WHEN THE SPANIELS CONQUERED CENTRAL AMERICA: by

WHEN THE SPANIELS CONQUERED CENTRAL AMERICA: by
WHEN THE SPANIELS CONQUERED CENTRAL AMERICA:
ACADEMIC ENGLISH AND FIRST YEAR COMPOSITION INSTRUCTION
by
Yosei Sugawara
_________________________
Copyright © Yosei Sugawara 2013
A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the
DEPARTMENT OF TEACHING, LEARNING & SOCIOCULTURAL STUDIES
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
WITH A MAJOR IN LANGUAGE, READING AND CULTURE
In the Graduate College
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
2013
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THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
GRADUATE COLLEGE
As members of the Dissertation Committee, we certify that we have read the
dissertation prepared by Yosei Sugawara, titled When the Spaniels Conquered Central
America: Academic English and First Year Composition Instruction and recommend that
it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement for the Degree of Doctor of
Philosophy.
_______________________________________________________________________
Date: 11/15/2013
Leisy Wyman
_______________________________________________________________________
Date: 11/15/2013
Patricia Anders
_______________________________________________________________________
Date: 11/15/2013
Richard Ruiz
_______________________________________________________________________
Date: 11/15/2013
Shari Popen
Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate’s
submission of the final copies of the dissertation to the Graduate College.
I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and
recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement.
________________________________________________ Date: 11/15/2013
Dissertation Director: Leisy Wyman
3
STATEMENT BY AUTHOR
This dissertation has been submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for an advanced degree at the University of Arizona and is deposited in the University
Library to be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library.
Brief quotations from this dissertation are allowable without special permission,
provided that an accurate acknowledgement of the source is made. Requests for
permission for extended quotation from or reproduction of this manuscript in whole or
in part may be granted by the copyright holder.
SIGNED: Yosei Sugawara
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like, first of all, to acknowledge the composition instructors – classroom heroes
all – who contributed to this study. Thank you.
I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to my advisor, Dr. Leisy Wyman, for her
clarity, her rigorous attention to detail, and her constant assistance in keeping both me
and my research on track; to Dr. Patricia Anders for exemplifying the best type of
educator, passionate about the field without ever losing her warmth and enthusiasm,
and; to Dr. Richard Ruiz for his originality, for his humor, and for always showing up
when needed.
My special appreciation goes to Dr. Shari Popen, teacher, critic, and friend. During the
long night of grad school hoop-jumping, she never stopped encouraging me to express
my own thoughts, in my own voice.
Finally, I want to thank Dr. Fred Jandt of California State University at San Bernardino,
my first mentor, for teaching me to see and understand the interrelationship of culture,
communication and language. Everything I have done since has rested on that
foundation.
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DEDICATION
For their unfailing acceptance and regard, I dedicate this work to my parents and to my
sister, Yoitsu, Nori and Motoko Sugawara, and; for never falling asleep while I drone on
about my ideas, I dedicate all I have achieved and may achieve to my fine wife, Christina
Peterson, who wrote (somewhat pointedly):
Swirling and glittering, the snows of verbosity
Form drifts on the high, barren plains of Pomposity
And there, in the lee of a jargon-glazed bluff,
Ideas lie buried ‘neath deep mounds of guff.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES ...................................................................................................... 10
LIST OF TABLES ........................................................................................................ 11
ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................ 12
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION .................................................................................... 14
1.1 The history of AE ............................................................................................ 16
1.2 Justifying the question ................................................................................... 24
1.3 The AE puzzle ................................................................................................. 25
1.4 The present research ...................................................................................... 28
CHAPTER 2: TRENDS IN AE INSTRUCTORS’ LITERATURE ............................................ 31
2.1 Introduction ................................................................................................... 31
2.2 Fleury vs. Bazerman: The question of genres .................................................. 36
2.3 Genre and transfer studies ............................................................................. 39
2.4 Quantitative studies ...................................................................................... 45
2.5 Compositionist compositionisms .................................................................... 50
2.6 FYC instructors on their students, their classes and AE .................................... 53
2.7 Implications for the present research ............................................................. 59
CHAPTER 3: SURVEY – METHODOLOGY AND RESULTS .............................................. 62
3.1 Introduction ................................................................................................... 62
3.2 Survey design ................................................................................................ 62
3.3 Participant selection and solicitation .............................................................. 64
3.4 Results ........................................................................................................... 65
3.4.1 Respondents’ affiliations ....................................................................... 65
3.4.2 Text choice ............................................................................................ 67
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TABLE OF CONTENTS – Continued
3.4.3 Critical academic English skills ............................................................... 69
3.4.4 Problematic academic English skills ....................................................... 75
3.4.5 Student readiness .................................................................................. 78
3.4.6 Suggested changes ................................................................................ 79
3.4.7 Employment status ................................................................................ 92
3.4.8 Formal education .................................................................................. 93
3.4.9 Postsecondary teaching experience ....................................................... 96
3.4.10 Professional books and journals ........................................................... 97
3.4.11 Additional comments or observations .................................................. 99
3.5 Conclusion ....................................................................................................102
CHAPTER 4: INTERVIEWS – METHODOLOGY AND RESULTS ......................................105
4.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................105
4.2 Methodology ................................................................................................106
4.2.1 Ann ......................................................................................................107
4.2.2 Barbara ................................................................................................111
4.2.3 Carol ....................................................................................................116
4.2.4 Donna ..................................................................................................120
4.2.5 Ernie ....................................................................................................124
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TABLE OF CONTENTS – Continued
4.2.6 Frank ...................................................................................................127
4.2.7 Greg .....................................................................................................130
4.3 Postscript .....................................................................................................133
4.4 Conclusion ....................................................................................................136
CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION .........................................................................................139
5.1 Style and substance ......................................................................................139
5.2 Style as substance .........................................................................................146
5.3 The Spaniels in Central America ....................................................................153
5.4 Future directions ...........................................................................................161
5.5 The fat lady sings ..........................................................................................162
APPENDIX A: English Writing Class Survey ...............................................................165
APPENDIX B: Solicitation to Participate – Letter 1 ...................................................168
APPENDIX C: Solicitation to Participate – Letter 2 ...................................................169
APPENDIX D: Question 3 Coded Responses – Community College ............................170
APPENDIX E: Question 3 Coded Responses – University ..........................................186
APPENDIX F: Question 4 Coded Responses – Community College ............................205
APPENDIX G: Question 4 Coded Responses – University ..........................................214
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TABLE OF CONTENTS – Continued
APPENDIX H: Question 6 Coded Responses .............................................................224
APPENDIX I: Question 11 Additional Comments and Observations ..........................256
REFERENCES ...........................................................................................................268
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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Respondents’ Affiliations .................................................................................. 66
Figure 2: Text Choice ........................................................................................................ 68
Figure 3: Critical Academic English Skills ......................................................................... 73
Figure 3.1: Critical AE Skills – First 3 ................................................................................ 75
Figure 4: Problematic Academic English Skills ................................................................. 76
Figure 4.1: Problematic AE Skills – First 3 ........................................................................ 77
Figure 5: Student Readiness ............................................................................................. 78
Figure 6: Suggested Changes ........................................................................................... 79
Figure 7: Employment Status ........................................................................................... 93
Figure 8: Formal Education .............................................................................................. 94
Figure 9: Postsecondary Teaching Experience ................................................................. 97
Figure 10: Professional Books and Journals ..................................................................... 98
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LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Respondents’ Affiliations ................................................................................... 66
Table 2: Text Choice ......................................................................................................... 68
Table 2.1: Text Choice (Other) ......................................................................................... 68
Table 3: Coding for Questions 3 and 4 ............................................................................. 69
Table 3.1: Critical Academic English Skills ....................................................................... 73
Table 3.2: Critical AE Skills – First 3 ................................................................................. 74
Table 4: Problematic Academic English Skills .................................................................. 76
Table 4.1: Problematic AE Skills – First 3 ......................................................................... 77
Table 5: Student Readiness .............................................................................................. 78
Table 6: Suggested Changes ............................................................................................ 79
Table 7: Employment Status ............................................................................................ 93
Table 8: Formal Education ............................................................................................... 94
Table 8.1: Formal Education (Other) ............................................................................... 95
Table 9: Postsecondary Teaching Experience .................................................................. 97
Table 10: Professional Books and Journals ...................................................................... 98
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ABSTRACT
This dissertation presents the findings of an on-line survey completed by 222 FYC
(First Year Composition) instructors at universities and community colleges across the
United States along with supplemental information derived from multiple open-ended
interviews with seven FYC instructors in Arizona. Both survey and interview questions
were designed to accomplish three primary goals: to determine which conventions of
academic English FYC instructors identify as most important; to understand the common
problems encountered by instructors in teaching those conventions, and; to solicit
instructors’ perceptions about ways in which learning outcomes might be improved.
Results indicate general consensus among FYC instructors on which skills are
both the most critical to academic English proficiency and the most difficult for their
students to learn. At the same time, the survey and interview responses reflect
widespread dissatisfaction with the ways in which academic English sequences are
currently structured, apparently related to the instructors’ common perception that the
sequences are only “somewhat” successful in terms of preparing students for successful
academic writing. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of FYC instructors suggest
changes for increasing the effectiveness of their programs; however, there is
surprisingly little agreement among them on what those changes should be.
The concluding section of this study presents pragmatic suggestions – congruent
with a number of the instructors’ observations – for reconfiguring FYC sequences.
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Additionally, it is argued that, aside from the targeted skills addressed by the instructors,
the survey and interview responses indicate that academic English has been implicitly
invested with culture-specific values which should be made explicit in instruction and
which, given the gatekeeping status of FYC courses, the increasing diversity of student
populations and the growing divide between the academic and wider cultures, require
critical examination.
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
Late one night not long after I arrived in this country from Japan, I was driving
back from Los Angeles to my apartment in San Bernardino, listening to the rebroadcast
of an interview with Frank Zappa on the car radio. Just before I pulled off the freeway,
in response to a comment from the interviewer (“Dr. Demento”), Zappa suddenly asked
“[w]ho makes you do that and why?”1 It was a supremely un-Japanese question and,
probably as a result, made such an impression on me that, in a variety of contexts, I
have been asking it of myself and others ever since.
In relation to academic language, the answer to the first part of Zappa’s question
was as obvious to me as to any student; that is, the “who” requiring the use of academic
language is any member of the hierarchy in postsecondary education with the ability to
enforce its use. It was not until I entered the College of Education at the University of
Arizona that I was ready to address the second part of the question; that is, why is the
use of this particular prose style so critical to academic achievement.
It soon became apparent that a number of authors (e.g., Bourdieu & Passeron,
1977; Fairclough, 1995; Foucault, 1984; Gee, 2005; Giroux, 1981) had already addressed
this issue with the consensus being that the central function of academic language is
sociocultural; that is, it serves to maintain the academic culture’s identity, and to
promote group cohesion by defining its membership, validating its values and
1
Interview transcript available at: FZ as DJ: Dr. Demento, KMET. Zappa Wiki Jawaka.
http://wiki.killuglyradio.com/wiki/Dr._Demento
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reproducing its cultural conventions. Street (1984) goes so far as to say that this is its
only function, stating that:
… grandiose claims for ‘academic’ literacy are merely those of a small elite
attempting to maintain positions of power and influence by attributing
universality and neutrality to their own culture conventions (p. 224).
Given its key role in defining, validating and maintaining the academic culture, it
is not surprising then that the critical importance of academic language proficiency to
student success in the academy has also been the subject of much discussion (e.g.,
Casnave & Hubbard, 1992; Freedman, 1979; Hyland, 1998; Lindeman, 1993; Pennycook,
1994; Street, 2004). Gosden (1993), in unquestioning acceptance of the given nature of
academic language’s sociocultural role, argues that it is:
… crucial that all novice writers of research articles (RAs) become aware of the
social dialogic nature of scientific discourse and develop the skills required in the
appropriate use of linguistic resources which realize such social interaction (p.
56).
In contrast, there is a large body of literature detailing the negative aspects of
the required use of academic language: most specifically, the ways in which this
requirement works to exclude a large percentage of the population from participating in
advanced education (e.g., Ball, 1998; Bartolome, 1998; Bourdieu, Passeron & de St.
Martin, 1994; Delpit, 1995; Fordham, 1997; Heath, 1982; Moll, 2005; Waters, 1996). In
my own previous written work, I have discussed the ways in which academic language,
through its use of specialized jargon and frequently impenetrable prose, effectively
precludes academic research from having a significant impact on public and political
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decision-making, and, of equal importance, the ways in which academic language’s
reliance on redundancy and self-reference function to stifle original thought.2 Given this
stance, I feel it is important to explain why my final research act at this institution is an
attempt to clarify the conventions of academic language and investigate how they might
be more efficiently taught to incoming students since, some might argue, these students
will then contribute to the maintenance of academic language through its replication
and reproduction.
In this context, however, I disagree with the needs assessment approach to
education (e.g., Allison, 1996; Flowerdew, 1993; Love, 1991; Swales, 1990; Swales &
Feak, 2004); I do not believe that the inevitable goal of academic language instruction
either is or should be to “accommodate students to the content and pedagogy of
mainstream classes” (Benesche, 1993, p. 711). I would suggest, instead, that as a
number of authors have argued (e.g., Jandt, 2012; Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2008),
the relationship between language and culture is direct and reciprocal; a culture both
shapes its language and, of equal consequence, is shaped by it. A cursory examination
of the origins and development of academic English (AE) and its ongoing effects on
academic culture lends support to this position.
1.1 The history of AE
The titles of two of the papers submitted to satisfy my degree requirements are illustrative:
“Deconstructing Ourselves: An Examination of Academic Hegemony” (2006), and; “The Essential
Fullness and Various Particularisms of the Blah Blah: An Inquiry into the Role of Academic English in
Restricting Access to Higher Education” (2009).
2
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Michel Foucault (1972) suggested that cultural shifts produce new beliefs and
practices, and that an attempt to understand the reasons behind these shifts can
provide the basis for an analysis of the effects and subsequent development of the new
phenomena. During the Reformation, one such major shift occurred in England when
the common tongue replaced Latin as the language of academics. This change was
temporally related to the appearance of what Foucault (1984) described as:
“… a will to know which, anticipating its actual contents, sketched out schemas
of possible, observable, measurable, classifiable objects … which imposed on the
knowing subject, and in some sense prior to all experience, a certain position, a
certain gaze, and a certain function … (p. 112).
The sudden accessibility of educated thought associated with the switch from
Latin to English played a major role in this widespread “will to know” since there
followed a significant period when knowledge was relatively democratized. In a study of
the changes in discourse style seen in research reports at that time, Bazerman (1988)
demonstrates that, initially, the majority of scientific papers published in English were
composed of observations and classifications, and suggests that the natural world was
perceived to be composed of a series of predictable phenomena that could be
understood by relatively simple means. Any literate person was qualified to contribute
his or her observations, and the resultant report was widely accepted as adding to
scientific knowledge.
As this new information flooded in, however, the perception of the world grew
increasingly complex and, mirroring this evolving view of nature, “… the definition of
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experiment moves from any made or done thing, to an intentional investigation, to a
test of theory, to finally a proof of or evidence for a claim” (p. 5). At that time, the study
of natural sciences split into three academic camps: the experimentalists who believed,
as their name implies, that experimentation was key to the discovery of natural laws,
the philosophists who believed that any natural law which could be discovered by
experimentation was trivial, and the alchemists who believed in experimentation but
also believed that the only natural laws worth knowing were those that led to spiritual
enlightenment and immortality.
In the mid-1600s, Robert Boyle, a leading experimentalist, found himself in a
predicament. He had conducted a series of experiments on the expansion of gases with
the aid of an air pump but, because the pump was both expensive and difficult to
produce, no one could reliably replicate his results. In order to overcome this problem,
he repeated his experiments in front of reputable witnesses at the Royal Society, asking
them to sign affidavits after each of his demonstrations stating that they had indeed
seen what they had seen. Subsequently, Boyle used his research reports to expand on
even this impressive pool of witnesses by developing the rhetorical technique Shapin
(1984) labels “virtual witnessing” (p. 490); that is, Boyle consciously wrote about his air
pump experiments and findings in such a way as to persuade his readers that they had,
to all intents and purposes, also witnessed his demonstrations. It proved to be an
effective strategy; even without replication, his findings were widely accepted.
Boyle published pamphlets for his fellow experimentalists detailing the rhetorical
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devices he used in order to accomplish this. Soon, experimentalist research reports
were marked by adherence to Boyle’s conventions: a standard form mimicking a linear
timeline (the introduction presenting a specific problem followed by the description of
an experiment or a series of experiments designed to resolve that problem, and ending
with a conclusion presenting the resolution along with suggestions for future
experiments), the use of “appositive clauses piled on top of each other” (p. 493) in order
to convey the impression of providing all related details, the avoidance of any language
which might imply emotional involvement on the part of the researcher, the frequent
use of hedges3 and the reproduction of as many visuals (sketches, diagrams, tables,
figures) as possible.
In fairly short order, the philosophists and alchemists retreated, and the
experimentalists claimed science. At the same time, however, the new rhetoric
determined not only how scientists communicated but also what they could
communicate about; it was “… a closed system defining what can, and cannot, be known;
the nature of the knower, the known, [and] the audience” (Berlin, 1987, p. 2).
In the mid-1900s, the new field of psychology was also divided into competing
factions. On one side were the behaviorists who, with the experimentalists before them,
believed that only observable phenomena were appropriate for study; on the other,
3
“[I] speak so doubtingly, and use so often perhaps, it seems, it is not improbable and other such
expressions, as to argue a diffidence to the truth of the opinions I incline to …” (Boyle quoted in Shapin,
1984, p. 495). Lakoff (1973) points out that a hedged sentence provides its author with the added benefit of
being next to impossible falsify; e.g., any sentence that begins with “It might be suggested that …” cannot
be disproved.
20
were those interested in investigating the invisible processes of cognition, identity
formation and perception. The behaviorists, eager to be identified as scientists,
adopted the accepted language of science; that is, the experimentalist rhetorical
conventions.
Bazerman (1988) analyzed articles published in the American Journal of
Psychology and the Psychological Review spanning the period from their inception in the
late 1880s to 1980 and found that, in the mid-1920s, the behaviorists added a new use
for bibliographies to the experimentalist rhetoric. Initially, the behaviorists’ articles
followed the experimentalists’ lead, using literature reviews to point out disagreements
among the data in previously presented reports then using these disagreements to
explain the necessity of their own studies; however, in the mid-1920s, the behaviorists
also began to use other authors’ work to reinforce the “objective truth” of their own
findings; that is, each cited report was presented as a given then used to demonstrate a
logical progression leading, inevitably, to the authors’ conclusions.
The impact of this new usage became apparent in 1930 when Edwin Boring, then
editor of the American Journal of Psychology, voicing the consensus, wrote:
[t]he progress of thought is gradual, and the enunciation of a new crucial
principle in science is never more than an event that follows naturally upon its
antecedents (quoted in Bazerman 1988, p. 273).
Boring’s statement made explicit the previously implicit connection between the
rhetoric of science and the nature of thought. In other words, it was no longer
acceptable for those who wished to be identified as scientists to write about something
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someone else had not, at least tangentially, already written about (Canagarajah, 1996;
Hyland, 2010). Accordingly, the number of references cited in articles in professional
journals increased steadily and were equally distributed throughout the text in order to
make it clear that “… every stage of the document both relies on and relates to the work
of others” (Swales, 1990, p. 115).
Factions in other academic disciplines followed the behaviorists and, rebranding
themselves as sciences (e.g., political science, social science), adopted the recognized
style of scientific discourse; that is, the form and linguistic conventions used by the
experimentalists to triumph over the philosophists and alchemists in the war for
supremacy in the natural sciences in the 1600s, and the incrementalism added by the
behaviorists in their battle for psychology in the 1920s.
A second critical corollary to Boring’s statement was that, unless a thought is
shared (i.e., published), it contributes nothing toward science’s collective march down
the road toward knowledge and is, therefore, without value. “Publish or perish”4
became a reality for academics and, in response, new professional journals sprang up
like mushrooms5, each associated with a specific academic discipline and each
publishing discipline-specific articles written in the accepted scientific form
(introduction, body and conclusion all supported with citations to previously published
work and including visual representations of the data when possible), in the accepted
The phrase first appeared in a professional publication in 1938 in the Association of American Colleges
Bulletin, 24; however, it was already offset by quotation marks.
5
The number of refereed academic journals is still growing at a rate of 3.26 percent per year – almost
doubling every 20 years (Mabe cited in Bauerlein et al, 2010).
4
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scientific prose (clause-dense, hedged, neutral) and reaching acceptable conclusions
(linear, logical and incremental).
AE had arrived and, as Giroux (1981) noted, with its widespread adoption,
knowledge became synonymous with information:
… the production of which appears to be independent of human beings. From
this perspective, objective knowledge is viewed as independent of time and
place; it becomes universalized, ahistorical knowledge … expressed in a language
that is basically technical and allegedly value-free (p. 52).
In the 1960s, the final modern convention was added to AE, the widespread use
of new, specialized vocabularies. Words were created: some derived from extant words
in relatively obscure languages (e.g., nomothetic) and some from standard English in
new combinations of particles (e.g., postmateriality). Nouns were used to modify other
nouns (e.g., mediation paradigm), acronyms proliferated (e.g., WAC) and, perhaps most
confusingly, words most people assumed they understood were appropriated and given
new definitions (e.g., embodiment).
Initially, these terms were defined in the bodies of scholarly work so that an
educated layperson, with some effort, could still follow the authors’ arguments. By
1965, however, the publishing trend in journals was toward more and shorter reports
(Kuhn, 1970). Given the prescribed form, layered appositive phrases, hedges and
author-vacated prose (the latter often requiring the use of space-consuming, passive
grammatical constructions) necessary to the rhetoric and given the increasing number
of bibliographic references, general intelligibility was the obvious sacrifice. Soon, very
23
few in the general public knew what academics were talking about.
Inevitably, as the specialized vocabulary proliferated, discipline-specific reports
became opaque even to other academics. The negative effects were immediate, most
especially in the social sciences where the interrelated disciplines of psychology,
anthropology, linguistics, sociology and education split apart under the weight of words.
In response, subspecialties like linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, and the
psychology of education appeared – each with their own journals, and each with their
own specialized vocabularies – until now, even academics within a single department
may have trouble understanding what their colleagues are talking about.6
In further illustration of the dangers posed by academic jargon, Michael Billig
(2013) traces the term ideational metafunction from its coinage by Michael Halliday
(who explicitly defined it as an abstract term relating to the general contexts of
language evolution) to its use by Prosser and Webb7 (with a citation to Halliday) through
its use by Sue Starfield (with a citation to Prosser and Webb), demonstrating that
Prosser and Webb used it to mean “content” (a very different meaning from that
originally ascribed it by Halliday) while Starfield says: “[t]his use of the ideational
metafunction was also found by Prosser and Webb (1994) to be characteristic of
successful essays” (quoted in Billig, p. 49). As Billig notes, it is difficult to imagine that
Starfield was simply observing with this sentence that Prosser and Webb had discovered
Reflecting the widening intra- and interdisciplinary discourse gaps, see the discussion of FYC genre
instruction in Chapter 2.
7
Prosser, M. & Webb, C. (1994). Relating the process of undergraduate essay writing to the finished
product. Studies in Higher Education, 19: 125-138.
6
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that successful essays had content; what she did mean is a mystery.
1.2 Justifying the question
When a language is accessible to fewer and fewer people, when it loses its
communicative function, it stagnates and, as goes the language, so goes the culture.
Many scholars (e.g., Belcher, 2004; Benesche, 2001; Gee, 2005; McCrary; 2005; Schon,
2001; Street, 1984, 1995; Trimbur, 1989) have argued that academic language can and
must adapt in order for the academic culture that sustains it (and that it sustains) to
become more adaptable to changing economic, social and political realities – and that it
must do this in order to retain both its vitality and its viability. It is a fact, however, that
you have to be admitted to the club before you can vote to change its by-laws.
Thomas Cahill (2003) wrote:
[a] type of literacy that can be grasped easily by almost anyone will tend to
spread some kind of proto-democratic consciousness far and wide, even if this is
accomplished only in small steps over a very long time … [and] erasing for all
time the aura of an unapproachable Sacred Brotherhood of scholars, wisemen,
and potentates, will by its very nature tend to demystify additional realms of
human experience (p. 60).
It is in relation to the above passage that I reconcile the form and topic of this
dissertation with my own considered opposition to traditional AE. I embarked on this
research in hopes of contributing to the acceptance of a larger, more diverse academic
club membership who may agree with many of those cited above and in the following
chapters, that both a “proto-democratic consciousness” and the contributions of those
familiar with “additional realms of human experience” are long overdue in the academy.
25
1.3 The AE puzzle
Consider the following:
S1: They said they only saw it for a few seconds so they didn’t have time to measure it.
S2: Observers report that, given the relatively brief period during which the phenomenon
was visible, no measurements could be obtained.
Both sentences are syntactically and semantically correct; both contain
independent and dependent clauses; both have approximately the same word count
and, most importantly, both convey essentially the same information; however, S1 is
not written in academic language while S2 is. As members of the academic community,
we know academic language when we see it; however, a central issue for many in
education research – and certainly the critical issue for those attempting to teach
academic language to students not yet initiated into academic discourse – is how to
make explicit the factors which lead us to that recognition.
Those who subscribe to the theory of cultural-historical activity (e.g., Blakeslee,
1997; MacDonald, 1994; Miller, 1994; Russell, 1991) would argue that this is an
impossibility since, in their view, academic language is a label mistakenly applied to a
number of distinct academic genres which can neither be defined nor taught in terms of
their formal features but only through our understanding them as “typified rhetorical
actions based on recurrent social situations” (Russell, 1997a: p. 224).
A number of education researchers and theorists, however, agree with Fleury’s
(2005) assertion that, whatever the variations between academic genres, there exists a
26
core language common to all disciplines in the academy, a language critical to students’
academic success. These authors have enumerated and discussed some of this
language’s more obvious conventions; at the same time, however, they add that there is
a certain je ne sais quoi which makes a complete descriptive definition of academic
language impossible (e.g., Cazden, 2001; Elbow, 1991; Gee, 2006; Street, 1995). Valdes
(2004) summarizes this view, stating flatly that: “… we lack a single definition or even
general agreement about what is meant by academic language” (p. 102).
Others suggest that attempts either to define academic language or to compile a
comprehensive list of its characteristic features must fail because academic language is
a derivative of the white, middle-class language in which a limited segment of the
population, including the majority of academics, were unconsciously or pre-consciously
socialized during childhood (e.g., Bourdieu, 1974; Heath, 1982). This is analogous to the
ability to distinguish an Australian from an English accent. If you grew up in an Englishspeaking, American household, you can likely differentiate between the two and, with a
little effort, produce at least a reasonable facsimile of each; however, it would prove
difficult if not impossible to explain to a non-native speaker all the factors enabling you
to do so. In this vein, Bourdieu, Passeron & de St. Martin (1994) contend that, for
students not socialized in middle-class language during childhood, academic language
proficiency is impossible to attain; while Bartolome (1998) states that any attempt at
academic language instruction:
… requires that teachers critically socialize their students in a way of being … so
27
that they can begin to critically use the cultural capital that informs and sustains
a middle-class white reality. Without entry into that reality, which serves as a
base for academic discourses, it is, on the one hand, impossible to effectively
teach academic discourses; on the other hand, it would be preposterous for
teachers to expect linguistic-minority and other minority students, including
working-class whites, to pull academic discourses out of a hat … (p. 119)
In summary then, in the published opinions of influential theoreticians and
researchers, there are two broad ways to imagine academic language instruction and
academic language itself: it cannot be defined because no such “thing” actually exists;
that is, the term is a floating signifier, a single label mistakenly applied to a group of
disparate linguistic genres (e.g., Bazerman, 2005; Blakeslee, 1997; MacDonald, 1994;
Miller, 1994; Russell, 1997b), and; there is such a thing as a core academic language but
it cannot be defined conclusively since, for undetermined reasons, because it is
culturally conferred, or because it is understood in overlapping, yet sometimes
contradictory ways by multiple, academic communities of practice (K-12 language
educators, EFL educators, undergraduate composition instructors, etc), it resists both
definition and comprehensive description (e.g., Bartolome, 1998; Bourdieu, Passeron &
Martin, 1994; Cazden, 2001; Elbow, 1991; Gee, 2006; Street, 1995; Valdes, 2004).
This presents a conundrum. Most would agree that designing an effective
curriculum, finding the appropriate text and adopting best teaching practices for
classroom instruction in either a nonexistent or an undefined, only intuitively recognized
subject is an impossibility; nevertheless, all incoming students at accredited
postsecondary institutions in the United States are required to successfully complete
28
from one to two semesters of first year composition (FYC) classes designed to enable
them “to master the genres, styles, audiences, and purposes of the academy and the
professions” (Lindeman, 1993) or, as Bartholomae (2008) phrased it, “… to speak as we
do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding
and arguing that define the discourse of our community” (p. 3). And, to this end, in
schools all across the country, educated professionals are designing curricula, are
choosing texts and are doing their best to teach their students the rhetorical skills they
perceive to be critical to a discourse style they identify as academic English. These
classes, typically administered by English departments, formerly comprised a general
introduction to English-language poetry and fiction but have evolved to focus on
students’ writing and reading critically, formulating and defending thesis statements,
constructing logically structured arguments, following specific bibliographic forms and
paying close attention to correct grammar and punctuation.
Is this enough? As noted above and in the following chapter, a large number of
scholars insist it is not. On the other hand, what if FYC administrators and instructors do
have at least a working definition of AE and are able to effectively instruct students in its
use?
1.4 The present research
It would seem that the simplest way to resolve the underlying question of
whether or not composition instructors share a common understanding of AE (and,
29
therefore, have devised ways to teach it) would be to ask them; interestingly, however,
almost no one has. Although anecdotal articles written by instructors sharing their
experiences and impressions appear regularly in composition journals (see Chapter 2),
the opinions in these articles cannot be generalized. In fact, there is only one relatively
large-scale project investigating instructors’ perceptions of AE.
In an unpublished study of the similarities and differences between high school
English and FYC instructors’ expectations of students, Jones (2003) reported the results
of a survey of 105 postsecondary instructors in New Jersey (89 from public and private
universities; 16 from community colleges) in which they identified incoming freshmen’s
four major AE weaknesses as: critical thinking skills, developing and supporting major
arguments and theses, mastery of basic mechanics (grammar, spelling and punctuation)
and facility with research/citations. These results would seem to indirectly hint at a
consensus among instructors about the important features of AE; however, the listed
skills were written into the survey questions with respondents only asked to rate them
in relation to each other. Additionally, two of the four cited categories (developing and
supporting arguments and theses, and research/citations) would seem to overlap;
however, in terms of large-scale research even tangentially related to the topic of FYC
instructors’ understanding of AE, that is all there is.
Given the importance of the related issues, I believed this was an omission that
could and should be rectified. Accordingly, 1,000 AE instructors teaching at 200
postsecondary institutions across the United States were asked to participate in an on-
30
line survey designed to elicit responses which would help determine: what, if any,
common understanding of AE skills instructors share; whether or not they believe they
are able to effectively instruct their students in those skills, and; what improvements
they would like to see made in their classrooms and institutions in order to improve
students’ chances of gaining AE proficiency. Additional survey items were included to
provide an overall profile of the respondents (e.g., experience, position, educational
background) and, as a result of the literature review described in Chapter 2, a question
was included asking respondents to indicate how often they read professional journals
related to their field.
Of the 1,000 instructors contacted, 222 completed the survey. In addition,
multiple in-person interviews were conducted with FYC instructors both before the
survey was posted and after the survey results were compiled. These interviews first
proved useful in clarifying the concerns of and issues facing classroom practitioners, and,
later, in eliciting insights and observations related to the opinions expressed by their
colleagues, the survey respondents. By the conclusion of the study, two things became
apparent: first, the theorists are both right and wrong, and; second, as one always
hopes when conducting research, more information had been provided than was
initially solicited.
31
CHAPTER 2: TRENDS IN AE INSTRUCTORS’ LITERATURE
2.1 Introduction
As discussed in the previous chapter, scholars from various disciplines have
addressed the function, origins, development, and effects of AE’s conventions and,
although many have noted that AE literacy is critical to academic success, the general
consensus is that it is unrealistic to expect that the majority of postsecondary students
can be taught the skills necessary to achieve proficiency. At the same time, there is a
parallel body of literature written for and often by FYC instructors which explores
factors – both in and out of the classroom – that those authors apparently find relevant
to AE instruction. In preparation for this research, therefore, it seemed appropriate to
become familiar with the current literature in order to have a context in which to
understand the concerns of those who would be solicited to participate; however, I was
also as aware as any graduate student that:
[t]he amount of material one must read to conduct a reasonable review of a
topic keeps growing. Younger scholars can’t ignore any of it … and so they waste
precious months reviewing a pool of articles that may lead nowhere (Bauerlein,
Gad-el-Hak, Grody, McKelvey & Trimble, 2010, p. 2).
I knew this last would pose a particular risk in relation to a field in which I had no
formal training or experience. Accordingly, I contacted a friend, an FYC instructor, and
asked which journals and authors she felt would provide the most useful introduction to
the literature. She said she could not advise me since she no longer read journals.
32
When asked why, she answered that, in her experience, none of the articles were useful.
She then offered to ask her colleagues if they could make any recommendations. When
we spoke again, she told me that, aside from one adjunct instructor who would soon
submit an excerpt from his recently completed dissertation to College Writing, everyone
held the same opinion she did about the journals. I next spoke to a colleague who
teaches FYC on the same community college campus where my classes are held and was
told that she “rarely” looked at the journals, again, because she believed the articles
they published were not relevant to instruction.
Many concerned with teacher education (e.g., Richardson, 1990; Feldman, 2000)
have noted the divide between, on the one hand, researchers and theorists and, on the
other, classroom instructors. These authors have discussed possible factors
contributing to (and ways to overcome) teacher resistance to incorporating both the
findings of empirical research and innovative theoretical approaches into their practice.
Initially, it seemed possible that what I had encountered in terms of the FYC instructors’
stated indifference to published research was illustrative of this split; I resigned myself,
therefore, to exploring the literature unguided.
There are, in fact, more than twenty professional journals currently in print that
specifically publish articles focusing on FYC.8 A number of comprehensive reviews have
Across the Disciplines, Basic Writing Journal, CEA Forum, College Composition and Communication,
College English, College Composition and Communication, Composition Forum, Composition Studies,
English for Specific Purposes, English Journal, JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Journal of Basic
Writing, Journal of Second Language Writing, Journal of Teaching Writing, Research in the Teaching of
English, Teaching English in the Two Year College, The WAC Journal, The Writing Center Journal, The
Writing Instructor, Writing on the Edge, Written Communication
8
33
discussed the history of that literature. Connors (1997) traces the evolution of
composition instruction in archival material dating from the early 19 th century to the
present, discussing the ways in which its history – changing over time from a subject
area to a discipline – has shaped instructors’ attitudes and classroom practices. Goggin
(1994, 2000) examines the proliferation of composition journals after 1950, arguing that
changes in editorial policies both reflected and shaped the ongoing struggle by those in
the field for the acceptance of composition studies as a legitimate scholarly discipline,
and; illustrating the value placed on empiricism in that struggle for legitimacy, Roozen &
Lunsford (2011) focus on the history and changing definitions of empirical research in
NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) publications over the past one hundred
years.
Paltridge (2004) provides an overview of the changing theories that have guided
and, he suggests, still guide FYC instruction. His review begins with a discussion of the
process approach of the 1970s in which students were encouraged to focus more on
developing content and effectively expressing their ideas than on mimicking standard
essay forms. In the 1980s, the process approach was supplemented by needs analysis
and content-based instruction. The author summarizes needs analysis as focusing on
what the students need to be able to do (necessities), on how far the students’ skills are
from enabling them to accomplish the necessities (lacks) and on what the students
themselves perceive to be important (wants); while content-based instruction situates
FYC learning in a specific academic context (i.e., writing assignments are theme-based
34
and/or linked to assignments for other classes). The genre approach (discussed in more
detail below) was added in the mid 1980s and was topped off, in the late 1990s, by the
critical perspective in which:
classroom tasks aim to make visible the social construction and transmission of
ideologies, power relationships, and social identities as a way of helping students
make choices in their academic writing that reflect who they are and who they
want to be (p. 96).
With a tighter focus, Belcher (2004) also discusses the sociodiscoursal (genre
based), and sociocultural (situated learning) trends in ESP (English for Specific Purposes)
and EAP (English for Academic Purposes) instruction, arguing that these pragmatic
approaches should be widened to include the sociopolitical factor (critical pedagogy or,
as Paltridge terms it, the critical perspective) in which students are instructed in their
right to “understand and respond to power differentials” (p. 185) in the academy.
Armed with this background information, I jumped into composition literature
and promptly hit my head on a rock. Traditionally, FYC has been divided between three
distinct class sequences: composition classes geared toward students from middle-class
backgrounds who “arrive at school bringing with them the very assumptions about using
language and literacy that the school seeks to inculcate and most frequently rewards”
(Moss & Waters, 1993, p. 157), basic writing classes typically populated by minority and
lower SES students who often enter postsecondary schools less prepared and more
resistant than their middle-class peers (Accardi & Davila, 2007; Delpit, 1995; Ogbu, 1988)
and ESL (English as a Second Language)/EAP (English for Academic Purposes) classes
35
filled with students from diverse cultures speaking different home languages, and with
very different motivations and levels of previous academic experience (Rubinstein-Avila,
2003; Valdes, 2001).
Although all three sequences are typically administered by English departments,
each has its own professional organizations, journals, conferences, teacher training
programs and pedagogic theories; however, arguing that today’s FYC students can no
longer easily be classified into separate learning categories, Accardi & Davila (2007)
state that, as “classrooms have diversified, mixed and blended, separated pedagogies
are no longer effective” (p. 54). These scholars suggest that, in order to effectively meet
student needs, instructors in all three sequences “… (re)enter the academy from our
separate fields, bring our specializations, listen to one another, and use all of our
resources collaboratively to continue to create new approaches” (p. 60).
Further, at many schools, a single instructor’s course load may include classes
from multiple sequences (e.g., 3 units of composition, 6 units of basic writing) and,
finally, as Accardi & Davila also note, although their specific concerns and preferred
methodologies may differ, instructors in all three class sequences share the same
teaching objective; that is, enabling their students to achieve the appropriate level of AE
proficiency to successfully complete their educations.
It seemed reasonable, therefore, to treat FYC literature related to instruction in
any one of the sequences as equally relevant (or irrelevant) to the other two;
accordingly, in my reading, I did not differentiate between the sequences. It must also
36
be noted that, rather than reiterating the work of the reviews mentioned above
(Belcher, 2004; Connors, 1997; Goggin, 1994, 2000; Paltridge, 2004; Roozen & Lunsford,
2011), in the following section I present an overview of the most current literature in a
very broad field in order to provide a context for understanding some of the concerns of
and professional constraints imposed upon the participants in this research. In order to
accomplish this, I have chosen to discuss what Cooper (1988) and Randolph (2009)
define as both a purposive sample (outlining key issues in the field) and a representative
sample of the discipline-specific literature.
2.2 Fleury vs. Bazerman: The question of genres
Throughout their history, “Freshman Composition” courses have been
considered remedial, have performed a primary gatekeeping function in many
universities and have been considered marginal to the central object of English
departments – literary study — which was generally conceived in formalist terms.
Students have been given a set of precepts and some models, then told to write
– well (Russell, 1997a, p. 225).
When Russell wrote the above, he believed that, because of a new
understanding of genre defined “not in terms of formal features but in terms of typified
rhetorical actions based on recurrent social situations” (p. 224), FYC classes were poised
for change. A number of colleges and universities had added WAC (Writing Across the
Curriculum) programs which involved composition instructors and instructors from
other departments in providing discipline-specific writing classes. One impetus for this
innovation was Charles Bazerman’s research on the writing practices of social scientists
and physicists (1988, 1994) in which he discerned clear differences that he related to
37
differences in the social function of writing in the disciplines.
In 2005, eight years after Russell’s statement was published, Bazerman and
Anthony Fleury traded articles in Communication Education with Fleury arguing that a
narrow focus on genre (i.e., discipline-specific writing) in FYC is misguided, and that it
should be remembered that in the academy there are “core styles of expression,
exposition and persuasion [that] … provide tools for understanding, performing,
critiquing and resisting knowledge and identity production” (Fleury, 2005, p. 72).
Bazerman countered with a review of his own and other research supporting genrespecific WAC instruction by demonstrating that faculty in different disciplines require
different types of argumentation and writing styles; contending, therefore, that if FYC
has as its goal preparing students for academic success in their chosen fields, instructors
must adopt the WAC position.
The published dispute between the two is representative of a division in FYC
literature. Linguists, rhetoricians, and graduate students looking for research topics in
education have generally agreed with Bazerman; however, the WAC approach placed
practicing FYC instructors in a difficult position. By 2005, funding for education had
dwindled, and; given that it was no longer economically feasible for many
postsecondary institutions to link English and other departments, maintaining and
expanding WAC programs would have required FYC instructors to learn and, over two
semesters, teach students the conventions for writing in numerous, unspecified
disciplines. Additionally, if the Bazerman faction were right, not only the FYC
38
instructors’ teaching careers but also the entire history of their discipline was based on a
fiction.
Two broad divisions related to this debate are reflected in FYC literature. One
contingent has accepted AE as a cover label for discipline-specific writing genres while,
at the same time, recognizing that institutions’ retooling all FYC classes and retraining
instructors for WAC instruction is not likely to happen. A number of these authors have
investigated the idea of academic genres in order to see what associated skills, such as
genre recognition, might be taught in the FYC classroom (e.g., Clark & Hernandez, 2011;
Devitt, 2008; Wardle, 2009). Others have moved on to the study of transfer, the process
by which skills learned in FYC can be adapted by students to writing in other disciplines’
genres (e.g., Bergmann & Zepernick, 2007; Driscoll, 2011; Moore, 2012).
A second group of authors write as if the WAC issue had never been raised.
Some have retreated into quantitative studies searching for correlations between
various characteristics of composition students, their writing processes and their
resultant compositions (e.g., Dryer, 2013; Huang, 2010; Zhu, 2004); while others busy
themselves with speculations on the meaning of various aspects of the writing process
and the meaning of compositions themselves (e.g., Owens, 2001; Ratcliffe, 2005;
Worsham, 2006). Finally, many author-instructors focus on ways to moderate the strict
application of traditional AE conventions, and to tailor their instruction away from form
and back toward content (e.g., Bizzell, 1999, 2000, 2002; Casanave, 2010; Hebb, 2002;
McCrary, 2005).
39
As will become apparent, the authors of FYC literature are not only highly diverse
in terms of their foci of interest but also in terms of the theoretical stances and
methodological approaches they adopt. In this, the current literature would seem to
indicate a certain degree of disarray in the field, a disarray one might predict will also be
reflected in classroom practice.
2.3 Genre and transfer studies
The majority of genre studies focus on identifying the various genres (or social
registers) most common in different fields of study using what Biber et al (2001) term
MD (multi-dimensional) analysis. MD analysis consists of the statistical analysis of large
bodies of text (corpora) in order to determine how linguistic patterns occur in various
genres combined with qualitative research to identify the social function of these
patterns.
Tardy (2006) reviewed the findings of 60 MD studies designed to investigate how
various genres are learned. The genres examined in these studies ranged from business
reports to English poetry and nursing care plans. With a commendable degree of
caution given the differences in the studies’ methodologies and in the genres they
focused upon, Tardy compares differences and similarities between L1 and L2 students
in genre learning. She finds, for example, that both sets of students appear to learn
genre implicitly from reading discipline-specific literature; with L2 students consulting
texts more frequently and using them more often as sources of discipline-specific
40
vocabulary and phrases. She suggests that L2 students may benefit more from explicit
genre instruction than L1 students since, as a number of studies show, L2 writers are
more receptive to instructor feedback.
Loudermilk (2007) applied MD analysis to the MBA Thought Essay, a writing
assignment he finds representative of the “occluded genres – genres whose exemplars
are private or confidential, and thus cannot be readily used as models” (p. 190); two
other examples of this genre are research article (RA) peer reviews and RA submission
letters. The author examines fifty-seven thought essays (student responses to popular
quotes relevant to business management) and discovers that, although there are some
common linguistic features, there is also a great deal of variation between them. He
explains this by means of the hybridity hypothesis which states that occluded genres, if
they are new and/or belong to groups with high turnover rates, are likely to exhibit
features of multiple genres.
Meltzer (2009) examined 2,100 writing assignments submitted over a four-year
period by 100 undergraduates each for social sciences, applied and natural sciences,
business, and arts and humanities classes. He adopts the writing taxonomy of Britton,
Burgess, Martin, McLeod & Rosen (1975) and, adding genres as “responses to recurring
rhetorical situations rather than merely templates of form and format” (p. 243), focuses
first on the term papers in his sample. He expresses surprise upon finding that the
modernist (or traditional) term paper – graded largely on correct information, citation
forms and grammar – is assigned less frequently than the alternative form – evaluated
41
for evidence of “exploration, synthesis and creativity” (p. 254). Less surprisingly, he
finds that the short answer exam which comprises approximately one quarter of his
entire sample is similar across all disciplines; that is, it is relatively genre-independent.
Molle & Prior (2008) also countered the “templates and taxonomies that many
may still too readily think of when they think of genre” (Belcher quoted in Molle & Prior,
p.563). Using an ethnographic approach only, the authors discover during a genredriven, needs analysis study involving three very different academic disciplines –
engineering, architecture and music – that, among other things, the genres they observe
in use are multimodal and that many texts are actually hybrids – mixes of multiple
genres.
The conviction that there are distinct, identifiable differences in the discourse
styles common to various disciplines is, of course, implicit to genre studies. The
research, however, is unclear on whether or not these differences are anything more
than the regional accents of a common language, AE. In fact, Bennett (2009), after a
review of 41 style manuals for writing in all disciplines, concluded:
… the single most important factor to have emerged from this survey of style
manuals is the remarkable degree of consistency that exists as regards the
general principles and main features of academic discourse in English (p. 52).
Written prior to, unaware of or dismissing Bennett’s findings, transfer studies
incorporate the idea of genre and, like genre studies, often include both quantitative
and qualitative data, providing interviews and/or surveys of students in support of
various recommendations related to increasing their abilities to adapt the writing skills
42
learned in FYC to required writing in other situations. The statistics in the majority of
these studies are based on coded, qualitative data; that is, subjective student
perceptions either of the content of FYC classes or of their own success in other classes.
Moore (2012) presents a review of recent research on writing-related transfer,
summarizing the main areas of inquiry. Interestingly, the reviewed studies generally
assign responsibility for successful or failed transfer to student attitudes and
perceptions that are largely beyond the purview of classroom instruction. The one issue
raised that seems pertinent to instructors is the question of whether or not one could or
should increase students’ genre awareness by using, as FYC texts, “writing about
writing” (p. 8).
Bergmann & Zepernick (2007) discuss their finding that students commonly
believe writing skills learned in FYC do not apply to papers other than those assigned in
FYC. Admitting that, in many ways, this perception is true and using the analogy of
athletes who play one sport (e.g., basketball) then learn to play another requiring
different skills (e.g., soccer), the authors speculate that, rather than trying to teach
students how to write, FYC instructors should teach students “how to learn to write” (p.
142). This suggestion is presented without further elaboration.
Similarly, Driscoll (2011) examined FYC student perceptions related to transfer
and found that, from the beginning to the end of the school term, student beliefs about
how useful their FYC coursework would be in preparing them for writing in other
disciplines declined significantly. Her recommendations to remedy this are, on the one
43
hand, detailed and, on the other, nebulous. She suggests following six steps to
encourage transfer, beginning with encouraging students “to engage in metacognitive
reflection about their writing and learning” (p. 28) and ending with ensuring that
students “know how different skills connect to each other and how knowledge builds
upon previous knowledge” (p. 33). Again, the author does not elaborate on how these
goals might be accomplished in the FYC classroom.
Rounsaville (2012) discusses uptake, a term used first in speech act theory then
in rhetorical genre studies, as it might apply to transfer in writing. After defining uptake
as referring to the process of reader response, she stresses the importance of prior
knowledge in uptake and suggests that, although it has been argued that FYC should
focus on teaching genres students will be able to transfer to other classes, this begs the
question of uptake; that is, how students either recognize or choose the most
appropriate genre for a given writing situation. The author concludes that the topic
deserves study.
Nelms & Dively (2007) examined the skills FYC students were taught by their
instructors (in this case, thirty-five graduate English students), and how well those skills
transferred to discipline-specific writing assignments. They found only low transfer and
concluded that FYC instructors should: “… learn the language that their non-composition
colleagues use when talking about writing with students”; “… reevaluate their own
course goals, course content, and pedagogies and make transfer an explicit course
objective,” and; “… learn specific strategies for teaching to transfer” (p. 228-229). Those
44
strategies are not discussed.
James (2010) studied transfer “climate” in EAP instruction, conducting semistructured, small group interviews with 52 EAP students concurrently enrolled in other
university classes. He found that, when EAP students’ perceived negative attitudes on
the part of instructors and peers in those classes toward the efficacy of EAP programs,
and/or when they failed to see a connection between their use of learned language
skills and the grades they received, they felt less motivated to try out transfer skills. The
author concludes that, if someone denigrates the skills students have learned, the
students are less likely to attempt to apply them.
While one must respect a number of these authors’ suggestions for possible
future directions in FYC research, it might also be argued that transfer studies, in
essence, represent an evasion of the central debate characterized by the positions taken
by Fleury (2005) and Bazerman (2005). If, as Fleury suggests, there is a core academic
language, why should it require special training for students to adapt what they have
been taught in FYC to other applications? The majority of those who have learned to
drive a car can, without being encouraged by a third party “to engage in metacognitive
reflection” (Driscoll, 2011, p. 28), adapt what they know to driving a pick-up truck.
Conversely, if Bazerman is correct and what is termed academic language is actually a
set of discrete, discipline-specific genres, one must question whether or not there is
much in current FYC course content that is relevant enough to transfer to other classes.
Either way, it is difficult to see how transfer research (at this stage of inquiry, at least) is
45
applicable to FYC classroom instruction.
2.4 Quantitative studies
The majority of quantitative research reported in FYC literature ignores the
question of genres. When genre is included, it is in the original sense of “form” and is
not directly related to the social activity of a group. Gardner & Nesi (2013), for example,
examined 2,858 texts produced by undergraduate students and found that, while the
humanities and social sciences rely heavily on the essay genre (83% and 56%
respectively), the life and physical sciences do not (18% and 10% respectively). The
authors suggest that these findings have important implications for AE text and curricula
development since, aside from personal narrative, the essay (consisting of an
introduction, a series of arguments and a conclusion) is the genre consistently stressed
in FYC classes.
More commonly, quantitative research in the field attempts to delineate the AE
skills most critical to academic success, the characteristics of students which relate to AE
proficiency, and to determine in what ways AE classes contribute to that proficiency.
Data is generally gathered in four ways; from numeric counts of various metalinguistic
features in academic papers, from large-scale surveys of students and/or of faculty who
teach subjects other than AE, from syllabi and assignment handouts collected from
courses other than FYC and from descriptive correlations made between various factors
related to student writing, grades in subsequent coursework and/or institutional
46
retention rates. The problem with many of these studies, however, is that, although the
sample sizes, tables, and statistics in quantitative studies are often impressive, the
conclusions they support frequently are not.
A surprising number of articles are apparent self-reports of the authors’ failed
research designs. Donohue and Erling (2012), for example, applied MASUS (Measuring
the Academic Skills of University Students) diagnostics to 220 student papers, grading
four attributes: use of source material, structure and development of text, use of
academic writing style and grammatical correctness. They subjected the resultant data
to the Pearson’s correlation test, analyses of variance and principal components analysis
and, after several pages of tables and figures, conclude that “statistically verifiable
insights into the impact on attainment of particular aspects of language use may not
have emerged from the research” (p. 216).
Truscott (2007) also encountered uncooperative numbers in a study in which he
attempted to convert the findings from qualitative studies on the effects of error
correction on students’ writing accuracy into quantitative statistics. He found that
correction has a small negative effect and, possibly, also a small positive effect, adding
that there are a number of variables in his analysis that potentially biased the results.
Similarly, Rosenfeld, Leung & Oltman (2001) analyzed responses to questionnaires from
370 faculty members and 345 students at 21 US and Canadian universities. Subjects
were asked to indicate which of 42 tasks related to reading, writing, speaking and
listening were important in coursework at the graduate and undergraduate levels; all 42
47
were rated by all subjects as important.
Another group of quantitative studies report that their authors definitely
reached a conclusion; the unanswered question is why they made the effort. Noble &
Sawyer (2013), for example, conducted a correlative study that included the ACT Test
scores, the grades received in developmental (or remedial) writing classes and the
enrollment status of 118,000 students at 75 universities and colleges proving
conclusively that, overall, part-time students derive more future academic benefit from
taking developmental courses than full-time students do. The authors do not suggest
what institutions might do in response to this finding; steer full-time students away
from developmental courses; steer part-time students toward them? Similarly, Huang
(2010) surveyed 432 graduate and undergraduate students, and 93 instructors, finding
that instructors consistently rated students’ writing skills lower than the students did;
and, Hess (2012) used ANOVA, correlational, chi-square and multiple regression
analyses to discover that there was a positive relationship between the number of
English composition classes physics students had taken as undergraduates and their
subsequent publication rates. As was true for the Noble and Sawyer research
mentioned above, it is difficult to determine what recommendations these authors
might make based on their findings that would positively impact student outcomes.
Finally, the largest group of quantitative reports demonstrates the obvious.
Volpe (2011), for example, studied transcript data from 500 students at a community
college and found that students who earned a C or lower grade in FYC courses were
48
more likely to drop out of college than those earning As or Bs. Volpe concludes that
lower grades in FYC courses might enable institutions to track students at higher risk for
completing academic programs and, therefore, to develop special programs that would
lead to their retention; however, the problematic nature of this suggestion lies in the
author’s attribution of causality. Is Volpe suggesting that the lower grades the students
receive leads to their leaving the institution (which would seem to present a case for the
positive effects of grade inflation) or is it their failure to master AE which leads to
substandard performance in other classes? Volpe expresses no opinion.
Graves, Hyland & Samuels (2010) studied 179 syllabi and found that there were
large differences between disciplines in the frequency, purpose, and scope of writing
assignments. Their conclusion is hardly surprising; however, the authors go on to
suggest that FYC instructors inform their students of that fact.
Yeats, Reddy & Wheeler (2010) obtained the records of 806 freshmen; forty-five
had used the writing center on campus, the remainder had not. They compared the two
groups and found that, correcting for the disparity in sample sizes, the forty-five who
had used the writing center did significantly better in classes than those who had not.
Jesnek (2011) discovered that the effectiveness of peer editing is limited by the writing
abilities of student writers and editors, while Adel & Erman (2012) tell us that
undergraduate native English speakers use more varied lexical bundles in their writing
than do non-native speakers. Yang & Sun (2012) point out that the correct use of
cohesive devices in argumentative writing directly correlates with overall writing quality
49
and Riazantseva (2012) notes differences in the estimation of accuracy in L2 writing
depend on how researchers define “accuracy.”
Admittedly, a great deal of time and painstaking effort went into many of the
studies discussed above; however, although statistical software allows almost anyone to
apply sophisticated tests to numeric data, the interpretation of those test results
requires care. A significant correlation between variables does not necessarily indicate
a causal relationship as Noble & Sawyer (2013), Yeats, Reddy & Wheeler (2010) and
Volpe (2011) imply, and; the validity of attempting, as Truscott (2007) did, to change
qualitative data gathered by other researchers into numbers then subjecting those
number to statistical tests is questionable at best. Finally, as with the transfer research
discussed in the preceding section, it is difficult to see in what ways most quantitative
findings will benefit or even affect FYC students and their instructors.
Schon (2001) speaks of the choice between rigor and relevance, arguing that
research should produce practical knowledge and that a scientifically “rigorous”
research design in the social sciences almost invariably leads to trivial results; however,
the publishing trend in a number of journals pitched to AE instructors leans toward the
quantitative (Roozen & Lunsford, 2011). Haswell (2005), for example, argues that all AE
studies should be “explicitly enough systematized in sampling, execution, and analysis to
be replicated; and factually enough supported to be verified” (p. 201). This ongoing
debate, reminiscent of that between the behaviorists and the cognitivists discussed in
Chapter 1, is clearly not a concern of the authors of the composition literature discussed
50
next.
2.5 Compositionist compositionisms
There is one contingent of American composition instructors (although Bruno
Latour, a French academician, is one of their leading lights) who have adopted the
appellation, compositionists. The compositionists are largely involved in attempting to
understand and describe the essence of the composition with readers, writers and
communicative effectiveness peripherally interesting as factors which may help
illuminate the shared, inherent nature of all writers, writing acts and writing contexts.
There are modernist compositionists, postmodernist compositionists,
ecocompositionists and even apocalyptic compositionists, and; as reflected by the body
of literature they have produced, they clearly have a great deal to say to one another.
Given the number of times it is cited and alluded to by the others, Bruno Latour
(2010) wrote what is clearly the seminal compositionist article. Referring variously to
the movie Avatar, the Climate Summit, the French Revolution, Dunkirk, the fall of Saigon,
the structure of DNA, the H1N1 flu virus, the Communist Manifesto, Oedipus, Locke and
Descartes, and sprinkling his essay with statements such as: “I don’t wish to embrace
Walter Benjamin’s tired ‘Angel of History’ trope …” (p. 485), Latour dismisses modernist
and postmodernist composition studies to produce what he calls a “compositionist
manifesto,” declaring that compositionism presents an alternative to critique.
I don’t mean a critique of critique but a reuse of critique; not an even more
critical critique but rather critique acquired secondhand – so to speak – and put
51
to a different use (p. 474).
Having clarified his point, Latour turns to the processes involved in
compositionism and, typifying Modernists as “fleeing in terror” (p. 485) from the past,
he announces that:
[i]t’s no use speaking of “epistemological breaks” any more. Fleeing from the
past while continuing to look at it will not do. Nor will critique be of any help. It
is time to compose – in all the meanings of the word, including to compose with,
that is to compromise, to care, to move slowly, with caution and precaution.
That’s quite a new set of skills to learn: imagine that, innovating as never before
but with precaution! (p. 487)
Cooper (2011), citing four books and articles by Latour and stating that her own
argument “rests on complexity theory and on an enactive approach to the study of mind,
also known as neurophenomenology” (p. 421), uses a speech given before the 2008
presidential election by then-candidate Obama to illustrate her definition of “agency.”
Agency, she informs us, “emerges ineluctably from embodied processes; agency is
inescapable for embodied beings” (p. 443) and this is what should be made clear to
composition students (the embodied ones) because:
[w]hat they write or argue, as with all other actions they perform, makes them
who they are. And though their actions do not directly cause anything to happen,
their rhetorical actions, even if they are embedded in the confines of a college
class, always have effects; they perturb anyone who reads or hears their words.
(p. 443)
Lynch (2012), after discussing Latour’s proposal of a new way of imagining
composition studies in association with a Scandinavian form of government, the Thing,
as it might relate to the concerns of the apocalyptic compositionists (who, as their
52
appellation implies, argue that the only appropriate topics for composition center
around the impending doom they perceive humanity now faces), cites an encounter
with an FYC student who, in answer to his question of what she plans to study, replies
that she wants to major in environmental science because she hopes to save the world.
Lynch asks the reader rhetorically if he should tell her that “the vir bonus (or in this case,
the femina bona) dicendi peritus is a myth?” or, conversely, should he assume that she is
a realist who “wants to enter our academic Thing” (p. 473). He answers his own
question by calling for apocalyptic compositionists to stop imposing disenchantment on
each other and on their students, stating:
[l]et us therefore trade disenchantment for demoralization, which tells us that it
is time to begin the work of composition again – always extending the concern
and the franchise of our discipline’s Thing – even to the end of the world (p.
474).9
With rather less flourish, Sanchez (2012), discussing the need for an underlying
theory that will specify what the subject of composition studies encompasses,
summarizes a fellow compositionist’s thesis in this way:
[she] poses the idea that materiality – whether figured discursively or as the
necessary ground of discourse (or as the necessary ground of the necessary
ground of discourse) – becomes consequentially thinkable, knowable, or sensible
only in the interval, as it were. (p. 240)
After concluding a twelve-page literature review in which he introduces the work
of eighteen additional compositionists in a similar manner, Sanchez, ironically
I doubt Lynch actually meant FYC instructors should actively try to demoralize their students; on the
other hand, perhaps he did.
9
53
the author of a book entitled “The Function of Theory in Composition Studies,”10
concludes:
[i]n the end, it may be that there are no sustainable theoretical contexts for
conducting inquiry into writing, that there is not even shifting and unstable
ground on which to stand the figure of the writing-subject, even tentatively. If
so, then the question of what composition studies studies remains unanswered
(p. 245).
The compositionists represent a fairly recent and substantive addition to FYC
literature; however, as will become apparent in the survey and interview results from
FYC instructors presented in the future chapters, their claims have no apparent
relevance to classroom practice.
2.6 FYC instructors on their students, their classes and AE
The final group of literature discussed here is authored by practicing AE
instructors who focus on suggesting methods and theories which either address
improving traditional AE education or, recently, expanding the current understanding of
AE to include alternative forms of discourse.
A certain percentage consists of articles which, mirroring a number of the
quantitative studies discussed above, argue the obvious. Sullivan (2011), for example,
builds on previous literature and his own experience in the composition classroom to
conclude that students’ motivation to learn directly affects how well they learn; while
Lee (2009) presents the answers of fifteen composition teachers to a questionnaire
For graduate students and masochists, the full citation is: Sanchez, R. (2005). The function of theory in
composition studies. Albany: SUNY Press.
10
54
which support the author’s contention that composition instructors who have too many
classes and too many students do not provide as much feedback on student papers as
do instructors not similarly burdened.
When data is used in support of the author’s argument, it is most often
anecdotal and personal. In general, however, these FYC instructor-authored papers are
persuasive and thought-provoking and, in this group of literature (including in the two
articles mentioned above), a noticeable shift in tone takes place; students are back as
individuals, with histories, cultures, rights, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. As a
student, I welcomed the change. Additionally, the form of AE used in these articles is
obviously intended to communicate rather than impress – again, a welcome change.
Davis & Shadel (2000) use experiences in their own classrooms to illustrate an
approach to research writing that focuses on exciting students about inquiry rather than
on teaching research and citation forms. Stating that the modernist research paper, “…
positioned as the final, even climatic, step for students entering communities of
academic discourse” (p. 417), stresses expertise, detachment and certainty over
“uncertainty, passionate exploration and mystery” (p. 418), the authors argue for the
incorporation of argumentative and personal essays expressed in multi-genre, multidisciplinary, multi-cultural and multi-media modalities, arguing that, once having
learned to enjoy investigation, students will be motivated in future coursework to
acquire discipline-specific skills in order to communicate their findings. Morris (2012)
also focuses on the importance of content over form, suggesting that students be
55
introduced to form as a rhetorical choice rather than as a prescriptive requirement. He
recommends prewriting exercises such as brainstorming, group discussions and the
visual representation of ideas so that students can understand that their own thinking is
the most important component of research.
Shafer (2012) stresses student identity, discussing the political negotiations and
confrontations situated in what Mary Louise Pratt first defined as the contact zone, the
place where AE and the students’ natural languages meet, illustrating this with the
stories of two basic writing students who came to him at the writing center after their
FYC instructor gave low grades to the drafts of their essays. One, writing about the
music of his neighborhood, had used Spanish phrases and street terms in his draft; the
other was upset by his instructor’s refusal to accept Christian religious sources as the
basis for his argument against gay rights. Shafer explains the dilemma of both students
in terms of post-process theory which suggests that all writing is political and that
successful writing is a social process involving a series of negotiated choices rather than
the rigid implementation of set rules. He suggests that staff in writing centers focus on
this aspect of student struggle rather than simply proofreading.
The authors of a number of the most compelling articles in the group refer to the
work of one of the first FYC instructors to discuss the possibility that traditional AE is a
restrictive language and one of the first to call for change. Patricia Bizzell (1999) began
what became the first in a series of three seminal essays by stating that, in the 1980s,
she agreed with David Bartholomae that “[w]herever students are in their language
56
using practices when they come to college … what they must learn to do is write within
traditional academic discourse” (p. 7). She still believes that there is a core academic
language and that it should be introduced to students; however, she points out, in
disciplines outside English, new academic discourses are “clearly doing serious
intellectual work and are received and evaluated as such, even as they violate many of
the conventions of traditional academic discourse” (p. 8). Bizzell then describes AE as a
grapholect, a hyper-correct form of English meant to be written and read, but too
elaborate to be spoken. She states that it has specific genres (here referring to written
forms like the lab report and critical essay, not to social phenomena), and a prose style
meant to convey a specific persona, objective, skeptical, and argumentative.
In contrast, she enumerates the hybrid AE conventions she derived from an
examination of four scholars’ published work11: little or no use of the grapholect,
cultural references used without exhaustive explanation, personal experiences used
both to evoke emotional response and to illustrate points, offhand refutation employed
rather than explicit attacks on other positions, and the use of humor and indirect
statements. She suggests that FYC instructors who wish to incorporate hybrid AE
instruction “create conditions in which students are encouraged to experiment with
their own forms of hybrid discourse” (p. 17), then presents practical steps that can be
taken in order to accomplish this.
In 2000, Bizzell presented an overview of the field of basic writing, citing the
M. Rose (1989) Lives on the Boundary; H. Fox (1994) Listening to the World; K. Gilyard (1991) Voices
of the Self; V. Villanueva (1993) Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color.
11
57
initial phase when failure to adhere to traditional AE was seen as indicating arrested
cognitive development, through the second phase when “basic writers’ difficulties are
attributed primarily to clashes between their home world views and the academic world
view …” (p. 5), pointing out that students’ failure to reproduce traditional AE is still seen
as a problem that must be remedied if they are to succeed in the academy. The third
phase, she suggests, will include the wider acceptance of and FYC instruction in hybrid
AE, concluding:
[i]f newly evolved composition pedagogies help to democratize access to the
academy … their ultimate consequences might be more far-reaching.
Democratizing access may help along the changes in academic discourse
described in this essay, thereby serving social justice – or at least, so I may be
allowed to hope (ibid, p. 11).
In her third article on the topic, Bizzell (2002) reintroduced and strengthened the
argument that traditional AE hampers scholarly progress. She illustrates with an article
written by an eminent white historian on the topic of lynching. In the article, he
considers his discipline’s silence – and the guilt he feels about his own – on the subject
of what once was an almost institutionalized expression of white on black violence. The
article was accepted for publication; however, the journal editor took the
unprecedented step of also publishing the remarks of the six referees who had reviewed
it. Many expressed concern over the emotion the author expressed and over the
nonlinearity of his argument; two were concerned enough to recommend against
publication. Bizzell argues that, without recourse to hybrid AE, the subject – an
important one – could never have been addressed adequately. She concludes “… we
58
should be welcoming, not resisting, the advent of diverse forms of academic discourse”
(p. 9).
Hebb (2002) agreed with Bizzell that “[t]he acceptance of hybrid discourses for
accomplishing serious academic work will revolutionize the academy and create new
and interesting intellectual possibilities” (p. 25); however, she points out that, while
senior faculty may now be able to use hybrid AE, student work is still judged against
traditional standards. Casanave (2010), writing of her experiences as doctoral advisor to
three students writing nontraditional dissertations, also is unsure about the acceptance
of students’ and untenured faculty’s use of hybrid AE; however, she cites Bizzell’s
statement that new forms of academic discourse “allow their practitioners to do
intellectual work in ways they could not if confined to traditional academic discourse”
(Bizzell quoted in Casanave, p. 3) and suggests that, if Bizzel is right, “… then these new
forms, whatever they are, are worth exploring (p. 3).”
Referencing Bizzell, Fernsten (2005) used the experiences of two basic writing
students struggling with AE to support her contention that the power dynamics in
classrooms negatively affect students’ ability to express themselves in writing. She
suggests that the use and encouragement of hybrid AE and open political discourse in
FYC classes would empower both educators and students to resist discriminatory and
limiting academic language policies. McCrary (2005) recommended the use of hybrid
texts, providing anecdotal evidence of their efficacy from his own basic writing classes’
use of magazines, literary non-fiction, and newspapers. Alluding to Bizzell and Mikhail
59
Bakhtin, he reiterates that there is value in hybrid language, illustrating this clearly by
writing his entire article in hybrid (or mixed) AE; for example, “[n]onetheless, I contend
that exposing students to hybrid discourse and encouraging dem to play around wif it,
might help them to see that standard English isn’t the only language game in town.” (p.
89).
Although McCrary was published with “dem” intact, it would appear from the
FYC literature that, if a practical paradigm shift is in process, the end is not yet in sight.
While Bizzell and others struggle with how to shift FYC from its traditional role as
gatekeeper to the academy toward its potential role as keeper of the contact zone, the
genre and transfer proponents are still preoccupied with training students to generalize,
the empiricists are still running their statistical packages, and the compositionists are
still smirking at each other in the mirror.
2.7 Implications for the present research
There was a great deal to learn from the FYC literature. First, the field is widely
divided, not as I had initially thought by differences in composition, basic writing and
ESL/EAP pedagogies, and only partially, as I next thought, by the genre/core language
debate. The primary division, as I now see it, is how students are positioned in these
various areas of concentration. They are respectively the passive, flawed subjects of
proposed training methods, neutral variables in objective studies, jejune figures
provoking arch, passing comments from their betters, or complex human beings who, if
60
given the chance, may have something valuable to contribute to the collective
knowledge.
I had a similar choice to make when discussing the participants in my own
research, the FYC instructors, and it became apparent to me that the last approach was
the one to adopt and maintain. Accordingly, the word “subjects,” as in “research
subjects,” will not appear in the following chapters. Additionally, because FYC
instructors have the most right to and potential use for the results of the survey, I
determined that all 1,000 instructors initially invited to respond to the survey – whether
or not they had chosen to participate – would be sent a preliminary report of the
findings after the questionnaire response period ended.
For the same reason, the informal comments and observations made by the
instructors and similar information gathered in face-to-face interviews with my local
informants are included as significant contributions to this study. All written responses
are also provided in appendices along with clear indications of how those comments
were coded so that, whether or not my own inferences and conclusions are judged valid,
the thoughts and opinions of those actually doing the work are available to their
colleagues, and to future researchers who may agree with me that one of the best ways
to begin investigating a subject is to ask questions of those most likely to know
something about it.
Second, learning from the quantitative research discussed above, I decided not
to subject the survey findings to complicated statistical tests since any apparent
61
correlation could be interpreted as implying a causal relationship when, in fact, an
uninvestigated, hidden variable (or variables) might provide the true link. More
importantly, I felt it critical to the research to be able to ask open-ended questions, the
responses to which would then be coded in order to present simple summaries.
Percentages and raw counts are forgiving of a certain degree of latitude in coding;
however, when sophisticated statistical tests are applied to subjectively coded material,
the risk of false precision is unavoidable.
Finally, this review led to a tentative understanding of why the instructors I had
first spoken to had expressed such a lack of interest in the FYC literature. In a field
which has a single, unified and explicit objective (helping students achieve AE
proficiency), the research, related theories, suggestions and conclusions presented in
the literature appear so divided as to be, in the main, mutually irrelevant.
This is unfortunate.
While it is farcical to suggest that Bizzell and Casanave might derive inspiration
from Latour’s manifesto, or that Shafer, Davis and Shadel (or, for that matter, anyone
else) would modify their practice in response to Loudermilk’s MD analysis of an
occluded genre discovered in business school, a discipline’s journals should serve, at a
minimum, to provide that discipline’s members with a general forum and with a sense
of professional community. And, as I next discovered, FYC instructors are in sore need
of both.
62
CHAPTER 3: SURVEY – METHODOLOGY AND RESULTS
3.1 Introduction
This section presents a summary of the data derived from the responses by 222
FYC instructors teaching at postsecondary campuses across the United States to an
eleven-item survey soliciting information on academic writing instruction. As suggested
in previous chapters, it was determined that an effective and previously untried method
of making explicit the writing skills associated with academic English would be to ask the
instructors charged with teaching those skills. Additionally, FYC instructors were judged
to be in the best position, based on their classroom experiences, to indicate which of
those skills were most problematic for their students, and to make recommendations
about ways in which academic English instruction might be improved.
3.2 Survey Design
The on-line questionnaire, “English Writing Class Survey,” (Appendix A) was
designed on SurveyMonkey; an on-line survey tool chosen because it is widely used in
social science research and, hence, would be identifiable to many of the potential
respondents. This tool also offers a convenient method for the recipients of a
solicitation for research participation to remove their e-mail addresses from the
researcher’s mailing list; that is, to “opt out.”
“English Writing Class Survey” was prefaced by an assurance that responses
63
would be encrypted using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and no identifiers would be
attached thus completely shielding respondents’ identities. The preface also included
three explanatory statements regarding the mechanics of the questionnaire; that is, a
respondent might skip any of the questions and still complete the survey, no answers
would be registered unless and until the respondent clicked Submit at the end of the
survey and, by clicking Submit, the respondent agreed that his or her answers might be
included in the research report.
The number of questions on the survey was purposely kept to a minimum; it
contained only eleven. Seven were multiple-choice (Questions 1, 2, 5, 7 – 10), two were
restricted text-line (Questions 3 and 4), and two open-box items (Questions 6 and 11)
were provided for comments. Questions 1 through 10 were designed to elicit
information on one of three broad topics; in order as they appeared, these were
institution profile, respondents’ perceptions of AE instruction, and respondents’ profiles.
The topics were so ordered in an attempt to increase the approachability of the
questionnaire for the respondents; that is, objective institution-related questions were
seen as least intrusive and, hence, placed first. Items 3-6, which were expected to
require the most time and thought, were placed in the middle of the survey, and;
questions 7-10 regarding the respondents’ individual positions, formal education,
teaching experience and levels of engagement with professional reading were placed
last. Question 11 was included in order to provide instructors with the opportunity to
make any additional comments or clarifications they felt relevant. The minimum
64
estimated time to complete the entire questionnaire was five minutes.
3.3 Participant selection and solicitation
Two hundred accredited postsecondary institutions (two colleges and two
universities from each of the fifty states) were selected from the website of the
University of Texas at Austin.12 Selection criteria for the institutions were: first,
alphabetic precedence (A before B); second, the availability of an on-line course
schedule listing English composition courses with associated instructor names. Five
current English composition instructors were then selected from each of the 200
selected institutions’ Fall 2012 course schedules (for a total of 1,000 potential
respondents). Selection criteria for the instructors were: first, alphabetic precedence of
the instructor’s last name (A before B); second, inclusion of the instructors’ e-mail
addresses either in the course schedule or on the institutions’ departmental rosters.
After IRB approval, an initial solicitation letter (Appendix B) was e-mailed to the
selected instructors via e-mail. This letter introduced the researcher, outlined the
purpose of the study, and briefly described both how the recipient had been selected
and the topic of the questionnaire to be forwarded the following week. Twenty-four of
these initial query letters were either returned as undeliverable or were answered by an
instructor who declined to participate.
One week later, the second letter (Appendix C) was sent to the remaining 976
potential participants. This letter provided a link to the questionnaire posted on-line at
12
http://www.utexas.edu/world/univ
65
SurveyMonkey along with an estimate of the time it would take to complete it, a
description of measures taken to ensure the instructors’ anonymity and the statement
that all 976 (regardless of whether or not they completed the questionnaire) would be
sent an initial summary of the results within six months time.
The second letter ended by providing direct contact information in case
recipients had any concerns or questions they wished addressed before linking to the
questionnaire. Eleven instructors replied, expressing concerns about the authenticity of
the study and requesting further documentation. I responded by e-mailing copies of the
IRB approval letter listing the working title of the study, the name of the department
and my name under the letterhead of the University of Arizona.
3.4 Results
Within six weeks after the link to the questionnaire was sent, 222 completed
surveys were recorded. When two additional weeks had passed without additional
responses, the survey was closed for a response rate of 22.7% overall (222/976). In the
tables and figures below, overall percentages are calculated based on the total number
of instructors who answered each question; however, university and community
college-specific percentages are based on the total number of appropriately affiliated
respondents.
3.4.1 Respondents’ affiliations
The first question asked each respondent to click on the best descriptor for his or
66
her institution – community college or university. It was judged necessary to be able to
compare the responses to subsequent questions between community college and
university instructors since, if significant differences were found between the two
groups, these differences would affect the validity of generalizations from the survey
results to FYC instruction as a whole.
The response rates from community college (111) and university (108)
instructors were, for the purposes of this study, statistically identical (22.2% and 21.6%
respectively), making raw number, percentile-based and visual comparisons of the
information presented in the graphs below both valid and simple.
Table 1: Respondents’ Affiliations
Community college
50.0% (111)
University
48.6% (108)
No affiliation given
1.4% (3)
Figure 1: Respondents’ Affiliations
As noted in Table 1 and Figure 1 above, three instructors skipped Question 1;
two stated under additional comments (Item 11) that they teach FYC at four-year
67
colleges, an option not provided for in the survey; however, they did complete the
remainder of the questions. For simplicity of presentation, it was decided not to include
these three sets of results in the tables and figures; however, the associated comments
are included in Appendices D-G.
3.4.2 Text choice
Question 2 asked respondents to indicate how FYC texts are decided upon at
their institutions. This question was included to reflect the administrative structure in
the respondents’ departments; that is, to investigate whether instructors had the
autonomy to decide text content, whether peer decision was the arbiter, or whether
administrators unilaterally decided upon the texts. It was hypothesized that instructors
who have the ability to choose or at least affect the selection of their texts might be
more sanguine about course content and student outcomes than those who have their
texts imposed.
The responses (111 community college; 108 university) to Question 2 indicate
that university instructors are significantly more likely to choose their own composition
texts while community college instructors more often have those texts decided upon by
departmental committees. If the instructors’ total autonomy in the adoption of course
texts were a significant factor affecting their perceptions of student outcomes (i.e.,
effectiveness of their classes), one would predict that university instructors would
express more confidence in those outcomes; however, as seen in the responses to
68
Question 5 (p. 74), this effect is not apparent.
Table 2: Text Choice
You
Departmental committee(s)
Administrator(s)
Other (please specify)
Community college
38% (42)
54% (60)
5% (6)
3% (3)
University
61% (66)
29% (31)
5% (5)
6% (6)
Figure 2: Text Choice
Table 2.1: Text Choice (Other)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Full time faculty members may choose their own texts. Adjunct faculty must use
the text selected by the department.
one class has books chosen by dept another I get to choose since I'm the only
one teaching it.
One is chosen by the department, and the others are chosen by the instructor.
Certain texts are chosen by the Composition Director, others are chosen by the
individual professors.
I choose from a list of approved texts.
WPA recommends texts, from which individuals are encouraged to choose their
preference.
I choose my text from a list of texts approved by the department.
Dept committee selects a list of books, faculty choose a text from that list.
I can choose a text but the department chooses handbook.
Of the 219 total answers from college and university instructors, nine chose
69
“other” (Table 2.1). Those who chose this option either indicated that their text choices
are limited (e.g., instructor chooses from an approved list) or are split between a
departmental committee or an administrator, and the instructor.
3.4.3 Critical academic English skills
Questions 3 and 4 are open-box items asking individual instructors to write in
(rather than check off) specific responses to questions about critical writing skills. For
analysis, the answers to Questions 3 and 4 were grouped into nine subdivisions; Table 3
below lists the titles and definitions of these groupings along with illustrative examples
pulled directly from the instructors’ responses (with complete lists of all responses along
with the coding assigned to them provided in Appendices D-G). One instructor only
(one of the three who did not indicate affiliation) declined to answer this question.
Table 3: Coding for Questions 3 and 4
Categories
Definitions
Logic
critical thinking, critical reading,
argumentation, avoidance of
logical fallacies
Thesis formulation
devising a sound, clear and
arguable thesis
Composition
producing a structured essay with
introduction, body and
conclusion
Examples
“Analytical skills,” “Evidence of
critical thinking and analysis in
the composition,” “logical
reasoning,” “development of
evidence,” “strong logic,”
“strong persuasive support,”
“Ability to understand and
participate in critical
conversations”
“Formulating a clear, original
thesis statement,” “clearly
stating thesis,” “strong thesis,”
“clear controlling idea,” “thesis
construction”
“Organization of essay,”
“Ability to organize paragraphs
coherently in an essay,” “ability
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Basic mechanics
using correct grammar, spelling,
and punctuation, and competent
topic sentence and paragraph
construction.
Research & References finding and evaluating secondary
sources, incorporating these
sources into an essay
appropriately (e.g., paraphrasing,
summarizing, quoting), avoiding
plagiarism, and using correct
citation forms
Style
recognizing and using language in
the appropriate genre/register
for the intended audience
Process
structured activities related to
developing written work
Other
recognizable but generally
unteachable attributes
to format written work in a
formal structure,” “ability to
organize ideas and use
transitions effectively,” “clear
organizational structure,”
“Composing clear and
complete sentences,” “Correct
use of grammar, “Grammar
and punctuation usage,”
“Ability to use verbs correctly,”
“clear syntax,” “Formation of
structurally correct sentences
and paragraphs,” “Spelling”
“Correct use of citation form,”
“Ability to cite sufficient,
authoritative, relevant
evidence,” “Proper quoting,”
“ability to read, understand,
and synthesize research
material,” “Ability to integrate
outside sources into an
argument or explanation,”
“Research and documentation”
“Appropriate Genre – suitable
for aim and audience,” “ability
to analyze the rhetorical,
structural, and stylistic features
of a genre,” “Ability to convey
meaning while varying
sentence structures,”
“Discovering the best ways to
appeal to a given audience,”
“mature language”
“to apply strategies of the
writing process to research
essays,” “Develop two- and
three-level outlines,”
“awareness of the 3 parts
(prewrite, write, rewrite) and 7
steps (prewrite, draft, respond,
revise, edit, proofread, publish)
of the writing process”
“Creativity,” “Interest in the
topic,” “Stick-to-it-iveness,”
“the belief that one has
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Indeterminate
responses too ambiguous to
classify with certainty
something worth saying,”
“Original thinking,” “Focus”
“What I call the ‘art of seeing’ –
everything,” “engaging with
sources,” “development”
The first seven code groupings listed in Table 3 correspond to direct writing skills;
the final two do not. Other is a grouping comprised of personal qualities or
characteristics generally not included in FYC instruction; for example, “originality,”
“good time management,” “determination.” These responses have been included in the
graphs below; however, the code, Indeterminate, was applied to phrases judged too
ambiguous to classify objectively in any of the other categories. The most common
phrases grouped under Indeterminate contain the words “develop,” “developing” and
“development.” Unless these words were specifically elaborated (e.g., “develop a clear
composition structure”), the responses could not be confidently classified. “Developing
the topic,” for example, might have been used by the instructor to refer to the writer’s
providing sufficient detail in the body of a composition to support the ideas presented
(Composition); conversely, this phrase might have been intended to refer to the writer’s
deciding upon a composition topic or expanding a topic into an arguable thesis (Thesis
formulation). On balance, therefore, it was decided to effectively omit these responses
from Figures 3.1 through 4.2 rather than risk categorizing them incorrectly.
A number of the responses to Questions 3 and 4 fit and were grouped into more
than one of the above categories; for example, “ability to clearly state central and
supporting ideas” (Thesis formulation and Logic), “thesis and structured organization”
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(Thesis formulation and Composition); “Good sentence structure appropriate for
audience” (Basic mechanics and Style); “strong argument using mature vocabulary and
citing sources appropriately” (Logic, Style, Research/References). When a response was
grouped in more than one category (as in the examples above), each element was
counted and appears in the appropriate categories in the tables and graphs below. If,
however, a response contained redundant elements, the entire statement was counted
as a single occurrence; for example “correctly citing sources and avoiding plagiarism”
was grouped and counted once under Research/References.
Question 3 provided instructors with eight, unnumbered text lines of 100
characters each in which to list the skills they perceived as most important to the
production of a “good academic composition.” The answer lines were purposely
unnumbered in order to avoid giving respondents the impression that they were being
asked to rank writing skills in order of importance. Three examples of skills were
provided in the body of the question; these were “correct use of citation forms, correct
use of complex sentence structures, ability to clearly state a thesis.” These examples
were given in an attempt to direct the instructors toward listing discrete writing skills
rather than either grouping those skills (e.g., “using complex sentence structures and
clearly stating a thesis”) or listing student attributes independent of their writing skills
(e.g., “intelligence”). The risk of leading the instructors by providing sample answers
was clear; for this reason, the examples provided were composed specifically to include
what were hypothesized to be one tertiary (citation forms), one secondary (complex
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sentence structures) and one primary (clear thesis) feature of academic writing. At the
same time, it was recognized that only the analysis of results from the returned
questionnaires would be clearly indicative of whether or not the examples had affected
the instructors’ responses: for example, if the three exemplars appeared in a majority of
the responses and/or if the wording of the skills matched exactly.
Table 3.1: Critical Academic English Skills
Categories
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research/references
Style
Process
Other
Indeterminate
Community college
17% (106)
13% (79)
13% (79)
18% (111)
17% (100)
12% (70)
5% (28)
3% (19)
2% (14)
Figure 3: Critical Academic English Skills
University
18% (121)
11% (75)
13% (89)
14% (95)
18% (117)
13% (89)
4% (28)
6% (42)
2% (11)
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Table 3.1 and Figure 3 indicate that the three skills incorporated as exemplars
into Question 3 are not the three most frequently mentioned. This suggests that
providing these examples did not appreciably skew the answers. Next, the responses
indicate that college and university instructors tend to list similar skills as necessary to
good academic writing with the ability to state a clear thesis and to write a correctly
structured composition viewed as relatively less important than critical thinking and
research and citation forms. In general, the concerns of the two groups appear similar;
the one exception to this is the somewhat greater frequency with which community
college instructors mention the importance of students’ writing in Standard English; that
is, employing standard grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence and paragraph
structures. One university and two community college instructors skipped this question.
Table 3.2: Critical AE Skills – First 3
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research/references
Style
Process
Other
Indeterminate
Community college
22% (78)
18% (65)
14% (49)
17% (61)
12% (43)
8% (30)
3% (12)
3% (9)
2% (8)
University
25% (89)
19% (67)
16% (56)
9% (33)
11% (39)
11% (39)
3% (11)
4% (15)
2% (7)
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Figure 3.1: Critical AE Skills – First 3
Although Question 3 was designed to avoid ranking, it is intuitively valid to
suggest that the first skills listed are among the first that occurred to the instructors.
Accordingly, when the first three response lines to this question are presented
separately (Table 3.2 and Figure 3.1), some differences in valuation can be noted. Logic
is the most frequently cited necessary skill (22% and 25%) while Research/references
drops from the first (university) and second (community college) most commonly cited
skills to the fourth (university) and fifth (college) positions while Thesis formulation rises
from fourth (college) and fifth (university) to second in both groups. At the same time,
the gap between university and community college instructors’ mentions of Basic
mechanics widens noticeably (9% to 17% respectively).
3.4.4 Problematic academic English skills
Question #4 provided five open-text lines of 100 characters each for instructors
to indicate which of the skills they had enumerated in response to Question #3 seemed
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most difficult for their students to master. The same coding schema (Table 3) was used
for the responses to Question 4 as was used for Question 3. According to university and
community college instructors (Table 4, Figure 4), the three most difficult skills for their
students to master are critical thinking, basic mechanics, and research and reference
skills. Basic mechanics are more important for college instructors (19%) than university
instructors (16%); at the same time, although the numbers are relatively small, there is
an indication that the character traits and attributes grouped under Other are almost as
concerning to university instructors as are their students’ abilities to structure
compositions (7% and 10% respectively).
Table 4: Problematic Academic English Skills
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research/references
Style
Process
Other
Indeterminate
Community college
20% (58)
11% (31)
9% (26)
19% (54)
19% (54)
14% (40)
3% (10)
3% (9)
2% (6)
Figure 4: Problematic Academic English Skills
University
17% (54)
12% (37)
10% (32)
16% (48)
19% (59)
12% (36)
4% (11)
7% (21)
4% (11)
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Table 4.1 and Figure 4.1 present the first three student problems listed by
instructors, critical thinking again is at the top of the list for both groups. For university
instructors, Logic is essentially tied with Research/reference (both at 19% with only a
difference of two people) while, for community college instructors, basic mechanics is a
major concern (19% as opposed to 13% for university instructors).
Table 4.1: Problematic AE Skills – First 3
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research/references
Style
Process
Other
Indeterminate
Community college
21% (54)
12% (30)
8% (22)
19% (49)
17% (45)
14% (35)
4% (10)
3% (9)
2% (5)
Figure 4.1: Problematic AE Skills – First 3
University
19% (50)
14% (35)
9% (24)
13% (34)
19% (48)
11% (27)
4% (10)
7% (18)
4% (11)
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3.4.5 Student readiness
Question 5 asked how well the instructors felt their average students were
prepared, after completing the FYC sequence, to write “acceptable” academic papers in
subsequent classes. The choice responses for Item #5 were “unprepared,” “somewhat
prepared” and “well prepared.” The response categories were purposely broad since, it
was reasoned, the average student is either prepared or not, while the phrases
“somewhat prepared” and “somewhat unprepared” are redundant.
Table 5: Student Readiness
Unprepared
Somewhat prepared
Well prepared
Community college
5% (6)
69% (77)
25% (28)
University
3% (3)
72% (78)
25% (27)
Figure 5: Student Readiness
The self-assessments of the outcomes of programs in colleges and universities
are similar, with the overwhelming majority stating that average students are somewhat
prepared to write academic papers after completing the composition sequence at their
institutions. Basically, both groups assess their students as equally prepared for writing
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in other classes, 25% judging their students to be well prepared and only a small
percentage (3-5%) believing the average student ill-prepared.
3.4.6 Suggested changes
Question 6 provided instructors with an open-text box (2,000 characters) for
their responses to the hypothetical question of what they would do to improve student
outcomes if they were put in charge of FYC programs at their institutions.
Table 6: Suggested Changes
A. Redirect focus of instruction
B. Standardize grading practices/clearly define course criteria
C. Improve qualifications of instructors
D. Provide a longer writing sequence
E. Require placement exams/provide remedial classes
F. Other
G. Place greater emphasis on basic mechanics/comp structure
H. Reduce class size
I. Change amount of writing/revision
J. Include current technology
K. Emphasize critical thinking
Total
Figure 6: Suggested Changes
66
35
28
24
22
21
19
19
13
9
8
264
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There were 191 responses to Question 6 (Appendix H). Of these, 172 were
classifiable while 19 were nonresponsive to the question and were designated N/A. A
few of these 19, simply answered “none.” Others were generally positive about their
existing programs. The following quote is representative:
The academic reading & writing program is excellent, & I am very happy with
how this program is run. There are plenty of teaching resources and plenty of
extra assistance for any student that wants more help (#3).
The remaining 172 were less sanguine. As was true of the answers to Questions
3 and 4, many of these classifiable responses fit into more than one group and so were
counted in more than one category, thus yielding a total of 264 classified and counted
response types.
For purposes of clarity in presentation, I have labeled Categories A through K in
descending order of their frequencies in Table and Figure 6 above; however, for
purposes of discussion, the following sections do not follow the same sequence.
Categories K & J: Emphasize critical thinking & Include current technology
Although the students’ need for instruction in basic mechanics is reflected in a
majority of responses to Question 6, the equal or greater perceived importance of
logic/critical thinking evidenced by instructors’ responses to Questions 3 and 4 is
unexpectedly underrepresented. Only eight responses were grouped in Category K
(emphasize critical thinking) placing it last in terms of classifiable suggestions for
improvements in instruction while it was among the first in terms of both necessary AE
skills and perceived student needs. The reasons for this are unclear; however, it might
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be suggested that instructors’ believe at least a degree of proficiency in basic mechanics
is foundational to the ability to express logic/critical thinking in written work.
For different reasons, I was also interested to see that the inclusion of
instruction in the use of current technology (Category J) was only mentioned by nine
respondents. On the most basic level, spelling and grammar checkers, and bibliographic
form software are widely available and frequently misused by students (from whence
comes the title of this dissertation); while computer-assisted literature searches and the
incorporation of visuals are now both givens in academic research. Again, one can only
speculate on the reasons the use of current technology was not mentioned more often
by the respondents: their own relative lack of expertise, a perception that their students
are already familiar with what is available, limited access to the technology at their
institutions, limited class time, or simply, because technology was lower on their list of
priorities than other factors.
Category B: Standardize grading practices & Clearly define/standardize course
objectives
The 35 Category B responses reflect the instructors’ perceptions that both they
and their students would benefit from an explicit consensus on what the specific
objectives of the FYC sequence are. The following four comments are representative.
I might have some type of more formal departmental review of research papers
at the last level in our sequence both to norm what we all view as acceptable
and to more clearly define for the students what is acceptable” (#146).13
I would further clarify the differences between Composition I and II so that clear
13
The numbers appearing in parentheses following quotations are provided for reference to Appendix H.
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and different objectives could be met” (#127).
I would work to standardize the curriculum across all sections of composition. It
would enable us to build on knowledge we know students would have been
exposed to in previous courses. This would encourage all of the instructors to
work together to build the best curriculum (#159).
I would standardize criteria for expected competencies at each level of
composition and critical reading and writing. As it now stands, there is much
subjectivity involved in interpreting the “goals” of each level of freshman English.
Subsequently, students sometimes repeat or entirely miss skills necessary for
success in college. It is helpful to be able to select textbooks, create assignments
and syllabi without department oversight, but clearer guidelines as to expected
outcomes would be most helpful (#173).
It would appear that there is little or no general discussion of or agreement on
what FYC course objectives are and, as it entails the inability to standardize grading
practices, no general agreement on how to assess student outcomes. Overall, the
Category B responses imply that FYC instructors perceive a lack of communication
between themselves and their colleagues, and between themselves and the
administrators of their programs.
Category C: Improve qualifications of instructors
The lack of communication among colleagues is also reflected in the 28
comments directly relating to the qualifications of their fellow FYC instructors. Adjunct
instructors and teaching assistants were particularly mentioned. Two examples are
provided as illustration.
I would want to pay our adjunct instructors more (with the current wage we
can’t get many competent people), and I would require them to have ongoing
instruction in composition pedagogy. Just because someone has an advanced
degree in English doesn’t mean that person has any clue how to teach it (#148).
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I would work to create a sense of responsibility to students among teaching
assistants. TA’s at my institution are all too ready to believe that our freshmen
are dumb, disinterested, and not worth excessive energy and attention. As a
result, many composition classes are dumb, uninteresting, and not worth
excessive energy and attention! (#112).
At the same time, wide differences in theoretical orientation are also evident as
the following examples show.
Hire a Rhet/Comp expert to guide the faculty (#51)
I would … make sure all new hires had real English degrees which required a
thesis of some length to be attained so as to minimize the sometimes pernicious
influence (with all their theoretical silliness and talk of learning communities and
writing across the curriculum) of those with English Education or Rhet-Comp
degrees … (#101).
Again, what is evident in the Category C responses is the distance between
colleagues, a distance sometimes expressed with clear frustration.
Categories E & G: Require placement exams/provide remedial classes &
Place greater emphasis on basic mechanics/comp structure
Although the responses discussed above expressed a degree of uncertainty
about what FYC course content should be, the 22 responses grouped under Category E
were clear on what the instructors felt was important and on why they felt the
suggested changes were critical; i.e., FYC students lack the prerequisite ability to
produce SWE (Standard Written English), making stand-alone AE instruction in the first
semesters of college next to impossible.
Our university currently has neither ESL nor remedial writing courses, nor do we
have a writing center. Given the average level of preparation that our students
have (which is low), given the increasing number of transfer/non-traditional
students at our institution (about 60% of our enrollment), and given the
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increasing number of international/ESL students at our institution, implementing
these three additions would be very helpful (#117).
I would raise the requirements for admittance into English 101 and offer needed
remedial grammar classes. (#168).
I would require a higher competency level from remedial English classes (English
90) before allowing the students to move into English 101 … (#173).
All my students seem to have passed high school in a daze. Most don’t read and
have no instinctual, automatic grasp of written English. I think I would require
noncredit English (100) for all students (#185).
Reflecting the same concerns, 19 instructors stated that, rather than raising
placement requirements or sending students into remedial courses, more emphasis
should be placed on basic skills instruction in FYC classes (Category G).
I would reduce the quantity of required writing during the first semester to
devote more time to language skills and paragraph development (#31).
If students cannot master the basics of sentence structure, paragraph structure,
and essay organization, understanding various rhetorical forms is useless (#42).
Students still need to spend more time on coherence and grammar. If they don’t
have the tools, they can’t do the trade (#139).
The general perception among these respondents is that their students are
underprepared for postsecondary writing instruction and require additional help. The
same perception apparently motivates the two suggestions below.
Categories D & H: Provide a longer writing sequence & Reduce class size
The responses placed into Categories D and H were cohesive in opinion; that is,
as the labels indicate, no one expressed the opinion that fewer hours should be devoted
to FYC or that class sizes be increased. The 24 comments which called for a longer
85
writing sequence provided similar explanations for the perceived need for change. The
following are representative.
Three hours a week for 16 weeks is not enough time to give these students the
skills necessary for college success (#39).
Two semesters is not enough to correct years of poor instruction. I know this
sounds as though I am slamming the high school teachers, but I started off as a
high school teacher and I know what needs to be done (#16).
The solution I’ve argued for – unsuccessfully – is a two-semester sequence: a
first semester of critical reading and discussion (with writings focused more on
summary of readings), and a second semester of argumentative writing. I don’t
think that our program is doing things “wrong,” only that it’s damn hard to get
all of our objectives “right” in a mere 15 weeks (#141).
I’d add a third semester of required composition class. In the final semester,
students would continue to hone the skills they’d developed earlier and would
emphasize developing their own clear style as well as writing for different
audiences (#128).
The Group D responses call for institutional changes that would allow more time
for FYC instructors either to address students’ inadequate preparation for basic college
writing (also reflected in the 22 Category E responses discussed above which called for
stricter placement requirements and the addition of remedial classes) or to provide
additional instruction in specific types of writing (e.g., argumentation) and in genre
recognition.
Lack of adequate time is also a factor in the 19 responses grouped in Category H
(smaller class sizes). In these comments, however, it is not general class topics that the
instructors mention; rather, it is their inability to give individual students enough
attention.
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Smaller classes! It’s impossible to give high-quality feedback on each paper
when there’s eighty or so at a time (#108).
Ideally, class sizes would be smaller to give more time for individual feedback
(#17).
Keep class size low so as a teacher I can devote more time to individual
instruction through tutoring and conferencing about their written work (#19).
The first thing I would change is reducing the class size to 15 students or less.
Smaller class sizes would allow more individualized attention and help
instructors to concentrate on each student’s abilities and weaknesses (#77).
It might be suggested that feedback and individualized instruction/attention in
the above representative examples of Category H refer to separate motivations for
reducing class size, with feedback referring to the instructors’ ability to provide
adequate written comments on students’ work, and individualized instruction/attention
referring to in-person interactions such as conferencing and tutoring. For the purposes
of this study, however, the distinction is moot; providing written feedback in a writing
class – suggestions for revision, editing, etc. – is one of the most common forms of
individualized instruction.
In these terms, it is daunting to picture the average FYC instructor workload.
Eighty student papers of, conservatively, five pages each translates to an instructor’s
receiving four-hundred pages of student writing each time an assignment is completed.
With reference to the skills listed by the instructors as most critical to AE proficiency, in
addition to correcting basic mechanics, they are reading and grading students on
evidence of critical thinking, formulation of theses, research and citation skills, and
87
appropriate composition structure. In addition to this, instructors feel it important to
provide individualized comments on their students’ work. As can be seen from a
number of the other Category H comments (and as will become even more evident in
the following chapter of instructor interviews), this presents an overwhelming workload,
one most bitterly felt by adjunct instructors who often are paid an hourly wage based
on the number of hours they are in class and are not paid for grading or other class
preparation.
Category I: Change amount of writing/revision
Thirteen instructors addressed the amount of writing and revision that should be
required; however, there was a difference in opinion among them with six instructors
explicitly calling for fewer writing assignments – understandable in light of the
discussion above – and four calling for more, while three called for increasing the
amount of required revision without specifically referencing the amount of original
student writing that should be assigned.
Group A: Redirect focus of instruction
By far the largest number of comments (66) either directly reflected or contained
an element reflecting dissatisfaction with the current FYC instructional focus at the
respondents’ institutions; however, the suggestions made to redirect and improve upon
that focus were conflicting. Thirteen of these comments specifically mentioned
changing the texts used in the FYC sequence.
I think that I would use a different text book for Freshman Composition. As a
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whole our department uses "Writing Analytically" by Rosenwasser and Stephens
and my students find it incredibly difficult to understand (#6).
I'd select one good reader with a lot of sample essays and keep the Norton Field
Guide we've been using and scrap the rest of the supplementary materials
students are required to buy at my school (#101).
Allow faculty, in conjunction with the library and resources management, [to]
prepare their own textbooks from handouts and readings they are likely to use,
rather than using proscribed texts that may or may not work with the teacher's
philosophy (#183).
Twelve others implied that text changes were necessary, stating that they
recommend incorporating WAC principles and genre recognition by assigning writing
and reading based on material from classes in other disciplines.
The second mandatory year should be dedicated to writing across the curriculum
(writing for the sciences, humanities, social sciences and business) (#25).
I would … seek to place students in composition classes in cohorts based on their
major / other interests. Composition instructors could then more specifically
develop the skills that the students will need in their later classes and career
(#34).
Reading and writing might be taught best in conjunction with a course for
another discipline. Students would learn the content in biology, for example, the
reading teacher would work with them on reading to learn and researching, and
the composition teacher would work with them on demonstrating learning
through writing (#107).
I would pair Writing classes with subject matter classes. A writing class could be
paired with Psychology. In this case, the Psychology class would have numerous
writing assignments and the writing process for those assignments would take
place in the Writing class (#184).
An additional eighteen comments also allude to text changes; however, the
stress in these comments is placed on changing the types of reading and writing
89
prompts students are given. Interestingly, this group is split almost in half between
those (8) who feel it important to focus specifically on academic writing to the exclusion
of expressiveness and those (10) who feel it more important to emphasize student selfexpression and creativity than to focus on traditional argumentation. The examples
below illustrate these contrasting positions.
Redevelop the composition 1 course so that it is more of an academic writing
course. The course we offer now is more of a psychology course that focuses on
the student’s ‘self development’ through writing rather than learning the tools of
academic writing (#50).
Too many students and instructors believe that they are teaching creative,
touchy-feely personal types of writing. We need to create business and
professional communicators not getting in touch with self (#160).
Successful writers, in spite of their occasional failures, will find that writing will
allow them to achieve what Maslow calls self-actualization. Successful writing
will usually involve both personal and intellectual growth. (#152)
Many nonfiction essays are fine, but nothing gets a conversation going like a
great piece of fiction. With fiction, you can get into the big questions -existential questions about life and making meaning -- that students, especially
students on the brink of adulthood, deal with on a daily basis (#169).
Five more instructors indicated that, rather than shifting from one focus to
another, the field of study should be widened; an illustrative example is:
… rather than teaching to an “argument paper,” I would prefer that students
learn about rhetorical situations and audiences, skills that can help them write a
traditional argument paper, yes, but that can also help them design a web site,
create a visual presentation, write a speech, or interview for a job (#30).
Finally, there were twenty comments that stood alone. These ranged from
pragmatic suggestions, such as: “reduce the amount of time in class on peer review
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(#80),” “… require a library component taught by librarians” (#93) and “[f]ind a better
way of providing books to students, since textbook costs are so high” (#124) through
suggesting the adoption of specific pedagogic approaches as in the following three
examples.
The Traditional Workshop approach to teaching students would be implemented
because students need to interact systematically with their writing and critical
thinking, instead of merely creating hit or miss outcomes (#143).
Emphasize the process-oriented approach to the teaching of composition, which
I have been using successfully since 1974 (#172).
I would encourage the other faculty to teach their composition classes using the
Writing Workshop model … (#175).
Finally, in this group were several unique and ambitious suggestions for
improving FYC student motivation.
I would FIRST provide a broad cultural overview of human development in four
areas to all students, and in this order: anthropological -- historic social -- historic
political -- present global (#136)
Prioritize the direct connection and communication of beginning composition
skills, assignments, topics, and rhetorical modes to students’ ability to think,
create, communicate, and therefore succeed in college, in their professional
goals, and in life. Illuminate the relevance of students’ writing! (#7).
In general, the Group A responses were interesting both in terms of their
number (66) and in terms of their lack of agreement on many points. It would seem
that there is a shared perception among instructors that FYC classes at their institutions
could be improved, a perception also supported by the majority who answered
Question 5 by saying that their students were only somewhat prepared for academic
writing after completing the composition sequence. At the same time, there is no
91
apparent agreement on how best to achieve that improvement and, in a number of
instances, their suggestions are diametrically opposed.
Other (Group F)
Finally, a number of the comments were either completely or partially unique:
many speaking more to the respondent’s frustrations with their colleagues, their
institutions and the economics of education than to possible improvements in the
classroom. In a number of these, a degree of hopelessness was apparent.
I'd try to get administrators and other faculty to understand what an incredibly
labor-intensive class comp is (#90).
More support for students -- financially and academically. When
students are working full-time job[s] and going to school full time, it's
impossible for them to spend the time on school that they need (#108).
As long as we're looking at the bottom line of dollars instead of a quality
education, we will not be able to effect such changes. Education is an
investment, not a revenue stream. People (even educators) find this idea
difficult to process in today's national climate of declining state support for
public education. (#82).
Summarizing the results of the responses to Question 6, many FYC instructors
express the feeling of being overwhelmed by large classes, unprepared students and the
lack of clear direction as to what course content should be and on how student
outcomes should be assessed, sharing the perception that there is inadequate
communication between themselves and their colleagues on these issues. This lack of
communication is also reflected in the many comments that clearly question their
colleagues’ teaching qualifications (most particularly those of adjunct instructors and
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teaching assistants) and, although the respondents offer suggestions on pragmatic
changes, such as hiring new faculty, choosing new texts or changing teaching
approaches, there is no general agreement on what types of hiring, texts or new
approaches should be adopted.
Many similarly discuss a lack of communication with and direction from
administrators in terms of course content and assessment methods, with a significant
number expressing the belief that these administrators – as well as faculty in other
departments – do not value what FYC instructors do and do not understand how hard
they work.
The general impression one receives is of a group of highly committed, teaching
professionals who feel as if they have been left on their own to teach a subject they
know is critically important to student success but that they (and/or their colleagues)
are, for a number of reasons, blocked from teaching well.
3.4.7 Employment status
Question 7 asked each instructor to describe his or her teaching position as
either teaching assistant, adjunct faculty member or full-time faculty member. The
responses (Table 7 and Figure 7) suggest that, while it is equally likely that an adjunct
faculty member will be found teaching FYC at either a community college or a university,
it is less likely that a university’s FYC class will be taught by a full-time faculty member
than that a community college FYC class will be. A bias in the sampling method,
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however, makes it possible that both TAs at universities and adjunct faculty at
community colleges are underrepresented in this study. Course schedules are usually
prepared at least six months in advance, at which time unassigned classes are
commonly listed as taught by “Staff.” TA’s and short-term or newly hired adjunct
faculty tend to be assigned classes much closer to the beginning of the term; therefore,
their names do not appear in the schedules. Since potential participants’ names were
selected from those schedules, full-time faculty and long-term adjunct faculty were
more likely to be solicited for participation than those in the two other categories at the
same institutions.
Table 7: Employment Status
College
TA
Adjunct Faculty
Full-time Faculty
0.9% (1)
32.4% (36)
66.7% (74)
Figure 7: Employment Status
3.4.8 Formal education
University
13.9% (15)
29.6% (32)
56.5% (61)
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Question 8 requested a description of formal academic training, providing five
choices: “English literature,” “English composition,” “Creative writing,” “ESL” and
“Other.” If the instructor chose “Other,” he or she was asked to elaborate in the
provided open-text line.
Table 8: Formal Education
English literature
English composition
Creative writing
ESL
Other (please specify)
Community college
49.5% (55)
19.8% (22)
15.3% (17)
0.9% (1)
14.4% (16)
University
38.0% (41)
24.1% (26)
11.1% (12)
7.4% (8)
19.4% (21)
Figure 8: Formal Education
Table 8 and Figure 8 indicate that formal training in composition pedagogy is not
a critical requirement for FYC instructors; only 48 overall list their major field of study as
composition while eight mention training in composition under other. The majority of
FYC instructors at both universities and community colleges indicate their major focus to
be literature and/or creative writing; with eighteen including literature and/or creative
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writing under other. Journalism, psychology, family therapy, anthropology, music,
education policy, “social science” and law majors are also listed.
It might be suggested that the diverse educational backgrounds of the
respondents is at least a possible explanation for the disparate views and tensions
evident from their responses to Question 6 above. It should be noted, however, that no
clear correlations were apparent between the respondents’ stated educational
backgrounds and their suggestions for ways to improve AE instruction.
Table 8.1: Formal Education (Other)
College
Literature, linguistics and creative
writing
Journalistic writing, English Comp, and
creative writing
English lit, composition, and creative
writing
I am equally trained and teach
Composition, English Literature, and
Creative Writing
Professional writing
Rhetoric
Journalism and Mass Communication
Writing and education
American Literature
English Literature and Linguistics
Communication
Language studies/language acquisition
American literature
Rhetoric
University
linguistics, some ESL teaching experience
Economics
Creative writing, as well as literature in
English
I focused on academic and creative
writing.
documentary editing, American literature,
creative nonfiction
Rhetoric and Design, specifically
visual/verbal rhetoric
Composition and remedial composition
Rhetoric and Professional Communication
Marriage and family therapy
Creative Writing AND English literature
Creative writing M.F.A. and Literature
M.A.
Literary theory
English Literature, Clinical Psychology, and
Education (including special education)
Professional / technical communication +
Composition
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Have JD, have written nonfiction books
World Literature
My PhD is in Lit, but one of my minor fields
of study was composition and rhetorical
theory and I was trained in composition
pedagogy as a TA.
PhD in Curriculum, Teaching, and
Education Policy
Rhetoric and Composition
Social Science
English and Commonwealth Literature and
Rhetoric and Composition
All of the above
music/anthropology
3.4.9 Postsecondary teaching experience
Question 9 presented four multiple choices for the instructors’ postsecondary
English teaching experience: less than 2 years, between 2 and 5 years, between 5 and 10
years, and more than 10 years.
The majority of respondents from both types of institutions have been teaching
for more than ten years (Table 9 and Figure 9). The relatively large number of people
teaching composition classes for less than two years in universities is accounted for by
the fifteen university TA’s who responded to the survey. At the same time, course
schedules not listing short-term or newly hired adjuncts (the sampling bias mentioned
above in conjunction with the results of Question 7) might have caused the average
experience level of composition instructors to appear greater in this study than it
actually is. In short, not counting teaching assistants, the years of postsecondary English
teaching experience of university and community college instructors who responded to
the survey are roughly equivalent; however, nothing further can be generalized from
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the answers to this question.
Table 9: Postsecondary Teaching Experience
Less than 2 years
Between 2 and 5 years
Between 5 and 10 years
More than 10 years
Community college
3.6% (4)
16.2% (18)
27.9% (31)
52.3% (58)
University
13.9% (15)
17.6% (19)
14.8% (16)
53.7% (58)
Figure 9: Postsecondary Teaching Experience
3.4.10 Professional books and journals
Question 10 asked the instructor to indicate how often he or she read books or
journals related to FYC instruction. Four frequency choices were provided: “never,”
“rarely,” “sometimes” and “often.” Although the lines between the last three
categories are highly subjective, it was felt that more typical frequency categories (e.g.,
once a year, two or more times/year, once a month) might force the respondents to
choose between what are possibly non-representative options; that is, subjective, in
relation to this question, was adjudged superior to false.
Unexpectedly, community college instructors report that they read professional
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journals somewhat more often than university instructors. Given the fact that the
university FYC sample includes fifteen teaching assistants, it might be expected that, as
graduate students, they would read professional books and articles more often as part
of their coursework and, hence, would have driven up the university numbers; this is,
however, not the case. A cross-tab run between Questions 7 and 10 indicates that the
university TAs in the sample report that they read professional journals with somewhat
less frequency than university faculty (31.25% to 24% rarely; 43.75% to 44.44%
sometimes; 25% to 31.48% often).
Table 10: Professional Books and Journals
Community College
Frequency
Never
Rarely
Sometimes
Often
0% (0)
17% (18)
53% (58)
30% (33)
University
0% (0)
24% (26)
44% (48)
31% (34)
Figure 10: Professional Books and Journals
The probable explanation for this was found when a correlation was found
between the answers to Questions 7 and 8; i.e., the majority of TAs are literature majors.
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The time they have to devote to professional reading is most likely spent in reading
literature and not FYC instruction journals.
Given the subjective categories provided the respondents (as discussed above),
it is difficult to attach much meaning to these findings at this point; however, I would
suggest that it might be interesting to ask a similarly phrased question of a group of
university and college instructors in another discipline and to compare the two samples.
3.4.11 Additional comments or observations
Question 11 consisted of a 2,000 character open-text box available for any
additional instructor observations. It was assumed that responses to this item would, in
all likelihood, be so broad as not to permit categorization, coding and analysis for
subsequent discussion; however, it seemed important to provide space for feedback on
this study, clarification of previous answers, complaints, insights or any other matters
the instructors wished to address.
There were 75 responses to this item (Appendix I). Many offered comments on
the study; others clarified responses made to previous questions while still others
offered their observations related to instructor working conditions, postsecondary
education in general and professional journals. These were left unclassified; however,
some clear tendencies are evident.
A number of instructors expressed the opinion that, no matter what happens in
the FYC classroom, students are unable to succeed because they lack the necessary
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preparation. As was true in the comments attached to suggestions for FYC
improvement (Question 6 above), the lack of student preparation was mentioned
frequently; however, in these responses, the general tenor shifted away from “what can
be done” to “what is wrong” and “who is to blame.” A number assigned public schools
the responsibility for students’ poor writing skills:
I have seen a significant drop in the ability to write effectively over the past ten
years. My concern is that these students do not learn how to write throughout
their years in public school anymore (#8).14
… too many of my students don’t really know how to do homework. Evidently,
they have never had to sit still by themselves and focus on something for more
than about 10 minutes (#40).
Others ascribed inadequate student preparation to increased student diversity,
open admissions policies, and poor placement and testing policies:
The number of students with language issues has grown exponentially. Many
have disabilities; some speak English as a second language; some have never had
their writing thoroughly examined and evaluated (#25).
We can’t turn away the students who are unprepared so they wind up failing the
course (#66).
Administrators are allowing more unqualified students into composition classes
via testing and placement. Students that belong in developmental classes are
placed in freshman composition (#47).
The majority of complaints, however, centered around the policies and politics
of administrations perceived by the respondents to be more focused on the economic
bottom line than on education. The following statement is illustrative:
I find that increasingly, state institutions are being dictated to and governed
14
Reference number to Appendix I
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from above. The administrative pressures are not student centered. I am
required to attend meetings where students are referred to as “customers,” and
are expected to pass without sufficient competency. I teach a blue collar
student body and I am convinced that the system wants to only train these
people as workers, rather than thinkers (#21).
These same policies are seen as directly affecting faculty working conditions with
a number of respondents stating that they cannot live on what they earn. A full-time
instructor spoke of the increasing use of part-time (adjunct) faculty in community
colleges, stating that:
Acknowledging that almost all colleges and universities are relying more and
more on part-time instruction does not ease the burden on these wellintentioned instructors who often work at three or more different institutions to
make little more than minimum wage (or poverty-level) with the same
credentials as full-time faculty. Add to this, the growing bloat of administrative
positions and support staff (at our institution, this ratio to that of full-time
faculty is approaching 3:1) and the future of public higher education, particularly
that of community colleges, looks bleak (#69).
In universities, the increasing reliance on teaching assistants over trained
education professionals was similarly ascribed to the institutions’ desire to pay faculty
as little as possible:
Composition courses have shifted out of the hands of professors and into the
hands of graduate students, who will do the same work for a pittance (#43).
Along with receiving minimal compensation, instructors noted that the
expectations placed on them are increasing, to the detriment of their students:
Since administrators expect us to produce magical outcomes with more than 120
writing students a semester, I don’t expect any changes in a system with
decreasing funds and increasing expectations (#57).
When you have to teach 3-4 sections of composition, which means you have 60-
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80 papers coming in at a time, timely and effective feedback always suffers (#64).
In general then, many of those who responded with additional comments
echoed sentiments expressed in a number of the answers to Question 6. Poor
student preparation, poor placement policies and poor administration were
commonly mentioned. If anything, however, these responses seemed to show
more disaffection and less hope for future positive change.
3.5 Conclusion
The overall impression from a review of the survey data is that there is a great
deal of similarity in university and community college instructors’ levels of teaching
experience and professional training as well as in their perceptions of the most
important composition skills. Students’ abilities to write correct, standard English, to
structure traditional essays, to evaluate arguments, and to gather and cite traditional
academic proof are cited as among the most critical and the most problematic of these.
They express the idea that students are inadequately prepared but attribute this lack of
preparedness to a number of causes ranging from poor K-12 English instruction through
student attitudes to institutional failures at the postsecondary level.
The shared majority opinion is that average students are only “somewhat
prepared” for academic writing after completing postsecondary composition sequences
and the majority of instructors suggest changes to improve those sequences, among
these: smaller class sizes, more instruction time, more clarity in teaching objectives,
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more consistency in grading, and more stringent placement requirements.
A number of the instructors express frustration with their students, their
colleagues, their departments and their institutions. They mention feeling
overwhelmed, overworked and, largely, undervalued; at the same time, however, there
is not the level of disaffection one might expect; as noted, they make thoughtful
suggestions for improving composition instruction, and; in general, seem to value both
their students and their students’ rights to a quality education.
At the same time, there appears to be a degree of disarray in the field.
Professional training in composition instruction is relatively infrequent with the majority
of respondents indicating that their own major educational focus is literary criticism
and/or creative writing. It should be acknowledged that the stated focus on writing
skills on the questionnaire begs the question of whether or not successful academic
writing should be defined solely by the prescribed use of aggregated elements,
independent of content. As one respondent wrote:
[f]raming writing as the acquisition and deployment of skills, however necessary
those skills are, ultimately reduces writing to something that is analogous to prefab housing. It is serviceable and successful, but only in the most limited way,
one which impoverishes the classroom. That being said, I also recognize that
difficulty that comes with trying to teach writing as something more than a
collection of skills (Appendix H, #152).
Most striking in this context are the variety of suggestions the instructors make
for redirecting the focus of composition instruction at their institutions to improve
student outcomes: for example, change to literature-based instruction, change to non-
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literature based instruction, emphasize creativity and personal development, emphasize
argumentation and professional writing, focus on the genres required in other
disciplines, focus on the writing necessary for non-academic purposes, assign more
writing, assign less writing. In short, while they largely agree on where they and their
students should be going, they generally disagree on the best way to get there.
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CHAPTER 4: INTERVIEWS – METHODOLOGY AND RESULTS
4.1 Introduction
In March 2011, I met individually with four AE instructors from two
postsecondary institutions in Arizona; subsequent meetings took place during the
winter break in 2013 after the preliminary analysis of the responses to the on-line
questionnaire was completed. Two of the instructors were teaching colleagues; the
other two were recruited as potential informants by one of the initial contacts. Each of
the four has eight or more years experience teaching English at private and public
postsecondary institutions in the United States and abroad.
The purpose for the initial interviews was twofold: first, before composing the
questionnaire for use in the on-line survey, to obtain a preliminary idea of FYC
instructors’ qualifications for and commitment to AE instruction, their levels of
involvement with curricula design and textbook choices, and their perceptions regarding
their levels of success in helping students achieve AE proficiency; second, because
reactions to the questionnaire results could potentially add valuable detail to the data,
and in order to form relationships with the four that would not only set the stage for
future interviews once the results were compiled but would also encourage them to
approach colleagues about agreeing to interviews at that time. For this last reason,
although all four were asked to choose convenient times and locations for the meetings,
it was suggested that informal settings would be preferable.
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In 2013, after the survey results had been received and reviewed, second
meetings were arranged with the first four informants; at that time, three additional
instructors had been recruited by one of the initial four. Informal settings were again
the venue. Prior to the 2013 meetings, all seven FYC instructors were provided with
copies of the questionnaire (Appendix A), the respondents’ remarks (Appendices D-I),
and a preliminary summary of the survey data. The purpose for this set of interviews
was to gain additional clarification and in-person reactions to the survey findings.
One week after the last of the 2013 interviews were concluded, the seven
informants were contacted by e-mail and asked to respond to one follow-up question
related to but not explicitly addressed by the on-line survey; that is, “[i]n your opinion,
what characteristics distinguish academic writing from standard written English?” This
final question was asked in an attempt to address an omission in both the survey and
interview procedures.
It should be noted that I have had social contact with six of the seven informants
(both individually and in groups) between the times of the meetings and
correspondence reported below, and the present. At times, our conversation has
turned to FYC instruction; however, outside of general queries about the progress of
this report, the research findings have not been discussed in depth.
4.2 Methodology
Although three of the seven instructors interviewed stated that they were
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unconcerned about being identified in this study, all have been assigned pseudonyms
based on the alphabetic designations A (Ann), B (Barbara), C (Carol), D (Donna), E (Ernie),
F (Frank) and G (Greg) and, for the same reason, some gender indicators have been
changed in the discussion below. Other potential identifiers (e.g., the name of specific
schools or colleagues) have been elided from quoted material and replaced with
brackets.
All interviews were taped and all words appearing either in quotation marks or in
offset paragraphs are taken directly from transcriptions of the recordings of those
interviews. Each meeting was approximately one-half hour to two hours in length and,
as might be expected, a great deal of information was recorded, much of it redundant
and/or extraneous to this report; accordingly, the choice of material to excerpt was
largely dictated by an attempt to ensure said material related to topics addressed by the
on-line survey.
4.2.1 Ann
I first met with Ann at a coffee shop off-campus. When the purpose of the
research had been explained, she expressed interest mixed with a certain amount of
skepticism about the possibility of change in the field, adding that she doubted anyone
cared what instructors had to say.
Ann is in her mid-forties and has held her full-time position in the same English
department for over fifteen years. She initially qualified for the position, she states,
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because she holds an advanced degree in English literature and had prior experience
teaching in EFL programs in Europe. She began teaching EFL because “it was a way to
earn some money” while traveling. The sole required qualifications for teaching English
abroad were her B.A. and her status as a native English speaker.
When she returned to the United States, she entered and completed a graduate
program in English literature. During that time, she stated, she never attended a class
dealing with FYC instruction; further, while she did and does read professional articles
relating to fiction writing and criticism (Ann is the author of two mystery novels and a
book of poetry), she is “not particularly interested” in articles published in journals
specifically concerned with FYC instruction. She currently teaches English Composition
to native English speakers.
When asked to discuss the skills she thought most important for her students to
master, Ann mentioned style and form. “But I concentrate on form because, frankly, I
don’t think you can teach style.” When pressed, she clarified.
I give them the basics … you know, don’t plagiarize, here’s what an MLA citation
looks like, here’s how to come up with a thesis statement, here’s how an essay is
structured … but, in my experience, the only way you learn to write in a specific
style is to read everything you can in that style. If they take what I’ve taught
them then do a lot of reading for their classes and model what they read, they’ll
be okay.
When asked if she felt students left her class prepared to write for other classes,
she responded “Like I said, they’re in better shape than when I first got them but, really,
it’s all up to them. I present the material. It’s up to them what they do with it.”
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She said that, although she rarely reads FYC related journal articles, thanks to a
conversation with a colleague, she had just finished reading a discussion of the
proposed “core language” guidelines. She said that the proposals sounded “good” since
one of the problems commonly encountered by composition instructors is poor student
preparation; however, she expressed doubt about how effective the program would be
since she believes it largely addresses outdated writing conventions.
When you see the way they [the students] write, it’s easy to think it’s hopeless
but they’re not stupid and they’re not illiterate. They’re literate in a completely
different way. They’re constantly texting. They take in information visually
faster than we ever did. Their thoughts are all over the place. Thinking isn’t
linear for them so when I’m talking about structuring a paragraph or avoiding
sentence fragments, they look at me like I’m trying to teach them Latin. And
maybe, in a way, I am. I tell them if they want good grades, here’s what they
have to do but, frankly, I can’t tell them why. It’s the old parental “because we
say so” and their automatic reaction is “oh yeah?”
Our second meeting took place in March 2013 at a restaurant off-campus. Ann
was given a copy of the preliminary findings from the on-line survey and a verbal
summary of the results. Again, she seemed interested but doubtful about the study’s
potential. “What do you think all this will accomplish? Aside from you getting a
doctorate, I mean.” When told that I hoped the study would, at a minimum, provide
classroom instructors with a chance to express their opinions and to find out what
others in their field thought and experienced, she, again, expressed doubt.
Ann then said that she personally is frustrated by the lack of communication
between FYC instructors and administration, and, more generally, the minimal input she
and her colleagues have in shaping the AE curriculum. She feels that the students only
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take the composition sequence as currently structured because they are required to do
so.
Most of them hate it because they don’t see the point. If I could, I’d split
composition away from English literature completely. The book for our entry
level class is an anthology of short stories and poems. So we’re giving students
writing assignments that are basically literary criticisms and trying to teach them
to appreciate the difference between a metaphor and a simile when most of
these kids want to be CGI artists and IT majors. What’s ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’
got to do with them? I’m a writer, okay? So it’s easy for me and I’m all for
liberal arts education. Maybe there should be a required lit class but it doesn’t
belong with composition. I’m supposed to be able to teach all these
unmotivated kids academic syntax and semantics, essay structure, how to do
MLA citations, and poetry appreciation. It can’t be done.
I asked how she would structure composition classes if they were, in fact, split
from literature.
The most important thing is to convince students that what we’re trying to teach
them is relevant, that it’s important to them personally. Then they’re invested in
learning. So, on the first day, I’d ask them what they plan to do at the university,
what they think their major will be. Many of them have a pretty good idea of
what it’s going to be. Then I’d base their assignments on their subject. I’d
choose a professional journal related to their majors and have them go on-line
and read an article a week, outline it and write a summary. That would get them
reading real academic writing. It would show them citation forms and how to
identify important points and show them the structure of an academic argument
and expose them to some specialized vocabulary. And there’s a chance it might
actually interest them.
I mentioned that I had read a number of articles related to academic genres in
preparation for the study and asked if she thought it might help if instructors from other
disciplines were involved in shaping the FYC curriculum. Ann laughed.
That’s all we need. Do you know what qualifies me to teach comp? My English
degree proves I’ve read a lot and I can write. That’s it. But that’s more than a lot
of people can say. How much do you think the average IT prof writes? I mean,
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come on.
Ann, an English literature major with over fifteen years of teaching experience,
has a profile very similar to that of the majority of the survey respondents and, in our
discussions, she commented on many of the same issues they had raised. She
expressed a high level of frustration over what she has experienced as a lack of
communication with administrators and only minimal input regarding her course
content. As is true for many of the instructors in the survey, Ann is less than happy with
her current text and, as is also true of them, she seems fairly skeptical about what
impact the opinions of instructors might have on FYC instruction.
Most interesting, however, is that, despite an initial show of diffidence evident in
statements about her students such as “they’ll be okay” and “it’s up to them what they
do with it,” once Ann warmed to the subject, she volunteered a number of interesting
ideas, suggesting that a modified genre approach in which writing instruction is based
on professional readings from disciplines related to students’ proposed majors would be
both more motivating and more relevant to her students than the current literaturebased instruction. She also touched on the different literacies of her students,
specifically mentioning their reliance on the visual, and their nontraditional thinking and
communication practices.
4.2.2 Barbara
The first interview with Barbara, an instructor in her mid-fifties, took place in a
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cafeteria on the campus where her classes are held. At that time, she had been working
for five years as an adjunct faculty member; that is, although she teaches three classes
each semester (the maximum instructional load for an adjunct instructor at her
institution), her contract is renewed each semester at the department’s discretion. Her
qualifications for teaching AE include an advanced degree in education, and over twenty
years combined experience teaching ESL at a community college in the Midwest and EFL
in Taiwan; the only required qualification for teaching EFL abroad was the status of
native English speaker although Barbara already held an advanced degree.
In graduate school she said that she “probably” read about teaching composition;
however, she does not remember any specific or general content. Because the focus in
her graduate studies was on education policy, she states, she does not recall taking any
classes that specifically dealt with composition instruction or with any classroom
practices.
Barbara currently teaches the second in a required two-class composition
sequence. She said, however, that many of her students are unable to formulate a
thesis, cannot construct a coherent paragraph and “are lost” when it comes to
structuring a composition. She does not feel that the two texts currently required by
the department are at all helpful. The first is a well-known writing handbook that,
according to her, it is over-priced and contains much more material than can be covered
in one semester. The second, newly adopted, consists of various articles on rhetoric
theory written by faculty and graduate students in her school’s English department. She
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said that these articles are not only “mindnumbingly boring,” but are also largely
incomprehensible to her students because they are riddled with “grad school jargon.”
This second text, she believes, was adopted only because it was written in-house, and is,
therefore, “a moneymaker.” She added that she is unable to justify the purchase of the
book unless she uses it in some fashion but that she finds this almost impossible to do.
Neither book, in her opinion, addresses the real problems the majority of her students
have in writing academic-grade compositions. Barbara said that she does not believe
the course, as currently constructed, helps her students’ writing improve at all.
Most of the time, a C student stays a C student, an A student stays an A student
and the failures keep failing. I could pretty much assign most of their final
grades after I read their first papers.
The second meeting took place over dinner at an outside restaurant. While we
waited for our food, she skimmed through a copy of the preliminary findings from the
on-line survey then tapped a section.
This is so true. About class size. I teach three sections this semester. It’s a
required course so each section has between twenty-five and thirty students
which means that every time I give them a writing assignment, I wind up with
about 100 papers to read and grade. Do the math. All I have time to look at,
basically, is whether or not their papers are even comprehensible. Never mind
things like logical arguments or good transitional phrases or vocabulary choices.
Concurring with a number of the survey respondents, Barbara said that she
believed the ideal class size would be no larger than fifteen. This would give her more
time to provide individual feedback and to address problem areas. She would also
change the ratio of ESL to native English speakers in the class. This currently stands at
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approximately 50-50, with the overwhelming majority of her ESL students coming from
the Chinese mainland.
Recently, she wrote a supplementary booklet on teaching FYC to Chinese
students. In the process, she read a number of professional articles, mostly dealing with
differences between academic rhetoric and argumentation in Chinese and American
postsecondary education. She stated that she found them “of limited applicability”
since the majority of published articles are written by researchers and theorists and not
by AE classroom instructors.
She said that, regardless of her booklet, there is still a “fiction in the
department” that, by the time foreign students enroll in her classes, they are capable of
producing the same level of written English as their first language English speaking
classmates. She is aware that there is a proficiency placement test for ESL students but
said that she does not know who composed or administers it, and has personally never
seen it.
In theory, I like the idea of not segregating them [foreign students]. The problem
is that the Chinese have completely different problems in their writing from the
Americans. They come from a totally different academic tradition. What we call
plagiarism is what they call good research. You find somebody authoritative and,
since they already said something important and said it well, why would you try
to say it in a different way?
Barbara said that, currently, “it’s like having two separate classes.” The Chinese
students stick together and, possibly in response, the Americans do the same. If the
proportion of Chinese students to Americans were lower, she feels there might be more
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incentive for interaction or, failing that, if the overall class size were lower, she would
have time to address the problems of both groups.
She went on to say that she would eliminate all mandates from “on high” that
have to do with composition instruction.
You have these people in the English Department who haven’t taught a comp
class in forever if at all. And they’re the ones making decisions about what we’re
supposed to teach and how we’re supposed to teach it. Why is that? I’ll tell you
what I think. Comp classes aren’t required because anyone in administration
really gives a shit about what the students learn. Education’s just a business now.
That’s why we’re stuck with the books we’re stuck with. The bookstore’s a
moneymaker. And that’s why the classes are overcrowded. If [school name] can
stick me with 150 tuition payers for the pittance I earn now, why cut it to fifty?
And if they make it more difficult for foreign students to squeak through … I
mean, if we keep them until they actually can write … they’ll lose foreign
enrollment to schools that don’t. It all comes down to money.
Outside of reducing class size and balancing the class profile, I asked what she
would suggest to improve student outcomes. Thanks to grade inflation, she told me,
the “outcomes look just peachy but, if you mean helping them learn how to write, I’d
say we adopt a good grammar text and drill them until they get it.”
Everybody quacks about student interest and creativity. But remember
memorizing multiplication tables? That’s not interesting but it’s something
everybody has to go through before they can go on. That’s school work. The
operative word is “work.” Self-discipline. You hold your nose and you do what
you have to do because it doesn’t matter how interesting or creative you’re
trying to be if nobody can figure out what the hell you’re trying to say.
In our meetings, Barbara shared the concerns expressed by many of the survey
respondents about FYC students’ lack of basic writing skills and about the use of
required texts that are not at all helpful. After reading the survey results, she also
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strongly agreed with the common perception that FYC classes are overcrowded and that,
as a result, the quality of instruction suffers.
Like Ann and like many who responded to the survey, Barbara complains about
the lack of communication in her department, most particularly a lack of communication
with administrators. Her frustration and anger are obvious as she describes what she
believes are the motivations of an education system that “doesn’t really give a shit
about what students learn,” ascribing overcrowded classrooms, poor texts and the
“pittance” she earns to the fact that “education’s just a business now.”
4.2.3 Carol
I first met with Carol in a coffee shop near her home. She, like Barbara, is an
adjunct faculty member and has been teaching nine to twelve units of English at the
same campus for over twelve years. When she was first hired, the preferred
qualifications were an advanced degree (in any field) and previous teaching experience.
Several years ago, her institution introduced the requirement of an advanced degree in
the field the instructor teaches; however, Carol, whose graduate degree is in
anthropology, was grandfathered in.
Her previous experience included teaching EFL for the United States Information
Service in Turkey (where the only requirement was that she be a native English speaker).
Subsequently, on the basis of that experience and her graduate degree, she was hired to
teach ESL at a state university in Southern California. She taught there for seven years
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before coming to Arizona.
When asked if she reads professional articles on teaching AE or has taken any
classes related to the subject, she laughed and responded:
Why? The only way to really learn to write is just do it and then have someone
who knows what good writing is guide you through the revision process.
Lecturing on writing is mainly a waste of time. It’s like lecturing on how to ride a
bicycle. You tell them how to put on the brakes and how to shift speeds. You
walk beside them and sort of help keep them up but pretty soon it’s time to turn
them loose and let them fall down a few times. Everything else is just b.s.
The text Carol currently uses to teach composition is an anthology of short
essays. Books are chosen by the head of the department and, in the fall semester, the
text was abruptly changed as one department head retired and another replaced him.
At the time, Carol was upset that she was not given enough lead time to properly plan
her class schedule; however, she is overall content with the change.
According to her, the new, larger text has so many selections that she is able to
choose the ones she finds most interesting; “… which isn’t saying much. Let’s say all
apples are boring. This is like choosing between a Red Delicious and a Granny Smith.”
When I asked if she would prefer to choose her own teaching material, she answered in
the affirmative.
[The text] is overpriced for what they get. Plus they’ll never use it again. There’s
a software workbook with comprehension and grammar drills, but that costs
another fifty bucks so I tell them not to buy it. Most of them work. They’re not
rich. I already use things from the [daily newspaper] and the [school newspaper],
news stories and things from the Op Ed page. It’s nonfiction. It’s interesting.
Last semester, we had a great discussion about that law allowing guns on
campus and I had them write Letters to the Editor arguing their opinions. We
edited the letters in class then submitted them to the [daily newspaper]. One
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got published! If it were up to me, I’d drop the book and just use newspapers
and magazine stories. When I was in California, I had a comp class write their
own newsletter. I was the editor. I assigned the stories. Sometimes they had to
interview other students. Sometimes they did surveys or research. Then, every
Friday, I’d get a batch printed up and we’d distribute them. They all had bylines.
Most of them really liked it and I really saw their writing improve.
She paused.
I did a presentation at a regional TESOL meeting and a lot of people seemed
really enthusiastic – other instructors, you know – but here we are, with every
school still using the same boring texts in the same boring ways. Nothing really
changes. You know, I’d probably read those journals you were asking about if
there was any chance I could use anything they have to say. But there isn’t.
My second meeting with Carol took place on campus between classes. After I
gave her the preliminary survey results, she requested a few days to read through them
before we talked further. I agreed and asked her to call when she was ready.
We met two weeks later at my home. Over coffee, Carol apologized for the
delay and explained that she had just finished the midterm grading crush and had finally
gotten around to reading the summary of the survey results. She told me she had been
particularly struck by two things in the summary. First, she said she agreed strongly that
critical thinking and sound argumentation are important components of academic
writing (“the most important, I’d say”) and that these components are not given enough
emphasis in composition texts.
… but a lot of comp teachers probably aren’t very good at it either. How many of
them have ever even constructed an argument of their own? Written, I mean,
outside of citing other people and pulling out passages to prove what Moby Dick
symbolizes or something like that. I mean, do they even know how to spot a
fallacy or evaluate evidence? Bet not.
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She added, however, that identifying and teaching the number of skills and processes
that go into producing a passable academic paper is an overwhelming proposition;
“[t]here’s too much to teach to too many in too short a time.”
Secondly, she said she was “pretty depressed” by the general tone of the survey
respondents’ comments. She felt that, although many seemed passionate about their
own classes, there was a general tone of futility when they discussed chances of
instructors affecting proposed program changes. She was particularly upset about what
she called the “blame game.”
What really got me was how many people said adjunct instructors are the
problem. I’ve got as much education and experience as most of them do. I’m
good at what I do. Better than a lot of full-time faculty. I substituted for this one
guy who had me give his students an open book quiz from the MLA handbook.
What’s the point of that? [School name] doesn’t hire full-time anymore because
they’d have to pay a living wage and provide benefits. And if you’re adjunct,
they can cancel your classes the day before they start if enrollment isn’t high
enough. Surprise! No job! The problem isn’t me. We don’t have meetings or
workshops or anything at [school name]. And even if we did, we wouldn’t get
paid for them so who would go? Nobody’s ever observed one of my classes.
Never. There are student evaluations but I seriously doubt that anyone ever
looks at them. I’ve never heard of anyone getting promoted or fired or getting a
raise based on performance. I don’t even know what good performance is
according to them. No. That’s a lie. At [school name], it means you show up on
time, you keep the students in the classroom for the designated amount of time,
and you never, ever cause a problem for the department head.
In our first meeting, Carol raised the common issues of dissatisfaction with
required texts and the perception that there is no effective communication between
instructors and administrators. At our second meeting, after she had reviewed the
survey responses, she expressed resentment over the fact that many survey
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respondents either implied or directly stated that adjunct faculty were less qualified
than full-time faculty to teach composition; a sentiment she believed is shared by
administrators as evidenced by adjunct faculty’s poor working conditions, lack of
professional development opportunities and lack of rewards for teaching excellence.
She reiterated that there is no communication between faculty (adjunct, at least) and
administrators.
Two days after our last interview, however, Carol telephoned me at home and
said that she had been “fired up” by our talk, and had met with the head of her
department to present him with her idea of teaching beginning composition from
newspaper and magazine articles. Much to her surprise, he was receptive and
suggested that, while the text would still be required, she might include some of the
new material in the fall. She was giddy with plans, leaving me more optimistic about
this undertaking than I had been.
4.2.4 Donna
At the time I first interviewed Donna, she had taught composition and creative
writing classes for an aggregate of eight years. She holds an advanced degree in Slavic
Studies (with a focus on linguistics) and, like Carol, was grandfathered in when the
college’s requirements for instructors were changed. She is a published fiction writer
who, before becoming an instructor in Arizona, first taught Russian language classes for
the U.S. government and, later, ESL classes at a private college in Southern California.
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Unlike the three instructors discussed above, Donna has never taught EFL and has never
been abroad.
Our initial meeting was over lunch at a café a few blocks from the school.
When I asked if she read professional journals on AE instruction, Donna responded
that she is less interested in teaching methodology than in creativity theory. Teaching
methodology, she believes, focuses on “endless” discussions of the pros and cons of
rubrics as contrasted with holistic grading, of workshopping versus lectures. She
admitted, however, that she had not actually read any of the articles; “[t]he truth is I
just don’t have the time.”
The textbook she uses was chosen by the head of the department at the campus
where she currently teaches. It is an anthology of poetry, short fiction and popular
essays. When asked if academic articles were included, she answered in the negative
and stated that “[w]e’re exposing them to some literature and we’re getting them to
practice academic writing by commenting on what they’ve read. That’s already a lot to
cover.”
In general, she said, her students show significant improvement over the
semester. In lectures, she focuses on genre recognition, on helping her students
recognize the ways in which various authors use the language to convey meaning and to
speak to specific audiences. She also emphasizes citation forms and the MLA style book
which they will be able to use for reference in later classes. I asked why she thought
MLA was more useful than any of the other academic citation forms (e.g., APA, Chicago)
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and she responded that MLA was the form required by the department; “[p]ersonally, I
could care less.”
In her opinion, the most important component of good student writing is
creative or original thought. “If they give me something to think about and say it in an
interesting way, they get high marks. All the rest is just mechanics. That’s what god
made writing labs for. I don’t have the time.”
Before our second interview, at Donna’s request, I e-mailed her a copy of the
survey results. A few days later, we met in a local dog park, sitting at a picnic table while
our dogs ran off-leash. Predictably, our conversation was interrupted a number of times;
where one of these interruptions occurred during a quoted section of the transcribed
tape, the break and related extraneous comments are indicated with an ellipsis
enclosed in brackets.
The first thing she said was that she had decided to quit teaching. She had been
doing part-time freelance writing for some time and had just landed a solid contract
writing daily blog posts for a real-estate investment firm. She had also finished a
collection of short stories that she planned to publish on Kindle. There was, she stated,
no security or opportunity for advancement at her institution. “In California, I made
good money but, after all these years, I’d make more as a cashier at Circle K than I get
teaching at [school name].” I asked if she’d miss the students and she laughed.
God, no. The poor bastards. Look at what [school name] is doing to them. They
keep raising tuition so they can pay incredible salaries to the administrators […].
What do any of them do? And do you know how much they earn? […] If you
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factor in class time, prep time, grading time, time spent meeting with students,
on-line time with students, the time I spend reading and dealing with school
memos, I’m making about $5.00 an hour. If that. […] That’s not just [school
name]. Like, did you ever buy a big bag of potato chips then you get it home and
open it and it’s half full of air? Well, that’s us. You and me and all those people
in your survey. We’re the two cents of potato chips packaged in a big, shiny bag
labeled “Education” and sold to students for thousands […] Anyway, it sucks. I
can’t do it anymore.
At that point, I turned off the recorder and Donna and I walked a few laps
around the park with the dogs. She told me she was sorry, that I had not asked for “a
rant” and she offered to meet again to discuss the survey results. I told her that I only
had one more question which was: thinking only of the courses she’d taught, did she
believe instructors could directly improve student writing and, if so, how. She asked for
a few minutes so we took the dogs to my house and sat out on the back porch. I turned
on the recorder again and, after a moment, Donna told me she thought the emphasis on
skills was completely wrong.
Most of them [the students] will never go to graduate school so they don’t have
to know that stuff. Outside of academics, things like semi-colons are as passé as
‘thee’ and ‘thou.’ And computers check grammar and spelling. And, if they ever
need it, there’s even bibliography software now. So lecturing about skills is like
making them learn how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together. Or how to
use a slide-rule. Remember those?
I asked if that meant she would do away with composition classes altogether.
She shook her head.
But I’d call it something else maybe, like just ‘Writing.’ I never understood why
creative writing is stuck off by itself. What other kind is there? Writing shouldn’t
be about narrowing people’s thinking and the way they express themselves.
Writing should help them expand their world and express what’s unique about
the way they see things. If I had a school, I’d want my students to use the
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language to imagine possibilities and to work through problems for themselves.
And screw the semi-colons.
Donna’s emphasis on student creativity over the acquisition of skills was
similar to the opinions expressed by a minority of the survey respondents. Unlike
the others I had interviewed and unlike many on the survey, she was also content
with her textbook and fairly sanguine about her students’ progress. The one
clear flash of anger in her comments came when she likened herself and other
educators to a product sold at hugely inflated prices to gullible consumers.
4.2.5 Ernie
Ernie, a man in his mid-thirties, was an ESL instructor at a university in another
southwestern state for two years before he and his partner relocated to Arizona in 2012.
He holds an advanced degree in English literature and, in Spring 2013, was teaching two
evening FYC classes mainly composed of students with, as he described it, “limited
English proficiency.” Two weeks after he had been given the survey summary, we met
on the patio at his apartment complex.
He told me initially that he was pleased so many FYC instructors had responded
in depth to the survey.
I liked reading what they had to say. It’s an important subject but there’s no one
to talk to. Not at [name of school]. I met some other teachers at a meeting at
the beginning of the semester but that’s it. Outside of [Carol], I don’t know
anybody in the department.
I asked about the department chairperson and he shrugged.
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I met the old one twice, once when I was hired and once at the meeting. Now
there’s a new one but I wouldn’t know her if I saw her. What are you going to do?
She’s gone by the time my classes start. She e-mails. The last time I heard from
her, it was about a textbook change next semester. [Carol] said that’s typical at
[school name]. When we get new presidents, they redecorate their offices and
when we get new department heads, they switch the comp books. The thing is, I
don’t even know if they’re going to have classes for me in the fall so I don’t know
if I’m supposed to try and get hold of a copy of the book or what.
When asked if he had felt as isolated in his previous teaching position, he replied
that, because his classes had been held on a smaller campus and because the university
had not been primarily a commuter school, there had been more opportunities to meet
with his colleagues. One of these, the department chairperson, had been an important
mentor for him.
I’d never taught an ESL class before but I figured, hey it’s [name of state] so I’ll
get a bunch of Spanish speakers and so, you know, no problem. Then I walk into
class that first day and there’s all these Chinese kids. What do I know about
Chinese? I panicked. But [mentor’s name] told me that the only thing I had to
worry about was getting them interested and keeping them that way. We got to
choose our own material and she used “Jurassic Park” – not Crichton but a
novelization of the movie written for like junior high school readers. So I used
the same book and it was great! There were all these great vocabulary words
like “slash” and “crimson” and “fangs,” and passages about gene splicing and
chaos theory. They loved it. Then, at the end of the term, we all watched the
movie and, thanks to the book, they understood most of it. So that’s the best
thing I ever learned about teaching. Get them interested and keep them that
way.
Ernie’s partner brought down beer and we took a break. When we resumed, the
sun was setting and the mosquitoes had appeared. “You know what I’m teaching this
semester?” Ernie asked.
[A]n anthology with Hamlet and short stories by Updike and Joyce Carol Oates
and Chekhov, for Christ’s sake. Even I think they’re boring and I’m a frigging lit
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major. What does a former African child soldier – I have one in my class – what
does he care about what some dead English guy had to say about a depressed
Danish prince? To be or not to be was never a question for him. He knows
there’s no dream connected with dying. You choke on your vomit and crap your
pants. He’s seen it.
I asked him what he would do differently if he were put in charge of the program.
“Change the book!,” he said. He added that he had noticed that no one answering the
survey had spoken in depth of faculty morale and commitment. Faculty, he noted, have
to be interested in what they are teaching before they can interest their students.
I’d have weekly meetings for all English teachers. Mandatory. Even if all we did
was sit down and drink some beer together and kick around ideas. Like we could
talk about our students, about what works and what doesn’t. Maybe come up
with some new ideas. Like maybe I’d have us try manga one semester. Every
student could pick their own. So, first, we’d have them write the stories they see,
put the pictures into words. Then maybe have them switch all the verbs into
another tense and change the pronouns from male to female and see how that
changes the story. Or write a different ending or a summary. We could try
different stuff. That’s what keeps teachers going. Good ones anyway. Once you
get stuck, convinced you’ve got the one and only way to teach, you’re dead.
I asked how he thought writing about manga frames would help his students
with academic work.
They do most of their communicating in writing already, thanks to the internet
so, if we can get them wanting to communicate ideas in a school context, if we
can get them interested and show them they’re capable of it, they’ll transfer that
excitement to other classes later.
The discussion with Ernie raised, once again, the common themes of lack of
communication between faculty, and between faculty and administrators. In Ernie’s
case, this lack was felt more strongly because he had come from an environment where
he had worked closely with the department chairperson who had become his mentor.
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Like so many of the survey respondents and the other instructors I had spoken to, Ernie
dislikes the required text, feeling that it demotivates his students because of its
irrelevance to their experiences. And, as was also true for many who took part in this
study, Ernie had a number of creative suggestions for ways to improve (or, at least,
enliven) FYC instruction.
4.2.6 Frank
Frank, a retired school administrator, now teaches three FYC sections to native
and ESL speakers. He holds an advanced degree in education with a minor in public
policy. When I initially contacted him by phone, he expressed enthusiasm about being
interviewed for the study. He told me, however, that he would need some time to read
the preliminary survey report thoroughly before we met. Accordingly, I e-mailed him
both the survey and the report, and waited three weeks before contacting him again.
We met at a coffee shop near the campus where Frank’s classes are held; he brought
notes which he consulted as we spoke.
He began by telling me that he thought the choices presented to answer the
question on student preparedness (Question 5, Appendix A) were faulty. He said that
the instructors’ answers probably were more reflective of the kind of students they had
in their classes (ESL, basic writing or standard composition) than of their level of
satisfaction with teaching practices at their institutions. We discussed my assumption
that many of the challenges instructors face are basically the same with all three learner
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types.
To some degree you’re right but native speakers know about prepositions and
articles. Some of the foreign students don’t. And verb tenses. So they’re
struggling with that. And of course there are cultural things. As a teacher, you
have to know something about your students’ cultures … China, Japan, your
Arabs. I do a lot of reading. On the other hand, the American students think
because they can speak the language, they can write it and that’s a fallacy. One
of the first things I have to do is disabuse them of that notion. Then we start
from scratch and they don’t like it. Many of these folks [referring to the report]
say the same thing. The remedial aspect. What they’re really saying is that
somehow colleges should remedy what wasn’t learned in high school. Next it
will be remedial classes for what they didn’t learn in elementary school. Maybe
that’s what high school is now. And placement tests. That’s what a diploma
used to represent. If you graduated high school, you knew how to write a
complete sentence. You knew what a paragraph was. God knows, I’m not
blaming the high school teachers. My wife taught high school for thirty years but
I’ll be honest. I don’t know what happened to education in this country. [Laugh]
I sound old, don’t I? Well, I am.
Over the course of the next half hour, Frank told me that he regularly reads one
professional education-related journal his wife still receives. The articles do not deal
with postsecondary English instruction; however, he feels that the reading keeps him “in
touch.” He expressed interest in the similarities between community college and
university instructors reflected in the survey then pointed out that the survey contained
a misspelling (“fultime”) in the answer options for Question 7 and laughed over my
having mailed it, complete with that misspelling, to almost 1,000 English teachers15
When asked what changes he would make in FYC instruction, Frank had a
number of suggestions.
I thanked him for letting me know and said that the resultant loss of face was so great I would be
compelled to commit suicide; until I laughed, he looked somewhat uneasy.
15
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I like the idea you had of requiring a separate logic class. Formulating a thesis,
structuring an argument, evaluating sources – those are all tied to logic. And I
don’t know that your average English professor knows any more about logic than
his students. Another thing I would want to see is an explicit, nationally
accepted set of teaching objectives for these classes. If you teach algebra, you
know exactly what the students should already know and what they’re expected
to learn. Placement and assessment are easy. You could say that determining
what good writing is is subjective but I don’t think that’s true, not at the
freshman level. They should be able to express their thoughts in clean, coherent,
error-free prose. That’s enough. That’s a solid foundation they can build on
later. And, last, I’d make sure that every school has a writing center that
functions as a tutorial center, not a free, proofreading service. Students don’t
learn from automatic corrections. I don’t think most of them even look at them.
Like SpellCheck. I got a final paper that started out “When the spaniels
conquered Central America …”
In answer to the question of how well he believed, overall, his students were
prepared by the composition sequence for subsequent class work, Frank replied that he
agreed with many in the survey that his students were well prepared after taking the
sequence.
I’m not saying they’re perfect by any means but, if they apply what I taught them,
they should be able to do it. A few of the people in the survey said that they’d
like to see some form of study done about the efficacy of their classes. Now that
would be important research.
Unlike a number of those I interviewed, Frank did not express the desire for
better intradepartmental communication. This possibly relates to the fact that Frank is,
himself, a former administrator. He also seems content with his position as an adjunct
faculty member which may at least partially be because both he and his wife also have
retirement incomes.
In our interview, however, a number of familiar points were made. Agreeing
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with many of the survey respondents, Frank expressed the belief that K-12 education
left students unprepared for postsecondary work, also agreeing with them that
placement testing is necessary and that there should be additional help available for FYC
students outside the classroom.
4.2.7 Greg
Greg teaches three FYC classes and, in addition, volunteers through his church to
teach English to new immigrants. As was true for a number of the FYC instructors
interviewed, Greg began teaching as an adjunct instructor without considering it would
become a long term profession; however, currently, he has been teaching FYC and basic
English for over five years.
Outside of three years spent at a university in the upper Midwest completing an
undergraduate degree, he has lived and worked in Arizona all his life. His advanced
degree is in theater with a minor in education; “I saw myself as the next Stanislavski but
I would have wound up directing high school productions of ‘Les Miserables.’”
One week after he was sent the preliminary survey report, we arranged to meet
at my house for brunch; when he began sneezing, we moved to a nearby restaurant. In
addition to the dogs, my wife and I have cats; Greg, I learned, has allergies.
After we’d ordered, Greg told me that he thought the idea of the survey was a
good one. He said that he has often felt that no one really values what composition
teachers are trying to do, and that no one truly understands how important and how
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difficult their jobs are. He was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the respondents’
comments.
It makes me feel good to see that. In the department, the comp classes are sort
of like the old, drunk uncle everyone in the family rolls their eyes at. Of course,
we’re what keeps the department viable. If they only offered lit classes, they’d
be phased out fast for not bringing in the enrollment or collapsed with another
underachieving discipline. It’s all about the money at [school name] and, as long
as comp’s required, English is solvent.
When asked what he felt were the most important skills he taught his students,
Greg said that he spends a significant amount of class time on trying to help his students
learn to structure short essays.
Every Tuesday, I give them a topic in class. They freewrite sentences then I have
them choose five or six as topic sentences for paragraphs. On Thursday, they
have to turn in a short essay based on the sentences they picked. It’s a lot like
high school but you’d be surprised how many of them struggle with it and, if
they can’t manage a five or six paragraph essay, they don’t have a chance with a
term paper.
When asked how he was able to grade so many papers, he laughed.
I don’t mind reading them but I would like more time. My comments are pretty
sketchy. They have to be. The classes are too big, like they said in the survey but,
as we know, it’s all about enrollment.
He said that he regularly makes time to read journal articles and books related to
ESL and basic writing instruction.
I search the topics I’m interested in and the library usually has something good.
There’s not anything I read cover to cover, a lot of it’s … I don’t know … but there
are some things that are really good.
It turned out that Greg had read a number of articles arguing for the loosening of
certain AE strictures to allow for academic acceptance of hybrid forms of language. He
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was enthusiastic about the possibilities of decoupling the concepts of academic
language use from intellectual ability, particularly for ESL students.
Some of the people in my church are incredibly educated. I have a botanist from
the Ukraine who’s been published in Europe – the woman speaks Russian,
French and German – but she gets treated like a child by people here because
her English is flawed. It’s the same with a lot of university students. They have
good ideas but, if they can’t write them down in the accepted form, they aren’t
recognized. That’s why teaching them to write their ideas in standard English is
such an important job but who said passive construction is better than active?
Personally, I don’t think it is. Why is “therefore” better than “so?” I mean, for
example. And why should we waste class time on citation formats? That’s like
teaching someone to use a phonebook. If you don’t know the number, look it up.
That’s the end of that lesson.
If he were able to change composition classes, he stated, he would stop teaching
those conventions.
And I’d have everyone stop teaching argumentation and start focusing on
persuasion. The books say they’re the same thing but they aren’t. Persuasion
requires you to read other people’s ideas carefully, to try to understand why
they believe what they do then you present evidence that may cause them to
change their minds or maybe just think. Or maybe really understanding what
they have to say and why they’re saying it will do that to you. Maybe
composition could change the world. Do you believe in abortion?
Mazui,16 I thought. “Pro-choice.”
“Are you Christian? Probably not, right?”
I shook my head and he smiled.
Then if I want to change your mind, it’s useless for me to talk about sin or quote
the Bible. I need to listen to your reasons for what you believe then maybe I can
use ideas you do accept to change your mind. That’s what we should be
teaching students. Persuasion. That’s what composition should teach, not
empty forms and language to pound the other guys’ ideas into dust.
16
the Japanese equivalent of “Oh boy.”
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In many ways, the interview with Greg was atypical. Although he brought up the
“old drunk uncle” analogy to illustrate what he perceived to be the department’s
attitude toward composition instruction and said that “everything’s about money” at his
school, he did not perceive himself – as so many do – to be either particularly
undervalued or overworked. He frequently takes the time to read professional articles
related to ESL and basic writing instruction, and was able to cite the names of a number
of authors (most notably, Patricia Bizzell) who recommend the incorporation of
hybridized forms of academic writing. In keeping with this, he questioned more
traditional academic language and the standard forms of argumentation, arguing that
helping students achieve SWE proficiency was much more important than concentrating
on academic forms.
4.3 Postscript
Upon review, there was an important issue not clarified on the survey that the
interviews had also failed to address; accordingly, each of the informants was
recontacted by e-mail and asked “[i]n your opinion, what characteristics distinguish
standard written English from academic prose?” All seven answered within a week and,
as was true for the interview material, the e-mailed responses below have been
excerpted for relevance.
Ann: There’s a particular objective voice in academic writing. I read some of the
comments people made about wanting their students to develop their own voice
in writing but that’s not right. An academic paper shouldn’t appear to involve
the author. Of course it does but that’s minimized. It’s not like reading poetry
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or fiction where the author’s voice is an important part of the experience. It’s
more like a news report in that way and that supposed objectivity dictates the
conventions.
Barbara: Academic prose is hypercorrect, dense and a little archaic. It features
specialized vocabulary and verbs. SWE can be spoken but, if you spoke in
academic English, people would think you were from another planet. It all
comes down to style.
Carol: The styles are very different. Academic prose is made up of complex
sentences and passives. The vocabulary is more sophisticated. No assertions or
claims are made that aren’t supported by evidence.
Donna: Academic vocabulary and phrasing are more concise but they’re also
more convoluted. You avoid simple sentences by loading in a lot more
information using modifying phrases and clauses. I’m glad you asked because,
now that I think about it, I’m trying to teach students to tango who never
learned the box step. No wonder it drives us all crazy.
Ernie: There are obviously big differences in style and vocabulary but, in my
opinion, the most important difference is in the communicative intent. When
you write in a standard language, it’s like speaking. You’re judged by how clearly
you communicate your ideas. If readers don’t understand, it means something is
wrong with the writing. In academic language, that shifts and the responsibility
for understanding is the reader’s.
Frank: Your question assumes that there are distinguishing characteristics and I
don’t think that there necessarily are. If my students can write clearly and
correctly, I’m happy with that.
Greg: The hot air quotient. Seriously, I read an article a while ago (and, if I ever
remember the author’s name, I’ll send it to you) about reading. The author
referred to the fact that we read differently depending on the text’s purpose.
When we read instructions, we read really closely but, in academic reading, we
almost skim. There’s a predictable rhythm but individual words and phrases
don’t really matter. We make inferences; we “gather” what the author’s talking
about. What kind of writing is that? I wouldn’t even know how to begin
teaching it.
Most of these answers addressed two levels of difference between academic
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and standard written language. On the surface, there are academic language’s
convoluted vocabulary, and overloaded, somewhat archaic syntax and the associated,
preferred use of the objective voice. On the deeper level, however, Ernie spoke about
the fact that, in SWE, the responsibility for ensuring that the message is understood is
assigned to the writer; while in academic writing, the burden for understanding is
squarely placed on the reader. Barbara referred to this same quality, likening SWE to
spoken English (where the responsibility for ensuring understanding is the speaker’s)
and contrasting this with traditional academic language which would, if spoken, sound
alien. Greg also addressed understanding from the standpoint of the reader suggesting
that, in academic writing, the medium is often the majority of the message.
I found their observations of this second level of difference extremely interesting.
One of the fundamental differences between standard English and standard Japanese is
that, as Barbara, Greg and Ernie noted, the responsibility for successful communication
in standard English rests with the speaker; in Japanese, the reverse is true. In most
cases in English communication, if listeners do not understand what has been said, the
fault is the speaker’s and is usually ascribed to the speaker’s lack of clarity, specificity or
facility with the language; however, in Japanese, too much specificity on the part of the
speaker would be redundant and, at times, vaguely insulting.
Those who have investigated this essential difference between expression in the
two languages state that it is directly related to essential differences in the two cultures
(e.g., Elliott, Scott, Jensen & McDonough, 1982; Gudykunst & Kim, 1984; Hall, 1984;
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Jandt, 2012; Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2008). Although it might be argued that,
given the diversity of the U.S. population, the categories are overbroad, the United
States is classified as relatively egalitarian and heterogeneous; i.e., in general, speakers
are not assumed to have more authority than their listeners and, at the same time, only
minimal assumptions can be made about shared meaning. Japan is hierarchical and
homogenous; i.e., speakers (those who initiate communication if not those who respond)
do have the most authority and it is tacitly assumed, because of the relative lack of
diversity in the culture, that meaning is shared. Academic culture, also distinctly
hierarchical and homogenous, is expressed through a language with similar conventions.
4.4 Conclusion
A number of commonalities are apparent from these interviews. First, the
participants are extremely expressive, and obviously have made a considerable
investment in their profession of thought and emotion. Each holds an advanced degree
and, without any specialized training in composition instruction, has spent a significant
number of years teaching FYC at the postsecondary level. Most perceive themselves to
be overworked and without significant control over either curricula or texts.
As was also evident in the comments made by survey respondents, there is a
certain level of anger which appears to relate to disaffection with and perceived
distance from their institutions’ policies and administrators. Several stated they have
minimal contact with and feedback from their administrators, describing themselves as
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undervalued, unappreciated and underpaid. Four of the seven (Barbara, Carol, Donna,
Greg) express the perception that the administrations at their institutions define
education as a business and that there is less institutional concern about improving the
quality of instruction than about keeping down costs and maximizing enrollment, and
less about ensuring the quality of texts than about guaranteeing bookstore profits. All
focus on teaching writing basics believing that, in general, students are poorly prepared
for academic writing when they enter FYC classes. All except Barbara share the opinion
that FYC instruction makes a positive difference; however, their estimations of the
degree of that difference vary.
While they had a number of creative ideas they believed would bring about
positive changes in student outcomes, as was true among the instructors responding to
the on-line questionnaire, there was wide disparity in the interviewed instructors’
opinions as to how those changes could be effected. Ann suggested changing the focus
of the classes to genre-based instruction using professional articles in the students’
majors, Donna and Ernie to more creative writing through imagining “possibilities” or
translating manga into prose, Carol to journalistic writing based on magazines and
newspapers, and Barbara, Frank and Greg to the production of “clean prose”
incorporating grammar drills, standardized learning objectives and tutorial centers, or
the acceptance of hybridized forms of AE.
In short, given their advanced degrees, all seven have demonstrated that they
can recognize and produce sound academic prose. Given their years of teaching
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experience and their clear emotional investment in the profession, they have also
demonstrated that they care about student learning outcomes. At the same time, as
was evident from the comments made by the survey respondents, there is no general
agreement among them on how best to teach FYC.
Finally, an intriguing confirmation of the suggestion that academic language
directly reflects academic culture resulted from my post-interview e-mail asking the
seven instructors what specific traits they believed distinguished AE from SWE. In
addition to the surface conventions mentioned in Chapter 1 of this study and presented
in more detail in Chapters 2 and 3, Barbara, Ernie and Greg spoke of a significant
contrast in the communicative intent of academic and standard written language which
entails different roles in the responsibility for successful communication for listener
(reader) and speaker (writer). I see this as directly related to the work of those scholars
cited in Chapter 1 who have pointed to the interrelationship of academic culture and
academic language and, as will be discussed in the following chapter, as directly relevant
to the possibility of improving FYC instruction.
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CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION
5.1 Style and substance
As discussed in the introduction to this study, AE’s function can, in part, be
implicitly inferred from its historical beginning and evolution as a set of prescribed
rhetorical devices successfully employed by groups of academics in competition with
others to establish themselves as the recognized experts in their respective fields.
From the experimentalists of the 1600s through the behaviorists of the 1920s to the
researchers of today, AE has proven its durability as the language of science and –
because the two have become virtually synonymous – of higher education.
Scholars noting the increased diversity of modern student populations and the
differential access to writing skills these populations have available to them before
entering the academy have attempted to understand AE’s ongoing critical role in
academic success – both the who and why of Zappa’s question. The consensus is that
AE use is enforced by members of the academy because it is a cultural language, a
language that both reinforces and validates academics’ values, and marks them off as a
distinctive and elevated group (Ball, 1998; Bartolome, 1998; Delpit, 2001; Fordham,
1997; Fairclough, 1995; Gee, 2005; Gosden, 1993; McCray, 2005; Street, 1984). Others,
while suggesting that there is no monolithic academic language, that AE is a label
applied to a number of discipline-specific language variations, agree that these
variations also serve a sociocultural function; that is, biology students must learn to
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“speak” the language of biologists, economics students must learn to “speak” the
language of economics (e.g., Bazerman, 2005; Blakeslee, 1997; MacDonald, 1994; Miller,
1994; Russell, 1997).
The traits of AE and/or its discipline-specific variants have been repeatedly
enumerated in the literature; that is, the presentation form mimics a linear time-line;
the prose is neutral, formal and author-vacated, intertextuality is required, and the
whole makes liberal use of hedges, layered appositive phrases, complex sentence
structures, and specialized vocabulary (e.g., Bazerman, 1984, 1988; Elbow, 1991; Gee,
2005; Shapin, 1984; Swales, 1990). These traits, however, are stylistic features and, if
AE is simply seen as a stylistic variant of standard written English, those who deny the
existence of an academic language per se (e.g., Blakeslee, 1997; MacDonald, 1994;
Miller, 1994; Russell, 1991) are correct; that is, differences in style, by themselves, do
not constitute a separate language in any sense other than Snoop Dogg’s lyrics might be
said to be written in a language different from Paul McCartney’s.
FYC instructors stress that correct standard written English is the necessary base
for AE and, if AE is understood as a stylistic variant of standard English, it is
understandable that students relatively proficient in that base would have an easier
time incorporating AE’s features into their writing than those not as proficient. At the
same time, it is difficult to understand why students could not be taught to
accommodate the academy’s limited stylistic preferences without either being
enculturated by their instructors, as Bartolome (1998) argued was necessary, into white
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middle-class reality or, as Driscoll (2011) suggested, being required to “engage in
metacognitive reflection” (p. 28). In addition to introducing students to writing in the
academic style, the survey responses indicate that FYC sequences also include
instruction in: standard grammar, some basic academic vocabulary, the principles of
paragraph and essay writing, and; navigation through one of the many (most commonly
MLA) citation formatting manuals. To paraphrase one of the instructor’s in this survey,
teaching postsecondary students the above skills within one to two semesters would
not appear to be “… the stuff of rocket science” (Appendix I, 33); however, if not exactly
rocket science, FYC instruction appears to run a close second.
Countless articles and books reiterate the observation that FYC sequences leave
many students insufficiently prepared for academic writing (e.g., Casanave & Hubbard,
1992; Hyland, 1998; Lindeman, 1993; Swales & Feak, 2004; Valdes, 2004). As possible
solutions to this problem, the recommendations in the literature range from
Bartolome’s (1998) above cited cultural fix through vaguely outlined suggestions from
transfer and genre proponents (e.g., Bergmann & Zepernick, 2007; Driscoll, 2011;
Moore, 2012; Rounsaville, 2012), through the adoption of new FYC frameworks and
guidelines (e.g., Beaufort, 2007, 2012; O’Neill, Adler-Kassner, Fleischer & Hall, 2012),
with a number of authors concluding that the problem is insoluble.
Although most FYC instructors would not go that far, the majority of participants
in this study express the opinion that, after completing the FYC sequence, the average
composition student is only “somewhat prepared” to write an academic paper,
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suggesting that it will take fundamental program changes in order to improve AE
instruction at their institutions. There is, however, little agreement on what those
changes should be. It might be suggested that the differences in the instructors’ formal
educational backgrounds contribute to this lack of agreement and, as noted in the
interview chapter, some postsecondary institutions in Arizona have recently tightened
education requirements for faculty. Under the new regulations, FYC instructors are
required to have a graduate degree in English; however, that degree includes creative
writing, English literature, composition and a number of other specialty majors.
Pedagogy is not a requirement. It is difficult to see, therefore, how this new restriction
will reconcile faculty members’ differences of opinion about best practices and
pragmatic classroom changes.
Instructors did largely agree on the need for certain changes: smaller classes,
longer class sequences, remedial classes, tutoring, and much more stringent placement
tests before students are admitted into class. None, however, expressed optimism that
these changes were likely to be implemented.
As discussed in Chapter 2, Lynch (2012) urged composition instructors “to trade
disenchantment for demoralization” (p. 474) and, in their interviews and in responses to
the survey, it appears that many have done just that. In the interviews reported in this
study, Donna refers to her students as “poor bastards” (p. 109) to whom education has
been packaged and sold like an overpriced bag of potato chips; Carol believes
administration has no interest in instructors’ teaching qualifications or class
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performance, basing access to low-paid, undependable teaching positions only an
whether or not an instructor will “show up on time … keep the students in the
classroom … and never, ever cause a problem” (p. 106) and Barbara echoes both
women, saying no one in administration “gives a shit what the students learn” because
education is “just a business now” (p. 115). The following representative comments
from the survey results also suggest the outlook from the instructors’ point of view is
poor:
[s]ince administrators expect us to produce magical outcomes with more than
120 writing students a semester, I don’t expect any changes in a system with
decreasing funds and increasing expectations (Appendix I, 57);
George Orwell once said that when “… our language becomes slovenly, we
become a nation of fools.” All of the recent data concerning reading and writing
skills suggests that we have, indeed, become very slovenly (Appendix I, 61);
[i]t might take a few more years, but “Academically Adrift” might become more
applicable to community colleges when one looks at the numbers of students
who actually complete what they started there (Appendix I, 69);
[i]t seems nearly impossible to do a good job, given the skills (or lack thereof) the
students are bringing to college and the lengthy list of expectations the college
places on the single semester of introductory writing (Appendix I, 72);
I worry that ignorance is becoming so widespread, even among post-secondary
educators that, in my lifetime, America will lose its standing as possessing the
world’s greatest higher education system (Appendix I, 33).
For the past sixteen years, I have been teaching accredited Japanese language
courses at a community college in southern Arizona. In a clear parallel to the
backgrounds of the seven FYC instructors interviewed for this study, when I began I had
no teaching experience and, aside from my status as a native Japanese speaker, my only
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qualifications were an undergraduate degree in law from a Japanese university and
graduate degrees in intercultural communication and linguistics from universities here
in the U.S.
My classes are composed of students from highly diverse linguistic, ethnic and
socio-economic backgrounds, who come with varying levels of previous educational
experience and very different motivations for studying a relatively difficult new
language; however, after completing the first two semesters of the four semester
sequence, these students are expected to be able to read and write hiragana and
katakana (two distinct alphabets of approximately 130 syllabic variants each), and
almost 180 kanji characters. Additionally, I expect them to be able to write and speak in
two socially dependent styles: plain (used between family and friends) and simple polite
(used in most other social situations); each of which has its own separate vocabulary
words and grammar rules.17 By the end of the first year, the majority have a good
foundational knowledge of the language, are able to engage appropriately in spoken
and written conversations in Japanese, and are well prepared to continue their language
studies.
Similarly, if FYC were concerned only with teaching literate L1 or L2 English
speakers to write essays in correct standard English, and then to incorporate into their
writing a limited set of minor stylistic variations, there is no reason it should be
For readers interested in transfer: Japanese language students who wish to continue in the second-year
sequence are expected to remember what they have learned in the first year over summer vacation, and be
ready to apply and build on it again in the fall. After a two week (10 class-hour) review, they do and they
are.
17
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impossible or even particularly difficult for students, certainly no more diverse than
mine are, to learn, and for instructors, most certainly no less qualified than I am, to
teach.
FYC, however, attempts to do much more.
A number of authors suggest that, in addition to the mastery of certain syntactic
and semantic conventions, AE competency requires facility with linear argumentation,
specificity, the ability to state and defend assertions made about intangibles, and the
judicious use of intertextual support (Bazerman, 1988; Swales, 1990). FYC instructors
clearly agree. The top listed AE skills on the survey (also listed among the most difficult
for students to master) are formulating a thesis, logic and research/reference skills; the
tacit premise being that students cannot write acceptable academic prose unless they
can also: assert an arguable, defensible and original claim, use the rules of Aristotelian
logic to develop the argument supporting the claim, and demonstrate their familiarity
with and respect for accepted scholars who have, at some point in their careers, written
something related in some way to that claim. As Bartholomae (2008) phrased it, FYC
instructors are charged with nothing less than teaching students “… to speak as we do,
to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding and
arguing that define the discourse of our community” (p. 3); and, as genre proponents
would hasten to point out, the “we” and “our” in Bartholomae’s statement include,
among many others: art historians, biologists, engineers, geologists, linguists and, yes,
even rocket scientists.
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In addition, therefore, to ensuring their students have an adequate command of
SWE and the stylistic conventions of AE, FYC instructors also assume the responsibility
for students’ learning, and being able to demonstrate in their writing, the accepted
principles of argumentation and adequate evidence as argumentation and evidence are
understood in a number of academic disciplines. These would appear to be more than
sufficiently ambitious course objectives; however, the assumptions related to AE’s
sociocultural function raise the FYC teaching challenge still higher.
5.2 Style as substance
A number of years ago, my wife and I visited a noted Midwestern modern art
museum. The second floor gallery was dominated by an oversized, half-deflated canvas
toilet entitled, its placard informed us, “Soft Toilet.” Nearby was a table covered with
boxes bristling with nails. I do not recall what their placards had to say about them.
There was also a display of “found art” (small piles of assorted sticks, broken toys, rocks,
empty cans and animal bones) and a series of photos documenting an artist putting the
finishing touches on what, according to the associated placard, the artist himself
asserted was no longer art once it was completed.
As we turned to leave, we paused in front of a two-wheeled, wire push basket
leaning against the corner by the door. It was partially filled with cleaning supplies.
Another couple came up beside us and all four of us stood silently gazing at it until, as
one, we looked for the placard that would tell us the piece’s title and its significance.
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There wasn’t one.
Was it an installation in progress? Was it some clever artistic commentary about
the perception of art? Or was it, as it certainly appeared to be, a cleaning supply cart
left behind by the janitor? What to do? After a frozen moment, I shook my head and
chuckled – which, I thought, would cover me nicely no matter what – then we all drifted
slowly away; the other couple to contemplate the canvas toilet, my wife and I, laughing,
outside to the parking lot.
The point of the story is that AE style may be seen as directly analogous to the
art placard; that is, it functions as the academic placard. Traditionally, it has been used
to express and, therefore, mark critical, thoughtful arguments, contributions to the
common knowledge; unfortunately, it has also been used to mask the fact that what we
have in front of us in many cases is the equivalent of a random pile of sticks and broken
toys.
The following are excerpts from the printed abstracts of two papers accepted for
presentation at the 75th anniversary conference of the Association for Reformational
Philosophy held in Amsterdam in 2011; the author of one subsequently, gleefully,
announced it was a hoax; the author of the other was dead serious. Although neither
makes sense, in my own opinion, the outright joke actually gives the impression of being
the more intelligible.
The question then posed is, if reformational philosophy is an ontology of
actuality in the sense that it is a theory that speaks of actuality, has [sic?] it, or
could it, also be a theory that is aware and takes as its task a certain belonging to
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actuality. Reformational philosophy has dared to make a close connection
between reality and temporality; it has also made trenchant criticisms of the
dangers of historicism (Hayward, 2011).18
The question is not what structures order, but what structure is imposed on our
transcendent conception of order. By narrowly focusing on the disorderly state
of present-being or the “incoherence of a primordial multiplicity,” as John
Haught put it, Darwinian materialists lose a sense of the ultimate order unfolding
in the not-yet-being (Maundy, 2011).19
Similarly and more famously, consider the following excerpt from the 35-page
article published in Social Text (a refereed journal) in 1996, authored by physics
professor Alan Sokal. Professor Sokal subsequently announced that the entire piece was
a hoax intended to illustrate the inherent silliness of, among other things,
postmodernism as a legitimate field of study. It is quoted here for a different purpose;
that is, to illustrate that style has become the defining characteristic of academic writing;
[u]nfortunately, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle has frequently been
misinterpreted by amateur philosophers. As Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
(1994, 129-130) lucidly point out,
in quantum physics, Heisenberg’s demon does not express the
impossibility of measuring both the speed and the position of a particle
on the grounds of a subjective interference of the measure with the
measured, but it measures exactly an objective state of affairs that leaves
the respective position of two of its particles outside of the field of its
actualization, the number of independent variables being reduced and
the values of the coordinates having the same probability …
Perspectivism, or scientific relativism, is never relative to a subject; it
constitutes not a relativity of truth but, on the contrary, a truth of the
relative, that is to say, of variables whose cases it orders according to the
values it extracts from them in its system of coordinates (p. 26).
Composed largely of such polysyllabic gibberish and laced liberally with similar
18
19
He meant it.
He didn’t.
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faux quotations, Sokal’s article also provides an extensive bibliography including what
should have been such obvious tip-offs as: African science: Myth or reality?, Einstein and
African religion and philosophy: The hermetic parallel (publication attributed to Einstein
and the Humanities) and Quantum equilibrium and the origin of absolute uncertainty.
Still, because the stylistic placard is firmly attached, not a single peer reviewer
recognized that it was a parody and, when Sokal did come forward, he was greeted with
outrage.
More seriously for the state of academics, consider the FYC literature reviewed
in Chapter 2 of this study. Illustrating the observation of one survey respondent that “…
research and publication in this field tends to be tedious and redundant” (Appendix I, #5)
and the more generalized assertion made by Bauerlein, et al (2010) that “the amount of
redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades”
(p. 1), a sample of recently published research reports was found to include a number of
studies that: conclude nothing (e.g., Donohue & Erling, 2012; Rosenfeld, Leung &
Oltman, 2001; Truscott, 2007), conclude nothing of any apparent significance (e.g.,
Bergmann & Zepernick, 2007; Driscoll, 2011; Hess, 2012; Huang, 2010; Loudermilk,
2007; Moore, 2012; Nelms & Dively, 2007; Noble & Sawyer, 2013; Rounsaville, 2012,
Tardy, 2006) and/or conclude nothing of which we were not already aware (e.g., Adel &
Erman, 2012; Jesnek, 2011; Riazantseva, 2012; Graves, Hyland & Samuels, 2010; James,
2010; Lee, 2009; Volpe, 2011; Yang & Sun, 2012; Yeats, Reddy & Wheeler, 2010; Sullivan,
2011). There were also the musings of the compositionists (e.g., Owens, 2001; Ratcliffe,
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2005; Worsham, 2006) who issued a manifesto (Latour, 2010) although, two years later,
the compositionists themselves were still apparently unsure what it is exactly that
“composition studies studies” (Sanchez, 2012, p. 245).
I would submit that the above referenced reports and articles make little or no
obvious contribution to what Edwin Boring in the 1930s envisioned as the collaborative,
scholarly “progress of thought” (quoted in Bazerman 1988, p. 273). What they all do
have are stylish placards. Those attached to the majority are embellished with statistics,
jargon and acronyms; those attached to the compositionists’ musings are garlanded
with abstruse references and gratuitous Latin phrases but each is recognized and
accepted by the academic community as a marker indicating that “this is scholarly
work.”
This acceptance can be explained by the fact that the use of a sociocultural
language defines membership in a community (i.e., provides the appropriate placard)
precisely because said use entails the premise that what is being expressed in that
language is representative of the community’s values and consonant with its members’
adherence to and personification of those values (Bartholomae, 2008; Fairclough, 1995;
Foucault, 1984; Gee, 2005; Giroux, 1981); that is, by their use of AE, members of the
academic community signal that they are rationally, thoughtfully and, with a thorough
grounding in and respect for the work of those who came before, engaged in the
business of contributing or, at the very least, attempting to contribute to the
incremental, progressive accumulation of human knowledge. It is in this confusion of
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the signal with the meaning attributed to it that the elusive je ne sais quois is added
to AE and therein lies the difficulty in successful FYC instruction.
Feldman (2000) formulated the following practical syllogism for classroom
practitioners to consider:
Major premise: I would like my students to attain a certain educational goal.
Minor premise: The context of my teaching situation is as follows … which
restricts the actions that I can take in the following manner…
Conclusion: Therefore, I choose to take the following action…
(p. 610)
A clarification of Feldman’s major premise in relation to FYC instruction is
revealing. As discussed above, FYC instructors are charged with ensuring students’ SWE
competency, introducing the style conventions of AE, and teaching the principles of
sound argumentation (including recognizing and avoiding fallacies) and critical thinking
(including finding and evaluating the appropriateness of sources). Additionally, as
members of the academic culture, instructors accept that what their students learn to
“say” in AE should be appropriate to that culture; that is, not only student writing but,
to some degree, the students themselves should conform to a number of academic
ideals.
As reflected in the survey responses shared in Chapter 3, instructors believe their
students’ writing should demonstrate: clear understanding and knowledge of a subject
(D-72, D-442, D-539)20, creativity, insight, originality (D-11, D-156, D-400, D-448, D-504,
E-177, E-244, E-268, E-345, E-491, E-596), attention to detail (D-28), and a general
20
The letters in parentheses refer to the relevant appendices; the numbers to the lines inside the appendices.
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interest in ideas and a passion about the topics they are writing about (D-298, E-58, E252, E-445). These topics (theses) should be: thoughtful (E -1), complex (E-7, E-407, G190), arguable (E-39, E-98, G-49), appropriate and relevant (D-508, E-47, E-64), strong
(D-18, D-361, E-135, E-241, E-264, F-148, G-55, G-128, G-243), original (E-78, E-156, G49), interesting (D-508, E-348), concise (D-18, G-29), and well-developed (D-73, E-78, D101).
In order to accomplish the above, individual instructors suggest that FYC
students should develop: mental flexibility (D-363), genuine curiosity (D424), the belief
that they have “something worth saying” (D-192), an understanding of the ways in
which values affect the decision-making process (E-340), an “intrinsic concern”
regarding the quality of their work (E-337), the desire to communicate with others (D533), the ability to benefit from constructive criticism (D-349), a strong work ethic (D553), and persistence (D-317, E-444, E-456).
One of the survey respondents expressed the belief that FYC instruction would
be more successful if the instructors were better qualified to teach it.
… I don’t think that composition classes are going to improve until we can
convince English departments that pedagogical content knowledge is
important ... At our institution all English faculty are required to teach
composition, and many of us are not really qualified to do so. A master’s in
Romantic poetry or a PhD in Shakespeare don’t really cut it! (Appendix I, 55)
I would agree; at the same time, however, it is difficult to imagine who would be
qualified to teach FYC as it is currently constituted. To summarize yet again, FYC
instructors have not only been charged with ensuring all incoming students’ SWE
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competency and introducing them to AE style, they have also been given the explicit
responsibility for teaching students the principles of sound argumentation (including
recognizing and avoiding fallacies) and critical thinking (including evaluating the
appropriateness of sources), subjects in which many have received no specific training.
Additionally, FYC instructors have been implicitly assigned and have assumed the
responsibility for instilling in their students (and ensuring that their writing reflects) a
number of traditionally valued academic traits, ranging through passion about their
writing topics up to and including “intrinsic concern” over the quality of their work. All
of this should take place over the course of no more than two semesters in classes of up
to 35 students taught, in most cases as noted above, by English majors and, in many
cases, by underpaid, contract workers (adjunct faculty), and by inexperienced graduate
students.
In comparison, rocket science looks easy.
5.3 The Spaniels in Central America
In the course of a published debate over the use of literature in FYC courses,
Erika Lindeman (1993) stated that:
Freshman English does what no high school writing course can do: provide
opportunities to master the genres, styles, audiences, and purposes of the
academy and the professions. That is what our colleagues across the curriculum
want it to do; that is what it should do if we are going to drag every first-year
student through the requirement” (p. 312).
Twenty years after Lindeman’s statement was made, this study has
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demonstrated that both FYC literature and FYC instructors assess “freshman English” as
falling far short of the above stated goals; however, students are still being dragged
through the requirement and, as the results of this study indicate, the view from the
classroom is, in the main, bleak. Instructors from a wide range of educational
backgrounds with varying degrees of experience perceive themselves as largely without
guidance, working at a distance both from their colleagues and from administrators who
make the decisions that affect them. Many are frustrated and angry, believing that they
are seen by their institutions as inexpensive and interchangeable commodities to be
sold at a profit to students who are underprepared and, in increasingly diverse and
increasingly large classrooms, who cannot be given the individual attention they need.
During our interview, Ann expressed a strong degree of skepticism about what
practical effects on FYC instruction this study might have. As noted above, this
skepticism and an attendant sense of powerlessness were also apparent in many of the
comments made by the survey participants. On the institutional level, unfortunately, I
share their frustration.
The sheer amount that has been written about academic language by academics
– sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, linguists, and educators – is
staggering. It is especially puzzling, then, that FYC, the course sequence traditionally
entrusted with passing this language on, is treated as a stepchild at most postsecondary
institutions. Generally, full or overfilled classes are taught by graduate students, adjunct
instructors contracted from term to term, and the junior-most members of English
155
department faculties and, rather than spreading the incredible grading load which
results from requiring at least three papers per student per term, these instructors are
assigned up to fifteen units of FYC. Often without instructor input, texts change from
term to term: now focusing on fiction, now on nonfiction, now on both, and now on
neither. Student placement tests are designed without instructor input, course grading
is not standardized, writing centers and computer lab space are not universally available,
and professional development funds are directed elsewhere.
At least a partial explanation for this may be fact that, on the institutional level,
as many participants in this study observed, postsecondary education is now largely
treated as a business. Mandating smaller student to instructor ratios costs money.
Hiring full-time instructors with benefits costs money. Losing enrollment and lowering
retention rates because of a crack-down on grade inflation or because of required
remedial classes cost money. Staffing tutoring centers and writing labs costs money. In
the near future, at least, none of these changes are likely to be implemented and, if they
ever are, Ann and the others are right; it will not come as the result of a single study
reporting instructors’ opinions.
I do, however, believe that some changes are possible on the departmental level.
Although a single instance is not a valid basis for generalization (even in the social
sciences), Carol’s department chair was receptive to her ideas and was able to
accommodate her suggestions about teaching materials. On a more general level,
department chairs are not far removed (if at all) from the classroom. There is hope that
156
the majority still see students as students rather than as customers. The results of this
study then suggest a way to work toward more local solutions.
From the literature, the survey and interview material presented in Chapters 3
and 4, and from the discussion above, it should now be evident that, while the
objectives for FYC instruction are similar across the board, the definitions and
expectations associated with it are currently so tangled and confused – AE language
conventions with thinking patterns with sociocultural values – that it is not surprising
instruction falls short. A first practical step toward remedying this is to unpack the
problem.
Similarly, as noted in Chapters 1 and 2 of this study, the literature is rife with
suggestions for increasing student engagement and improving outcomes, these include
but are not limited to: FYC instructors’ enculturating freshmen into white, middle-class
culture, learning then teaching all relevant discipline-specific genres, and learning then
teaching transfer skills, all the while, “encouraging students to engage in metacognitive
reflection” (Driscoll, 2011, p. 28).21 These suggestions may very well have value;
however, the FYC instructors in this study are nearly unanimous in stating that they
already have too much to teach to too many students in too short a time. Assigning
them still more vaguely defined and overly ambitious responsibilities would seem to be
a step in the wrong direction; instead, it might be more productive to see what, if any,
responsibilities can be reassigned. Four suggestions come immediately to mind.
How would that go? “Alright, class! Let’s all think about thinking about thinking! I know you can do
it!”
21
157
First, in a preliminary report on the survey data sent to AE instructors, I
synthesized their comments and suggested, among other things, that the responsibility
for teaching research skills and, more importantly, instructing students in the principles
of Aristotelian logic and argumentation be transferred out of FYC to philosophy
departments (most of which already offer courses in critical thinking) in the form of a
parallel, required first-year class or sequence of classes. This would seem to offer a
pragmatic, if partial, solution to FYC instructors’ common perception of having too much
to teach in too little time. Additionally, since it is agreed that logic/critical thinking,
argumentation and the critical evaluation of sources are important values in academic
writing, it would, in fact, be more appropriate to have students instructed in these skills
by those with the appropriate pedagogical content knowledge.
In addition to being a practical and positive change for FYC instructors, the
change would be practical and positive at the institutional level: universities and
colleges adopting a new required course sequence would bring in more tuition money;
English and writing departments would not lose control of the FYC sequence, and;
struggling philosophy departments would gain a required class sequence. Finally,
although students would have to spend more time and money taking classes they might
not see the point of initially, I would argue that it would be far more effective for the
academics most familiar with the study of written style and form to instruct students in
style and form; while the academics most familiar with the study of logic and critical
thinking instruct students in logic and critical thinking.
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Second, all FYC students should be instructed in and made responsible for the
correct (no more spaniels in Central America) use of computerized spelling, dictionary
and grammar aids, as well as internet accessed bibliographic searches and formatting
software. Guest lectures from reference librarians and/or representatives of the
institution’s IT department could introduce students to these functions. This would
obviate a certain amount of instruction in and grading related to basic mechanics; there
is no reason to teach students how to use a slide rule or an abacus when a calculator is
available.
Third, teaching assistants should not be in charge of FYC classes. There is no
shortage of qualified and experienced FYC instructors; many, as seen from the survey
responses, currently shuttle between two or more campuses trying to cobble together a
living. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2 of this dissertation, researchers and theorists
specializing in education, discourse analysis and linguistics have, for over forty years,
agreed that written academic language proficiency is crucial to students’ educational
success; therefore, it is difficult to understand the rationale for assigning the least
experienced and least qualified members of a department the task of teaching this
critical subject. If the goal of English department administrators in assigning FYC classes
to teaching assistants is to provide their graduate student with financial aid and
teaching experience, it would be more ethical to assign them mid-19th century American
literature students to practice on. I have another suggestion however.
Since FYC instructors state that they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of
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student compositions they are required to read, comment on and grade, it would be
entirely appropriate to give at least part of that burden to teaching assistants. This
change would benefit FYC instructors (at least at universities where TA’s are available)
by providing help shoveling away at the paperwork blizzard that buries them each
semester. It would benefit the FYC students whose papers would receive more
thorough readings and commentary from less overwhelmed readers, and it would
benefit the TA’s whose work would be overseen by a practicing instructor. This last, it
has always been my understanding, is primarily what a teaching assistantship is
designed to provide; i.e., TA’s learn from instructors in the course of assisting them not
by replacing them. Finally, since the majority of instructors also state that FYC students
need further instruction in basic mechanics, assign TAs the tasks of providing remedial
grammar instruction, manning writing clinics and acting as tutors.
Where teaching assistants are not available to assume part of the assessment
and remedial burdens (e.g., at community and four-year colleges, and smaller
universities), a tutoring center staffed by qualified work study students should be made
available for remedial grammar help. Even in these days of diminished Pell Grants, most
colleges and smaller universities have some form of work study program. Every campus
should also have a professionally staffed writing center with all departments on campus
contributing a portion of their funding and/or administrative and faculty time to support
it. While this would still leave FYC instructors at these institutions with the complete
responsibility for student assessment, it would relieve them, at least, from a certain
160
amount of rote correction and draft reviews.
In light of the problems outlined in this study, these are admittedly modest
proposals. The advantage they offer is that they are pragmatic; i.e., their
implementation is possible. My final suggestion, although a simple one, costing nothing,
may be more difficult to put into practice. It is this; all FYC instructors, their department
chairs and their fellow faculty should be made aware of the well-documented (and often
reiterated) proposition that the ability to write an acceptable academic paper is, for
most students, the critical factor affecting future academic success; the obvious
corollary being that FYC instructors have been charged with one of the most critical
responsibilities in undergraduate education. They deserve support.
One of the recurring themes in the survey and interview results is the sense of
isolation and relative helplessness many FYC instructors feel. Although, it is admittedly
difficult to match schedules for meetings, there is no reason that contact cannot be
maintained between FYC faculty and department chairs by, at a minimum, e-mail. It
would be relatively simple, for example, to place a copy of proposed FYC texts in a
teachers’ lounge or some other common area in the department or to make pdfs
available on-line and then to solicit input from the instructors. It should also be
relatively simple for department chairs to obtain copies of the placement tests used at
their institutions, to make those copies available and, again, solicit FYC instructors’
opinions. A small show of professional respect might alleviate some degree of the
frustration expressed by the instructors in this study.
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5.4 Future directions
In keeping with the idea of our incremental march toward knowledge, every
study ends with suggestions for further research; I have three, presented in what I
believe to be reverse order of importance. First, anyone interested in doing so is invited
to re-examine and reuse any of the data gathered for this study and appended here.
The instructor-respondents provided a great deal of information and, as noted in
Chapter 3, the most interesting – that taken from the open-ended responses – was
subjectively coded. Although a great deal of caution was exercised in that coding, it
would be interesting to see what other coding systems and/or interpretations different
perspectives might yield. Certainly, the instructors who took the time to respond to the
questionnaire have every right to expect the data to be used as thoughtfully and
completely as possible. Similarly, those who would like to build on this study (i.e., either
to increase the sample for generalization or to discover contradictions) are more than
welcome to use and/or amend the survey tool presented in Appendix A.
Second, I would encourage all scholars to undertake a critical examination of
academic publications such as that attempted in Chapter 2 of this study. Book and
article reviews that ignore the overused concept of professional courtesy and focus
instead on exposing the “emperor’s new clothes” could provide the crucial impetus for
the practical paradigm shift that seems to be peeking over the FYC horizon. In all
likelihood, it would prove impossible to have such reviews published in the kind of
professional journals that add to CV’s and, most assuredly, work of this kind could put a
162
serious crimp in prospective career plans22 –– still, I believe that, for anyone who cares
about education, it is worth the risk.
Third, I believe that the answers of the seven interviewed instructors to the final,
e-mailed question of what distinguishes AE from SWE indicates that academic language
directly reflects the hierarchical, homogeneous world of academics. It would be both
interesting and potentially valuable to follow up on this indication with a larger study
focusing not only on this question but also on the question of what might happen to the
culture if the language were consciously shifted to the more egalitarian, more
heterogeneous hybrid forms suggested by Billig (2013), Bizzell (2002), Casanave (2010),
Fernsten (2005), Hebb (2002), McCrary (2005) and a host of others.
5.5 The fat lady sings
To speak of education as the transmission of culture is to mystify the sense and
significance of the process in a mechanical metaphor. Rather than transmission,
education is described better as the conservation, criticism, and creation of
culture, where culture is seen as a living tradition marked by contestation and
choice. … From a standpoint of value, we criticize what is and create culture
anew to try to secure a future existence for beliefs and practices that we prize
and hold precious (Giarelli, 1985, p. 33).
The question of FYC instruction, the teaching of AE, the sociocultural language of
academics, relates directly to the question of, as Giarelli phrases it, what beliefs and
practices we prize and hold precious. Should the written expression of academic culture
consist, as the FYC instructors suggest, of the products of flexible minds expressing
Assuming compositionists concern themselves with dissertation citations, imagine what will happen if I
ever wind up facing Lynch or Sanchez across the table at a hiring committee meeting.
22
163
passion and enthusiasm for strong, original topics, demonstrating perseverance in
tracking down evidence, and the desire to communicate what they have discovered to
others? Should the language itself be inclusive, allowing different points of view and
different modes of expression as Bizzell and others have argued? If so, whatever
programmatic and administrative or institutional changes need to be implemented in
order to accomplish this should our primary goal. Believing the above and based on the
results of this study, I have suggested a few pragmatic possibilities.
Now, let us imagine these few suggestions have been implemented. Students
are learning the basics of critical thinking and sound argumentation in a required
philosophy sequence. They are able to catch many of their own grammar and spelling
mistakes thanks to grammar and spell checkers, and are beginning to find relevant
sources using computerized library searches which they can reference in various
formats with the aid of bibliographic software. If and when they encounter specific
problems either in their writing or in understanding assignments, staff at tutoring and
writing centers are available to answer their questions.
And now let us imagine that English instructors are able to return to the central
concept that drew them to their discipline; i.e., the idea that writing serves to
communicate unique experiences and thoughts. They have the time to demonstrate to
students how various authors have accomplished this communication in various ways,
to give students the confidence to develop their own voices, to lead them to realize that,
regardless of their ages, gender orientations, SES, home languages, and ethnic
164
backgrounds, what they have to contribute is important, and to help them discover that
the academic setting is an exciting place that offers them the resources to pursue any
enthusiasm and to satisfy every curiosity.
Why not?
165
APPENDIX A: English Writing Class Survey
Before beginning, please note:
* the survey is designed to ensure respondents' total anonymity. No identifiers are
attached.
* the survey does not require that you complete all items. You may choose not to answer
any question or group of
questions.
* your answers will not be included in the study unless and until you click "Submit" at
the end of the survey.
* by clicking "Submit," you agree to have your answers included in the research report.
1. Which best describes your institution?
2. Who chooses the text(s) for your composition class(es)?
3. In your opinion, which skills are most important in the production of a good academic
composition (e.g., correct use of citation form, correct use of complex sentence structures,
ability to clearly state a thesis)? Please enter each on a separate line.
166
4. From the skills you've listed above, which is/are most difficult for your students to
master? Please enter each on a separate line.
5. Upon completion of the required English composition sequence at your institution,
how well do you believe the average student is prepared to produce acceptable academic
papers in subsequent classes?
6. If you were put in charge of English composition classes at your college/university,
what, if any, changes would you make to improve student outcomes?
7. Which best describes your position?
8. Which best describes the focus of your formal academic training?
167
9. In total, how many years have you been teaching postsecondary English classes?
10. How often do you read books and/or journal articles related to writing instruction?
11. Any additional comments or observations?
168
APPENDIX B: Solicitation to Participate – Letter 1
Dear Colleague,
I am a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Arizona and, for
the past sixteen years, I have been working as a language instructor at a community
college in Tucson, Arizona. At present, I am conducting research on the teaching of
academic English at the postsecondary level. The purpose of this research is to provide
an overview of instructors’ perception of the subject matter, and to solicit their opinions
on ways in which academic English instructions could be improved.
Previous research has demonstrated that academic English proficiency is a critical factor
in students’ success at the postsecondary level and has suggested that current programs
do not consistently help students develop that proficiency; however, there has been no
large-scale research on the topic incorporating the experiences and, more importantly,
the opinions of classroom practitioners. The present study is designed to address that
lack.
In a few days, I will be directing a second e-mail containing a link to an eleven-item
survey to 1,000 English instructors (five each from two randomly chosen universities and
two randomly chosen community colleges from each of the fifty states). You are one of
the 1,000 and I would very much appreciate your help. The survey itself is completely
anonymous, deals only with the subject of teaching academic English and will take no
more than fifteen minutes to complete.
Thanking you in advance for your time and assistance,
Yosei Sugawara
Teaching, Learning, & Sociocultural Studies
College of Education
University of Arizona
[email protected]
169
APPENDIX C: Solicitation to Participate – Letter 2
Dear Professor [SURNAME]
I wrote to you last week asking for your assistance with a study focusing on the teaching
of academic English at the postsecondary level. The research has been approved by the
Dept. of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies in the University of Arizona’s College
of Education and by the University’s Institutional Review Board.
The questionnaire will take from five to fifteen minutes of your time and, I assure you
again, your responses to the questions will be completely anonymous. Individual and/or
institutional identifiers are neither attached to the form nor solicited by the questions.
In addition, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) will be used for security encryption.
I hope to have received the majority of responses within two months of this mailing and
to have compiled the results within the following four months. At that time, I will direct
another e-mail to you and the other 999 instructors I’ve invited to be part of this study
providing information on how to access the results on-line. This means that any
comments or suggestions you wish to share about the teaching of academic English will
be read by up to 999 of your colleagues so, if you have something to say on the topic,
participation in this study will provide you with the opportunity.
If you have concerns about the authenticity of this request, and/or if you have any
questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at the e-mail address below.
The link to the survey is:
Thank you,
Yosei Sugawara
Teaching, Learning, & Sociocultural Studies
College of Education
University of Arizona
[email protected]
170
APPENDIX D: Question 3 Coded Responses – Community College
Category
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research and Reference
Process
Style
Other
Indeterminate
Code
L
Th
C
BM
RR
P
S
O
I
Ref.#
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
Code
P
C
Th
Th
Th
BM
Th
Th
Th
L
O
S
Th
Th, C
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
Responses
planning
organizational skills
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to devise a thesis
ability to write a thesis
correct use of grammar
ability to formulate and clearly state a thesis
thesis formation
ability to state a clear thesis
critical reading skills
original ideas
ability to clearly articulate independent ideas
ability to clearly state a thesis
clear articulation of a thesis (main idea plus main points plus
suggestion of pattern of organization)
focus, organization, structure, clarity, flow, word selection, flow,
and subordination
clearly state thesis
ability to assess audience and adjust writing to meet audience
needs
strong, clear, concise thesis statement
composing clear and complete sentences
sentence structures
clear thesis
unifying purpose, clearly stated
S, Th, L,
C
Th
S
Th
BM
BM
Th
Th
171
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
the ability to state and support a thesis
understanding argumentation
analytical ability; ability to discern logical constructs from
meaningless or illogical ones.
ability to write a concise sentence with interesting vocabulary
a clear thesis statement
student ability to develop ideas for good writing and possible
supports for those ideas
the ability to play up and down the scale of abstraction, to use
concrete details to elaborate on a general idea
paragraph structure (topic sentence, supporting details, etc.)
critical analysis skills!
ability to clearly state a thesis related to specific prompt
thoughtful consideration of the task, including timeline and criteria
for success
clear and sustained focus
critical thinking and reading
thesis and logical organization
correct use of complex sentence structures
before content: correct mechanics and grammar
critical thought (ideas beyond obvious)
clarity
correct MLA usage
evaluating and processing sources
ability to clearly state a thesis
correct use of citation forms
ability to clearly state a thesis.
good grammar
good sentence structure - clarity and variety
evidence of critical thinking
essay structure
developing ideas
thesis
argumentation
clear thesis
ability to recognize and state purpose of an essay
clear, direct thesis
evidence of critical thinking (ability to reflect critically on text
materials)
thesis
Th, L
L
L
BM, S
Th
L, P
L
BM
L
Th
P
Th
L
Th, C
BM
BM
L
S
RR
RR
Th
RR
Th
BM
S, BM
L
C
I
Th
L
Th
L
Th
L
Th
172
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
inventing
high level of critical thinking
write clearly and concisely
clearly-stated thesis.
awareness of audience
ability to state a clear thesis
grammar and punctuation usage
close reading
deep thinking skills
ability to state a thesis and identify it in sample essays
strength of argument
critical thinking
textual analysis
ability to write a clearly stated thesis
clear understanding of the task
well-developed thesis statement
evaluating the credibility of online sources
ability to identify and analyze different purposes and audiences and
apply them for different scenarios
clearly state a thesis
clearly state and develop a thesis
ability to clearly state a thesis
knowledge of the Writing Process (Pre-writing, drafting...)
critical and logical thinking
depth and complexity of thought
clear thesis
developing ideas
sentence clarity and coherence
the understanding of why writing is important
understanding of the rhetorical situation (context, occasion, writer,
genre audience, purpose, stance)
ability to clearly state a thesis
clearly stated thesis
ability to use verbs correctly
being able to follow directions
ability to clearly state a thesis
specific detail to support ideas.
thesis
ability to narrow down a subject (focus) and to clearly state a thesis
organization
P
L
S
Th
S
Th
BM
L
L
Th, L
L
L
L
Th
O
Th
RR
S
Th
Th
Th
P
L
L
Th
I
BM
O
S
Th
Th
BM
O
Th
L
Th
Th
C
173
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
clear thesis
organization
critical thinking
ability to think deeply and critically on the subject matter
ability to state a thesis
create a restricted and coherent THESIS statement in one
declarative sentence.
formation of structurally correct sentences and paragraphs
clear thesis statement
spelling
proper English syntax
correct grammar/sentence structure
clear thesis
thesis
information literacy skills
organizing
research and documentation
ability to convey meaning while varying sentence structures.
ability to exemplify and support thesis
ability to write topic sentences
appropriate word choice
ability to organize paragraphs coherently in an essay
focus and organization of essay content
ability to find and use credible research sources
critical writing skills
analytical skills
ability to format written work in a formal structure
evidence of critical thinking and analysis in the composition
use of paragraphs as structured units of information that provide
evidence for specific points
full development for support
planning skills
clear paragraph structure
ability to paragraph correctly
clear thesis statement
correct use of grammar skills
logical structuring of ideas
critical thinking
understanding rhetorical methods
ability to isolate clear elements of thought; ability to write/make a
Th
C
L
L
Th
Th
BM
Th
BM
BM
BM
Th
Th
I
C
RR
S
L
BM
S
C
C
RR
I
L
C
L
L, C
L
P
BM
BM
Th
BM
L
L
S
BM, L
174
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
clear statement.
ability to write a paragraph that pertains to a topic sentence
logical argument (premises) to support the thesis
student ability to organize thoughts in a coherent fashion
the ability to vary sentence beginnings, to combine sentences
together to create variety
essay organization
an awareness and the ability to analyze HOW an essay or a story is
written and NOT an emotional reaction to content.
overall essay organization
thoughtful consideration of the audience, including expectations for
language and genre
correct sentences
correct use of citation form
developing analysis
ability to clearly state a thesis
thesis and development plan
ability to retrieve sources independently
brevity
clear focus - thesis-like statements
citation
ability to subdivide the thesis into relevant points
ability to understand parts of sentence
organization of support/skillful use of research data.
good spelling
proper use of grammar and punctuation
original thought
prose readability
understanding and applying formatting requirements
development of evidence
strong logic
strong, persuasive support
good organization
awareness and understanding of development
use of supporting material and/or sources to support a viewpoint
sentence structure
drafting
thesis formation
ability to clearly state a thesis
effective use of secondary sources
BM
L
L, C
S
C
L
C
S
BM
RR
L
Th
Th, P
RR
S
Th
RR
L
BM
L, RR
BM
BM
O
S
C, RR
L
L
L
C
P
L, RR
BM
P
Th
Th
RR
175
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
178
179
180
181
182
183
184
185
186
187
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205
correct level of formality for purpose
ability to develop a coherent argument throughout the composition
correct use of sentence structures
annotating texts
clear writing skills
ability to write a well structured, coherent essay
critical thinking
ability to understand and respond to complex ideas, materials,
readings
engaging with sources
providing detail in writing
organization
paragraphs that support the thesis
formulating a clear, original thesis statement
ability to analyze, understand, and synthesize sources and to add to
what's being said
development of ideas
sentence structure
ability to clearly state a topic sentence
knowledge of the sentence structure
clear and thoughtful organization including a thesis statement
clear central idea
solid organization
focus and organization (includes stating a thesis)
the belief that one has something worth saying
ability to clearly state and identify a thesis
ability to thoroughly defend a thesis
ability to explain/develop/expand on the thesis
correct use of sentence structure
sentence structure
ability to cite sufficient, authoritative, relevant evidence
proper quoting.
paragraph organization and logic (Time, Space, Priority Order or
Logical Argument)
organizational skills to promote flow of ideas and within and
between paragraphs
critical thinking (avoiding logical fallacies)
development of ideas and subjects
thesis
critical reading
S
L, C
BM
RR
BM
C
L
L
RR
S
C
C
Th
L, RR
I
BM
BM
BM
C
Th
C
Th, C
O
Th, L
L
C
BM
BM
RR
RR
L, C
C
L
I
Th
L
176
206
207
208
209
210
211
212
213
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
221
222
223
224
225
226
227
228
229
230
231
232
233
234
235
236
237
ability to use complete sentences and avoid fragments
ability to develop the thesis into a coherent essay
develop two- and three-level outlines analyzing part-to-whole
relationships and logical sequences.
expression of logic and clarity
use of rhetorical strategies and examples
grammar
good structure for paper -- beginning with thesis, middle with
arguments, conclusion
structural cohesion
critical thinking skills that lead to good content
sent structure
ability to think logically
understanding of critical thinking and analysis
clarity
correct use of citation formats.
ability to articulate thoughts with written words
ability to clearly organize a paper
correct use of complex and compound sentences (to avoid run-on
and fragments)
ability to proofread, edit and improve own work
development (using observation, experience and academic reading critical analysis)
lack of grammar errors
paraphrasing
natural sentence structure (as opposed to awkward/choppy with
poor word choice)
ability to use correct grammatical practice
understanding and correct use of appropriate style formats
(APA/MLA)
effective integration of information and research
correct sequence
ability to focus
ability to support a thesis statement with examples that effectively
support the claim
focus - staying on topic
focus on organizational skills and coherent thought and progressive
details
full development (support and explanation) of ideas
active reading
BM
C
L, P
S
S
BM
C
C
L
BM
L
L
S
RR
BM
C
BM
P
L, RR
BM
RR
BM, S
BM
RR
RR
C
O
L
C
L, C
L, C
O
177
238
239
240
241
242
243
244
245
246
247
248
249
250
251
252
253
254
255
256
257
258
259
260
261
262
263
264
265
266
267
268
269
270
271
272
273
correct use of MLA citation
ability to work thought into correct sentences. ability to write clear
sentences.
ability to write transitions between paragraphs
credibility of sources to support points
sentence Fluency
writing a streamlined thesis
thesis statement
content transitions rather than transition word tags to move
between sentences, ideas, and paragraphs.
correct use of complex sentence structures
production of prose that is both brief and clear
correct punctuation
correct use of complex sentence structures
Proper grammar
ability to organize a paper so that it flows logically
complex-compound sentences IF the student is adept grammatically
to attempt such
ability to evaluate sources
standard American English
ability to find valid academic sources to use for support
clear thesis
the ability to structure the support for the thesis
critical reading skills
critical interaction with arguments.
use of transitions
correct citation - MLA
supporting claims
topic suitability
understanding and applying good organization skills
organization
integration of evidence or data
careful, accurate use of sources
recognizing and writing towards a specific audience.
understanding of "support"
a main idea or major claim
citation
ability of the writer to understand the essay's thesis and its
implications for the essay
correct grammar and punctuation
RR
BM
C
RR
S
Th
Th
C
BM
S
BM
BM
BM
C
BM
RR
BM
RR
Th
C
L
L
C
RR
L
S
C
C
RR
RR
S
L
Th
RR
L
BM
178
274
275
276
277
278
279
280
281
282
283
284
285
286
287
288
289
290
291
292
293
294
295
296
297
298
299
300
301
302
303
304
305
306
307
308
accuracy in selection of words and precise meanings
signs of critical-thinking skills
clarity of argument
correct use of both simple and complex sentence structures
the ability to properly outline and write an essay focusing on the
points listed
critical thinking
identifying a thesis
ability to format papers correctly and to provide proper
documentation in text and on the Works Cited page using MLA
standards
use of evidence and analysis
developing a purpose
clearly stating a thesis
sentence structure
thesis
evidence and examples that are relevant to the audience
incorporating outside research into one's own argument
understanding and skillful use of citation styles
ability to correctly use grammar.
clear phrasing of ideas
ability to elaborate on quality supporting evidence
knowledge of sequencing
synthesis of quality evidence
concrete support
sentence structure
smooth attribution and use of sources
the passion about a topic
ability to effectively research and utilize available resources.
ability to follow academic conventions in research paper writing
ability to remain focused
correct use of punctuation
thesis statement
organization of paragraphs, sentences and the overall essay
structure
citing in MLA format.
sentence Skills - punctuation, grammar, spelling
ability to develop ideas fully and substantially to support the thesis
idea
grammar, usage, and mechanics (GUM)
BM
L
L
BM
C, P
L
Th
C, RR
L
Th
Th
BM
Th
S, L
RR
RR
BM
S
L
C
L, RR
L
BM
RR
O
RR
S
I
BM
Th
C
RR
BM
L
BM
179
309
310
311
312
313
314
315
316
317
318
319
320
321
322
323
324
325
326
327
328
329
330
331
332
333
334
335
336
337
338
339
340
341
342
343
344
345
focus
mechanics
organizing ideas
organized thinking
ability to construct complex sentences correctly
provide credible evidence in support of claims related to the THESIS
statement.
avoidance of plagiarism
use of transitional words and phrases to show the connections
between ideas
thesis/topic sentence construction
good research skills - evaluating Internet source materials
transitional phrases
clear and correct citations
citations
thoughtful structure of essay
finding & using good support for opinions
standard grammar
ability to research sources to support ideas
ability to correctly cite sources
ability to state a clear thesis
ability to use a variety of sentence structures
standard Edited English
organization skills
ability to clearly state a thesis
appropriate academic language and style
effective use of language and grammar
unity
ability to organize writing
correct formatting (MLA in my case)
citation form
clear and precise expression
enough skill with grammar so as to be able to transfer ideas into
writing effectively
creating a strong revision plan
comfort with standard usage; recognition of correct word forms.
ability to integrate sources and use citations
grammatical, punctuation, mechanical skills
student ability to convey voice in writing
using paragraphs as mini-essays that go from general to specific
I
BM
L
L
BM
L, RR
RR
C
Th, BM
RR
C
RR
RR
C
RR
BM
RR
RR
Th
BM
BM
C
Th
S
S
C
C
RR
RR
S
BM
P
BM
RR
BM
S
BM
180
346
347
348
349
350
351
352
353
354
355
356
357
358
359
360
361
362
363
364
365
366
367
368
369
370
371
372
373
374
375
376
377
378
379
380
381
382
383
rhetorical forms
incorporating the appropriate literary (or technical depending on
the specific discipline) terms without excessive jargon.
paragraph development
ability to benefit from constructive criticism
strong transitions
ability to clearly state a thesis
correct use of citation
ability to explain or back up assertions
ability to summarize a source so as to avoid a hint of plagiarism
correct use of complex sentences
strong topic sentences
the ability to clearly tie cited evidence to the point at hand
critical discussion skills
balance between clarity and complexity in sentence structure.
a clearly stated thesis
strong, specific thesis
accurate documentation
developing voice
use of SWE
sentence variety
good writing skills -- sentence structure, grammar, etc.
clear and recognizable thesis
incorporation of sources
ability to reference authoritative source materials and ability to
distinguish valid or "quality" sources from junk
rhetoric
revising
ability to synthesize disparate information into a cohesive essay
use of logic and organization of material
genuine analysis and synthesis
organization (sentence as well as paragraph level)
correct use of punctuation, spelling and word choice
correct use of proper format
developing a thesis
reasoning logically
quality of writing
understanding audience/writing for readers
developing the thesis with evidence from a text
relevant support
S
S
BM
O
C
Th
RR
L
RR
BM
BM
L, RR
L
S
Th
Th
RR
P
BM
S
BM
Th
RR
RR
S
P
L, C
L, C
L
BM, C
BM
I
Th
L
I
S
Th, RR
L, RR
181
384
385
386
387
388
389
390
391
392
393
394
395
396
397
398
399
400
401
402
403
404
405
406
407
408
409
410
411
412
413
414
415
416
417
418
419
ability to revise with the audience in mind
using an outline to organize one's arguments and ideas
ability to maintain focus on an idea and develop this idea clearly
throughout
correct use of citations
mechanics
correct citation
knowledge of development of a thesis
correct citations
organization of ideas
solid academic research
the ability to write a clear thesis
ability to correctly use correct documentation and formatting style
appropriate grammar, spelling, and punctuation
ability to provide evidence for topics that support the thesis
topic sentences
application of reasoned critical thinking skills
creativity, insight, originality - Not predictable, entertaining
correct use of citation form, spelling, capitalization, Standard
American English/grammar, syntax and complex sentence structure
proper punctuation
logic
conveying specific information
use of specificity and avoidance of generalizations
good knowledge of proper mechanics
accurately quote, paraphrase, and summarize information from
sources.
coherence
descriptive detail
ability to relate back to thesis throughout an essay - keep unified
theme going
ability to proofread and produce error free prose
proof reading & revising
computer / document formatting ability
ability to formulate and write a detailed essay
ability to recognize credible sources
essay organizations
correct citation in text and Works Cited (MLA and/or APA)
basic essay skills
grammar/punctuation
S, P
P
C
RR
BM
RR
P
RR
L
RR
Th
RR
BM
L
BM
L
O
BM, RR
BM
L
I
S
BM
RR
C
S
C
BM
P
I
C
RR
C
RR
C
BM
182
420
421
422
423
424
425
426
427
428
429
430
431
432
433
434
435
436
437
438
439
440
441
442
443
444
445
446
447
448
449
450
451
452
453
454
455
456
correct grammar
ability to connect ideas and make writing flow
consistent style (MLA in my case)
command of Standard English
integrate and cite source material
correct use of complex sentence structures
ability to use vocabulary effectively.
ability to write and defend a thesis
organization
student understanding for conventions, mechanics and grammar
the known-new technique that creates coherence
to find the appropriate diction level required in formal, academic
writing and avoiding excessively elevated or colloquial word choice.
conciseness and clarity in sentences
knowledge of audience expectations for correctness, form, and
style (thesis, support, citation, etc.)
interesting, apt, varied vocabulary
competent evaluation of sources
varying sentence structure
correct use of citation form
professional/academic tone
good introduction and conclusion
the ability to select reputable sources
application of sentence mechanics.
knowledge of subject
academic tone
understanding and applying suitable evidence / research
correct MLA format
organization
correct documentation of sources
original thinking
grasp of proper grammar
ability to introduce texts and to write to an outside audience
editing
ability to find, evaluate, and use sources
provide examples or evidence and clear documentation
correct use of appropriate support
ability to organize a composition logically, while still maintaining a
clear central thought
ability to use the proper tone for the type of writing being done
BM
S, C
RR
BM
RR
BM
S
Th, L
C
BM
P
S
BM
S
S
L
S
RR
S
C
RR
BM
O
S
L, RR
RR
C
RR
O
BM
S, RR
P
RR
RR
RR
C
S
183
457
458
459
460
461
462
463
464
465
466
467
468
469
470
471
472
473
474
475
476
477
478
479
480
481
482
483
484
485
486
487
488
using evidence
correct use of citations
rhetorical strategies
if research, understand how to apply MLA format according to
guidelines
appropriate usage of some form of documentation
citing sources correctly and consistently
appropriate documentation
good use of standard, written English
clarity in mechanics
solid academic tone
the basic grammar concepts
ability to revise and edit as appropriate for a better product
ability to explain how the evidence supports the topic or thesis, or
understand whether or not the audience understands the
connection
transition sentences
ability to read college level texts for higher levels of evaluation,
analysis and response
correct use of appropriate tone
proper spelling
flow of essay
evaluating credibility of sources
avoiding the unclear pronoun "it"
document use of sources through attribution, citation, and
bibliographic entry.
unity
effective research
one idea per paragraph
reading comprehension
organization/focus
ability to use a fair range of distinct sentence types
differentiating between summary and analysis
ability to cite, analyze and synthesize academic sources and
readings.
ability to compose a thesis statement; ability to structure a
discussion into paragraphs that flow logically.
ability to critically analyze a piece of writing
the ability to get words on a page, to plan, to create raw material in
order to have something to work with, the ability to use writing as
L
RR
S
RR
RR
RR
RR
BM
BM
S
BM
P
L
C
L
S
BM
C
RR
BM
RR
C
RR
BM
O
Th, C
BM
L
RR
Th, C
L
P
184
489
490
491
492
493
494
495
496
497
498
499
500
501
502
503
504
505
506
507
508
509
510
511
512
513
514
515
516
517
518
519
520
521
522
thinking not just the product of thought
to distinguish the appropriate use of quotes, summary, and
paraphrases.
successful experience in producing and revising work which meets
high expectations for content and form
functional organization
ability to structure and organize a text, including use of transitions
correct citation format
support for statements
the ability to write complex sentences with logical predication
understanding of formal register and academic tone.
accurate diction
paragraph unity
advanced sentence structure
writing in the active voice and selecting synonyms instead of vague
pronouns
correct grammar
ability to use an appropriate academic tone
organization
originality of thought
organization
word choice and sentence structure
HARD WORK
ability to choose a timely, interesting, and specific topic
correct citation format
understanding grammar and usage
academic discourse including tone, diction and voice
ability to communicate with a specific audience for a specific
purpose
integrating the ideas of others
grammar
examining logic of arguments and claims
proper grammar
integrate source information fluently and correctly using sourcedescriptive verb phrases.
development
critical thinking
good synthesis of sources
mature writing style
ability to use outside sources effectively
RR
O
C
C
RR
L
L, BM
S
BM
C
S
S
BM
S
C
O
C
S, BM
O
Th
RR
BM
S
S
RR
BM
L
BM
RR
I
L
RR
S
RR
185
523
524
525
526
527
528
529
530
531
532
533
534
535
536
537
538
539
540
541
542
543
544
545
546
547
548
549
550
551
552
553
554
good mechanical and language skills
ability to develop an enriched conclusion
ability to organize thoughts and support
thesis and topic sentences encompass cause and effect
relationships (and therefore reflect a more complex understanding
of text) if they are complex sentences.
unique and resounding student voice
understanding and effective use of drafting and revision process
the ability to punctuate acceptable to Standard Written English
proper citation
good use of grammar and spelling
clarity
organization and structure
addressing opposing points of view
understanding of audience
careful revision
ability to research
correct use of grammar and Standard Written English
understanding of topic
revise for substantive change in content and diction for specific
purpose-to-audience relationships.
citation style/knowledge
grammatical problems and MLA rules. **I am putting this last
because I strongly believe that instructors who give such busy work
priority have been reduced to busy work because of their excessive
work schedules.
adequate development
appropriate use of detail and abstraction to illustrate analysis
mature vocabulary
proper use of research style
grammar and usage
paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting from an outside source
careful editing/proofreading
proofreading
correct use of citation form
having a point
recognize, identify, and correct errors through proofreading and
editing skills.
addressing the assignment itself
BM
L, C
L
S
S
P
BM
RR
BM
S
C
L
S
P
RR
BM
O
S, P
RR
BM, RR
I
L
S
RR
BM
RR
P
P
RR
Th
BM
O
186
APPENDIX E: Question 3 Coded Responses – University
Category
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research and Reference
Process
Style
Other
Indeterminate
Code
L
Th
C
BM
RR
P
S
O
I
Ref. #
1
2
Code
Th, L
C
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
Responses
clear and thoughtful thesis (argument)
ability to organize and present thoughts clearly, including
thesis statements and topic sentences
clearly state a thesis
engagement with the topic of the composition
correct citation form
meaningful idea development/insight
ability to clearly state a complex thesis.
ability to synthesize information from different sources
organization
using a process approach to writing that helps the student
determine topic, and provide support of thesis.
ability to clearly state central and supporting ideas
clearly state thesis
clear organizational structures including essay organization and
paragraph organization
effectively understanding and responding to a given rhetorical
situation
ability to state a clear thesis
the ability to write a grammatically correct sentence that also
develops a clear thought.
clear thesis
forming a clear argument
clear thesis
clear theses
correct use of complex sentences
Th
I
RR
L
Th
L
C
P
Th, L
Th
C
S
Th
BM
Th
L
Th
Th
BM
187
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
reading and analysis that results in a clear understanding of the
rhetorical situation.
awareness of audience and tone
clarity
cohesiveness of ideas
critical reader
identification of audience and purpose (outward-focused
writing)
attention to detail
clear, concise thesis statement
correct grammar
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to frame an argument.
clear thesis
clearly stated thesis
close reading skills
clearly stated thesis
ability to clearly state a thesis
adequate development of an idea, especially in argumentation
arguable thesis
clearly state a thesis
clarity
an ear for academic English
using strategies to develop ideas or a focus for the
Composition
ability to state a focus or thesis clearly
A WELL-ORGANIZED AND BALANCED ESSAY
a clearly worded thesis.
a clear and appropriate topic
using purposeful development that supports the thesis
paragraph development
working with source material to generate argument
thesis statement
think critically and analytically about the subject matter
ability to critically interrogate a topic rather than jumping to
conclusions
understanding of rhetorical situation, purpose, audience and
rhetorical appeals
ability to analyze with insight
clear syntax
L
S
S
L
L
S
O
Th
BM
Th
L
Th
Th
L
Th
Th
L
Th, L
Th
S
S
P
Th
C
Th
Th
L
BM
L
Th
L
L
S
L
BM
188
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
focus
genuine interest in your own ideas
knowledge of the composition topic
a clear thesis
use of argumentative and analytical forms of thought
critical thinking/critical approach to sources and topics
clear thesis throughout the paper.
clearly communicate main idea with relevance to the reader
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to clearly state a thesis
good understanding of grammar, punctuation , and mechanics
nuanced thinking
citations
ability to analyze and write into a new rhetorical situation
clarity
correct use of complex sentence structures
clear writing, clear purpose in writing
critical Reading
a clearly stated thesis
ability to read and understand college-level texts
creating a thorough plan the essay: pre-writing stages, which
includes creating a strong thesis statement and brainstorm list
of thesis statement major points.
content that expresses a unique and well-thought out
viewpoint
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to clearly state thesis statement
ability to clearly state a thesis and then support and prove that
thesis is very important
ability to read critically and infer meaning and intent in
academic texts
to organize arguments and information logically
ability to clearly state a thesis
appropriate MSS form--APA-MLA
American style essay organization including the use of topic
sentences and thesis statements
careful critical thinking about an issue in order to develop an
approach.
awareness of self as a language-user (spoken and written
language)
I
O
RR
Th
L
L
C
S, Th
Th
Th
BM
L
RR
S, L
S
BM
S
L
Th
O
Th, P
Th, L
Th
Th
Th, L
L
L
Th
RR
C
L
O
189
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
thesis
clarity
clear Organization and Effective Transitions within and
between paragraphs
clear thesis
critical reading skills
Students who actually read books can write sentences.
Students who don't have a lot of trouble. I think an apt analogy
would be trying to learn an instrument without ever listening
to music.
clarity
ability to develop a thesis
an understanding of the rhetorical context (audience, purpose,
situation/occasion, voice)
clear, arguable thesis
clearly stated thesis.
correct use of complex sentence structures
the capacity to perceive patterns in complex phenomena.
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to clearly state a thesis
drawing inferences from evidence
rhetoric
sophisticated development of ideas
ability to clearly state a thesis
strong textual evidence
ability to produce clear, grammatical sentences, avoiding
predication, logic, and structure problems
organization of essay
awareness of the 3 parts (prewrite, write, rewrite) and 7 steps
(prewrite, draft, respond, revise, edit, proofread, publish) of
the writing process
correct formatting
fulfillment of assignment guidelines
ability to integrate outside sources into an argument or
explanation.
abide by academic conventions such APA or MLA style
development - details and support for a thesis
clearly stating thesis
ability to organize ideas and use transitions effectively
develop cogent, analytical paragraphs
Th
S
C
Th
L
O
S
Th
S
Th, L
Th
BM
L
Th
Th
L
S
L
Th
L
BM
C
P
C
O
RR
RR
L
Th
C
L, P
190
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
clear sentence structure
discovering the best ways to appeal to a given audience
ability to read, understand, and synthesize research material
the ability to read, understand, and integrate research into
writing.
clear organizational structure
integrating evidence into the essay
a balanced argument
correct use of supporting material
correct use of citation form
thoughtful reflection on the rhetorical problem leading to an
insightful thesis.
a clear purpose for writing
strong thesis
clear thesis and claims to start paragraphs
good self-critic
construction of a strong thesis
what I call "the art of seeing" - everything
supporting details that are clearly related to the thesis
statement/writing cohesively
good organization
correct use of complex sentence structures
ability to use evaluate and employ evidence to support an
argument.
adequate, specific support for thesis
clear topic sentences supporting the thesis
clear controlling idea
organization
ability to support thesis with germane examples
the ability to organize in a coherent way ideas
structure
adequately develop theme
organization
the discipline to start early and edit drafts
developing a clear thesis
ability to link sections or paragraphs clearly to the focus or
thesis
A CLEAR THESIS
an organization that is convincing and easy to follow.
critical reading, writing, and thinking skills
BM
S
RR
RR
C
RR
L
RR
RR
Th, L
Th
Th
Th, C
P
Th, L
I
L, C
C
BM
L, RR
L
L, C
Th
C
L
C
C
C
C
O
Th
C
Th
C
L
191
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
178
179
180
181
182
183
184
185
186
187
clear and specific expression of ideas
development of original ideas and arguable claims
having a critical stance
organization
perform effective scholarly research with institutional
resources
ability to find and weigh evidence
generating various interpretations of any given text
clear thesis statement
in-text citation
ability to understand and participate in critical conversations
logical reasoning
paragraphs that are focused on one idea that supports the
thesis
audience awareness
formulating a thesis
organization and structure
write in a logically organized, easy to read format
correct use of complex sentence structures
ability to draft appropriate topic sentences in support of a
thesis
clearly stating a thesis
being well-informed about the topic
thesis
ability to analyze the rhetorical, structural, and stylistic
features of a genre
creativity
ability to clearly state a thesis
solid and logical structure
objective Summary
clearly stated reasons why the thesis is correct (main points)
clear purpose (argumentative thesis and a logical supporting
structure)
creating a sentence outline to create clear topic sentences:
these sentences will be used in the essay.
cohesion so that the reader can follow the logic
ability to support thesis
ability to organize paragraphs
to have a clear organization that flows easily throughout the
essay
S
Th, L
L
C
RR
RR
O
Th
RR
L
L
C
S
Th
C
L, C
BM
L, BM
Th
RR
Th
S, L
O
Th
L, C
RR
L
Th, L, C
P
C
L
C
C
192
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205
206
207
208
209
210
211
212
213
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
organization of ideas and content (for clarity, especially)
to apply strategies of the writing process to research essays
organize ideas to support the thesis
appropriate genre--suitable for aim and audience
correct use of complex sentence structures and a variety of
sentence structures
the ability to read and research in order to build a case or
make an argument.
being able to read for structure of argument and authorial
style as well as content
organization
development
proper word usage
paragraph coherency and unity
critical thinking skills
ability to engage the reader
ability to clearly articulate a thesis
clear thesis and frame of reference
organization of ideas: Writing to a thesis
well organized essay.
ability to clearly state a thesis
the capacity to develop hypotheses to account for those
patterns.
ability to clearly support a thesis
ability to stick to arguing that thesis all the way through,
without straying
clarity
thesis construction
use of evidence to support an argument
correct use of citation form
logical structure/organization
ability to avoid plagiarism if outside sources are used, including
citing sources accurately and clearly
appropriate mechanics in writing
awareness of and appreciation for the recursive, non-linear
nature of the writing process
balance of evidence and interpretation
clear and correct expression
ability to analyze multiple sides of an issue.
ability to construct a thesis that ties up the whole paper
C
P
L, C
S
BM
L, RR
L, S
C
I
BM
C
L
S
Th
Th, L
C
C
Th
L
L
C, L
S
Th
L, RR
RR
L, C
RR
BM
P
C
BM
L
Th, C
193
221
222
223
224
225
226
227
228
229
230
231
232
233
234
235
236
237
238
239
240
241
242
243
244
245
246
247
248
249
250
251
252
mechanics/conventions - spelling, grammar, and punctuation
providing appropriate and valid support for thesis
ability to adequately develop ideas with details
usefully and constructively integrate secondary research
understanding of rhetoric
constructing well-supported, well-reasoned arguments
ability to use coordination and subordination effectively to
create "college level" sentences
the ability to understand plagiarism and correctly cite
information.
application of course material (developing a strong argument,
writing an effective narrative, etc)
determining the validity of sources
effective use of language
clear control over language and mechanics
ability to elucidate the issue, problem, and solution within your
text and the texts that you read to prepare for your
contribution.
integration of academic discourse language
supporting evidence
ability to provide and explain/analyze evidence
a creative or organizational process or formula for beginning
assignments
mastery of unity and coherence
consistency and higher level critical thinking
sentence variety
strong thesis
correct use of citation form
ability to understand how different perspectives value cause
evidence to be valued differently.
original thinking
clear argument supported throughout essay
critical thinking skills
sentence level clarity
ability to articulate ideas in a clear, concise manner
expressing ideas in clear and expressive syntax and diction
crafting clear sentences
using concrete details and examples
the student's commitment to saying something that is
important to the student
BM
L
L
RR
S
L
S, BM
RR
L, C
RR
S
S, BM
L
S
L
L, RR
P
C
L
S
Th
RR
O
O
L
L
BM
BM
S
BM
S
O
194
253
254
255
256
257
258
259
260
261
262
263
264
265
266
267
268
269
270
271
272
273
274
275
276
277
278
279
280
281
282
283
284
285
286
organizing the parts of the essay into a coherent whole
ability to use detail convincingly to support the thesis and its
linkage to sections
CORRECT USE OF COMPLEX SENTENCES
focus, both on thesis and topic sentences.
strong thesis and purpose
unified paragraphs on a well-defined topic sentence
understanding how to use sources
organization of ideas
clarity of thought
clearly state a thesis
ability to articulate a thesis
strong thesis statements
clear and relevant topic sentences (tied to controlling idea)
punctuation
clarity of expression
creativity
sentences that are logically ordered
goal of the writing to a specific audience
research: locating sources, reading/comprehending sources
thoughtful writing
offer support (primary or secondary research) for each claim
made
correct use of transitions throughout writing
selecting, analyzing, and discussing sources
correct use of complex sentence structures
clarity
ability to write effectively with sources, which includes being
able to assess the credibility of a source, read deeply,
effectively paraphrase and summarize, effectively select brief
direct quotes, and effectively cite.
syntactical mastery
correct use of citation form
authoritative and credible evidence
narrative rhetoric
specific evidence to support each point--not generalizations
that are not proven true
strong analysis (explain and make use of complex evidence)
writing a complete rough draft of the essay
use of a variety of sentence structures to achieve desired
C
L, C
BM
Th, C
Th
C
RR
C
L
Th
Th
Th
C
BM
S
O
C
S
RR
I
L, RR
C
L, RR
BM
S
L, RR
BM
RR
L, RR
S
L
L
P
S
195
287
288
289
290
291
292
293
294
295
296
297
298
299
300
301
302
303
304
305
306
307
308
309
310
311
312
313
314
315
emphasis and showing of relationships
ability to evaluate sources
correct use of grammar—i.e., no passive or redundant
construction
sentence structure
a good vocabulary that allows precise language and correct use
of any necessary jargon
to annotate, summarize, paraphrase and quote sources
correctly
develop ideas
appropriate organization; intro, background--establishing
context--, thesis, main body--(relationship of informing to
persuading), conclusion
recognition of an audience with certain expectations and
knowledge.
acquired habit of reading for pleasure
b/c statements (connecting example to thesis or point)
ability to execute a purpose
clear paraphrasing
accurate summary
clear grammatical structures
perfection (or close to it) grammatically
ability to structure an argument through topic sentences that
relate to the thesis
clear and precise topic sentences for developmental
paragraphs, coherence
correct sentence structure more important than complex
sentence structures
cohesive sentences and paragraphs.
correct use of citation form
the capacity to fund the structure of their own ideas and to
break those ideas down into subunits.
ability to organize main ideas
ability to critically analyze texts and respond to them
focus
distinction between own voice and voices of cited authors
synthesis of ideas
correct use of complex sentence structure
credible sources (when applicable)
ability to connect sentences and ideas together smoothly, i.e.,
RR
S
BM
S, BM
RR
I
C
S
O
C
O
RR
RR
BM
BM
L, C
C
BM
C
RR
L
L
L
I
RR
L
BM
RR
C
196
316
317
318
319
320
321
322
323
324
325
326
327
328
329
330
331
332
333
334
335
336
337
338
339
340
341
342
343
344
345
346
347
348
write cohesively
correct citation
desire and ability to invest time in the writing process
clear "so what?"
original and eloquent expression
proper use of citation format.
ability to add syntax variety with well-crafted transitions
precise and proper vocabulary and word choice
using logic and reasoning to make their argument or major
points
ability to express ideas in syntactically correct Standard English
use correct citation format
logical expression
creating well-organized, cohesive documents
ability to use precise words and pronouns with specific
referents
analytical thinking
correct use of grammar
using sources in an effective manner
play with language
ability to know when stasis is and is not a part of your
relationship with the audience.
textual support
correct citation
mastery of basic grammar and mechanics
intrinsic concern regarding quality of work
ability to express ideas clearly
supporting examples
ability to understand how values inform the decision-making
process.
correct use of standard English
correct use of MLA
ability to connect ideas to controlling idea
ability to properly document and integrate secondary material
independence of thought
voice
correct grammar and usage
the discernment to choose topics that foster interesting
thought at the appropriate level of detail for the student and
the assignment
RR
O
C
S
RR
S
S, BM
L
BM
RR
L
C
BM
L
BM
RR
O
S
RR
RR
BM
O
BM
L
O
BM
RR
L
RR
O
S
BM
Th
197
349
350
351
352
353
354
355
356
357
358
359
360
361
362
363
364
365
366
367
368
369
370
371
372
373
374
375
376
377
378
379
380
381
382
developing specific examples
ability to write varied sentences with a sense of rhythm
GREAT USE OF LINKERS
the ability to know what a complete sentence consists of.
identifying the audience
using primary and secondary sources effectively
understanding when to document sources
proper in-text citation
content
craft and develop cohesive body paragraphs via relevant topic
sentences which relate back to the thesis and relate to the
content of each paragraph
ability to engage with the opposition thoughtfully
good use of evidentiary support
good organization of paragraphs
organization
mental flexibility
good command of language--diction
organization of thesis, evidence from authoritative sources,
clear rebuttal of well expressed objections
integrating sources into an essay/paper
MLA/APA format
write free of grammatical and syntax errors
correct use of MLA formatting in essay
constructing readable sentences
correct use of citation
concision
develop an effective writing process, that allows a piece to
develop over time, informed by reader feedback
knowledge of conventions
revision
critical thinking
correct citation of all external sources used
application of conventions
(grammar/mechanics/citation/quote integration)
mastering basic grammar skills and all four sentence structures
to help in the proofreading of rough draft
clarity of expression
ability to use sources properly
ability to understand given writing tasks
P
S, BM
S, BM
BM
S
RR
RR
RR
I
C
L
L
C
C
O
BM
L, C, RR
RR
RR
BM
RR
BM
RR
S
P
BM
P
L
RR
BM, RR
BM, P
S
RR
O
198
383
384
385
386
387
388
389
390
391
392
393
394
395
396
397
398
399
400
401
402
403
404
405
406
407
408
409
410
411
412
413
414
to analyze, synthesize, and think critically about information
gathered from sources.
stay focused on thesis
appropriate style--suitable for genre, audience, and aim
the ability to recognize and make various moves -- argue the
other side, dissent, assess uses and limits, make a concession,
etc.
perseverance, patience with self and process
ability to synthesize ideas of others into one's writing
minimal direct quotation
appropriate word choice
clear thesis statement
sound thought process
quote integration from primary and secondary sources
appropriate illustrations and use of other modes (description,
definition, narration, etc.)
correct Works Cited page and in-text citations
proper grammar and diction.
ability to organize thoughts into a logical order
the ability to employ many "pre-writing" techniques to
accomplish all of the above
critical thinking
organization of thoughts and arguments in an effective manner
thesis
varied and appropriate sentence structure
ability to support a thesis
engaging voice
ability to develop and explain ideas clearly and in depth,
anticipating reader questions or confusions
ability to freewrite (using Natalie Goldberg's seven "rules for
writing practice")
thesis statement that is both clear and complex
effective organization
ability to develop content without losing readers' attention
sentence structure
organizing ideas, forecasting, and using transitional devices so
reader can follow the writer’s points
ability to paraphrase and summarize
vary sentence structure
correct understanding and use of appropriate citation methods
L, RR
C
S
L
O
RR
S
S
Th
L
RR
S
RR
BM
L
P
L
L, C
Th
S, BM
L
S
S, L
P
Th
C
S
BM
C
RR
S
RR
199
415
416
417
418
419
420
421
422
423
424
425
426
427
428
429
430
431
432
433
434
435
436
437
438
439
440
441
442
443
444
445
446
447
448
conducting appropriate research on an academic topic
ability to focus on a task long enough to understand it and
think it through
using an effective writing process.
MLA formatted citations
creating a sense of flow within the essay
effective use of sources
ability to link claim, proof, reason, evidence, and explanation.
critical thinking
effectively addressing the requirements of specific genres
genuine curiosity
correct formatting (MLA)
understanding how the rhetorical situation informs choice of
genre and citation form.
requirements of assignment met
strong introduction
making clear transitions between ideas
critical thinking
citing sources
critical thinking skills
the composure to "stay cool" and work well when
overwhelmed
using specific language/avoiding words such as "thing(s)" and
"stuff."
ability to follow standard rules of grammar and punctuation at
least remotely
CORRECT USE OF CITATION FORM
correct grammar.
supporting the topic with research
proficiency with standard MLA or APA citation formats
ability to organize material logically
careful organization of ideas and smooth transitions
proper use of citations and references pages
clarity
stick-to-it-ive-ness
interest in composition topic
correct register for vocabulary (academic versus
colloquial/formal)
choosing rhetorically appropriate organization
grammar
RR
O
P
RR
C
RR
L
L
S
O
RR
S
O
C
C
L
RR
L
O
BM
BM
RR
BM
RR
RR
C
C
RR
S
O
O
S
S
BM
200
449
450
451
452
453
454
455
456
457
458
459
460
461
462
463
464
465
466
467
468
469
470
471
472
473
474
475
476
477
478
479
480
481
use a variety of sentence structures
correct use of citation form
transitions between sentences and paragraphs
introducing sources: author, title, and credibility of source
following assignment
analysis
language that is formal enough for academia--no slang or
conversational language
persistence and engagement
revise and proofread rough draft of essay thoroughly
understanding the roles of writer and reader in academic
English papers
ability to correctly cite sources
fluency in sentence construction (which is related to use of
standard conventions and care in proofreading))
to locate and evaluate print and online sources
correct use of complex sentence structures
identifying and deploying relevant evidence
the ability to "design" and clearly state a thesis.
synthesis
understanding of genre conventions
ability to move beyond simple edits of a draft to taking it
through a development process
argumentation and persuasion strategies
correct use of MLA format
ability to produce clear and concise writing
the willingness to get lost.
ability to write effective transitions
time management
verb agreement
a distinct voice (appropriate to academic papers)
few editing/mechanical errors
ability to write a well-developed and cohesive introduction and
conclusion
ability and desire to eventually focus on one main topic or
question for investigation
good paragraphing
effective use and correct citation of sources
ability to expand the current research scope by making certain
an elevation in the conclusion
S
RR
C
RR
O
L
S
O
P
S
RR
BM
RR
BM
L, RR
Th
L
S
P
L
RR
BM
O
C
O
BM
S
BM
C
O, Th
BM
RR
C
201
482
483
484
485
486
487
488
489
490
491
492
493
494
495
496
497
498
499
500
501
502
503
504
505
506
507
508
509
510
511
512
513
514
proper citation - accurate MLA or APA format and style and
free of plagiarism
correctly using complex sentence structures
ability to correct grammar
show a clear understanding of audience/rhetorical situation
appropriate vocabulary
adapting tone and style to a given situation and audience
an understanding of the need to document use of sources
using correct citation
ability to show the relationships between one claim and the
next as the writer builds the argument.
imaginative thinking
effectively incorporating source materials into sourced papers
(no papers with multiple personality disorder!)
dedication to the revision process
forming complete sentences
punctuality
strong conclusion
integrating quotes
choosing a topic
a general knowledge of English mechanics
including research, if appropriate, and citing it according to
professional format (MLA, APA, etc.)
GOOD INCORPORATION OF SOURCES
knowledge of citation methods and when to cite.
correctly citing the sources both in-text and on a reference
page
grammatical concerns: usage, sentence structure, punctuation
ability to form complex sentences for maximum expression of
ideas
academic writing style
punctuation that aides readability
ability to find, assess, and process various "sources"
correct punctuation
correct documentation
correct use of complex sentence structures
ability to vary paragraph lengths
correct use of citation form
identifying salient supporting arguments and counterarguments
RR
BM
BM
S
S
S
RR
RR
L
O
RR
O
BM
O
C
RR
Th
BM
RR
RR
RR
RR
BM
BM, S
S
BM
RR
BM
RR
BM
S
RR
L
202
515
516
517
518
519
520
521
522
523
524
525
526
527
528
529
530
531
532
533
534
535
536
537
538
539
540
541
542
543
research
a conclusion that does more than restate the thesis. It needs to
tell us what we take away from the proven thesis-the lesson or
the effect the information may have
create final draft after proofreading rough draft 3-100 times
(this is an inside joke between my students and me).
clear and logical organization
to use MLA and APA style citation forms correctly
correct use of English grammar
discussing evidence
the ability to construct grammatically correct sentences.
attributive tags and in-text citation
targeting adequately a text to a specific audience
ability to correct one's grammar: especially sentence structure,
subject/verb agreement and pronoun/antecedents
diction, syntax, grammar, style, and mechanical usage (avoid
pronoun shifts, plural/singular)
ability to provide specific concrete details and imagery
the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly without oversimplifying them.
correct use of complex sentence structure
conciseness
appropriate word choices for audience
ability to avoid grammar errors, including spelling, word form,
and agreement problems
awareness of self and others as "audience" AND desire to
communicate with self and others
ability to structure the ideas in a logical and coherent way
basic research skills
giving credit through correct use of citation for and
documentation
when and how to include quotes, citations, etc.
enhancing writing style
ability to paraphrase
displaying an appropriate level of diction
ability to stay on topic and not go off on interesting, but
ultimately confusing, tangents.
correct use of standard citation formats (MLA for my
department)
strong self-editing skills
RR
C
P
C
RR
BM
L
BM
RR
S
BM
S, BM
S
S
BM
S
S
BM
O
C, L
RR
RR
RR
S
RR
S
C, L
RR
BM
203
544
545
546
547
548
549
550
551
552
553
554
555
556
557
558
559
560
561
562
563
564
565
566
567
568
569
570
571
572
correct use of grammar and mechanics
effectively using summary
narrowing a topic
the technical skills to use (forgive this redundancy)
technologies like Microsoft Word, search engines, and on-line
course materials to find and achieve correct formatting
MASTERY OF FORMAL AND ACADEMIC WRITING (NO USE OF
THE FIRST PERSON, CONTRACTIONS)
avoid plagiarism
natural integration of quotes
variability in sentence structure (that aids fluent reading)
correct use of complex sentence structures
strong work ethic
correct use of academic citation formats
correct use of grammatical structures such as punctuation and
verb tense
organization
remembering to write for a reader: engage the reader with
concrete stories, interesting quotes, intriguing questions
formatting
clarity of meaning on a sentence level
to control the syntax, diction, punctuation and grammar of
written language
correct use of citation
paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting
the ability to make transitions.
basic grammar
writing with a purpose
appropriate research format when applicable
correct use of punctuation marks
matters of academic form are largely irrelevant; they can look
that stuff up in handbooks.
grammatically sound writing
ability to proofread carefully and accurately, catching errors,
typos, and omitted words
awareness of and ability to work with HOCs (higher order
concerns / global revisions / "the big picture") and LOCs (lower
order concerns / sentence-level revisions and edits / "the
close-up picture")
ability to use different writing techniques to bring out ideas
BM
RR
P
RR
S
RR
RR
S
BM
O
RR
BM
C
S
C
BM
BM
RR
RR
C
BM
O
RR
BM
I
BM
BM
BM, P
P
204
573
574
575
576
577
578
579
580
581
582
583
584
585
586
587
588
589
590
591
592
593
594
595
596
597
598
599
600
critical thinking in evaluating sources
making major revisions and editing to improve the paper
before it is complete.
ability to proofread punctuation and grammatical errors
clarification of ideas
a sense of audience and how to make accommodations for
audience
ability to write cohesively as well as coherently
It is important that they "hear" and really see what they write.
transitions between paragraphs and sentences
overall organization of ideas
reading research
the confidence to find something to say and sustain it over the
course of a paper
correct usage and grammar
meaningfully supporting the controlling idea with personal or
researched material
correct use of citation form
grammar / mechanics / usage
ability to write clear and concise prose
Information literacy
editing: grammar, proofreading, correct citation style
editing/proofreading
correct and effective sentence structure
to express their key ideas clearly as assertive thesis statements
and topic sentences
citing and documenting sources
the ability to carefully set up the context for another person's
ideas when it is necessary to quote, summarize or paraphrase
creativity
using documentation styles adequately
various conclusions, depending on the context
ability to smoothly merge source material with original thought
develop a consistent and original voice
L
P
BM
P
S
C, BM
O
C
C
RR
Th, C
BM
L, RR
RR
BM
S
I
BM, RR, P
P
BM
S, C
RR
RR
O
RR
I
RR
S
205
APPENDIX F: Question 4 Coded Responses – Community College
Category
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research and Reference
Process
Style
Other
Indeterminate
Code
L
Th
C
BM
RR
P
S
O
I
Ref. #
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Code
L
BM
Th
RR
C
Th
BM
RR
RR
L
L
P
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
Responses
understanding of critical thinking and analysis
standard grammar
clearly writing a thesis.
ability to research sources to support ideas
paper organization
ability to state a clear thesis
ability to proofread, edit and improve own work
correct in text citation (integration and format)
ability to find and use credible research sources
critical reading skills
analytical skills
My students struggle with having independent thoughts and
getting them down in an acceptable structure for formal
writing.
critical thinking and analysis
effective development of thesis
word selection
thesis statement
inability to assess audience and adjust writing to meet
audience needs
clear paragraph structure
paragraphing
sentence structure
correct grammar
clear and precise expression
stating the thesis
L
C
S
Th
S
BM
BM
BM
BM
S
Th
206
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
ability to cite, analyze and synthesize academic sources and
readings.
comfort with standard usage; appropriate academic tone.
ability to critically analyze a piece of writing
logical argument to support the thesis
ability to convey voice
the ability to play up and down the scale of abstraction, to use
concrete details to elaborate on a general idea
paragraph structure
the ability to read and analyze text for HOW it is written and
WHY the writer makes particular choices such as structure,
types of evidence, tone shifts, word choice, etc. to effectively
develop the central idea or main assertion for a specific
audience.
correct use of complex sentence structures to achieve both
clarity and variety in writing
ability to benefit from constructive criticism
clear and sustained focus
competent evaluation of sources
thesis and logical organization, developing analysis, proper
grammar, correct use of citation, varying sentence structure
ability to clearly state a thesis
mechanics and grammar--Most have not mastered these--not
being emphasized at the middle and secondary levels as they
once were--students are actually semi-literate
correct use of complex sentences
good introduction and conclusion
MLA Works Cited pages
citation
ability to subdivide the thesis into relevant points
critical reading skills
organization of support/skillful use of research data.
good grammar
MLA citations
evidence of critical thinking
prose readability
developing ideas
thesis
argumentation
clear thesis
RR, L
BM, S
L
L
S
L
BM
L, S
BM, S
O
Th
L
RR, C, L, BM,
S, Th
Th
BM
BM
C
RR
RR
L
L
L, RR
BM
RR
L
S
I
Th
L
Th
207
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
carrying out the purpose of an essay.
thesis
evidence of critical thinking (the ability to reflect critically on
text materials)
sentence structure
thesis implications
ability to find, evaluate and use sources
accuracy in selection of words and precise meanings
analysis and synthesis
correct use of appropriate support
correct use of punctuation, spelling and word choice
grammar and punctuation usage
close reading
deep thinking and logic
MLA documentation, in text and on the Works Cited page
originality of thought
understanding and responding to complex ideas, materials,
readings
engaging with sources
writing a thesis statement
if research, understand how to apply MLA format according to
guidelines
evidence and examples that are relevant to the audience
evaluating the credibility of online sources
ability/willingness to understand and synthesize sources
clearly stated thesis
adequate essay development
clearly state a thesis
thesis
understanding of audience
depth of thought
solid academic tone
developing ideas
coherence
basic grammar concepts
researching and using resources effectively
ability to revise and edit as appropriate for a better product
proofreading
verb usage
following directions
O
Th
L
BM
L
RR, L
BM
L
RR
BM
BM
L
L
RR
O
L
P
Th
RR
S
L
RR
Th
C
Th
Th
S
L
S
I
BM
BM
RR
P
P
BM
O
208
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
topic choice
application of reasoned critical thinking skills
MLA format.
sentence skills - They don't have the mechanics they should
have learned in sixth grade.
correct use of citation form
critical thinking
development of ideas
mechanics
critical thinking
critical thinking
developing a thesis into a decent essay
developing two- and three-level outlines--students are not
prepared to think analytically.
logical expression
transitions
thesis and unity
English syntax - most of my students cannot write on a basic
level
critical thinking
citations
sentence structure
structure
research and documentation
varying sentence structure while still conveying meaning.
ability to devise a thesis
thesis writing
correct use of complex and compound sentences (to avoid
run-on and fragments)
ability to use a variety of sentence structures
correct Works Cited formatting
critical thinking skills
use of outside sources
ability to state a thesis
effective development of paragraphs as case-building units
subordination
grammar
students have great difficulty focusing their writing
ability to support a thesis statement with examples that
effectively support the claim
Th
L
RR
BM
RR
L
I
BM
L
L
C
L, P
L
C
C, Th
BM
L
RR
BM
C
RR
S
Th
Th
BM
BM
RR
L
RR
Th
C
BM
BM
Th
L
209
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
organizing details and giving specific examples
full development (support and explanation) of ideas
differentiating between summary and analysis
correct use of MLA citation
ability to use vocabulary effectively
ability to organize thoughts and support
grammatical, punctuation, mechanical skills
sentence fluency
the ability to get words on a page, to plan, to create raw
material in order to have something to work with, the ability
to use writing as thinking not just the product of thought
essay organization
to stop using the second person "you" and the first person "I."
thesis construction
thoughtful consideration of the task, including timeline and
criteria for success
interesting, apt, varied vocabulary
correct use of complex sentence structures
correct use of citation form
professional/academic tone
standard American English
the ability to clearly tie cited evidence to the point at hand
correct use of citation forms
understanding of formal register and academic tone.
sentence clarity and variety
strong, specific thesis
accurate documentation
understanding and applying suitable evidence / research
development of evidence
paragraph unity
persuasive support
support
use of supporting material and/or sources to support a
viewpoint
citation
revising
writing in the active voice and selecting synonyms instead of
vague pronouns
correct level of formality for purpose
ability to organize a composition logically, while still
C
L
L
RR
BM
L
BM
BM
P
C
S
Th
O
S
BM
RR
S
BM
L
RR
S
BM, S
Th
RR
L, RR
L
BM
L
L
RR, L
RR
P
S
S
C
210
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
178
179
180
181
182
183
184
185
186
187
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
maintaining a clear central thought
correct use of sentence structures
critical thinking
ability to differentiate between a paper's thesis and the topic
in sample essays
quality of writing
using rhetorical strategies
textual analysis
ability to revise with the audience in mind
addressing opposing points of view
ability to examine a text and understand it's main techniques
correct use of citations
mechanical skills
standard, written English
critical and Logical thinking
organization
careful editing/proofreading
focus and organization
thesis statement
utilizing correct documentation and formatting style.
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to research
topic development
ability to read college level texts
correct use of spelling, capitalization, SAE/grammar, syntax
and complex sentence structure
organization
logic
critical reading
mechanics
finding credible sources--students believe that if it's online,
it's credible.
complex grammar
thesis statements
some students struggle with spelling and grammar
research skills - evaluating good sources
citation style/knowledge, though I tend to feel that this is
more a result of results-driven laziness than true difficulty
synthesis of sources
appropriate word choice
BM
L
L
I
S
L
S
L
L
RR
BM
BM
L
C
BM, P
C
Th
RR
Th
RR
Th
O
BM
C
L
L
BM
RR
BM
Th
BM
RR
RR
RR
S
211
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205
206
207
208
209
210
211
212
213
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
221
222
223
224
225
226
227
228
229
grammar and punctuation
paraphrasing
original ideas
appropriate academic language and style
writing sentences and paragraphs with effective language and
grammar
inability to organize writing and link ideas .....(deficiencies tied
to lack of audience awareness)
citation form
supporting the thesis with paragraphs that feature strong,
interpretive topic sentences
understanding argumentation
ability to write clear sentences
ability to integrate sources and use citations
to find the appropriate level of diction for academic essays.
paragraph development
unique and resounding student voice
understanding and effective use of drafting and revision
process
the ability to select reputable sources
critical interaction with arguments.
accurate diction
organization
mature vocabulary
development
ability to introduce texts and to write to an outside audience
thesis
drafting
ability to clearly state a thesis
correct grammar
ability to use an appropriate academic tone
ability to use the proper tone for the type of writing being
done
citations
paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting from an outside
source
fluency in phrasing
hard work
citations
solid academic tone
BM
RR
O
S
BM, S
C, S
RR
C
L
BM
RR
S
C
S
P
RR
L
BM
C
S
I
RR, S
Th
P
Th
BM
S
S
RR
RR
S
O
RR
S
212
230
231
232
233
234
235
236
237
238
239
240
241
242
243
244
245
246
247
248
249
250
251
252
253
254
255
256
257
258
259
260
261
262
263
smooth attribution and use of sources
ability to thoroughly defend a thesis
organization
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to clearly state a thesis
GUM (grammar, usage, mechanics)
flow of essay
documenting source use--students do not appreciate the
concerns related to plagiarism
rhetorical strategies
ability to follow instructions
natural sentence structure
using accurate, intelligible, and concise phrasing.
ability to compose a thesis statement
to stop reacting emotionally to content and instead to always
imply an awareness that the subject might reflect multiple
reactions in other readers.
citation form
adequate development
critical thinking and reading
use of SWE
paragraph development
write clearly and concisely
clarity of argument
correct citation
correct citation format
phrasing
organization of paragraphs, sentences and overall essay
structure
grammar
integrating source information--students balk at anything
beyond cut and paste.
find appropriate research materials
active reading
ability to develop an enriched conclusion
that smooth content transitions are achieved in 2-4
sentences.
conciseness and clarity
correct use of citation form
correct MLA format :)
RR
L
C
Th
Th
BM
C
RR
S
O
BM
S
Th
S
RR
I
L
BM
C
S
L
RR
RR
S
C
BM
RR
RR
L
C
C
S
RR
RR
213
264
265
266
267
integration of evidence or data
proper use of research style
grammar
Proofreading and editing are difficult because students do not
(have not) read much even if required to do so.
RR, L
RR
BM
BM
214
APPENDIX G: Question 4 Coded Responses – University
Category
Logic
Thesis formulation
Composition
Basic mechanics
Research and Reference
Process
Style
Other
Indeterminate
Code
L
Th
C
BM
RR
P
S
O
I
Ref. #
1
2
Code
Th
BM
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
Responses
thesis
ability to produce clear, grammatical sentences, avoiding
predication, logic, and structure problems
clearly state a thesis
desire and ability to invest time in the writing process
balance of evidence and interpretation
effective use and correct citation of sources
ability to integrate outside sources into an argument or
explanation.
structuring ideas
proper format - either MLA or APA
clearly stating thesis
ability to express ideas in syntactically correct Standard English
show a clear understanding of audience/rhetorical situation
correct understanding and use of appropriate citation methods
effectively understanding and responding to a given rhetorical
situation
ability to read, understand, and synthesize research material
the ability to understand plagiarism and correctly cite
information
clear organizational structure
integrating evidence into the essay
clear thesis
correct use of supporting material
correct use of complex sentences
Students are slow to provide proof with claims and instead rely
Th
O
C
RR
RR
L
RR
Th
BM
S
RR
S
RR
RR
C
RR
Th
RR
BM
L
215
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
on "trust me because I said it" proof.
integration of academic discourse language
critical thinking
citation
self-criticism
identification of audience and purpose
the art of seeing everything in play in academic composition
forming a clear, concise thesis statement
grammar
correct use of complex sentence structures
understanding different perspectives.
use of standard English
thesis statement
critical thinking
organization
ability to articulate ideas in a clear, concise manner
adequately developing ideas
choosing a topic
clearly state a thesis
clarity
the discipline to start early and edit drafts
organizing the parts of the essay into a coherent whole
ability to link sections or paragraphs clearly to the focus or
thesis
A CLEAR THESIS
correct grammar
supporting the topic with research
clear and specific expression of ideas
development of original ideas and arguable claims
working with source material to generate argument
content
grammar
ability to find and weigh evidence
understanding of rhetorical situation, purpose, audience and
rhetorical appeals
strong thesis statements
proper use of citations and references pages
focus
mental flexibility
knowledge of composition topic
S
L
RR
O
S
O
Th
BM
BM
O
BM
Th
L
C
BM
I
Th
Th
S
O
C
C
Th
BM
RR
S
L, Th
L
I
BM
RR, L
S
Th
RR
I
O
RR
216
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
a clear thesis
use of argumentative and analytical thought
critical thinking
organization and structure
offer support for each claim
ability to clearly state a thesis
ability to clearly state a thesis
clearly stating a thesis
nuanced thinking: students frequently present a limited point of
view
citations
ability to analyze and write into a new rhetorical situation;
analyze the rhetorical, structural, and stylistic features of a
genre; write effectively with sources, which includes being able
to assess the credibility of a source; read deeply, effectively
paraphrase and summarize, effectively select brief direct
quotes, and effectively cite; develop an effective writing
process, that allows a piece to develop over time, informed by
reader feedback
syntax
ability to clearly state a thesis
citing and using research
editing/proofreading
using more formal language without slang
ability to read and understand college-level texts
grammar skills are difficult because many students have not
been encouraged to make a connection between grammar rules
and writing essays
clarity of expression
using sources correctly
correct use of grammar—i.e., no passive or redundant
construction
sentence structure issues (run-ons, fragments, etc.) have been a
big problem
It depends entirely on the student. Each student brings
strengths and weaknesses.
to annotate, summarize, paraphrase and quote sources
correctly
ability to clearly state a thesis and organize ideas
identifying and using the appropriate genre
Th
L
L
C
L
Th
Th
Th
L
RR
RR, L, P, S
BM
Th
RR
P
S
O
BM
S
RR
S
BM
I
RR
L, Th
S
217
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
the correct use of complex sentence structures and a variety of
sentence structures
careful critical thinking about an issue in order to develop an
approach
reading for structure and style
thesis
development
paraphrasing
basic grammar
using documentation styles adequately
reading
issues at the sentence level: clarity, sentence logic,
grammar/usage/mechanics
ability to develop a thesis, clearly articulate a thesis, structure
an argument through topic sentences that relate to the thesis,
quote integration from primary and secondary sources, move
beyond simple edits of a draft to taking it through a
development process, correct one’s grammar: especially
sentence structure, subject/verb agreement and
pronoun/antecedents
coherence (shifts from third to second to first person)
organization of ideas
coherent sentences and paragraphs
correct use of punctuation marks
the capacity to find the structure of their own ideas
ability to organize main ideas
ability to critically analyze texts and respond to them
thesis
conciseness
synthesis of ideas
correct use of citation form
concise strong evidence
ability to avoid plagiarism if outside sources are used, including
citing sources accurately and clearly
awareness of and ability to work with HOCs / "the big picture"
and LOCs / "the close-up picture" (Please note: Different
students have different problems with different aspects of
these two "dimensions" of writing. A key strategy for the
teacher is to help each individual student learn ways to "step
back and look at" a writing assignment or a draft and to self-
BM
L
O
Th
I
RR
BM
RR
O
BM
RR, C, P,
Th
BM
C
BM
BM
L
L
L
Th
S
L
RR
L
RR
P, BM
218
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
identify some of the main issues or problems that need
attention.)
clear "so what?"
ability to analyze multiple sides of an issue.
abide by conventions
research skills
using logic and reasoning to make their argument
ability to develop ideas
usefully and constructively integrate secondary research
clear paragraph organization
constructing well-supported, well-reasoned arguments
ability to use precise words and pronouns with specific
referents
analytical thinking
clear thesis
creating a sense of flow within the essay
a balanced argument
correct use of citation form
Students find stasis hard to grasp especially when it concerns
the issue.
analysis of evidence
construction of a strong thesis
mastering a thorough and consistent revision process
expressing ideas clearly
organization
ability to clearly state a thesis
evaluating and employing evidence
original thinking
topic sentences
close reading
ability to support thesis with germane examples and
explanations
coherent organization
narrowing a topic
adequately develop theme
correct grammar and usage
the student's commitment to saying something that is
important to the student
using specific language...
ability to write varied sentences with a sense of rhythm
L
L
I
RR
L
I
RR
C
L
BM
L
Th
C
L
RR
I
L
Th
P
S
C
Th
L
O
BM
L
L
C
Th
C
BM
O
S
S
219
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
178
CORRECT USE OF CITATION FORM
organization
correctly citing the sources both in-text and on a reference page
having a critical stance
clarity of thought
clearly state a thesis
ability to critically interrogate a topic rather than jumping to
conclusions
good use of evidentiary support
clear and relevant topic sentences (tied to controlling idea)
in-text citation
stick-to-it-ive-ness
interest in composition topic
organization of thesis, evidence from author
formulating a thesis
thoughtful writing
write free of grammatical and syntax errors
correct use of complex sentence structure
ability to draft appropriate topic sentences in support of a
thesis
correct use of citation
Being well-informed: when working with challenging readings,
students frequently go with the first obvious point the author
makes and assume that it is the limit of the argument.
following assignment
writing clearly
naming main points
strong analysis (explain and make use of complex evidence)
understanding the role of reader and writer in academic English
writing
correctly citing sources
ability to clearly state thesis statement
have a clear, specific thesis
to organize arguments and information logically
ability to develop ideas
appropriate style--students tend to be rather mechanical
the ability to read and research in order to build a case or make
an argument.
synthesis
appropriate word choice
RR
C
RR
L
L
Th
L
L
C
RR
O
O
RR, L, Th
Th
I
BM
BM
C
RR
L
O
S
P
L
S
RR
Th
Th
L
I
S
RR, L
L
S
220
179
180
181
182
183
184
185
186
187
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205
206
207
208
209
210
targeting adequately a text to a specific audience
developing paragraphs depending on notion
correct Works Cited page and in-text citations
proper grammar and diction
correct use of complex sentence structures
critical thinking
organization of thoughts and arguments in an effective manner
distinction between own voice and voices of cited authors
a distinct voice (appropriate to academic papers)
organization
ability to develop and explain ideas clearly and in depth,
anticipating reader questions or confusions
thesis statement that is both clear and complex
synthesize information
making major revisions and editing to improve the paper before
it is complete.
ability to clearly state central and supporting ideas
develop cogent, analytical paragraphs
clarification of ideas
adapting tone and style to a given situation and audience
ability to focus on a task long enough to understand it and think
it through
correct use of grammar
Students tend toward lists as they build evidence instead of
relationships that make one idea necessary before adding the
next.
effective incorporation of source materials while maintaining
the writer's voice
being able to self-edit and see mistakes when they are
happening, not after they have occurred
writing cohesively
correct use of citation form
error free writing
transitions
writing a clear controlling idea
ability to state clear thesis
reading research
concrete details and examples
the discernment to choose topics that foster interesting
thought at the appropriate level of detail for the student and
S
P
RR
BM
BM
L
L
RR
S
C
C
Th
L
P
C, Th
C, L
L
S
O
BM
L
RR, S
BM
C
RR
BM
C
Th
Th
RR
S
Th
221
211
212
213
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
221
222
223
224
225
226
227
228
229
230
231
232
233
234
235
236
237
238
239
240
241
242
243
244
245
the assignment
using strategies to develop ideas or a focus for the composition
ability to follow standard rules of grammar and punctuation
GOOD INCORPORATION OF SOURCES
focus
topic sentences
ability to engage with the opposition thoughtfully
natural integration of quotes
clear thesis statement
clarity of expression
logical reasoning
goal of writing to a specific audience
research
correct use of citation form
selecting, analyzing, and discussing sources
Introducing sources: students forget that most audience
members won't know why a given source is relevant
revision
supporting points with specific evidence
persistence and engagement
cohesion
to locate and evaluate print and online sources
correct use of English grammar and complex sentence
structures
paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, documenting
the ability to remember that they have learned various moves
in order to use them again
synthesis
clear grammatical structures
for some, constructing grammatically correct sentences
correct use of MLA format
correct use of citation form
ability to write effective transitions
time management
ability to avoid grammar errors, including spelling, word form,
and agreement problems
correct citation
construct an effective thesis
providing appropriate and valid support for thesis
ability to organize
P
BM
RR
I
BM
L
RR
Th
S
L
S
RR
RR
RR, L
RR
P
L
O
C
RR
BM
RR
O
L
BM
BM
RR
RR
C
O
BM
RR
Th
RR, L
C
222
246
247
248
249
250
251
252
253
254
255
256
257
258
259
260
261
262
263
264
265
266
267
268
269
270
271
272
273
274
275
276
277
278
279
ability to paraphrase
Cohesion takes time to build because students have been
taught not to repeat words. Good cohesion can benefit from
repetition.
sentence variety
correct use of grammar
transitions between ideas
citing sources
an ear for academic English
citation
careful organization of ideas
punctuation that aides readability
correct use of complex sentence structures
punctuation
audience awareness
correct use of complex sentence structures
correct use of transitions throughout writing
constructing readable sentences
Clarity and concision: students struggle to think about how they
might say something more clearly.
logical supporting structure
identifying evidence and/or relevant information
the ability to carefully set up the context for another person's
ideas when it is necessary to quote, summarize or paraphrase
accurate summary
research exercise since most have never done research papers
before
ability to smoothly merge source material with original thought
develop a consistent and original voice
ability to produce clear, grammatical sentences, avoiding
predication, logic, and structure problems
correct formatting (MLA)
use different writing techniques
correctly using complex sentence structures
ability to proofread
MLA
overall organization
a general knowledge of English mechanics
academic writing style
clear syntax
RR
O
S
BM
C
RR
S
RR
C
BM
BM
BM
S
BM
C
BM
S
L
L
RR
RR
RR
RR
S
BM
RR
P
BM
BM
RR
C
BM
S
BM
223
280
281
282
283
284
285
286
287
288
289
290
291
ability to understand and participate in critical conversations
strong work ethic
correct register for vocabulary (academic versus
colloquial/formal)
grammar / mechanics / usage
correct use of grammatical structures such as punctuation and
verb tense
transitions between sentences and paragraphs
Writing for a reader: perhaps because of their experience in
high school and standardized tests, students forget that the
people reading their essays want to be engaged and maybe
entertained.
writing thesis statements, topic sentences, intros and concls
creativity
transitions/segues from paragraph to paragraph
ability to provide specific concrete details and imagery
ability to clearly state a thesis
L
O
S
BM
BM
C
S
C
O
C
S
Th
224
APPENDIX H: Question 6 Coded Responses
A
Redirect focus of instruction
B
Standardize grading practices/clearly define course criteria
C
Improve qualifications of instructors
D
Provide a longer writing sequence
E
Require placement exams/provide remedial classes
F
Other
G
Place greater emphasis on basic mechanics/comp structure
H
Reduce class size
I
Change amount of writing/revision
J
Include current technology
K
Emphasize critical thinking
Ref. #
Code
Comment
1
A, D, I
More time spent on writing/revising Writing across the
curriculum More writing intensive courses required individual
writing conferences
2
C, D
If I had my way, I would try to make sure that all instructors were
well qualified themselves in teaching these skills to their
students. We have to hire so many part-timers that experience
and expertise varies widely. I would also love to see a 2semester freshman composition sequence so that students get
more feedback and experience themselves, and I would make
sure every student is required to take research writing. At my
school, business majors take a different follow-up course in
business and professional writing, but research writing is not
emphasized as much in that course.
3
N/A
The academic reading & writing program is excellent, & I am very
happy with how this program is run. There are plenty of teaching
resources and plenty of extra assistance for any student that
225
wants more help.
4
A
I would consider allowing occasional use of student-generated
topics and would lean less heavily on the personal essay.
5
A, B, C
We currently have, in my opinion, an excellent Director of
Composition. [IDENTIFIER DELETED]. I think she has not used an
English handbook much herself, and she does not use one (as far
as I know) with her students or with the TAs (teaching assistants)
whom she trains. Use of a handbook in composition courses is
"optional," according to her. For my own teaching (and for my
philosophy of teaching), student access to a handbook is
essential. (FYI, I use Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommer's RULES
FOR WRITING.) The handbook is not the focus of the course, at
all. But it is a valuable resource (and I am pleased that most of
my students end up viewing it that way.) I want students to
have the ability to USE a handbook (hard copy or e-book) and to
appreciate the many dimensions, purposes, and possible benefits
of a handbook. I feel that a handbook for English is as important
for a writer as a dictionary and a thesaurus (print or electronic). I
also feel it would be good to have a more concrete list of
expected outcomes (concepts AND skills, not just concepts) for
freshman composition and for sophomore composition.
Currently there is not much "oversight" or "quality control" for
our university's two required composition courses, I think. (This
is a long-standing problem at our university and not the fault of
the current Director of Comp. She simply inherited the
problem.) The composition courses are taught by a mixture of
TAs, Lecturers, and a few (very few) full-time faculty. In Fall
2012, for example, twenty-three sections of freshman
composition were offered (enrollment is typically 25 students
per section; 25 is the maximum allowed). I appreciate the
freedom that each instructor is allowed in teaching the course.
However, my sense is that, overall, this freedom is not paying off
for the students.
6
A
I think that I would use a different text book for Freshman
Composition. As a whole our department uses "Writing
Analytically" by Rosenwasser and Stephens and my students find
it incredibly difficult to understand. However, I think that our
226
focus on analytical writing is an important one for the whole
semester because it seems as though it takes them the whole
semester to really get the skills down.
7
A
Prioritize the direct connection and communication of beginning
composition skills, assignments, topics, and rhetorical modes to
students' ability to think, create, communicate, and therefore
succeed in college, in their professional goals, and in life.
Illuminate the relevance of students' writing!
8
A
Perhaps a committee (oh yeah, another committee!) comprised
of members across several disciplines asking them for the
standards and practices for writing in their disciplines. One
paper in the Research Paper Writing Class could focus on
individual students and writing within their majors.
9
A, C, D
- Propose new books (texts) for composition classes - Give
enough time to composition classes - Recruit well-trained and
dedicated instructors.
10
C
I would work to improve communication among the faculty who
teach these classes and attempt to provide resources for adjunct
faculty. This program is already in place at my university, but it
could use some new energy.
11
A
Change texts, perhaps move toward a more experimental,
composition-centered course instead of a rhetorical modecentered course.
12
A
I would encourage students to raise genre awareness about
different texts while engaging them in reading different texts in
an extensive and analytic way.
13
N/A
In my department, the professors who teach composition
courses continually collaborate to review assessment data to
improve student outcomes. For example, we know students have
a serious problem in the skills identified in #4. As a result, more
time is being spent on explicitly teaching research and
documentation skills. Another change that will be implemented
is relying less on adjuncts to teach even the basic courses.
227
14
N/A
Our institution works hard to norm the outcomes for classes. I
think having standard outcomes for each writing course keeps
instructors focused on the (collective) needs of students. We
change the outcomes as the academic need for students changes
(ie. over the 12 years I have been teaching, we have raised
standards, particularly in critical reading and research
requirements).
15
J
I would ensure that all classes meet in computer-equipped
classrooms.
16
D, K
The problem starts in high school. If the high school teachers had
the students do more critical reading and writing, they would be
better prepared for college. As is it, we are playing catch-up.
Even if students take developmental reading and writing courses
before the college level courses, they are still behind in critical
thinking. Of course, there are always students who excel and are
motivated, but what I am seeing are motivated students who
lack basic skills. Two semesters is not enough to correct years of
poor instruction. I know this sounds as though I am slamming the
high school teachers, but I started off as a high school teacher
and I know what needs to be done. I do not believe it is being
done now.
Truly, I think we are doing everything we can at this level. It just
is not enough. As I said, the biggest problem is critical thinking
skills. You cannot change this overnight.
17
A, H
Ideally, class sizes would be smaller to give more time for
individual feedback. I would also give teachers a chance to make
their own readers, which would hopefully include a lot of sample
student essays. I think they could use more good examples of
student writing. I would also emphasize the writing process more
(generating ideas, developing a thesis, outlining, etc.)
18
B
I would require higher standards for completion from all
instructors.
19
H
Keep class size low so as a teacher I can devote more time to
individual instruction through tutoring and conferencing about
their written work. As a department we work very hard to help
228
the students who need extra help. We have an Academic
Success Center with a writing tutor available to give one-on-one
assistance, and all of us encourage students to come for
additional tutoring during our office hours. We are also
dedicated to providing our students with an understanding of
grammar and usage skill. We want to have a fighting chance of
explaining why a sentence is correct or incorrect. This is an
idealistic goal, but we keep holding on to it. Some students
make great gains in their understanding of grammar and usage
while others demonstrate very little improvement.
20
E, K
All students would be required to take a Freshman Seminar to
prepare them for the rigors of college. Critical thinking would be
a component of this. All students would be screened /tested and
based on scores would be required to complete some sort of
developmental or remedial course to improve basic writing skills.
21
A, D
Students enter and matriculate college with gaps in skills and
complex commitments to work, life and family. They progress
toward a degree using an erratic sequencing of coursework,
especially in community college. The traditional concept of a
discrete, first year composition sequence does not effectively
address the complex rhythms of course-taking which our
students experience. They need highly strategic English
composition support throughout their programs.
Therefore, the change I would advocate is for a more versatile,
consistent and subject-sensitive version of English composition
support. I would provide writing lab workshop courses for all
students taking writing intensive courses. A writing lab approach
could provide one, two or three credit workshops that address
diverse learning objectives drawn from needs of students and/or
faculty in multiple disciplines.
22
E
pass a grammar course with 100 %. before entering a
composition class.
23
B
I would try to gain support for the writing program by reaching
out across the faculty to teachers in other disciplines. After
consulting with them, I would try to identify the overall
objectives of writing instruction at our college....and create a
229
writing skills and objectives handbook for the faculty at large to
use.
24
N/A
I don't think I would make any. My college's program is very
rigorous.
25
A, D
Have a two year four semester sequence of mandatory writing
classes as GE requirements. The first year should be dedicated
to the writing process, grammar, sentence structure and
introduction to research methods, or literature reviews. The
second mandatory year should be dedicated to writing across
the curriculum (writing for the sciences, humanities, social
sciences and business).
26
I
I would require more drafts of fewer papers. Currently we
require five essays per semester, and completing that many
essays seems to skim the surface of skills and genre-specific
features. Focusing on the writing process with multiple drafts of
one paper would help us to delve more deeply into and produce
more quality writing.
27
A
Less textbook reliance, more creativity in lesson planning
28
G
To teach how grammar works and how to use it.
29
A, J
Writing lab for all students, not just for students who need
added help. Instructors would use more interactive skills with
students and branch out to allow students to create work in
social media, art work formats, PowerPoint , etc.
Yes, students need to learn to write, but they need to be
interested, engaged, and want to learn. You cannot force feed
them anything that they don't want to do. If they were excited
to show what they can do in other mediums, maybe they would
be encouraged to write more.
30
A
The current course sequence used by TA's and most full-time
faculty (I'm new to the department and have been given total
freedom in the curriculum in my own classes so long as the
programmatic goals are upheld) is a couple of decades out of
date. They produce a series of individual papers on different
topics, providing little transfer and no sense of progression
230
throughout the semester. Were I in charge, I would encourage
every teacher to theme their course on a topic of interest for
them. I would also encourage them to focus more on
generalizable rhetorical skills rather than on teaching specific
genres of papers. For example, rather than teaching to an
"argument paper," I would prefer that students learn about
rhetorical situations and audiences, skills that can help them
write a traditional argument paper, yes, but that can also help
them design a web site, create a visual presentation, write a
speech, or interview for a job.
31
G, I
I would reduce the quantity of required writing during the first
semester to devote more time to language skills and paragraph
development.
32
A
I would stress imitation as a viable option for understanding the
function of methods of composition. Students should have the
opportunity to use the method of process analysis, for instance,
as well as analyze it in the context of a professional essay that
features this strategy.
33
B
I would check syllabuses to make sure all faculty are trying to
meet the common learning outcomes. I would arrange more (we
have at least one a year) workshops on grading to increase our
level of consistency. Students know who the easy graders are. I
would arrange a workshop on MLA formatting and
documentation style to ensure that we are all telling students
the same things.
34
A, H
Individual attention is key to student improvement so I would
recommend lowering student class sizes and required individual
conferences throughout the semester. I would also seek better
ways to integrate the writing lab / writing tutors into the
classroom experience. I would also seek to place students in
composition classes in cohorts based on their major / other
interests. Composition instructors could then more specifically
develop the skills that the students will need in their later classes
and career.
35
A
I would use non-fiction works rather than a series of essays for
231
the first composition class in order to give a more solid
foundation in focusing on and analyzing longer texts.
36
G
I would put more emphasis on learning to read, analysis, and
organization skills. I would also do more intensive study of
writing a sentence.
37
H
Only fifteen students or fewer in each composition class
38
A
The main thing I would change is the injunction against teaching
literature in the course. I feel by being able to make use of the
discipline I have been trained in I can better demonstrate to
students what they need to get from my class.
39
D, E
I would first make the lower-level composition class mandatory
for all students whose placement test scores show a need for any
level of developmental writing coursework. The reason for this is
because most students who are placed into the higher level
developmental writing course still demonstrate a lack of
understanding for many of the concepts taught in the lower-level
course. The next thing I would do is make the contact time
longer for these classes. Three hours a week for 16 weeks is not
enough time to give these students the skills necessary for
college success. The last thing I would do is mandate that
second-language learners take a class with additional supports to
help them with basic sentence writing skills in the English
language. Because many of these students are translating from
their native tongue, they write sentences based on the structure
of their native language, which often is in direct contrast to how
English sentences are constructed.
40
I
I would focus less on portfolios and in-class writing and more on
revision and polishing.
41
D
I would make English 101 a two-semester endeavor, with each
class counting for four-credits
42
B, G
The outcomes must be consistent, regardless of the instructor.
The students need a more rigorous academic environment with a
structured, logical curriculum. If students cannot master the
basics of sentence structure, paragraph structure, and essay
232
organization, understanding various rhetorical forms is useless.
43
N/A
We don't have a composition requirement, so therefore there's
nothing to change
44
A, K
I would completely eliminate journal style and reactionary, selfinvolved approach to text. Instead, I would teach Critical
Analysis skills. There is a book (now out of print) Writing is an
Unnatural Act by Raymond which puts it together very
economically and without unnecessary fluff. Looking at texts for
writing methods teaches students to move beyond what they
like or dislike, what directly applies to only their own lives and
experiences. Instead, they learn to understand WHY we make
them take these classes that have no direct application or even
need for their majors. I strongly believe that it is my
responsibility to see the people they can become even though
their life experiences does not allow them to visualize this future
for themselves. Education is what we are left with when we
forget every fact we have ever been taught. This philosophy is
one I voice in classes and it motivates the students because the
work to achieve this privilege is substantial. I would require:
Five 1 - 11/2 page Critical Responses without 1st (or 2nd) person
use. Two 6-8 paragraph full Critical Analysis Papers (the second
one analyzing an essay with a controversial topic such as
abortion or executions--education should lead to uncertainty. In
my experience, certainty seems to be almost always a result of
ignorance. People who read and listen tend to allow others their
own perspectives. A Research Paper (for obvious reasons and to
experience the importance of thesis and topic sentences as well
as content transitions.
45
N/A
They are well prepared but can seem somewhat prepared. I
believe that disconnect occurs for two reasons. First, these new
skills have to be reinforced. When even a semester goes by with
less writing, students forget some of these fragile skills. When
their next writing assignments are part of classes that focus on
other areas of study, professors are under equipped to help
students reach their previous level of competence. Because
writing is not the disciplinary area for these professors, their
assignment sheets also do not reinforce the important lessons
233
learned in composition classes. For example, the students see
that they are expected to include their "opinions." In my class,
opinion is mere opinion. In fact, what these instructors really
want are measured arguments that include claim, proof,
evidence, and explanation. But the student sees the word
opinion, and I would argue, assumes that "trust me" proof is
again relevant.
46
B
In our situation, we have many, many part-time faculty and
relatively few full-time. I would like to see many more calibration
sessions in which full-time and part-time faculty would sit down
together and honestly evaluate how student work were scored.
47
N/A
Not much. The First-Year Writing program here is well thought
out with a final portfolio with common assessment and goals in
every section of Freshman English.
48
B, F
Change 1: All composition sections' instructors would participate
in norming sessions to develop common expectations for
"successful" student writing. Change 2: A common final for all
Level 1 composition students would be adopted to evaluate
students' level of success in meeting course objectives;
discussion among faculty growing out of evaluation of these
finals would inform revisions to methods and materials. Change
3: Some means would be devised to track students' success in
subsequent coursework to evaluate effectiveness of composition
program at preparing students for success in content area
courses and at receiving institutions. Change 4: I would wave a
magic wand and *zap* ASSESSMENT would be viewed as an
opportunity to learn rather than a threat to academic freedom.
49
A, F, J
I would make the computers labs accessible to students at least
one class each week, taking the emphasis off lecture and more
onto the writing process. I would put in place an assessment
that ensures students have a particular skills set before
enrollment. I would establish a pool of model papers at each
grade level to help students understand the distinctions among
average, good, and exceptional writing.
50
A, B, C
Redevelop the Composition I course so that it is more of an
234
academic writing course. The course we offer now is more of a
psychology course that focuses on the student's "self
development" through writing rather than learning the tools of
academic writing. I would also institute in-class observation of
the adjunct instructors. Finally I would monitor the grades for
every Composition I course since grade inflation is a problem at
my school.
51
E
Gearing more students toward a developmental course before
starting the regular 101-102 sequence. Hire a Rhet/Comp expert
to guide the faculty teaching those courses.
52
B
I work with instructors to see that certain basics are covered
consistently and thoroughly while still allowing them flexibility in
how they teach and what they require.
53
B
A final exit essay based on a reading list--not the optional inane
topics most systems require
54
C
More one-on-one guidance and professional development
opportunities for incoming lecturers and new faculty
55
B
A Generally followed Guidelines of Composition document.
56
G
Improved understanding of and facility with grammar would be
required to ensure that students know how the English language
works; unfortunately, most don't know. Improved reading
comprehension -- most students don't read effectively.
57
I
More practice I would require revision of every paper.
58
B
I'd mandate the use of websites like 'turnitin.com' to prevent
plagiarism
59
A
Tough question - I believe I would support more English
Composition curriculum that promotes reading, writing and
speaking well (and listening well) for students as an entire
package. These are all strongly interconnected and imperative to
the skill building of strong communicators.
60
G, I
Spend more time on the basics. Worry less about the variety
about writing assignments. Revise more, compose less.
235
61
N/A
I am pretty much in charge of my own classes. I teach only the
second semester of freshman composition. Our greatest issue is
that most of our students are not ready for college English.
Most do not pass this class. I average about a 30% pass rate.
There is a great deal of help available and offered free to the
students via an academic support lab and a writing center. They
just won't take advantage of it.
62
H, I
Smaller class size so that more regular writing could receive
more regular feedback.
63
B, C
I would have regular workshops for all English faculty to create
common expectations and share ideas for meeting them.
I would encourage faculty to toughen standards. I believe that
many students do not believe that they do not read, think, and
write well. After all, they've been speaking the language since
babyhood and are getting by just fine. I feel a sense of their "just
waiting out" the semester without any intention of learning or
changing. A higher percent of required repeats might send the
message. I add that I am as guilty of letting them slide by as
anyone else. I just get worn down by the end of the semester
and give up. Yes, they write well enough to function, but they
have no real interest in writing really well.
64
A, E
I would increase focus on the development of rhetorical skills
through frequent and critical in-class writing workshops. Each
workshop would focus on a different rhetorical or mechanical
skill, and each formal paper to be completed outside class would
exercise and assess the interaction of these skills. I would
reevaluate the use of placement testing to more accurately
recognize students who need developmental instruction. I would
coordinate instruction among composition classes, and also
between the English department and the most common majors
at my institution. This would better prepare students to research
and write papers in upper division courses in their majors. These
are, of course, pipe dreams, and assume the absence of intraand inter-departmental politics as well as budgetary constraints.
65
A
I would get rid of all of the focus on grammar in the preparation
236
courses and focus on writing skills instead.
66
B, E
Require international students to complete ESL courses and pass
a proficiency test; initiate exit exams for all students for each
composition level
67
G
Mandatory emphasis (all instructors) on basic writing and
grammar skills in the ENGL 101 classroom.
68
D
I would develop a supplemental instruction program, perhaps
mandatory work at the writing center, for example, to intensify
the instruction students receive. A single year of composition
isn't enough to prepare students who are coming in under
prepared for college-level writing.
69
B
I would implement an exit exam
70
A, K
I would increase focus on voice development in academic
writing. I would also underscore critical thinking skills in the
production of academic writing.
71
F
I would require the use of APA to prepare students for technical
classes and future careers.
72
C
professional development opportunities for full and part-time
faculty to develop teaching skills--increase awareness of
outcomes and accountability for outcomes--and facilitate
communication
73
G, K
* Emphasize argumentation, including evaluating types of logic
and logical fallacies * Stress sentence structure, form, and
variety * Vocabulary building * Evaluation of sources and
evidence
74
A, B
Better selection of textbooks, regular norming sessions to ensure
all faculty understand grading expectations, clear philosophical
emphasis on purpose of composition courses.
75
C
Overall, I'm very pleased with our program. I would however
recommend more training for TAs and faculty.
76
E
I would require more remedial classes before a student enters an
introductory college level composition class.
237
77
H
Our current course cap for each composition class is 22 students.
The first thing I would change is reducing the class size to 15
students or less. Smaller class sizes would allow more
individualized attention and help instructors to concentrate on
each student's abilities and weaknesses.
78
D
Require students to take a year-long course instead of one that
lasts only a semester.
79
E
Implement rigid testing for placement
80
A, B
1. reduce the amount of time in class on peer review. by the
college level, students should be able to use their own critical
skills at revising. 2. have a standardized exit essay after the
completion of the second semester of freshman composition. it
would be cross-graded. 3. enforced standard requirements for
essays per writing class; not classifying a response to a reading as
a writing assignment.
81
A
Teach personal essay.
82
B, C, K
We do a good job overall in preparing our students. Composition
instructors don't have a magic wand. These students need
practice in critical thinking and in composition, and it is naive to
think that every student who passes the Composition I / II
sequence will be prepared for upper division work; however,
many of them are (a strong majority, I would say), despite the
often-cited disadvantages faced by the under-prepared student.
I support the concept of academic freedom and
composition/literature teachers being able to teach to their
strengths. I do not support a uniform curriculum; course
assessment, however, is a necessary burden. Were I in charge, I
would make the composition assessment process easier. At this
college, we take a good deal of time reading essays (blind
submissions) in a sort of holistic assessment. I believe one can
find easier ways to achieve the same goals. Teachers need to
focus on teaching and improving teaching. Assessment is part of
the process, but when assessment detracts focus and time from
the curriculum and the classroom experience, it becomes
counter-productive. I don't mean to say that at my college we
238
assess to the detriment of a quality classroom experience.
Assessment gone bad is a nationwide threat, in my view. All
colleges who rely on part-time faculty are likely to need better
supervision, especially in the field of composition. Experienced
full-time faculty are the only ones capable of overseeing parttime faculty. At our college, we teach a 5/5 course load (five
classes in fall, five in spring) so it's unrealistic to expect tenured
faculty to take a big role in supervising part-timers, although we
try. If I ran things, I would provide full-time faculty a course
release per semester to oversee part-time faculty. As long as
we're looking at the bottom line of dollars instead of a quality
education, we will not be able to effect such changes. Education
is an investment, not a revenue stream. People (even educators)
find this idea difficult to process in today's national climate of
declining state support for public education. Those who will
destroy education in this country in the long run will do so
through best intentions, e.g. using budgetary mechanisms to
transform colleges and universities into job-producing, vo-tech
style institutions.
83
N/A
None at present
84
D
I would add one additional writing course that focused on
research skills and writing.
85
A
More focus on "real" writing scenarios. Not all students intend to
continue with academic research.
86
N/A
I'm not sure I know enough about teaching English Composition
to answer that question yet. The best thing I know to do is to
continue to improve as a teacher in whatever ways I can.
87
E
More stringent placement requirements
88
C, D
Increase communication and collaboration among faculty Have
English Composition be a year-long, two semester course
89
A
Mainly, I would encourage instructors to depart from textbooks
and to support students in writing challenging essays about
topics coming not from textbooks, but from the students
themselves. I would encourage some common reading and
239
experience among students in the same writing class, but also
would place more emphasis on the student-generated writing
and on the writing process.
90
C, F
I wouldn't let adjuncts teach it. I would do a longitudinal study
to test whether or not it actually prepared students for college
writing. I'd use the results of that study to change the way the
class is taught. I'd try to get professors at my institution to value
good writing. I'd try to get administrators and other faculty to
understand what an incredibly labor-intensive class comp is.
91
F
I would make all students take English composition and research
and writing before advancing beyond the freshman year.
92
A
If the time allows, students will be asked to work MORE on
sample essays as a class project. By working on other students'
samples, student will get acquainted with the "common"
mistakes that other students make and thus will be able to avoid
them in their own writing. One more point is that students will
work more on their sources in-class.
93
A, B
I would require a library component taught by librarians. I would
ask that everyone is responsible for teaching the research paper.
I would like it if we were all required to meet certain
requirements but be able to decide how to meet those on our
own.
94
B
I would institute standards for number of analytical papers
produced in each class as well as a list of grammar and/or style
topics to be covered.
95
G
Stress the importance of research and how it helps strengthen
the argument or position. Teach students to embed research
into their writing without plagiarizing.
96
N/A
None
97
E, G
I would possibly add another section on grammar before writing
becomes the focus. At my college, there is a section before the
basic college composition class, but it is still focused on writing. I
feel like students coming from high school haven't really honed
these skills yet and that they need to be focused on and figured
240
out before a student can even consider writing any length of an
assignment.
98
A
There is some overlap in the stated learning outcomes for 101
and 102. I would consider removing research related writing
outcomes from the 101 course and focusing on these outcomes
exclusively in the 102 course.
99
J
I would include more focus on information literacy. I would
introduce assignments that require multi - modal responses, for
example, using video or audio components to an electronic text.
100
C
Within the broad expectations of learning outcomes in freshman
composition, I believe great teachers should teach from their
passions, so I wouldn't make any curricular or pedagogically
impositions. I do think our program would be improved by
eliminating or greatly reducing our dependence on adjunct
instructors.
101
A, C
As a traditionalist who believes that becoming a better writer
means becoming a better reader and by writing a lot, I'd halt
some of the high tech, power point mumbo jumbo that some of
my younger colleagues seem to believe is the best route to
better writing. I'd select one good reader with a lot of sample
essays and keep the Norton Field Guide we've been using and
scrap the rest of the supplementary materials students are
required to buy at my school. I'd also make sure that all of the
new hires had real English degrees which required a thesis of
some length to be attained so as to minimize the sometimes
pernicious influence (with all of their theoretical silliness and talk
of learning communities and writing across the curriculum) of
those with English Education or Rhet-Comp degrees or
backgrounds in "communications."
102
B, G
I would streamline all intro courses. Right now, we have CCGs
which only speak to the core outcomes for the class-ideologically. However, every instructor is still given freedom to
loosely interpret the guidelines and create classes which produce
different levels of expectation. In my opinion, I expect a greater
degree of proficiency with the above-mentioned skills than some
241
of my colleagues. Thus, students do not have a firm grasp of
what other professors in higher-level courses will expect.
Therefore, again, I would enforce a policy which strongly urges
faculty to teach on thesis statements, topic sentences, basic
grammar, and citation formats. It is incredibly difficult to teach
intro composition because I cannot, in such a short time,
ascertain the varying degrees of competency with regard to all
my students. I do not understand the infrastructure of the high
schools from which they are coming. Thus, some students have,
literally, no experience writing essays and yet others are natural
Type-A overachievers and push themselves to create excellence
at every turn. Being able to teach them all effectively is intensely
difficult. Streamline, streamline, streamline.
103
F
Require attendance Improve quality of advising Increase
support services for students Make sure they can buy their
textbooks
104
C, E
I would stop relying on adjuncts. I would require a standardized
skills test at the beginning of the semester so that remedial
students can be identified and placed in remediation classes.
Over all, I think our program is pretty good.
105
A
More focus on reading and writing from texts.
106
A
I'd want to cover other types of writing rather than just essaywriting. I think analytical essays are an important but narrow
focus.
107
A, D, E,
H, I
In developmental English, I would focus less on producing 4-5
essays and focus more on reading skills. This would include
writing about reading, but the writing would be more informal.
Perhaps two courses for developmental students would be
better: one focused more on reading and one focused more on
writing. Students might test into one or the other depending on
their needs. In all composition courses, less focus on producing
4-5 essays with specific prompts (created by the department)
would allow for differentiation. Students might choose the type
of writing they do, such as writing that is used in the discipline of
their major. Placement of students in courses would be
242
determined by writing samples. Caps for writing courses would
be smaller (10 for developmental and 15 for college-level
composition). Reading and writing might be taught best in
conjunction with a course for another discipline. Students would
learn the content in biology, for example, the reading teacher
would work with them on reading to learn and researching, and
the composition teacher would work with them on
demonstrating learning through writing. Writing, then, would be
a part of every course yet would be supported by reading and
writing teachers.
108
F, H
Smaller classes! It's impossible to give high-quality feedback on
each paper when there's eighty or so at a time, and the short
quarter timeline means the turnaround needs to be pretty quick.
Having fewer student would benefit everyone.
More support for students -- financially and academically. When
students are working full-time job and going to school full time,
it's impossible for them to spend the time on school that they
need. More tutoring availability would be good, too.
109
N/A
We currently use ACT scores and/or COMPASS test scores to
place students in English 101. This has been a helpful thing for
both students and teachers!
110
A
I would change the current text from a theme-based text to a
genre-based text.
111
A
vary the papers each semester. do more with narratives and
poetry. lesson the value of voice in regards to writing SWE
112
C
I would work to create a sense of responsibility to students
among teaching assistants. TA's at my institution are all too
ready to believe that our freshmen are dumb, disinterested, and
not worth excessive energy and attention. As a result, many
composition classes are dumb, uninteresting, and not worth
excessive energy and attention! I strongly believe that
universities should encourage their temporary staff to respect
the students they teach, via open dialogue about the "average"
student's profile, consistent discussion about successful
coursework strategies, and efforts to create and maintain a
243
positive teaching culture.
113
F
I'd require a 3-credit course in College Success to get students
motivated towards succeeding in all of their classes. Students
who work hard succeed in English composition classes. Students
who are not motivated do not succeed.
114
B
I'd like to ensure that we are addressing what we collectively
believe to be the skills that will allow our students to master the
outcomes. Then I'd want to make sure we are on the same page
in terms of providing the best class activities and assignments for
them master the skills.
115
B, C
1. Only allow professors to teach those classes that really want
to do those writing sequences. 2. Rubrics are required for
grading. 3. Once every two years, composition instructors must
spend an hour with peers using rubrics and grade three essays
with a minimum of three readers for each essay. Discussion and
feedback must ensue the grading. 4. File text justification
document including rationale for use.
116
J
I think that more focus on information literacy and evaluation of
online sources would enable students to adapt more easily to
the rigors of other college courses.
117
E
Our university currently has neither ESL or remedial writing
courses, nor do we have a writing center. Given the average level
of preparation that our students have (which is low), given the
increasing number of transfer/non-traditional students at our
institution (about 60% of our enrollment), and given the
increasing number of international/ESL students at our
institution, implementing those three additions would be very
helpful.
118
C
Workshops for the TAs throughout the semester for every
semester they teach. Instruction should be a continual process
no matter how many semesters a TA has taught. These
workshops would be a great place for exchanging ideas,
improving our own teaching methods, or even adopting new
activities or styles.
244
119
C
As an institution we are currently reworking our composition
courses in an effort to help students master the skills needed to
write effectively. The one piece I would add is professional
development into best practices for teaching composition.
120
N/A
We have a system of ongoing assessment of the division,
department, and individual courses.
121
B
I would require all instructors to observe the quality controls we
have for grading assignments, meeting student outcomes, and
course requirements.
122
N/A
I would love to have more time...There are so many interesting
things to teach! =)
123
G
Require more specific instructional time to teaching students
how to incorporate research into the essay. Address plagiarism,
intentional and unintentional, more specifically during
instructional time.
124
A, F, G
Provide a section of Composition I that covers grammatical
structures and essay types. Find a better way of providing books
to students, since textbook costs are so high. Include technical
writing as part of the composition course.
125
A
I would require that all fyc students write a research paper that
involves conception of topic, independent research, multiple
drafts, and documentation of sources. Some instructors instead
assign an annotated bibliography, so students who have met the
fyc prerequisite for higher level courses may have never written
a research paper.
126
G
That more emphasis are placed on grammar
127
A, B
I would further clarify the differences between Composition I
and II so that clear and different objectives could be met. I would
incorporate a different textbook for adjuncts and probationary
faculty.
128
D
I'd add a third semester of required composition class. In the
final semester, students would continue to hone the skills they'd
developed earlier and would emphasize developing their own
245
clear style as well as writing for different audiences.
129
H
The size of the classes should be smaller.
130
C
Offer more faculty development that focuses on rhetoric and its
relation to writing, genre, and writing process, as well as opens
conversations among faculty in different disciplines on what they
value in student writing, how they themselves write, the kinds of
writing they assign, and how they mentor student writing.
131
A, E, J
I would add creativity as a component I would add technology as
a component I would insist on students passing a more rigorous
readiness test prior to entrance into composition classes.
132
A
I would want to collaborate more closely with other disciplines
to find ways for students to transfer skills effectively into and out
of composition courses.
133
A
select easier material for them to read and discuss.
134
N/A
None come to mind
135
N/A
I'm not sure. While I think there are a number of problems with
English Composition and the university in general, I don't feel like
I have a good idea on how to improve many of the systemic
problems in academe.
136
A
I would FIRST provide a broad cultural overview of human
development in four areas to all students, and in this order:
anthropological -- historic social -- historic political -- present
global
Recent high school graduates generally have very little
understanding of the universal journey of mankind, which we
expect them to join willingly, enthusiastically and productively.
Their ignorance, however, causes student anxiety, classroom
reluctance and missed connections. The goals of thoughtful
reading and writing are much easier to reach once a foundation
has been laid, students' questions have been addressed and
curiosity and confidence have been restored to the learning
process.
137
A
We'd stop focusing on the types of essays that composition
246
textbooks insist that we teach and instead focus on the types of
writing students need for success in college.
138
A
I would make both semesters of freshman English focus on
writing exclusively, rather than a mix of writing and literature.
139
G
Students still need to spend more time on coherence and
grammar. If they don't have the tools, they can't do the trade.
140
A, B, F
I would use different texts, showing a wide range of genres and
writing styles, focus on the writing process with a portfolio
system as a final assessment set in place, I would have rubrics
available to help those teachers who struggle with grading
papers, and I would create a space for writing groups to exist.
141
D
Our current program has done a lot to ensure that students are
reading complex texts. That's good for them in the long run--and
I think we see evidence of gains through the semester--but at
least initially it means that the writing often suffers because
students' ability to read the assigned readings is not very good.
The solution I've argued for--unsuccessfully--is a two-semester
sequence: a first semester of critical reading and discussion (with
writings focused more on summary of readings), and a second
semester of argumentative writing. I don't think that our
program is doing things "wrong," only that it's damn hard to get
all of our objectives "right" in a mere 15 weeks.
142
D, E, H
There are many: - Reduce class size to fifteen students Increase the testing score for admittance into basic composition
- Have an on campus Writing Center - Offer only face to face
composition classes, instead of online - Require all students to
attend a pre-semester workshop on composition basics
(grammar, vocabulary, basic researching skills)
143
A, C, E, G
The Traditional Workshop approach to teaching students would
be implemented because students need to interact
systematically with their writing and critical thinking, instead of
merely creating hit or miss outcomes. Grammar rules will be
taught in its basic form, along with teaching the actual essay.
Students who do not pass placement exams upon entry into
college will have to enroll in composition courses that meet
247
more than the standard three hours a week. I would hire "real"
English teachers who are not searching for fame and glory.
Reading courses on the college level are not practical; I would
eliminate these courses.
144
N/A
I would like to somehow make it clear to the students that the
skills they learn in composition are meant to be carried over to
other classes. Often it seems students do not apply what they
have learned in the 1st composition course to their 2nd, and
even more common, they seem to assume that if a class isn't a
writing class, they need not remember or apply anything learned
in composition. I have no idea how to do this though. This is
more of a wish of being able to wave a magic wand and improve
the situation, than of being in charge of the composition classes.
145
E
Require a rigorous entrance exam. The things I talk about above
they should have learned in high school, so that it is extremely
difficult for them to master once in college.
146
B
I might have some type of more formal departmental review of
research papers at the last level in our sequence both to norm
what we all view as acceptable and to more clearly define for the
students what is acceptable.
147
F
Primarily, that other classes (Psychology, Sociology, History, etc.)
that should require writing at length, assign writing at length.
The more a student is asked to do so, and is assessed/graded on
the writing, the more competent the student will be in showing
depth of understanding and ability to think critically.
148
C
I would need more funding than we currently have. I would
want to pay our adjunct instructors more (with the current wage
we can't get many competent people), and I would require them
to have ongoing instruction in composition pedagogy. Just
because someone has an advanced degree in English doesn't
mean that person has any clue how to teach it.
149
N/A
No changes. I think our program works effectively.
150
A, D, H
I would make sure the classes remained no larger than 15
students, with more time to conference with students about
248
their writing. I wouldn't have a theme based course nor would I
choose the handbook, which is currently being used. It's
inadequate for the ESL students I teach. I would also make sure
that the required courses and credits that students take in
composition courses stay the same or increases, rather than
decrease as the university is proposing.
151
D, I
I would increase the length of time students spent in class to at
least four hours a week and limit the number of students to
fifteen. Then I would limit the number of composition classes an
instructor could teach to three per semester to be fully loaded. I
would not permit any instructor to carry an overload for any
reason. Students would be required to write every week and do
frequent revisions.
152
A, B, D, F
Let me begin by saying that I find the framing of the study
somewhat troubling. After 4 years in the high school classroom
and more than 25 in the college classroom, I am more than
convinced that "successful" writing goes well beyond knowing,
understanding, and applying something. Successful writers, in
spite of their occasional failures, will find that writing will allow
them to achieve what Maslow calls self-actualization. Successful
writing will usually involve both personal and intellectual growth.
Of course, it is probably impossible to access such growth.
Framing writing as the acquisition and deployment of skills,
however necessary those skills are, ultimately reduces writing to
that is analogous to pre-fab housing. It is serviceable and
successful, but only in the most limited way, one which
impoverishes the classroom. That being said, I also recognize
that difficulty that comes with trying to teach writing as
something more than a collection of skills. So, what would I do?
First, I would convince the Southern Association of Colleges and
Schools require that students demonstrate competency in a
variety of genres--independent of time spent in the classroom. In
other words, some students might work their way through
English 1001 in 6 weeks while others might require 8 months.
My real first? I would design a common rubric or rubrics and use
them campus-wide in all writing intensive classes. That common
rubric would force discussion among faculty and some
249
agreement about what is essential to good writing.
Second, I would sequence assignments that would slowly
decenter the students' egos. For instance, I would begin with an
assignment that asked for the students to develop a personal
voice and some skill with sentence structure, diction,
paragraphing, dialogue, etc. I would sequence this assignment
so that students would receive feedback and a grade on the
same paper twice. I would follow that with an assignment with a
review. This sort of assignment allows me to pull students
partially from personal discourse into public discourse. I would
also sequence this assignment so that students would receive
feedback and a grade on the same paper twice. I would follow
that with an less personal assignment than the review: rhetorical
analyses, position statement, report. I would also sequence this
assignment so that students would receive feedback and a grade
on the same paper twice. I would use this last paper to introduce
the skills of quoting, citing, documenting, paraphrasing, and
summarizing.
Third, I would administer an across the board exam to all first
semester comp classes to determine how well my approach had
worked. The first section of the exam would be "objective." In it,
I would ask students to recognize the differences among genres,
drafts, student writing, professional writing. I would also test for
a rudimentary knowledge of documentation and citation.
Fourth, I would ask for a portfolio of the students work and ask
that a group of faculty evaluate each portfolio using a rubric.
Fifth, I have second composition class that would build upon the
first and that would have a research component in which
students learned how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote.
Each student would submit a research proposal, confer with his
teacher, rewrite the proposal, write a rough draft, and then write
a final draft.
153
F, H
I would make class size smaller. Also, I would mix the
international student population in with the foundational course
for Americans. Currently, there are separate foundational
classes for them.
154
B
I would attempt to make all the Comp.I classes parallel.
250
155
A, B, C
More consistent approaches More dialogue among faculty
More professional development opportunities Restructure class
format
156
H
Smaller class sizes to enable more intensive instructional time
with less students. A smaller class load to enable instructors to
grade fewer essays and assignments, allowing them to work on
more individualized lesson plans conducive to the current needs
of students in a particular class.
157
F
I would seek to obtain a firm commitment from the Chancellor
and faculty from all divisions that writing skills and academic
integrity matter. Lacking that commitment to literacy, writing
skills and critical thinking -- not just as a list of learning objectives
for the institution, but as areas for which faculty and students
are evaluated -- I would not wish to be in charge of composition
classes at my institution.
158
E, H
Require students below an ACT/SAT English composite score to
successfully complete remedial courses in reading
comprehension, basic composition, and sentence structure and
grammar, capitalization, and punctuation in classes no larger
than 10 students.
159
B
I would work to standardize the curriculum across all sections of
composition. It would enable us to build on knowledge we know
students would have been exposed to in previous courses. This
would encourage all of the instructors to work together to build
the best curriculum. It would enable the tutoring center to be
more useful to us. It would encourage students to help each
other and to ask for help from each other.
160
A, D
First, I would divide composition classes so that they are taken
across four semesters. Then, I would stress that the writing that
we teach is for academia. Too many students and instructors
believe that they are teaching creative, touchy-feely, personal
types of writing. We need to create business and professional
communicators not getting in touch with self.
161
B, C
Clarify, strengthen and coordinate assessment efforts; encourage
and support faculty to become a real presence in each others'
251
classrooms (as visitors, guest lecturers, ethnographers,
participant/observers) and not just within the English
department.
162
H, J
Teach writing in computer labs. Smaller class sizes. [Get better
students]
163
G, I
frequent essays, short in length, 1-2 pages, drill thesis and
organization into them; strong focus on mechanics
164
A, B, C, I
require consistent grading standards across the program strive
to require less personal writing and more academic-oriented
writing provide workshops for faculty on commenting
encourage faculty to meet with students individually on a regular
basis encourage more graded revision
165
A
Require all formal writing assignments be source-based
166
F, K
More emphasis on the ability to think critically and less emphasis
on assessable outcomes.
167
F, H
I would reduce the class size to no more than 12 students. I
would make it a longer class session that meets less times. Two
1.5 hour classes seem to be more effective than 3 50-minute
classes.
168
E, F
I would raise the requirements for admittance into English 101
and offer the needed remedial grammar classes. I would liaise
with state high schools to be sure their English teachers are
aware of what students will need to know in order to be
prepared for college English. I would be clear about what kind of
academic writing skills are really needed at the university level
and be sure to not teach them skills they will most likely never
use again.
169
A
I'd insist on more fiction -- short stories and novels. Many
nonfiction essays are fine, but nothing gets a conversation going
like a great piece of fiction. With fiction, you can get into the big
questions -- existential questions about life and making meaning
-- that students, especially students on the brink of adulthood,
deal with on a daily basis. These composition essays found in so
many readers, especially ones dealing with race and gender,
252
don't grab students' interest. They don't care -- those are issues
for the Baby Boom generation; the new crop of students are over
it, and they end up thinking that writing courses deal with issues
that they don't care about.
170
F
Current cycle works extremely well. The only change I advocate
and want to make is to revisit the idea of allowing entering
freshmen with AP credit skip one or both entry-level composition
courses.
171
A
I'm interested in a writing across the curriculum approach.
Students show up to composition resenting being in the room.
Depending on the content I/we choose, they may or may not like
the course--it's a rough place to start.
172
A, I, J
Emphasize the process-oriented approach to the teaching of
composition, which I have been using successfully since 1974.
Use computer labs as the setting for the teaching of writing and
work with students on an individual basis.
Require the reading of contemporary magazines, newspapers,
news on the internet. Encourage the students, no matter how
inadequate their preparation has been and show them how to
start from scratch to an acceptable piece of writing.
Require several drafts of an essay with instructor guidance at
each stage until the student produces an acceptable piece of
writing. Discuss grammatical problems when they arise with
only those students who have them. [This should never be a
lecture class.]
173
B, E
I would require a higher competency level from remedial English
classes (English 90) before allowing the students to move onto
English 101, freshman composition. I would standardize the
criteria for expected competencies at each level of composition
and critical reading and writing. As it now stands, there is much
subjectivity involved in interpreting the "goals" of each level of
freshman English. Subsequently, students sometimes repeat or
entirely miss skills necessary for success in college. It is helpful
to be able to select textbooks, create assignments and syllabi
without department oversight, but clearer guidelines as to
253
expected outcomes would be most helpful.
174
N/A
None
175
A
I would encourage the other faculty to teach their composition
classes using the Writing Workshop model, so that they can see
the students' writing processes in action and be more easily able
to catch student deficiencies.
176
C, F, H
I believe the most important change would be to stop the abuse
of part-time instructors (at our institution, over 52% of our
classes are taught by adjuncts) and hire more full-time faculty,
especially in the gatekeeper courses such as composition, math,
and reading. Another change would honor the NCTE resolutions
on course load and student class numbers; at our institution,
most of us teach five (5) composition courses each semester with
class caps at 25 (but often approach 30). Another change would
not allow developmental learners to enroll in online
developmental composition courses; their performance in
subsequent composition courses does not recommend online
instruction's effectiveness. Our institution's emphasis on
numbers and increasing enrollment (and tuition) does not
extend (except through lip service) to ensuring that those
students complete their general studies required courses,
complete their Associate's degrees, and transfer for further
postsecondary education. I would enlist our state legislature's
understanding and assistance to help us depend less on parttime faculty so full-time instructors could ensure that our
students receive the quality instruction they need to persist,
complete, and transfer in the most cost-effective process.
177
F
I would encourage instructors to engage their students' in the
students' own learning outcomes through diverse teaching
strategies.
178
F
Here at [IDENTIFIER DELETED] our terms are only ten weeks long.
First year students take two terms of writing. In the first term
they will be instructed by professors who are writers and who
have been trained, either through long experience or through
graduate programs, in the teaching of writing. In the second
254
term they will be instructed by specialists in a variety of fields
who may or may not be skilled teachers of writing. What we
most need to do here is to 1. develop more consistency in
writing instruction across the two term sequence and 2. improve
transfer by linking the two terms of instruction more tightly.
179
G, H
I would reduce the number of them and place emphasis on the
following basics: thesis, content, organization, grammar, style,
and transitions.
180
I
This university's program is quite effective, however I teach
composition at another university in which more papers are
required. Overall, I think less papers and more focus on revision
is the most useful, especially with a focus on in-class revision
workshops or worksheets.
181
G
Standard essay rigor
182
A, D, E, H
Students would be divided into sections by ability, so teaching
could be customized for their needs. Writing classes would be
quite small -- no larger than 12 students per section. Students
requiring remedial assistance, such as those lacking basic English
skills (including both non-native speakers and native speakers),
would have some kind of tutorial instruction in their first year,
rather than being grouped with more competent students in a
large writing class with expectations beyond their capabilities.
Such students would be required to complete at least two
semesters of composition instruction. An integrative approach,
where English composition would be taught within the structure
of other disciplines, also might be more effective. For example,
team teaching with a writing teacher and an anthropology or
science teacher might allow a dual focus on content and
composition, while avoiding the mediocrity and superficiality of
topics common to the freshman essay.
183
A
Allow faculty, in conjunction with the library and resources
management, prepare their own textbooks from handouts and
readings they are likely to use, rather than using proscribed texts
that may or may not work with the teacher's philosophy.
255
184
A, B, C
I would pair Writing classes with subject matter classes. A
writing class could be paired with Psychology. In this case, the
Psychology class would have numerous writing assignments and
the writing process for those assignments would take place in
the Writing class. Also, I would train all faculty on basic writing
principles. Then, all faculty would grade writing in all courses.
185
E
I don't know. My students seem to have passed High School in a
daze. Most don't read and have no instinctual, automatic grasp
of written English. I think I would require noncredit English (100)
for all students.
186
D
require more courses
187
A, C
I have already started to push for a wide array of changes,
including: "changing" the curriculum to more closely reflect the
rigor of colleges that students will transfer to allowing for
individual instructors to choose their textbooks rather than a
boilerplate text that no one is happy with or use change our
system of seniority within the department--currently, the "older"
faculty teach 200-level courses while the "newer" faculty handle
the comp courses. This is an issue as no one in the department
actually has rhetoric or writing backgrounds. We all come from
literature backgrounds Hire one or two true writing and rhetoric
instructors Increase academic responsibility among instructors:
many instructors do little to advance their knowledge within
their chosen field
188
A
I would consider trying small peer review groups that would
meet with the instructor to discuss feedback for drafts of
research papers.
189
J, K
Technology would be available in every class. Ipads or other
device to allow student participation. Analysis would be
emphasized and required throughout the course.
190
D
Even more developmental writing is needed at our institution.
Tutorials even at the advanced level would help.
191
D
Require a second semester of English composition for all
students in some majors (not hard trades)
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APPENDIX I: Question 11 Additional Comments and Observations
Ref. #
Comments
1
This is important research-- let me know how I can help!
2
I hope to see the results of your research in print one day!
3
My only suggestion would be improving the salary & benefits (such as health
care & sick days) for faculty. Appalling. Impossible to live on for any length of
time. I will move back overseas where lecturers are paid a living wage.
4
FYI, I realize that the "skills" I listed in #3 above may have as much to do with
attitude and understanding as they do with skill. Nevertheless I chose to list
them, because I feel they are the foundation of all good writing, including the
writing of "a good academic composition." Without a strong foundation in
these (what I consider) skills, a composition student may have much trouble
making progress with writing.
5
Overall, research and publication in this field tends to be tedious and
redundant.
6
Good luck in your research.
7
Nicholas Carr wrote an interesting book called The Shallows: What the
Internet Is Doing to Our Brain. It is only one book that examines the decline in
linear thinking due to internet use. Sherry Turkle also wrote an interesting
book, Alone Together, which examines our relationship to robotics and how
that is affecting our communication and interactions. All of this, of course,
affects our writing ability.
8
I have seen a significant drop in the ability to write effectively over the past
ten years. My concern is that these students do not learn how to write
throughout their years in public school anymore.
9
Before I came to the University, I taught English for twenty five years at the
high school level, three years as the school district's coordinator of the gifted
and talented program for grades 7-12, and four years teaching English at the
257
junior high level.
10
My apologies for being late. We had a family emergency! It's good to know
someone is looking at this issue of skill levels and preparedness.
11
If the basics of writing are not mastered- i.e. correct grammar and the adjunct
of mechanics - the student will forever struggle and try to fill the gaps, which
never seems to work. No matter how good the thinking is, if it is not correctly
put down on paper, the essay is unacceptable.
12
Why does the survey not make a distinction between community colleges,
small 4-year colleges, and universities? My institution is a small liberal arts
college offering bachelors degrees.
13
With so much competition from visual sources, reading has been neglected in
our younger students. The reading- writing connection needs to be
emphasized
14
I spend 95 percent of my time reading composition papers, research papers,
etc. We currently have a student-faculty book club and study 2 books per
semester, but I rarely get to read for pleasure until summer vacation.
15
Good luck. Even if only half of the people you've contacted respond, you'll
have a ton of qualitative data to code.
16
It has been my experience that opportunities for advancement for adjuncts is
not what it should be.
17
Instead of reading articles limited to writing instruction, I've been reading
articles on brain research and about the effects of the Internet and being
wired 24/7 on everyone . . . and then making application of those findings to
writing instruction.
18
What students most glaringly lack is experience writing at an academic level;
practice with a variety of academic writing assignments and quick feedback
are the most critical elements necessary to bring up a student's level of
performance. Students need time to adjust their minds and ears in the way
that all language students must do. They require astute role models with lots
of patience to achieve this task.
258
19
Administrators are often reluctant to increase the level of academic rigor due
to enrollment concerns. Unfortunately, developmental courses often do not
focus on the skills students need to succeed in their basic 100-level courses.
Instead, instructors often fall back on the high school-level technique of
focusing on "what students WANT to write about" rather than teaching useful
skills.
20
Good reading is what makes good writers, in my opinion. I use expressive
writing to help students suss out their ideas ("thesis").
21
I find that increasingly, state institutions are being dictated and governed
from above. The administrative pressures are not student centered. I am
required to attend meetings where students are referred to as "customers,"
and are expected to pass without sufficient competency. I teach a blue collar
student body and I am convinced that the system wants to only train these
people as workers, rather than thinkers. This mediocrity is not only limiting
since analysis increases a person's quality of life regardless of what he or she
may choose as an occupation, but the mass worker bee approach is the
reason stupidity is rampant in this country. Instead, providing every
individual with the skills necessary for analysis is more likely to help them
realize goals they are unable to articulate themselves when they first enter
my classes. What I do is not a job or even a calling, it is holy work. I am here
to change lives and to give these students the skills (and the self certainty)
with which they can affect their own changes. A bit tongue and cheek, but if I
could, I would make critical analysis a requirement for every voting citizen.
22
I have become interested in how students learn, but not specifically how they
learn to write. Much good luck with your research!
23
Not at this time. Good luck with survey and research.
24
Technology is a part of the answer, but not the whole answer. Bottom line is
still students who want to learn plus teachers who know how to teach. Good
luck in your work!
25
The number of students with language issues has grown exponentially. Many
have disabilities; some speak English as a second language; some have never
had their writing thoroughly examined and evaluated. Many feel that
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competent writing is not an important skill and that it is not reinforced in
other subject areas. It is much more of a challenge to teach writing than ever
before. People who take this job seriously do not have much of a life outside
of preparing lessons and grading papers. I would love to incorporate more
technology into my instruction; I think writing textbooks should be
abandoned in favor of interactive, media-rich materials that mirror the real
world in which the students live.
26
I always teach Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." It's the
cornerstone of my instruction.
27
We need to insist that students come from secondary schools well-skilled in
grammar and mechanics. This was once the case. I spend too, too much time
marking these problems that should not exist in the first place. Remedial
courses cannot rectify a weak academic background in which standards were
set and maintained as they once were at least since the sixth grade. Many
years ago, when I started teaching at the secondary level, the student writing
from even most of the then-considered mediocre students was superior to
what most of the best college students produce today. Part of the problem,
again, is the ridiculous opposition to teaching grammar intensively and the
fact that students do not have the background in serious reading they once
had. This lack is reflected in style, maturity, and even vocabulary.
28
All the best on your project.
29
I wish students came able to read--really read and take responsibility for their
understanding. I wish all students came having mastered the 5-paragraph
form. Then we could start by taking off the training wheels and really
developing ideas. As it is, I spend too much time on thesis and organization
and too little on the finer points of tone, style, and argument.
30
Recently, more students seem to want a formula for writing. They seem to
struggle with interpretation of assignments and critical thinking in general.
31
Level of Education: PhD
32
I have taught for over 40 years, almost 30 years as an adjunct at [IDENTIFIER
DELETED]. The most effective shift I have seen is from literature based
260
composition to student based composition: when the writing involves the
student, the quality of writing dramatically increases, and that, obviously, is a
good thing. The second effective change has been in organizing freshman
composition from writing from the self to writing outside the self, looking at
argument from other positions. Finally, the requirement that we have in
writing argument is that students must be able to brag or offer credibility
from every source. the attempt by some students to use fox "news" as a
source or some right-wing religious nut case as a source can only be used to
prove how narrow and prejudiced those sources are.
33
Teaching composition is not the stuff of rocket science. Let the PhDs theorize.
I'll teach my students how to write and how to process information into
knowledge. Give them a topic to catch their interest. Encourage deep reading
and deep thinking, i.e. fight the rising tide of a superficial, ignorant and
unaware cultural mainstream. Our democracy cannot persist without a
populous generally educated in the humanities. Those who don't understand
this essential premise are the ones to fear. At times I worry that ignorance is
becoming so widespread, even among post-secondary educators that, in my
lifetime, America will lose its standing as possessing the world's greatest
higher education system. Where the collapse may begin, as I mentioned
above, is in funding formulas nationwide that favor "job" and "market"
oriented coursework over the "useless" humanities.
34
Much of how I teach writing comes from my background as a professional
writer of magazine articles, stories, and novels, and as a former full-time
proposal writer.
35
DL is also a factor in the discipline.
36
What I find perhaps most difficult in teaching students in English composition
is that fewer of them are committed to personal development, and more of
them are committed to simply jumping through hoops, than is helpful to me
in an English class. I find that the best writing comes from dedication to
saying something, or at least enjoying saying something, but most of these
students don't see college as an opportunity to learn as much as they can.
Rather, they see it as a mostly off-topic step in acquiring the credentials they
need to make enough money to have a family. Though I don't have a
261
problem with students wanting to get trained so they can have stable lives, I
wish they could see that learning as much as they can also benefits their
future family life, especially when it comes time to help their children with
their homework. I hear this complaint often, usually in a discussion of what
truly makes for a bachelor's degree, as opposed to a technical degree. Also, if
I may comment on my response to question 5, I think that the preparedness
of students largely depends on the commitment of the individual student.
Students who are committed to learning tend to be well prepared, students
who don't catch the vision of an education, unless they happen to be
"naturally" good writers, tend to improve, but perhaps not as much as their
writing instructor would really like.
37
I've experimented in comp with various approaches for 30 years. What I do
now works better than anything else I've tried, but I'm most definitely not
satisfied with it; students regularly take my lit classes the semester after
comp only to fail utterly at making a thesis or using detail effectively. Very
frustrating. I think it indicates that we have to be in the business of teaching
comp all four years in all classes, not just the first year in one class. When I
remind my former students of what we talked about in comp, they can
usually write better papers, but unless I keep re-teaching it to some degree,
they DON'T do it. In my view, the big drawbacks to comp are that 1) faculty
as a group don't want to teach it, 2) students don't think they should have to
take it, and 3) both assume that if a student takes it once, then everything
necessary has been learned once and for all. Totally not true. Unfortunately,
these attitudes seem so intractable (especially faculty attitudes!) that I
sometimes wonder if the freshman comp model is workable. Shouldn't
someone study this in a way that tells us whether or not comp meets the goal
that it almost universally espouses--to help students improve the writing they
do during their college careers? Or has someone already done this and I
don't know about it? Please point it out to me if it's already out there!
38
More than 40 percent of the students I teach have poor grammar skills.
39
Thank you for allowing me to submit my thoughts.
40
I think we are undoing ourselves through the push to dual-credit classes in
high school. I think it severely diminishes the importance placed on freshman
262
composition and serves to erode standards of excellence. Also, too many of
my students don't really know how to do homework. Evidently they have
never had to sit still by themselves and focus on something for more that
about 10 minutes.
41
Good luck with the survey.
42
The first question on the survey should include a slot for 4 year colleges. They
are different from universities and community colleges.
43
Composition courses have shifted out of the hands of professors and into the
hands of graduate students, who will do the same work for pittance. While I
love teaching composition in hand with my graduate work, this model spells
trouble for institutions, instructors, and students in the long run.
44
Seldom do I see articles used in texts that represent the far left or right in any
opinion or argumentative piece. Our society is saturated with sound bites and
opinion, and students have little chance to interact with polarizing arguments
and how to assess them without simply "writing them off." In our recent
election, the country is split almost in half, and few voices seem to be able to
clearly state, understand, and calmly respond to someone with whom they
disagree. Thank you.
45
There needs to be more discourse between the community, the colleges and
businesses as to what types of writing are needed so the colleges can make
sure to teach those skills. I also believe that the high schools should do more
with critical thinking and less with filling in the correct bubble.
46
We make great efforts to provide relevant classes for our students. In order
to do this, we update materials and methods regularly.
47
1. Administrators are allowing more unqualified students into composition
classes via testing and placement. Students that belong in developmental
classes are placed in freshman composition. 2. Faculty are pressured to
produce high progressive grade rates, so some inflate their grades, passing
students who do not deserve to be passed. 3. Students do not put in the
necessary time and effort into their class work. They have not been taught to
do so by their parents and the k-12 system.
263
Thus, the problem exists with all parties and must be addressed by all parties.
48
I am grateful to be able to work within the field of my passion! =)
49
Allowing a certain amount of negotiation on the reading selection will allow
students to be a part of the composition course and give them a chance to be
creative as well as academic.
50
It seems to me that the opening question of the survey will reinforce
conceptions of writing instruction more in line with current traditional
rhetoric, as it narrowly focuses on "skills" (i.e. writing a thesis statement) than
knowledge (i.e. analyzing a rhetorical situation).
51
I have taught in public school (7-8 grade, inner city), community colleges, in
the prison system, and in the university. Teaching composition is something
people do not wish to do because it needs to start early and continue beyond
sixth grade- but it does not. We suck the fun out of writing and English
teachers- especially in high school- do not wish to teach it. So they do not.
Then we college teachers pass on students who are unprepared for the rigors
of college reading and writing and set students up for failure in the academy.
Whose fault is this? The answer is that it is all of us. We need to overhaul the
U.S. educational system and gear it less towards industrialism and more
towards the 21st century.
52
I found this short survey personally and professionally beneficial.
53
Good luck with the project -- I hope you'll send out a follow-up email to
participants once you've got a report of results!
54
School systems (middle and high schools) should really consider trying to
teach grammar rules more often to students so that students will be better
prepared for college level writing.
55
I see that this survey comes from a College of Education, so I'm likely
"preaching to the choir" here, but I don't think that composition classes are
going to improve until we can convince English departments that pedagogical
content knowledge is important. We will also continue to have problems if
inexperienced graduate students and adjuncts continue to teach most of our
composition courses. Then again, many of our full time faculty (myself
264
included) don't have backgrounds in composition. At our institution all
English faculty are required to teach composition, and many of us are not
really qualified to do so. A masters in Romantic poetry or a PhD in
Shakespeare don't really cut it!
56
Reading and writing is so important for students in their future lives and
careers. I think that with all the current technology which is available,
students don't realize that or care about those skills. It's imperative that the
over dependence that current students have on technology be taken into
account, but we, as teachers, shouldn't totally cave into technology.
57
Since administrators expect us to produce magical outcomes with more than
120 writing students a semester, I don't expect any changes in a system with
decreasing funds and increasing expectations. Those who teach at four-year
institutions may have more success with improving the writing quality of their
students, but we at the community college level struggle daily to have our
students produce decent writing.
58
I am sorry that my suggestions are so broad. However, I also do not believe
that you can help students write well if faculty don't agree on what successful
writing is (knowledge is contingent) and if you do not design a program that
gradually moves the student from private discourse into public discourse.
Writing a comparison essay, a cause-effect essay, etc. does not work well.
Ultimately the activity of writing needs to reinforce itself and to have
applications beyond the freshman comp classroom.
59
I would be interested in learning the results of your survey. Good luck with it.
60
Students today need more traditional/basic instruction on thesis,
organization, development of ideas, and clarity in first and second year
composition courses. While technology is good, some younger instructors
are using it (iPads, YouTube, etc.) for the "fun" factor or as "edu-tainment."
More focus must be put on the development of basic skills and reading
readiness on the college level.
61
Writing is fundamental to all other academic pursuits, yet it has devolved, for
the most part, into a semi-philosophy/creative writing exercise. At least that
is what I see in textbooks. George Orwell once said that when "...our language
265
becomes slovenly, we become a nation of fools." All of the recent data
concerning reading and writing skills suggests that we have, indeed, become
very slovenly.
62
I'd like to believe if I got paid more, I would be a better teacher, but that
might just be wishful thinking. Note: I said university for institution, but that
was mostly because that is where the invitation email went to. I teach 6
courses a year here, but I also teach 5 a year at a community college as well.
63
Teaching writing at the community college level requires socializing students
into thinking of themselves as "scholars" or "authorities." Students are willing
to write but very challenged by academic sources. Their reading skills are
fairly weak.
64
Students have a very diverse set of interests and skills when it comes to
writing. Some students really want to improve, while others just see
Composition as just another English class like they had to take in High School.
I wish we could find a way to completely shift the perspective of those
students. For the students who are highly motivated and want to be better
writers, I wish I had more time to talk to and provide feedback for them.
When you have to teach 3-4 sections of composition, which means you have
60-80 papers coming in at a time, timely and effective feedback is always
suffers.
65
Our English 101 classes seem to be constantly evolving. Our department is
not given any say about the test that students take to determine readiness
for English 101. We can't turn away the students who are unprepared so they
wind up failing the course. TAs are told by department heads to put in place
practices that the research shows do not improve student writing. It's all very
frustrating. TAs lose their motivation pretty quickly around here. I hope your
research is successful!!
66
Students need to read more. I don't know when this idea came about that
students can learn to write without reading, but its nonsense. Good God,
even creative writing majors don't read anymore. That's nothing less than
ridiculous.
266
67
I am also credentialed in the teaching of writing, which I have done since
1974. My professors were (IDENTIFIERS DELETED) who were considered
pioneers in the field of Rhetoric and Composition. I was then privileged to
have (IDENTIFIERS DELETED) as colleagues.
68
Not related to anything on my end! I wish you well. I would like to know,
however, how this will translate into changes at my university, if at all. Will
there be any input into the universities' English departments concerning your
findings? Best wishes to you!
69
The problems associated with part-time instruction present a real challenge
for public community colleges whose state funding has been reduced
dramatically over the past twenty-five years. Our institution pays adjuncts at
a rate over $1,000 less per three-credit course than the national community
college low average for such instruction. Acknowledging that almost all
colleges and universities are relying more and more on part-time instruction
does not ease the burden on these well-intentioned instructors who often
work at three or more different institutions to make little more than
minimum wage (or poverty level) with the same credentials as full-time
faculty. Add to this observation the growing bloat of administrative positions
and support staff (at our institution, this ratio to that of full-time faculty is
approaching 3:1), and the future of public higher education, particularly that
of community colleges, looks bleak. It might take a few more years, but
"Academically Adrift" might become more applicable to community colleges
when one looks at the numbers of students who actually complete what they
started there. As a country, we can do better. And we should.
70
The challenge for teachers at any educational level is finding out what
interests the students and using that as a hook to get them learning while
enjoying themselves. For example, a student whose primary focus is on
athletics should be encouraged to pursue topics relating to that field, even if
the professor is less inclined to enjoy discussions of athletics.
71
I've found that one of the most useful tools as an adjunct professor is being
able to meet and brainstorm with more experienced faculty to implement
new ideas. I'm constantly trying new ways to engage my classes and get them
actively involved in the writing process in class so many of them don't fall
267
back on the night-before writing mentality.
72
I've been teaching creative writing and literature at the college level for years,
but this is my first semester teaching composition. It seems nearly impossible
to do a good job, given the skills (or lack thereof) the students are bringing to
college and the lengthy list of expectations the college places on the single
semester of introductory writing.
73
I think on-line education is a terrible idea for English composition. My biggest
grading problem is that most students just paraphrase stuff they find on the
internet, and it's impossible to catch unless they write in front of you.
I require them to compose for an hour a week, using Notepad and no Internet
sources. That's an eye-opener.
74
Books, journals, and conferences ("professional development") are all nice,
and our college pays a significant amount of money for people to attend
these conferences or to create conferences, but what I have seen in our
system is that "going to a conference" essentially means "hanging out with
my friends." Very few of the conferences seem to add anything substantial;
some of the state-sponsored conferences even seem to promote socialization
over academic discussion.
75
Technology is in every student's pocket and until we allow and incorporate
phones and other devices in our classroom we will forever be a step behind.
268
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