FYC Assessment & Retention Remixed. Inviting students into education through writing. OBSTACLES "I only cared about writing a good paper": Expectation hell-bent on collision. OPPORTUNITIES The pleasure of student voice in creating a community space.
Inviting students into education through writing
Situated within CCSSE and SENSE
Bookends of assessment
2007 Outcomes Assessment
Student Retention and Success: An Ethnographic Study of English 1010 (2007-2008)
Student and instructor surveys AND focus groups
First-Year Composition Assessment and Retention Remixed: Inviting Students into Education through Writing (2009-2010)
Extended Student focus groups and interviews
Nancy Sommers, in her groundbreaking longitudinal work with undergraduate writers, insists that “to reduce four years of college to a series of outcomes…is to find ourselves, in the current culture of assessment, to be asked to measure something that we do not know how to interpret. We might be able to count the grammatical and stylistic errors students make when they arrange their alphabets, but we have not determined how to measure the unpredictable and uneven path of writing development.”
Almost 50% of the undergraduate students in public colleges and universities in the U.S. are now enrolled in community colleges
Typically older than the traditional 18 to 22-year-old college student: the average community college student is 29
Jobs and families: 31% of survey respondents have children living at home, 57% work more than 20 hours a week. Most are financially independent of their parents
44% of surveyed students report that lack of finances would be a likely or very likely cause for them to drop out of college
51% of survey respondents indicate that their primary goal is to transfer to a four-year college or university
However, 58% say their primary goal is to obtain an associate degree
12% are taking classes at more than one institution simultaneously, and 25% have already earned some kind of postsecondary credential – a vocational certificate or an associate, bachelor's, or graduate degree
Almost two-thirds (63%) attend college part-time
31% have children living at home
57% work more than 20 hours a week
Most are financially independent of their parents
44% of surveyed students report that lack of finances would be a likely or very likely cause for them to drop out of college
Ninety-four percent would recommend their college to a friend or family member
86% rate their overall educational experience at the college as good or excellent
70% indicate that their college provides the support they need to succeed at the college either "quite a bit" or "very much."
By contrast only 45% feel that they are able to get the financial support they need to afford their education
Builds on CCSSE with a focus on the front door
Survey in 4th and 5th weeks in courses most likely to enroll new students
Collects and analyzes data about institutional practices and student behaviors
Being diligent in using evidence to improve education
Thinking about entering students as a distinct cohort
Using new data to be more intentional about organizing systems and practices to meet entering student needs
52% of students were first year students
17% of students have been at SLCC 5 or more semesters
60% of students graduated from high school in 2004 or earlier
18% of students graduated from high school in 2007
55% of students work 31 or more hours per week
29% of students work between 11 and 30 hours per week
58.7% of students were part-time students
41.3% of students were full-time students
35% of students spent 3 or fewer hours per week doing homework
for English 1010
52% of students spent between 4 and 6 hours per week doing
Students Community College Student
5 or below
5 or below
"I argue that composition faculty are especially well positioned to participate in the conversations about retention. The unique context of the writing classroom as the interface between students' past and future educational experiences, as the introduction to the discourse practices of higher education, and as one of the only universal requirements at most institutions makes a prime site for retention efforts.”
“Retention and Writing Instruction” by Pegeen Reichert Powell
CCC June 2009
"The dangers of using raw retention rates as an indicator of success: retention could then dictate access" (Astin qtd in Powell 672).
"It is extremely significant that at the very schools where higher education is the most accessible, graduation rates are the most dismal...studies conducted... suggest that tacit, and in some cases, very subtle, exclusionary dynamics are at work inside even the most accessibile colleges."
The College Fear Factor: How students and professors misunderstand one another by Rebecca D. Cox
As Jeffrey Klausman, a writing program administrator at Whatcom Community College, says “I like the phrase ‘invited into their education,’ as it is in keeping with both with the community college mission and with my view of the function of the first-year writing courses (gate-openers rather than gate-keepers). But who is it that we are inviting in? And by what means?” (35)
“Mapping the Terrain: the two-year Writing Program Administrator" TETYC 2008.
As Tom Fox argues in Defending Access: A critique of standards in higher education, "as writing teachers, we are institutionally positioned to gatekeep, to do harm. To create access we must go against the grain" (qtd in Powell 670).
When teachers are pressured to increase access but uphold standards: "Not only did teachers speak of the tension between open access and standards; they also revealed the lack of organizational support for dealing with that dichotomy. The administration suggested that faculty should maintain high standards while at the same time retaining students, but teachers did not know how to do both." (Cox 150)
"Those of us who argue for improving access to higher education must...take seriously the research on who persists and who does not. Even those composition scholars who do not count access as a priority should consider their responsibilities to the students in their classroom who will not graduate. Students like Connor, George, and Carrie may never walk across the stage in a cap and gown, but they still have a lot to teach us about who we are and what it is we are trying to do." (679 Powell)
"It was not the classroom dynamics per se that mattered, as much as student's perceptions of the classroom dynamics." (Cox 117)
Nine of ten students (90%) agree or strongly agree that they have the motivation to do what it takes to succeed in college.
Most respondents (85%) believe (agree or strongly agree) that they are prepared academically to succeed in college.
More than three-quarters of respondents (87%) agree or strongly agree that the instructors at their colleges want them to succeed.
Almost one-quarter (24%) report that they did not turn in an assignment at least once
Many respondents (43%) report coming to class without completing readings or assignments at least once.
SENSE Report, 2009
Writing and engagement: Richard Light’s study, “Writing and Students’ Engagement,” surveyed 365 undergraduates about their time commitment, intellectual challenge, and personal engagement in all of their courses. The amount of writing correlated with higher student engagement; in fact, the correlation was stronger than any other characteristic in the course. (Peer Review, 2003)
CCSSE 2009 Report:
"[M]ore time spent on interactive instructional approaches appears to increase student engagement. For example, colleges in which instructors use high percentages of classroom time for lecturing have lower benchmark scores than those in which instructors spend high percentages of classroom time on in-class writing or small group activities."
If writing correlates with engagement over any other factor, why isn’t retention 95% in English 1010?
Writing process as FY anomaly
Part of the problem is because, as one instructor put it, students believe that “if I fix what the teacher says I should get an A.” That is students are often well aware of how different writing classes are from other introductory classes, but they may believe they are unfair, subjective, and should ultimately be more like other introductory classes.
"Well yeah I lacked the vocab to speak on the technical level therefore I feel like the teacher needs to come down to my level because I’m the one being taught you know because she already knows what she’s talking about. She needs to come down to my level to figure out what I’m talking about. And likewise I will learn the vocab over time but I can’t answer the questions using a complex syntax.“ (Frank, focus group)
Disruptions in the Traditional
"In fact, English classrooms may be the site that best illuminates the pedagogical disconnects, because so often the goal is for students to take on authority." (Cox 90)
Students are generally frustrated by the inability of peers to respond to writing.
Students are often uncertain why or how to engage in peer review.
With notable exceptions, instructors are generally not providing thorough instruction on peer review.
Disengaged or intimidated students often resist participation in peer response.
Even students who received instruction, often struggled with peer response.
Engaged students resolve problems with peer groups by identifying other students who are engaged and exchanged papers with them.
Students don't often perceive peer response as "real work"
"In composition courses...'the get it over' strategy seriously undermined that learning opportunity. For instance Linda's approach to revising her essays consisted of carefully making every change that her teacher recommended...when Linda admitted...that she tried to incorporate changes into her papers even when she didn't understand them, I asked whether she ever asked her teacher to explain those comments.
'I never [pause] no...I just correct them and I just get it over and get it accepted...I don't plan to be an English major.'" (Cox 76)
Allison's experience (audio clip #1)
"I dropped an English 1010 class. The first one [I took] wasn't good…he would lecture about concepts about writing and I felt like the concept was always distant, and it was not connected to me at all. Where as in my current class on the first day we used the 'They say I say' book. She gave us a template and we started writing. She didn’t tell us the concepts but made us write, write every day. We are already participating in the concepts whereas in my first experience there was this distant concept and now I’m going to put it in some big five page paper?? Without practicing it??" (Frank, focus group)
"I’ve come to understand that in a lot of my classes the teacher's personal point of view comes out. In my 2010 course he talked about the guidelines of the profile. He was talking about people who are more entertainers than political people…and he took a jab at Glenn Beck…that he doesn’t speak the truth. You know a lot of dems think that. I can just hear it , the tone. Teachers don’t divulge a lot. On the flip side of it in communications 1010…he is very conservative but he always uses Obama as an exp of a great public speaker. So you have these times when you can pick out what a teacher thinks and if you say something against that there is like this immediate rebuttal. Such as my philosophy class talking about the three concepts of god—all powerful, all knowing…omnipresent, omniscient…theoretically he was saying how can it be all three things? I rebuttled him [snaps fingers] and he immediately slammed that down, tarnished it." (Nick, focus group)
Useful dissonance through polyphony Whatcom Community College, says “I like the phrase ‘
Instead of thinking of our work as moving students from one community to another "it might prove more useful (and accurate) to view our task as adding to or complicating their uses of language...I would expect and hope for a kind of useful dissonance as students are confronted with ways of talking about the world with which they are not yet wholly familiar. What I am arguing against...is the notion that our students should necessarily be working towards a mastery of some particular well-defined sort of discourse...[instead] they might better be encouraged towards a kind of polyphony—an awareness of and pleasure in the various competing discourses that make up their own.”
A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966 by Joseph Harris
"...too much research on retention focuses on predictors of student success or failure, rather than explanations" (Powell 673).
The unexpected community college student
Landon and Allison who both have parents working at a university and turned down reduced tuition for smaller class sizes at the community college
Older student as outsider
Ethan: Younger students have so much energy, happy to see their friends. I don't have energy. I’m not excited…completely opposite. I don’t have the common interest. I do not have the friend base.
Ingrid: When I hear the word community I don't even think of school. I think of my neighborhood, my house.
Over-qualified yet nervous
Ingrid: overseas experience, life-long learner, wants to write children's books--yet indicated a "9" for fear on both scales. Illiterate father.
Allison: I didn’t know anything. I showed up here on the first day of classes. Then they were like "you have to actually register for classes" so I went back home.
Allison: they passed out a syllabus and I was like what in the hell is that. I needed someone to walk me through it.
Religiously Conservative & Politically Affronted
Nick: We are told to think the opposite of what we are taught [at home]. I get annoyed with that. People say that’s too conservative to think like that, [that we are] supposed to be more open ended, they believe everything in science. Global warming. I don’t want to write on that. Some teachers want to slap me across the face. But I’m sorry I believe it’s a hoax.
Nick: I found that I was a little more on the conservative background. I’m a Christian. Many teachers seem to have the more liberal, the more scientific view. I'm not saying it’s wrong in any shape or form...Felt like I was in a battle at times.
"Colleges that successfully engage students do no merely set up classrooms on a campus and say, 'Come here.' They meet students where they are--literally, figuratively, and virtually--and help them get where they need to be."
20 something with experience
Eddie: I have ambition. I'm tired of my job and working where I am. It's a great motivation to get through school.
Matt: I used to write to my own audience. It makes you feel good to be validated. Now I try to write from a different angle. Instead of this is how I grew up and this is what I think. We all think we are right...Most of my family is conservative, I'm conservative. [but] I lived up there [Washington] for awhile. It gave me a new perspective. Really opened my mind.
Eddie: My metaphor is climbing a long rope then cutting it to get free. Like a rope attached to a balloon or something. SLCC is like the balloon itself. It's my way out of Utah.
"I think some people are intimidated by their professors because they control the grades. And they don't want to look like a fool...." (Cox)
"Countless times in my research, I spoke to students who were reluctant to seek professor's assistance, even after the professor explicitly invited them to do so. What was most confusing was that such hesitance did not reflect a disregaurd for the course or indifference to doing well. Instead, on one for or another of fear-induced logic--like Elisa's protest that her professor would know how far behind she was on her paper if she were to seek help" (Cox)
3rd+ semester group Whatcom Community College, says “I like the phrase ‘
3rd + semester group
1st semester group
Did not respond
Did not respond
Frank's experience the first day of English 1010
Matt: relaxed ambiance, whole class talking about movies
Mary's bad relationship
Landon: initially freaked out, afraid of professors but later found they were pretty cool
Ingrid: "Let's be honest. You write for the teacher."
“In this evaluation of connections, it is important to distinguish between communicating information and connecting. Communicating information is a one-way, self-contained event. The individual for whom the information is intended may or may not receive it,
understand it, care about it, or act on it. Connecting is an interactive, iterative series of events that is personal and creates a sense of presence. No one ever asks ‘so what?’ in the wake of a genuine connection.”
Cox, Rebecca D. The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand Each Other. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009. Print
Harris, Joseph. A Teacher Subject: Composition Since 1966. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. Print
Klausman, Jeffrey. "Mapping the Terrain: the two-year Writing Program Administrator." TETYC: 2008. Web.
Powell, Pegeen Reichert. "Retention and Writing Instruction: Implications for Access and Pedagogy. College Composition and Communication, 60: 4, June 2009. 664-682. Print.
Sommers, Nancy. "The Call of Research: A Longitudinal View of Writing Development." College Composition and Communication 60 (2008): 155. Print.