Developmental Writing Needs Attention, Too

Back in mid-March, a flurry of articles came out about changes in teaching composition, especially related to developmental writing. I’m sure you all remember the hootenanny about developmental math, and the discussions related to the district hopes for revising our current process. Developmental math is a big part of our incoming students’ experience, but so, too, is developmental writing.

Lest we be accused of ignoring this important topic, here is some interesting reading inspired by events and presentations made at the Conference on College Composition and Communication about:

1. Some research into what happens when English composition courses are moved in part or in whole to online environments. From the article:

The early results show some encouraging signs (such as better course retention rates that some might expect) but also some findings that worried some here (such as a minimalist approach to training instructors and little evidence that colleges are thinking about the pedagogical implications of the shift).

And there are signs that a pattern that has long been a reality for classroom writing instruction — in which colleges ignore guidelines about recommended class sizes — may be repeating itself online.

2) The pressure on community colleges to make space for students overwhelming suggested educational policy related to the optimum class size for writing instruction. From the article:

Class sizes and teaching loads for composition courses at community colleges — courses typically required of most students and seen as crucial for college success — appear to be growing well beyond levels that are considered educationally sound.

3) The mismatch between the need for skilled teachers of composition at community colleges with the sorts of preparation most English and Literature majors receive from advanced degree programs. From the article:

“I was incredibly well trained to teach college writing, but only one course at a time. How do you teach five classes when you’ve only been trained to teach one?”That was the question of a community college writing instructor who has taught herself how to manage the workload she now has. Her experience reflects the sense shared by many composition experts that it’s time for a new approach to teaching those who will teach writing at community colleges.

3b) Just yesterday, this follow up, by one of the people who hosted the workshop showed up on the same site, with warnings for both PhDs and Community College departments. It has some interesting links in it, too.

So, writing instructors out there, what else do we need to know?

5 thoughts on “Developmental Writing Needs Attention, Too

  1. What if reducing class sizes by 10 required doubling tuition?
    Would you make that trade?

    (I have no idea what the costs would be–could be more, could be less (though I doubt it. I’m just suggesting that there would be costs and probably significant ones, and those would get passed to the students.)

    Would it be worth it?

    I know my family would be grateful if I weren’t buried in grading all the time, but I’m not sure it would be better for students considered holistically.

    • Yeah, that’s a good one, too, which makes me think of another thing.

      Anybody know what the reasoning is for class limits of 35 for daytime classes and 39 for night classes?

      That one has always baffled me.

      • I cannot say for certain, but I assume the evening class size limit is higher for economic reasons: For many years after I began here, evening classes (across all disciplines) filled and closed way before day classes. This has not been the case for many years now. It is not clear why this trend reversed. Evening classes were always held on two days, M/W or T/Th, while day classes originally met three and two days, M/W/F or T/Th. HWC was one of the very last schools to make day classes two-day (ca. 1990). So, evening classes had far fewer offerings: essentially, only two time slots — roughly 5:30 and 7:30 — with a few classes running in a later third period. Clearly, day classes ran for considerably more periods. Remember, M/W/F classes were literally only 50 minutes long. So, the larger class size was probably to accommodate more students in the evening.

        Would it matter much if the practice were stopped? Ha. Likely not, … now that enrollment is based upon the midterm rather the tenth day!

  2. From what I understand, the reason for limiting English (Composition) courses to 25 is because the teachers have to grade so many papers, and are therefore doing more work outside of class than the rest of us – or so the theory goes…

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