appreciated.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 28 July 2015

Class began as scheduled at 0900 in PS 141. The class roster listed 27 students enrolled, unchanged since the previous report. All attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after questions from previous classes before moving to address responses to the homework due before the class meeting, homework to be completed by the end of the day, and concerns of audience composition and document design. Student participation was reasonably good.

Students are advised that grading may be somewhat delayed to allow more time for inter-section coordination.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 27 July 2015

Class began as scheduled at 0900 in PS 141. The class roster listed 27 students enrolled, unchanged since the last report. Twenty-six attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after questions from previous classes before moving to treat homework (with one added assignment detailed below) the Hinton and Norton readings, and commas with introductory prepositional phrases. Discussion of the Norton readings expanded on purpose and began to discuss audience more thoroughly. Student participation was good.

Students are reminded that the standing homework assignment of Reading Response 3 remains due as previously indicated. Interview 2 also remains in place. The added assignment, concerning obituaries, works from the document “CSPB HW due Tuesday, 7-28” available on D2L. A dropbox for the assignment has been set up; submissions to it are due before the beginning of class, and they should take the same form as submissions of Reading Responses and Interviews (i.e., a single MS Word document). More details follow:

  • Answer questions 1, 2, 3, and 5 only.
  • For questions 1 and 2, add to the initial prompt the following: “What in the text suggests this? How does it support your assertion?” Please be sure to answer all three parts of each question.
  • Aside from question 3 (which should be answered in a complete sentence that clearly indicates what is being answered), answers should take the form of short paragraphs (100-165 words).

Assessment will look for:

  • Clarity of answers
  • Presence and quality of textual and other appropriate evidence
  • Effectiveness of explanations of answers
  • Adherence to conventions of formatting and mechanics (per MLA and course-established standards)

Each category will receive a grade of A, B, C, D, F, or zero, roughly following the patterns of other assignments’ rubrics, with the average of the category scores being reported as the overall assignment score. Posting to D2L has yet to be determined; grade reports will follow as they can.

Class Report: Summer Bridge Technical Writing, Section C- 23 July 2015

Class began as scheduled at 0900 in PS 141. The class roster listed 27 students enrolled, unchanged since the last report. All attended, verified by sign-in sheet.

Discussion asked after concerns from previous classes before moving to treat interviews and concerns of academic integrity. Of note are changes to the D2L dropboxes, put in place to ease student confusion and staff work; they may be reviewed on D2L itself. Student participation was good.

Students are reminded that they have a homework assignment due on Sunday, as noted previously; other assignments are forthcoming. The Hinton reading may be discussed on Monday; review of it is advisable. That it may be discussed on Monday does *not* mean the schedule-assigned readings–the excerpt from the Norton Field Guide to Writing–are not to be read; keeping up with the assigned reading is recommended.

Enjoy the weekend. Return refreshed and ready to press on.