Thursday, October 13, 2011

Professional Development Meeting Notes from October 12-13

1. Announcements

Please don't forget to submit your schedule preferences as soon as possible. It will probably take approximately a month to get the schedule ironed out.

2. Introduction to Portfolio Assessment

Gae Lyn began by explaining the history of the 2 year portfolio assessment that ran from 2009-2011. The University had pushed each department to assess how well they were meeting their program's Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs) for all their courses, but especially their General Education courses. The English Department created the 1010/2010/2020 assessment program in response. 350 portfolios were selected at random from 1010/2010/2020 over the 2 year period and were evaluated by the WPAs to assess student's progress from the beginning of the classes to the end.

3. Overview of the Portfolio Assessment Criteria

John Goshert, the previous program administrator, joined us to discuss the criteria that was used to evaluate the portfolios. The criteria were adapted from the National Council of Writing Program Administrators' Outcomes for First Year-Composition. The portfolios were examined to determine how well they were able to engage in critical thinking (were they able to transition from uninformed opinions to looking at the topic from complex, multiple perspectives), did they use evidence to support and develop their ideas, did they pose research problems (rather than mere topics), did they engage in an academic conversation (did they use scholarly texts as source material), and could they produce mechanically sound writing.

4. Overview of the Findings from the Portfolio Assessment

The results for 1010 were quite positive. Students seemed to experience profound progress in terms of the program's basic writing expectations and intellectual growth. All of the students tended to perform above the average from what the WPAs had expected. Unfortunately, the results from 2010 were not quite as positive in terms of its added value. In some papers, the level of sophistication that the students exhibited toward their source material seemed to weaken in comparison to 1010. The students either tended to use more journalistic sources or, when they used scholarly sources, they only valued scholarly texts for their informational content alone (as opposed to engaging with them as arguments). Furthermore, students who started out in 2010 with weak skills tended to remain weak and students who started out with strong skills didn't seem to improve as much as had been hoped.

5. Discussion of the Assessment Findings

The discussion was then opened up to everyone to brainstorm how to keep the momentum going from 1010 into 2010. John felt that the course textbooks should be taken seriously by all instructors because they help to connect the assignment sequences with the scholarly mindset we want the students to develop. Gae Lyn mentioned that we have pretty high expectations for our students in comparison to other open enrollment colleges. At least one open-enrollment school that she knows of does not focus on the critical thinking component of first-year writing. Rather they focus only on helping students understand and summarize source material. We ask our students to do considerably more. Grant mentioned that the portfolio assessments possibly cannot account for the delay in timing between when students take 1010 and when they take 2010/2020.


Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions about the findings from the portfolio assessment in the comments to this blog.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Starter Activity for Problematizing a Topic Essay (Essay #1, 1010)

My students enjoyed this short activity to prep their heads for the concept of "problematizing."

1.  Take three volunteers and have them choose which side of the topic they will represent (pro, con, neutral) without telling them the topic.

2.  Have the volunteers come up to the board.  Give them the topic and two minutes to see who can generate the most examples/reasons for their side.

3.  Alternately, divide the class into the three groups (pro, con, neutral) and have them fire answers up to the their representative at the board.

4.  Possible topics:  Is graffiti art?  White lies.  Joining the military.  Road construction in Utah.

Stephenie Swindle