ENGL 810 – Paper # 6: Being a Scholar of… Have I Changed My Mind?

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NOVA – my home away from home. Is this the future site of all of my scholarship?

As I sit down to tackle this final paper, it is also nearing the end of another semester of teaching composition and developmental English at my community college, NOVA. Students are frantically writing their final essays and creating final projects while I am frantically trying to grade hundreds of pages of writing before they rush off to Christmas break. Soon enough, it will be January and we will return to do it all over again: new faces, new essays, but still the same challenges.

The reason I’ve taken you on this bit of a narrative journey is because over the course of this semester, in getting to think about what it means to be a scholar of developmental English, I’ve taken a look at my own practices as a composition teacher and realized that the pace at which I must teach is something that is fairly unique to the community college. As a teaching institution rather than a research institution, I find myself teaching often 125 students a semester and have recently discovered that for some community college educators, this is a light load. Ultimately, though, teaching is what I want to be doing – my path to the community college has been, perhaps, an unusual one, and I’d like to think about how I got here and where I am headed based on the path (both physically and educationally) I have taken, and why scholarship and what I have discovered in this class is suddenly so relevant.

My educational background is in both literature and writing. As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, I was an English major with an emphasis in creative writing. My education was still heavily lit-based, but my heart was really in my writing. I wanted to write books, particularly creative nonfiction. Unfortunately, as most of us know, this doesn’t exactly pay the bills. Nearing the end of my four years, I realized that teaching would be a great way to enter a field that I cared so much about, and that by becoming a professor, I might be able to dabble both in the world of literature and creative writing. Not ready to go back to school right away, I ended up moving to Seoul, South Korea, where I taught English as a foreign language for two years in a public elementary school. I loved the EFL population, but my heart was still in teaching adults. By the time I returned to America to pursue my master’s degree, I was ready to make that dream a reality. I attended Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia while teaching English as a second language to adults. Though my teaching load was extremely heavy at that time – I taught five hours of new material each day, Monday through Thursday, I became passionate about the decision I’d made to teach adults and I really enjoyed the work I was doing in ESL – helping young people to learn a new language because of their goal to get a college degree was extremely rewarding.

It was also at this time that I was exposed to composition as a field at Marymount and I began to consider community college as a good option for me. My work at the ESL school made me realize I wanted to teach. I am a people-person by nature and couldn’t see myself slaving over a desk in research when my heart was in the classroom. When I applied for teaching position at NOVA and was hired full time on my first attempt, imposter syndrome reared its ugly head. I questioned myself down to my core about my ability to do the job I was tasked to do: “why would anyone trust me to talk to students about their writing, and why would anyone believe I was qualified to give them a grade that could affect their future?”

Applying for the PhD program at ODU was in part an effort to silence my inner critic. Since embarking on this journey, I have only alleviated the imposter syndrome a bit because I now realize, yet again, that even having learned so much this semester, how little I truly know about my own field. Yet, what I have learned in this class (aside from, of course, more knowledge about being a developmental English teacher) is how little there really is on community college scholarship in tackling the many issues of developmental English; and I have therefore realized, despite what I’ve written all semester, I am most interested in situating myself as a scholar on the border of developmental English and community college issues. Right now, I have my “dream job” and it would be easy to abandon further higher education. I could work through my imposter syndrome in other ways – through improving my teaching methodologies, for example. But I now consider that there is so little scholarship on community college as an autonomous unit because we are so heavily involved in our 125 students each semester – we often struggle to find time to squeeze the “scholar” part in. I now believe that my place to contribute is to bring forward that hidden “scholar,” make just a little extra room for it, and to contribute to the field of developmental English at the community college. I feel I have found my place.

Because I have written so much this semester on being a scholar of developmental English, I want to touch upon what I have already written, and what it means to be a scholar of that field, yet I want to continually reflect upon what these things mean as a teacher at a community college and what I might consider about being a scholar sitting at the intersection of the fields of developmental composition and community college scholarship going forward.

In my first paper, I wrote about the history of the field, drawing particularly heavily on Paul Kei Matsuda, who you may recognize as someone I go back to again and again. Reading him as a master’s student was, as someone interested in ESL issues, a turning point in thinking about what it means to be a scholar of developmental English. In my history paper I note:

Harvard, from which the first year writing course began, also pioneered the writing course as a place of containment for “correct” English, though by the second part of the nineteenth century, with an influx of immigrant students coming to study at research universities, it was not only Harvard that required placement exams.  Many other schools required language exams that were the site of linguistic containment and discrimination (Kei Matsuda 641-42), which was an attempt to make it appear that “language differences can be effectively removed from mainstream composition courses” (642). Second-language speakers, from Ivy League schools, to research universities, to historically black colleges and universities were sending many students, particularly Asian students, to remedial language schools until they were able to return to the school to study (644).

The idea of “correcting” or “fixing” linguistic differences is knowledge that is absolutely necessary for a scholar of developmental English. Seeing that the history of the field was one borne out of problem-solving and linguistic prejudice rather than a course meant to improve critical thinking and research skills is an idea that has heavily influenced me as a scholar. I continually try to challenge this mode of thinking not only in myself but also in my students who are continually asking for the “right” answers to writing problems and situation. In reflecting upon this now, sitting at the precipice of not only developmental English scholarship but also community college scholarship, I know that I can contribute here in thinking and studying more on this from a linguistics perspective – how we can challenge the current notion (as Dell Hymes wrote) about what effective communicative competence means and how we can empower the great number of community college ESL students in the classroom to move forward as thinkers less concerned with English usage and more on the power of their rhetoric and critical thought.

My second paper on major questions built strongly upon the ideas from my first. I challenged the notion of the placement test as an effective tool for putting students in developmental English, with the Virginia Placement Test (VPT) as a particular driving force of this question. NOVA is required to use the VPT to place students, and this test has had the unfortunate effect of placing too many students who are unprepared into credit-bearing English. This problem is now being seen across the community college system in Virginia. In my research, I discovered:

Despite the fact that the question of the accuracy of these exams seems to have been debunked, according to Hassel and Baird Giordano, over 92 percent of community colleges still use some form of placement exams. 62 percent use the ACCUPLACER and 42 percent use Compass; other schools use some combination of the two (30). These tests are still very much alive and being used although research by the TYCA Council shows that these tests have “severe error rates,’ misplacing approximately 3 out of every 10 students” (233). Worse yet, when students are placed into courses based on these standardized placement scores, it is found that their outcome on the exam is “weakly correlated with success in college-level courses,” resulting in students placed in courses for which they are “underprepared or over prepared” (Hodra, Jagger, and Karp).

As a community college scholar and one of developmental English, this professional knowledge seems essential. Realizing that we have a broken placement system that was put in place by the government says so much not only about our students’ struggles, but also what struggles we will face in a world where college is becoming ever more crucial. While I had known before this class how weakly correlated placement tests were with success, it was through my study this semester that I discovered how political it all was. What I ended up reflecting upon in this paper was a recommendation that students might test into developmental but still take regular English. Now, at the end of the semester, these musings seem basic and don’t really focus on how to handle this challenge at the community college. Contributions I could make to actually work towards solving such a problem instead of looking at quick fixes are not simple, but working on data collection about the results of these tests and moving those forward through publications might help shed light on how the VPT is working, allowing for greater dialogue on how to resolve this complex issue.

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The state seal of Virginia – is the government becoming a tyrannical force at the community college?

In my third paper, I went on a totally different route in thinking about writing centers as an object of study for developmental English. I considered how support services such as the writing center might support the development of these writers on an individual level. The research showed that writing centers were extremely useful in helping students improve, not only from a usage level, but generally in thinking about the problem-solving tasks of writing (Dinitz and Howe; Jones). While discovering the literature on their usefulness was a wonderful discovery, this paper is also where I first dove into the problems related specifically to the community college. I noted:

…the writing center at NOVA is quite understaffed for a school of our size. While the writing center claims that students need only make appointments two weeks in advance, my students tell me that they cannot book even four weeks out because the center is full. When the advice of many of the writers I surveyed mentioned that requiring students to use the writing center is actually quite useful, how, when my students can’t even book individual appointments, can I get them all to see a tutor?

I have since discovered that our writing center has been further reduced due to financial cutbacks. These cutbacks are something that I have had growing concern about throughout this semester and are now affecting my students. While perhaps knowing about the efficacy of writing centers and other support services is not imperative for a scholar of developmental English, it certainly is for a community college scholar. Where I can go from here and contribute to the field is a great concern of mine. I see no entry point yet, but know that if this problem is not solved, my discipline and my job are in great peril.

Finally, in my fourth paper I talked about the theories and methods of cooperative and collaborative learning. I liked this theory and method because it is more of a new technique and one that came after the “social turn” in the field. In particular, I think it is importantly connected to the problems that developmental English students often face, and, as the research shows, is a potential solution to major gaps in learning that most developmental students have. In my research I discovered:

…studies have shown that cooperative learning allows members to pool knowledge, “share cognitive load among members,” and check each other’s thinking for errors (Klein and Lealock 134). This leads to texts that are more accurate linguistically and writing that contains more new ideas as members learn and refine new ideas (140-141). Jehangir’s research concurs, noting that “‘there is a growing sense that teaching and learning don’t really happen unless there is some kind of building relationship – not only between teacher and students but between teachers, students, and subject’” (91). Collaborative writing even has the benefit of getting “richer thinking and more voices into solo writing as well,” according to Elbow (267).

This way of thinking is hugely important to my pedagogy and practice in the classroom, but yet again, in this paper, I began to see myself as not only a scholar of developmental English but also a scholar of the community college. It struck me that when I work towards cooperative learning in my own classroom, there are always students who struggle with it, no matter what relationships I try to foster between collaborative groups. I began to note that while different learning styles are important, I thought about the varied lives that students have outside of the classroom, and that many of my students struggle with disabilities (both acknowledged and unacknowledged) that inhibit learning and cooperative work. This breakthrough made me again aware that while cooperative learning modes might be important knowledge for being a scholar of developmental English, it is the unacknowledged challenges such as students with disabilities (a burden which the community college faces at a rate of twice that of other higher educational institutions) that must now be turned towards when thinking about such methods. Again, my entry point into this conversation is tenuous, but considering how to best help students with varied disabilities in the composition classroom is something I am extremely interested in considering further on in my coursework. In fact, if I am able to further see what information is available about this topic, it might be a good entry point for dissertation work.

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Students often have disabilities that can’t be seen, which affect not only their ability to do the coursework, but how they react to learning strategies in the classroom, too.

Ultimately, I have discovered a lot this semester about my field and unexpectedly realized that a potential field for study that I care deeply about is right in front of my face. This paper in particular has made me consider what Janet Emig says in her essay “Writing as a Mode of Learning”: In writing these posts, I have had a chance to play with so many ideas and have come to realize that I am passionate about composition, yes, but also the unique challenges of the community college.

Another facet of considering writing as a mode of learning has also made me acknowledge how disparate the papers I wrote this semester really are – writing centers, cooperative learning, placement tests – how does it all fit together? I believe this class has helped me realize that, as Pifer says, I might connect these papers by recognizing that as a composition scholar at a community college, where my first job is teaching, I am really more of a generalist. I’ve dipped my quill into many proverbial educational pots this semester and used writing as a way to clarify and find greater self-awareness of who I am in this field and that is OK.

Ultimately, I still know so little about the fields I am embarking on (the more I know, the more I know I want to know), but I do know that taking the approach of a generalist is a good way to start and what I believe I have done this semester. There are some things I am certain I don’t know and want to know more about – particularly the use of technology in the composition classroom – but other than that, there are so many areas of study that I am waiting and hoping to discover. As I continue my journey through my PhD, I am excited to discover new ways to contribute to these major debates as a scholar at the precipice of developmental English and the community college.

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How my head feels at the end of this class – mind blown!

Works Cited

Dinitz, Susan, and Diane Howe. “Writing Centers and Writing-Across-the-Curriculum: An Evolving Partnership.” The Writing Center Journal 10.1 (1989): 45-53. Web.

Elbow, Peter. “Using the Collage for Collaborative Writing.” Teaching Developmental Writing. Ed. Susan Naomi Bernstein. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2007. 261-268. Print.

Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” College Composition and Communication 28.2 (1977): 122-128. Print.

Hassel, Holly, and Joanne Baird Giordano. “First-Year Composition Placement at Open-Admission, Two-Year Campuses: Changing Campus Culture, Institutional Practice, and Student Success.” Open Words: Access and English Studies 5.2 (2011): 29–59. Web.

Hodara, Michelle, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Melinda Mechur Karp. “Improving Developmental Education Assessment and Placement: Lessons From Community Colleges across the Country.” Community College Research Center. Teachers College, Columbia U CCRC Working Paper no. 51. Nov. 2012. Web. Accessed 23 Sept. 2015.

Hymes, Dell. “On Communicative Competence.” Research Planning Conference on Language and Development Among Disadvantaged Children. Yeshiva University. Frankfurt Graduate School. 7 June 1966. Address.

Jehangir, Rashne. “Cooperative learning in the multicultural classroom.” Theoretical perspectives for developmental education. Ed. J. L. Higbee, & D. B. Lundell. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, General College, Center for Research in Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, 2001. 91-99. Print.

Jones, Casey. “The Relationship Between Writing Centers and Improvement in Writing Ability: An Assessment of the Literature.” Education 122.1 (2001): 3-20. Web.

Kei Matsuda, Paul. “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition.” College English 68.6 (2006): 637-651. Print.

Klein, Perry D., and Tracey L. Lealock. “Distributed Cognition as a Framework for

Understanding Writing.” Past, Present, and Future Contributions of Cognitive Writing Research to Cognitive Psychology. Ed. Virginia Wise Berninger. New York: Psychology Press Taylor and Francis Group, 2012. 133-152. Print.

Pifer, Matthew T. “On the Border: Theorizing the Generalist.” Transforming English Studies: New Voices in an Emerging Genre. Ed. Lori Ostergaard, Jeff Ludwig, and Jim Nugent. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2009. 179-194. Print.

Two Year College English Association. “TYCA White Paper on Developmental Education Reforms.” TYCA Council. 2013-2014. Accessed 18 Sept. 2015.

ENGL 810 – Paper # 5: Epistemological Alignment, or Where Are You Now?

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Theoretically and epistemologically, my alignments have, perhaps, not changed drastically over the past six years I have been a teacher; however, the more I learn and study, the better I am able to articulate what these theories are and to put them into practice as a teacher at a community college more explicitly and consciously. I’d like to examine my theoretical perspective, both as a researcher and a teacher, in a linear process in which I move through things I have learned in both my MA and PhD programs, and how they have informed my scholarship and teaching.

Feminist theory has been something that has long been part of my personal and professional philosophy of teaching, learning, and research. I first read Judith Butler as an undergraduate, but went back again and again to her Gender Trouble in graduate school. In this text, she posits that only cultural meaning assigns us as a “woman” or a “man” (xiv). Butler argues that the reason we have two ‘typical’ genders is because our categories of sex are established through a process called “performativity,” which means that the norms of sex and identity are substantiated and made “normal” by being repeated, and are therefore eventually considered ideal (xv). This was a fairly revolutionary idea to me at the time, but these ideas have become a large part of my scholarship, particularly in literature. I have used Butler and other feminist writers to make entry way into Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and other authors. It is something I find myself coming back to again and again. Often, even when I attempt to write a paper using a different lens, I still end up moving back towards a feminist critique. In more recent years, particularly now that I am a teacher, I find myself relying more heavily on Judith Lorber, who has a similar stance to Butler in arguing that gender is not a fixed category but is culturally assigned, but she goes into greater depth in discussing how gender, as a “modern social institution is [meant] to construct women as a group to be the subordinates of men as a group” (62). She essentially argues that inequality in the world comes from the creation and constant re-creation of classifications based on social norms.

[Judith Butler presented a conference in summer 2015 entitled “Why Bodies Matter,” in which she discussed the 25th anniversary of Gender Trouble, her groundbreaking theory on how gender is created and re-created through cultural means. This book has been shifting my worldview, my research, and my pedagogy for the past ten years.]

The arguments by both authors have again and again changed not only the way I view the world and view texts in the world, but they also now inform my teaching. I teach my ENG 111 class as a theme on “identity” in which students examine race, gender, and social theories posited by influential writers in these sub-disciplines. What I find so interesting is that I did not realize that this method of teaching is really a large part of our discipline of English studies until Dr. Phillips came to talk to our class. It was in reading the work she provided for the class, as well as our discussion on how cultural studies falls under the umbrella of English studies that I became aware that what I am teaching, which now goes far beyond feminist and gender theory, is a core of our field. Dr. Phillips mentioned that cultural studies has become part of English studies because, as Figueira said in “Comparative Literature versus World Literature,” English is the center of theory. This explicit knowledge has changed the way I view my subject and has made me reconsider other ways that I might incorporate a greater focus on cultural studies in my classroom. What I thought I was doing was making my students more aware learners about their world. I see now it goes beyond that and is a core part of learning in the English field.

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Paul Kei Matsuda has easily been one of the greatest influences on both my pedagogy and just on me as a person on an individual level.

In addition to a feminist and cultural studies alignment, I was also greatly influenced during graduate school by CCCC’s “Students’ Right To Their Own Language” and Paul Kei Matsuda’s theories of student language use in the classroom. Not only has this become a large part of my scholarship for this class, as it is evident in nearly all of my papers, but it also informs my teaching, particularly as a teacher of developmental English. The C’s resolution argues that due to the changing face of America, more and more students with linguistic diversity will be entering the classroom with “their own patterns and varieties of language — the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style” and that as teachers, we must respect these differences. Kei Matsuda writes nearly thirty years after the C’s resolution to rearticulate a similar idea, the “myth” of linguistic homogeneity, in which teachers see good writing as that which is “unmarked in the eyes of teachers who are the custodians of privileged varieties of English” (640). Kei Matsuda sees this myth as highly unrealistic in higher education institutions of today. One final influence is that of Ana Maria Preto-Bay and Kristine Hansen, who argue that as we reach a “tipping point” of having more linguistically diverse students than students who speak English natively, we must consider strategies for “negotiating the constraints and complexities posed by various audiences, purposes, and situations,” essentially a rhetorical grammar “for serving the new student population” (48).

As a developmental teacher, I take C’s and Matsuda’s challenge very seriously. I focus with my students on a rhetorical (rather than a punitive prescriptive) grammar and talk about how we make different linguistic choices for a particular audience or situation. I let my students know that I am more concerned with their thinking than their “perfect” writing and that while I expect careful, thoughtful writing and editing, linguistic differences, such as issues with preposition use, are not necessary for showing their talent for composition. This attitude has made me a developmental teacher that is sought out each semester by students, as they feel the respect and comfort that comes from such a methodology.

Finally, I find that I align myself as both a teacher and a scholar with a developmental theory of learning. This is my most recent area of study, having first encountered these theories in Dr. Phelps’ Practical Theory course in summer 2015. I had not before read Vygotsky, which as you can see from my work for this course, has influenced my thinking about teaching and also my scholarship. Particularly as a teacher of developmental English, I see how the Zone of Proximal Development can help my students to learn. I also am greatly influenced by the work of Janice Hays, who argues that learning is lifelong and that it is not “straightforward and linear” (12-13), but rather students move constantly forward and backward in refining complex thinking and becoming aware of ambiguity in the search for ideas and knowledge (15). She recommends that we must discover where our students are developmentally and teach to them at that level – for example, things that as teachers tend to emphasize, such as considering an outside reader, may not be best for them if they are not yet at a level of development where they can envision that reader (19). She also suggests that we must not make writing tasks beyond what students are ready for, as they will become discouraged and fall back to “safer levels of functioning” (22). These theories are something I incorporate into my own pedagogy as I plan lessons and assignments at a particular level. I know when I give students a challenging reading, for example, we’ll have to spend more time talking and thinking about it. It is also an epistemological alignment that I am very motivated in continuing to study as I move through PhD coursework. I think it is a particularly important theory for community college in which we teach such drastically mixed and low-level students. Considering how we can teach each student as an individual is so crucial.

While today these are my theoretical alignments, this paper topic has made me think: as I work my way through my PhD coursework, will these alignments change, or simply expand? I hope most certainly that they will expand, for in doing so, I can only become a more careful and dedicated teacher. I see myself now primarily as a teacher-researcher; therefore my primary goal is to always be a good teacher, but I feel thankful to have an opportunity to continue to study, to learn, and to expand myself as not only a teacher but a thinker and scholar.

Baby Girl In Summer Dress Sitting In Field Petting Family Dog

I also believe in a theory of babies and puppies…because babies and puppies are cute.

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 1990. New York: Routeledge, 2008. Print.

Conference on College Composition and Communication Committee on Language Policy. “Students’ Right to Their Own Language.” CCC 25.3 (1974) 1-32. Rpt. in Students’ Right to Their Own Language: A Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Staci Perryman-Clark et al. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. 19-57. Print.

Figueira, Dorothy M. “Comparative Literature versus World Literature.” The Comparatist 34 (2010): 29-36. Print.

Hays, Janice N. “Models of Intellectual Development and Writing: A Response to Myra Kogen Et Al.” Journal of Basic Writing 6.1 (1987): 11-27. Print.

Kei Matsuda, Paul. “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition.” College English 68.6 (2006): 637-651. Print.

Lorber, Judith. “‘Night To His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender.” Paradoxes of Gender. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. Print.

Preto-Bay, Ana Maria and Hansen, Kristine. “Preparing for the Tipping Ponit: Designing Writing Programs to Meet the Needs of the Changing Population.” WPA 30. 1-2 (2006): 37-57. Web.

Vygotsky, Lev. Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. Print.

ENGL 810 – Paper # 4: Theories and Methods – Cooperative Learning and the Turn from the Lecture

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The lecture format as an effective pedagogical method is now considered a thing of the past. Most teachers prefer a focus on cooperative and collaborative classroom activities.

Cooperative learning, based on the social development theory of education advocated by groundbreaking psychologist Lev Vygotsky, has been one of the most – if not the most important theory and method used in the field of development and ESL education since at least the 1960s. Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy in which small groups of students use learning activities to find answers to problems and collectively combine their knowledge to arrive at solutions. According to Kenneth Bruffee, such a method sprung from Vygotsky’s work because it showed teachers that “reflective thought is public or social conversation internalized,” and that [t]o think well as individuals, we must learn to think well collectively – that is we must learn to converse well” (640). This was the launching point for cooperative learning in which students work collectively to improve both as a community and individually. While a 1960s and 70s definition of cooperative learning came from a Vietnam-era in which teachers were looking to democratize education and “eliminate socially destructive authoritarian social forms” (Bruffee 636), by the 1980s, the idea of social conversation became accepted when more American teachers discovered it as a way of helping poorly prepared academic students who had difficulty adapting to the “traditional” or “normal” conventions of the college classroom: “It was the traditional classroom that seemed to have left these students unprepared in the first place” (267). According to Nicole Tong, the head of developmental education at Northern Virginia Community College, today, for most developmental educators, Vygotsky and cooperative learning is still an integral part of the classroom space. Such cooperative methods include “tutoring inside and outside of classrooms” and working together as a way of discovering that their voices are “worthy of consideration.”

In considering these multiple reasons for taking up the challenge of cooperative learning, developmental and educational psychologists have also found the technique to be a break from two traditional ways of thinking about writing education – that solo writing and the lecture format can be sufficient in teaching students to improve their work. According to George Slavich and Philip Zimbardo, lecturing is still the most common format used in higher education, yet educational psychology shows that it “accounts for only a small part of the pedagogical progress that has been made” (570), and that all contemporary theories derive from Piaget and Vygotsky which “emphasize the importance of active engagement and social interactions for promoting learning” (576). Studies have also shown that students are proven to learn more, have better attendance, persistence, and engagement in classrooms with collaborative and cooperative learning rather than students taking a lecture-based class (570). This research shows that cooperative learning can become a democratic process to make education more effective for students who failed in traditional classrooms. Although there is some slight pendulum-swing on the lecture format, with some teachers still arguing for the lecture as a way to engage students in higher-order thinking, Rebecca Shuman points out that a lecture is frequently what students want, as it allows them to disengage from the material and sit back “counting minutes” until class is over. She advocates that a cooperative classroom space give students what they need, in forcing “involvement, investment, and sometimes even retention.”

In addition to a strong movement away from the lecture approach, the idea of writing as a solo activity has also fallen out of favor. Perry Klein and Tracey Lealock have noted that “[u]naided, human cognition” on an individual level has a small capacity for storage, timing, and processing, and that nearly all writing and learning activities (aside from tests) involve social activity (136). In fact, studies have shown that cooperative learning allows members to pool knowledge, “share cognitive load among members,” and check each others’ thinking for errors (134). This leads to texts that are more accurate linguistically and writing that contains more new ideas as members learn and refine new ideas (140-141). Jehangir’s research concurs, noting that “‘there is a growing sense that teaching and learning don’t really happen unless there is some kind of building relationship – not only between teacher and students but between teachers, students, and subject’” (91). Collaborative writing even has the benefit of getting “richer thinking and more voices into solo writing as well,” according to Elbow (267). With all of this said, the theory of writing as a solo activity that can be improved through lectures has been (almost) fully relegated to the past.

With cooperative learning now being a defining pedagogical model for developmental and ESL students, there are still some trends that are being discussed within the field. One such topic for discussion is that cooperative learning must be more than simple group work – just putting students into groups in class will not necessarily foster the types of gains expected by Vygotsky’s theory. For example, Jehangir notes that for real cooperative learning, a teacher must facilitate, teach, and familiarize students with the process of working together (93). Katherine Mason also notes that it is not as simple as group work, stating that teachers must model appropriate feedback for group work, otherwise students might sit silently without participating effectively (56-57). Elbow argues that in particularly effective cooperative work, switching drafts back and forth between one or more writers, which helps to “stop the stifling of minority voices,” is necessary to make sure that everyone has their voice heard within the writing (266). The last trend in facilitating cooperative learning now deals with online learning, in which both Mason and Klein and Lealock advocate for collaborative online submissions to improve student writing. Mason has students respond to each others’ paper proposals online, which she says leaves students with fresh ideas that she, as a teacher, wouldn’t have considered (55). Klein and Lealock argue that online learning activities lead to higher-quality discussions and written contributions, as students draw on a variety of resources, “including other discussants’ prior contributions” in their own posts (146). Few teachers today deny the power of cooperative education.

Vygotsky and a cooperative theory of learning has strongly influenced my own classroom; as I’ve mentioned in my other posts, I’m still figuring out how to best incorporate such work in a way that is meaningful, and hope to make such work more useful. The research for this paper has gotten me closer, I think, to defining a pedagogy of cooperative work. However, one thing I find discouraging are the many social and learning disabilities that my students face. Working at any college, but particularly a community college, means facing students with a variety of learning needs. When students come to me with accommodation letters outlining issues such as severe depression and autism, I wonder how (or if) they will be able to work in groups in a way that will be useful to themselves and the majority of their classmates. Most students work well in groups, but some absolutely resist group work, projects, or even peer review. As Nicole Tong points out, our students “have [different] academic needs and the way to broach these gaps” cannot be approached as if they are one student body, but must be treated individually. Therefore, can cooperative learning become problematic when we start to consider the extremely varied needs of our students?

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According to this data published by the National Center for Learning Disabilities in 2014, 67 percent of students with learning disabilities are enrolled in higher education at some time (the same as the general population), yet they attend community colleges at twice the rate of the general population, creating questions about what theories and methods will work.

While I certainly try to consider all learning needs and absolutely vary my teaching methods to meet the differing learning styles of my students, if most (or all) of the research says we need to involve our students in cooperative learning, more research must be done on how to deal with a population of students dealing with diagnoses of ADHD, autism, and depression on a greater scale than ever before. I am a strong advocate for cooperative learning, but I believe the research behind this issue is failing in one major capacity that needs further investigation.

Works Cited

Bruffee, Kenneth. “Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind.’” College English 42.7 (1984): 635-652. Print.

Elbow, Peter. “Using the Collage for Collaborative Writing.” Teaching Developmental Writing. Ed. Susan Naomi Bernstein. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2007. 261-268. Print.

Jehangir, Rashne. “Cooperative learning in the multicultural classroom.” Theoretical perspectives for developmental education. Ed. J. L. Higbee, & D. B. Lundell. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, General College, Center for Research in Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, 2001. 91-99. Print.

Klein, Perry D., and Tracey L. Lealock. “Distributed Cognition as a Framework for Understanding Writing.” Past, Present, and Future Contibutions of Cognitive Writing Research to Cognitive Psychology. Ed. Virginia Wise Berninger. New York: Psychology Press Taylor and Francis Group, 2012. 133-152. Print.

Mason, Katherine. “Cooperative Learning and Second Language Acquisition in First-Year Composition: Opportunities for Authentic Communication among English Language Learners.” Teaching English in the Two Year College 34.1 (2006): 52-58. Web.

Schuman, Rebecca. “Professors Shouldn’t Teach To Younger Versions of Themselves.”Slate.com. Slate 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Slavich, George, and Philip G. Zimbardo. “Transformational Teaching: Theoretical Underpinnings, Basic Principles, and Core Methods.” Educational Psychological Review 24 (2002): 569-608. Print.

Tong, Nicole. Personal interview. 20 Oct. 2015.

Vygotsky, Lev. Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. Print.

Engl PAB Entry 8

Mason, Katherine. “Cooperative Learning and Second Language Acquisition in First-Year Composition: Opportunities for Authentic Communication among English Language Learners.” Teaching English in the Two Year College 34.1 (2006): 52-58. Web.

In this article, Katherine Mason provides a definition of cooperative learning for ESL and developmental English learners that encompasses both face-to-face teaching and online teaching as a way to improve student outcomes. Mason notes that many ESL students come into college with a fear of speaking English in front of their classmates when it isn’t their native language. This occurs for two reasons. One is that in their culture, educational emphasis is placed on listening rather than speaking. The other is that when students are set up to do group work and must be actively engaged, they often feel that their classmates (particularly those who are not ESL speakers) have better and smarter ideas and they fear looking stupid or less educated (52).

Mason notes that despite this fear, often, setting up a space in which students feel comfortable doing cooperative learning, which she defines as

“face-to-face or online” communication that “promotes a sense of community among students” and includes an emphasis on “interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction,” promotes greater learning and more comfort in speaking English and sharing their ideas (53).

She notes that cooperative learning has the power to increase linguistic diversity in students more than a traditional lecture. She does warn, however, that a teacher must create modeling and feedback for students so they can successfully work cooperatively (53).

Some of Mason’s recommended activities include both classroom and online work. For classroom work, she recommends asking students to write a stance on an issue and some counterarguments. When sharing their arguments with teams of four or five, other teammates may suggest other possible counterarguments, which helps students develop ideas for writing and practices spoken English (54). For online cooperative learning she suggests asking students to put paper outlines on a Blackboard forum where a small group will read and respond to each other’s proposals providing group critiques (55). Mason has found that such group work is better than a teacher giving feedback, as students often think of feedback that even the teacher wouldn’t have thought about and that students benefit not only from receiving but from giving feedback (55). The students also report that they become more careful about their own drafts when they realize the criticisms they see in other students’ drafts (56).

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Here is an example of a similar Blackboard peer review I did in my own class. Students submit their thesis statements and evidence to the board and must respond to at least two of their classmate’s work.

Finally, Mason notes that teachers shouldn’t be too worried about students who are initially quiet or reluctant to participate. She believes that many quiet students are gaining “peripheral participation” and absorbing ideas by listening and that as the semester goes on, they are more likely to become active participants when they learn that speaking up is good practice to think critically and an opportunity to share their opinion (54). Ultimately, this shows the true value of cooperative learning:

“The very act of genuinely communicating with peers from diverse backgrounds through cooperative team-building structures alleviates fears, breaks down stereotypes, and promotes relationship building among students” (57).

Students who learn cooperatively become better writers, students, and more culturally-aware citizens.

Something that struck me as I read this was a reminder of Dell Hymes’ definition of communicative competence. Communicative competence in a cultural aspect as Hymes describes it is when someone learns how to speak language effectively to a particular culture to accomplish their purpose. When I have such a linguistically diverse class (particularly for my ESL English classes), getting students to the place that Mason describes, where students feel comfortable enough for their voices to be heard and are able to be understood is always one of my main goals. My goal is not for students to leave my class speaking standard English, but to be able to comfortably communicate in a college classroom with peers and to take some new knowledge away from that. The question I must then ask is, how do I speed up the process of getting those uncomfortable students to speak? It seems that Mason would argue the more they speak, the more quickly they will improve, but often getting my quietest students to speak is like pulling teeth. However, such cooperative learning would, as both Hymes and Mason would argue, make students improve more rapidly. How to speed up their communicative competence is something I need to consider further.

Lev_Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky, the father of a developmental theory of education, changed everything when he introduced the ZPD, which has spurred decades of thinking on cooperative learning in the classroom.

In addition to Hymes, Mason’s definition fits very well again with a developmental theory of learning. Vygotsky’s ZPD helps explain Mason’s success. What she is describing here – students being “equal partners” in learning and being required to participate with their group gives them not only the feedback of their peers to make themselves better, but in giving feedback, they gain the confidence in their abilities and thoughts that eventually will allow them to move to new levels of competence as learners (Vygotsky 86). When Mason notes that often times students will provide feedback that she has never considered before is something I frequently encounter. While I am happy to sit down with students in conferences to discuss their writing, I am still only that – one perspective. By allowing students opportunities for conferring with peers as well, they gain new ideas and I gain new ideas also. This form of cooperative learning benefits both the students and the teacher alike. However, the questions that arise out of this yet again has to do with how I pair students for such work. Is it best to allow students to pick their own groups, or should I form them myself specifically putting weaker and stronger students together? If I do that, do the stronger students only benefit from helping others but not get a perceived benefit on their own? I frequently remember my own peer review days when I felt I got nothing worthwhile out of feedback. In what ways do teachers respond to the problems of such drastic differences in abilities and help cooperative learning improve all students? I haven’t figured out the most ideal solutions to these problems in my own class yet.

Works Cited

Hymes, Dell. “On Communicative Competence.” Research Planning Conference on Language and Development Among Disadvantaged Children. Yeshiva University. Frankfurt Graduate School. 7 June 1966. Address.

Mason, Katherine. “Cooperative Learning and Second Language Acquisition in First-Year Composition: Opportunities for Authentic Communication among English Language Learners.” Teaching English in the Two Year College 34.1 (2006): 52-58. Web.

Vygotsky, Lev. Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. Print.

Engl PAB Entry 7

Jehangir, Rashne. “Cooperative Learning in the Multicultural Classroom.” Theoretical Perspectives for Developmental Education. Ed. J. L. Higbee, & D. B. Lundell. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, General College, Center for Research in Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, 2001. 91-99. Print.

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If four heads are really better than one, what are the best ways to implement cooperative learning to make it more productive for developmental English students?

In Lev Vygotsky’s revolutionary books Thought and Language and Mind in Society, he outlines a developmental theory of learning, in which he articulates a definition of what he calls a “zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Mind in Society 86).

Vygotsky notes that children are able to copy or imitate actions that go beyond their own capabilities, and this imitation, when cooperating and interacting with people in his peer environment (this could be peers or adults), eventually become “part of the child’s independent developmental achievement” (88, 90). By working with others, children are able to do more later on their own. This concept is key to a developmental theory of learning because it highlights how important imitation is to our development.

Such a concept has become highly important to the world of developmental/ESL English education. It is frequently found in the formats of modeling and cooperative learning in particular. In modeling, students see examples of the work they are expected to perform and then follow that particular style, becoming more competent through practice; cooperative learning also fits well with developmental theories of learning, because it allows students to work together to accomplish more. This is what Rashne Jehangir wrote about in her book chapter “Cooperative learning in the multicultural classroom.” Jehangir determines that through opening up controversial topics in a developmental education setting through the use of cooperative learning, students would learn more and also develop greater cultural awareness.

Jehangir first notes that the history of this issue has been examined since at least the 1960s. According to Parker Palmer, “‘there is a growing sense that teaching and learning don’t really happen unless there is some kind of building of relationships—not only between teacher and students but between teachers, students and subject’” (91). Jehangir also notes that other scholars believe in “‘constructivism where knowledge is actively built by learners, working together cooperatively and interdependently’” (91-92).

However, Jehangir quickly throws away the idea of simply putting students into group work, which she notes “does not result in the development of community, nor does it dissolve the competitive, individualistic behavior that many students think is expected of them” (93). She notes that for real cooperative learning, a teacher must facilitate, teach, and familiarize students with the process of working together (93). Jehangir believes that such a model of cooperative learning is particularly productive for developmental English because such a diverse and multicultural classroom will “use the rich tapestry of difference to allow students to teach each other” (96).

Recommendations that Jehangir uses to build such cooperative learning are to get students to define the word “community,” to “allow students to initiate ownership and accountability of the classroom experience” and have them state what they hope will come out of a classroom where peer interaction is crucial (97). Students must also create their own rules for their classroom community, while the instructor models and facilitates “appropriate use of the rules established by the students themselves” (97). Next, group activities that require students to listen carefully, consider what their partners have said, and give students time to self-reflect and summarize such discussions in the classroom are crucial (98).

I first learned about Vygotsky in Dr. Louise Phelps’ Productive Theory course during summer 2015. It was a particular turning-point for me in thinking about how to best approach my classes and students as individuals and as co-learners in the classroom space, but also made me think about NOVA’s policies for developmental education and if they are best being utilized.

First, I considered how learning such a method gave a name to something I already attempt to practice. I have always found group work to be particularly productive in classes. However, both Vygotsky and Jehangir made me think about how I am implementing such group work – do I need to spend more time, as Jehangir says, linking “classroom activities or assignments so that group members need each other’s input in order to be successful” (95)? I teach a developmental English course in which I, like Jehangir, discuss various controversial topics about race and gender. As Jehangir stated, do I need to spend more time than I do building a community classroom in which students feel safe? In addition, I normally let students choose their own work groups. These are often productive, but not always. Do I need to spend more time thinking about who is in  which group to allow for greater ZPD possibilities? While I am highly intrigued by the idea of cooperative learning, I now fear that the little I am doing in my own classroom to facilitate it is insufficient, and I may need to consider other advice from readings for paper 4 to find better ways to implement cooperative learning into my classroom.

Finally, at looking at NOVA’s developmental English department as a whole, thinking about Vygotsky and Jehangir makes me question yet again (as I have in several other PAB entries) whether or not NOVA is implementing developmental education in the most efficient manner. Would mixing class time with “regular” and “developmental” students, while offering developmental students additional time with the instructor be more productive? It seems that if we want to move towards a productive, cooperative, and developmental theory of learning, such a model might be necessary.

Works Cited

Jehangir, Rashne. “Cooperative learning in the multicultural classroom.” Theoretical perspectives for developmental education. Ed. J. L. Higbee, & D. B. Lundell. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, General College, Center for Research in Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, 2001. 91-99. Print.

Vygotsky, Lev. Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. Print.

Vygotsky, Lev. Thought and Language. Trans. Alex Kozulin. 1962. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1986. Print.

ENGL 810 – Paper # 3: OoS, or, how do writing centers improve outcomes?

peer-review-from-distance

Studies show that when it comes to ESL/developmental English students utilizing support services such as the writing center, a hands-on approach is more useful than it is for native English speaking students.

One research question that is important in the world of ESL/developmental English regards the support services offered to help improve outcomes for students. Questions that are important are: what support services do colleges offer to ESL/developmental students? Are these successful in helping improve outcomes? One such generally accepted OoS in the discipline are writing centers. According to Jones, many studies have shown significantly higher grades for students who utilize writing centers (9). NOVA’s own study of writing centers (as detailed in PAB #5), writing centers are shown to significantly increase student outcomes the more frequently students visit. In addition to being shown to help students improve grades, Gordon notes that 74 percent of students who visit writing centers find them to be helpful, and 84 percent recommend other peers to visit as well (157). While students may initially feel anxiety at the prospect of visiting a writing center, because they are often spaces of “non-judgemental, collaborative assistance, these apprehensions tend to evaporate” (Jones 11). Such visits frequently lead to students improving their attitudes and self-perceptions related to their writing. Jones also notes that writing centers go beyond improving student writing, but are also a key in faculty development. In a study at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, a survey of most faculty before a writing center was installed found that the faculty wouldn’t allow students to revise their writing after grading, but when the college got a writing center, teachers began to insist that students revise assignments after feedback (16). Overall, the writing center is a strongly accepted Oos when it comes to the improvement of student outcomes.

In thinking about a writing center’s major questions, Cassie Book notes in her second paper on “major questions” that one thing writing centers are concerned with is writing center pedagogy. In the paper, Book notes that one major part of writing center pedagogy is that the tutor values “indirectness, avoidance of authority” in the writing center appointments. This is reiterated by Powers, who notes that one of the values of writing center tutoring is leading students to discover their own answers or solutions to their writing (40). Powers also notes that another common pedagogical technique is asking students to read their work out loud to hear error correction (42). However, while these techniques are found to be useful for native speakers, many new studies are finding that these techniques are not effective for ESL/developmental writers. “Unfortunately, many of the collaborative techniques that had been so successful with native-speaking writers appeared to fail (or work differently) when applied to ESL conferences” Powers notes (40). It is then important to shift the major question to “how do support services best help ESL/developmental students?” With this question in mind, three important questions emerge that are frequently analyzed:

  1. Should we train tutors to work with ESL students?
  2. Which techniques work for ESL students?
  3. Should we require ESL students to visit the writing center?

In shifting from Book’s major question towards a pedagogy for ESL/developmental writers, many authors suggest that, yes, we should train tutors to work with ESL students. Kennedy notes that most instructors and writing centers teach both native and non-native English speakers, yet have no training in helping ESL students. However, these two groups tend to have different language problems that must be also approached differently (27). In addition, Williams notes that teachers send students to the writing center to “fix” and “improve ESL writing student outcomes” when they are unable to help students themselves. Without proper training, the writing center will rely on sending students to handbooks of grammatical forms that are “frustratingly ineffective.” Without proper training in ESL writing issues, writing centers will not be useful for most non-native students.

The second question, then, takes on importance: what techniques work for ESL students? Williams recommends that for teaching of grammar, tutors should take a “systems approach,” in which they direct students to grammatical or language patterns throughout writing. For example, when a student can recognize that the “regular past tense marking with ed” is a pattern, they can project that knowledge “onto new forms” (78-9). Applied linguists generally agree that such teaching is possible on the part of the tutor (78), as long as the the tutor knows the grammar rules himself (79).

Many of the authors also suggest a more hands-on approach. While traditional writing center pedagogy asks tutors to take a generally hands-off approach, when working with ESL students, these writers prefer a tutor with more dominant behavior. Negotiating more directly with a tutor about writing changes is particularly useful, according to Williams (81-2). Powers also notes a need for increased emphasis as an informant rather than a collaborator with ESL students. A direct approach in teaching writing as an academic subject is particularly helpful (45).

Finally, the authors stress teaching tutors to help students understand the cultural differences in writing in their native language and English. For example, Powers notes that cultural ideas about writing can cause problems; therefore, teaching a native speaker that a conclusion shouldn’t contain new ideas is necessary when in their own language, this may be an accepted practice (41). Kennedy notes the same thing: students need to be taught reciprocally that what is acceptable in English writing may not be in their native language and what is acceptable in their native language may not be in English (33); therefore, teaching students the background on American culture and expectations in the classroom is important for ESL writers to fully understand what their teacher is asking for (35).

The third question, whether or not we should force ESL students to visit the writing center, is still up for debate. Many of the authors cite North’s “The Idea of a Writing Center,” and his statement that forcing students to go to the writing center is not worthwhile. However, many authors challenge this assumption. Mohamad and Boyd found that requiring students to visit the writing center for fifteen hours a semester greatly increased student writing performance. There was, first and foremost a “dramatic jump in these students’ … test scores from the initial placement test to the post-test,” and while a majority of students felt indifferent or annoyed with the requirement  to visit the Writing Studio for such a great number  of hours, after the course “91% of the students indicated that they would ‘definitely or maybe’ return voluntarily” (87-8). According to Gordon, making writing center visits mandatory, can “ameliorate the implications” that the writing center is a remedial service (160). In fact, in a survey of students, Clark notes that most students noted that if they were not forced to go to the writing center, they were highly unlikely to ever go; once they do go, however, they see it’s value and will continue to go (33). Gordon notes that the greatest hindrance to requiring students to use the writing center is the burden on writing center staff, yet he believes that by working with faculty, the writing center can make sure it does not get overburdened (161). Such a method will be beneficial for students.

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In Gordon’s “Requiring First Year Writing Classes to Visit the Writing Center: Bad Attitudes or Positive Results,” while a majority of students required to go to the writing center initially were “annoyed,” most of them found the experience “positive/beneficial” and were “definitely” or “maybe” likely to go back. This shows that requiring visits may have more potential than suggested in North’s “The Idea of a Writing Center.”

Based on the history of ESL/developmental English, as I noted in Paper 1, frequently developmental English is one of marginalization and containment for non-native speakers of English (Kei Matsuda 641-42). However, as Cassie Book notes, with the widespread development of the writing center by the 1960s and ‘70s, particularly in response to open-admissions policies at colleges, writing centers are one step in attempting to challenge the containment and prejudice faced by developmental writers. However, Book also notes that a major problem with the history of the writing center is that little has changed since the 1980s. Little new research has emerged since then, and writing center pedagogy is perhaps a bit stuck. My research on ESL writing somewhat reiterates these findings – while writing centers are discovering problems they face in helping ESL writers, they are still struggling to develop ways to effectively help this unique group. With more research and training, writing centers will be able to not only help native speakers with the pedagogical methods they have found work best, but they will be able to shift their methods to work with diverse audiences.

After doing this research, I realized that I needed to take greater advantage of the writing center on my own campus. Each semester, I bring my first semester English students into the writing center to meet the tutors, see the center, and get a chance to ask questions. Most students do not know this service is available at all, so just getting them in the door is my typical goal. After this visit, I know that a very small percentage of students actually utilize the writing center. These are typically the most motivated students – maybe the students who would do well anyways, which potentially complicates data that suggests that students who visit the writing center do better in classes. If my personal course outcome for my students is to get them to improve writing, and according to statistics (whether my hypothesis complicates these or not), students who utilize the writing center do better, how can I better help and encourage my students to utilize the writing center?

As I mentioned in PAB #6, the writing center at NOVA is quite understaffed for a school of our size. While the writing center claims that students need only make appointments two weeks in advance, my students tell me that they cannot book even four weeks out because the center is full. When the advice of many of the writers I surveyed mentioned that requiring students to use the writing center is actually quite useful, how, when my students can’t even book individual appointments, can I get them all to see a tutor? In search of an answer, I spoke with Emily Miller, the head of the NOVA writing center. She noted that tutors are willing to set up individual appointments to come to a class and give tutoring. Yet, Dinitz and Howe note major problems with this method. When a tutor attempts to help a whole class, there is frequently “panic at the end of the class when only half of the students received tutoring” (49). The tutors in this situation frequently also find themselves too physically drained at the end of such intensive sessions to even perform their own school work up to a high standard (49).

Dinitz and Howe do propose a plausible solution that would help students get tutoring without burdening the system, and this ends up being something I could bring into my own class. They recommend bringing a tutor into the classroom to teach students how to respond to each other’s drafts, critique, and work effectively in groups (49). This way, peer review allows students to hear from three or four writers; in particular, writers who know the assignment well and are writing on the same thing (50). Then, students can go to the writing center as needed with follow-up questions (50). While I have never had a writing center tutor in my classroom to help facilitate peer review (of which I am a big believer), this method might be an interesting way to see if students find it useful. Such a technique could be grounds for further study on my part to see if bringing a tutor into my classroom for peer review leads to greater gains than the peer review I am currently using with my classes.

Ultimately, writing centers have proven their worth in the university as a system for helping improve student outcomes. While we are still investigating how to utilize them to best help ESL and developmental writers, and how to bring their services to the most possible students, these are important and worthy goals because of the great benefits possible when such services are available to students.

Works Cited

Book, Cassie. “ENGL 810 Paper #1 The History of Writing Centers as a Subdiscipline.” Cassie’s  ODU Blog. Old Dominion University. 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

Clark, Irene. “Leading the Horse: The Writing Center and Required Visits.” The Writing Center Journal 5.2 (1985): 31-35. Web.

Dinitz, Susan, and Diane Howe. “Writing Centers and Writing-Across-the-Curriculum: An Evolving Partnership.” The Writing Center Journal 10.1 (1989): 45-53. Web.

Gordon, Barbara Lynn. “Requiring First-Year Writing Classes to Visit the Writing Center: Bad Attitudes or Positive Results?” Teaching English at the Two Year College 36.2 (2008): 154-163. Web.

Jones, Casey. “The Relationship Between Writing Centers and Improvement in Writing Ability:An Assessment of the Literature.” Education 122.1 (2001): 3-20. Web.

Kei Matsuda, Paul. “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition.” College English 68.6 (2006): 637-651. Print.

Kennedy, Barbara. “Non-Native Speakers as Students in First-Year Composition Classes With Native Speakers: How Can Writing Tutors Help?” The Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 27-38. Print.

Mohamad, Mutiara and Janet Boyd. “Realizing Distributed Gains: How Collaboration with Support Services Transformed a Basic Writing Program for International Students.” Journal of Basic Writing 29.1 (2010): 78-98. Print.

Powers, Judith. “Rethinking Writing Center Conferencing Strategies for the ESL Writer.” The Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 39-48. Web.

Williams, Jessica. “Undergraduate Second Language Writers in the Writing Center.” Journal of Basic Writing 21.2 (2002): 73-91. Print.

ENGL 810 PAB Entry 6

Mohamad, Mutiara and Janet Boyd. “Realizing Distributed Gains: How Collaboration with Support Services Transformed a Basic Writing Program for International Students.” Journal of Basic Writing 29.1 (2010): 78-98. Print.

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In “Realizing Distributed Gains: How Collaboration with Support Services Transformed a Basic Writing Program for International Students,” Mutiara Mohamad and Janet Boyd outline a program for improving basic writing that they piloted at Fairleigh Dickenson University in 2003. Mohamad and Boyd note that there are significant problems with college completion for ESL and developmental writers. For example, most ESL students end up taking many noncredit courses, causing a “long delay as they worked to complete their degree programs, which frustrated students and resulted in high attrition rates” (80). To address this inequality, the authors created a new developmental English track in which students who tested as “basic writers” (based on an essay read by two graders) and all ESL writers had to take one semester of English for Specific Purposes, which was a course with “language instruction relevant to a specific discipline or occupation (81). These basic writers are able to take this course for college credit while also taking other college classes, which benefits them in their major classes and reduces the stigma of remedial or developmental coursework (84).

During the development of this program, Mohamad and Boyd recognized that there would be great differences in proficiencies between members of the class. To deal with this problem, they decided to team up with Farleigh Dickinson’s writing center (known as the Metro Writing Studio) to allow students more one-on-one time with educators who could ensure student success (84). The Metro Writing Studio, which already existed on the campus, was set up to help support these basic writing students in a variety of ways. During time at the studio, students could choose to work on “written and spoken English” through work with tutors who assess and give advice to their writing and also in workshops that offer a variety of topics, from report writing to conversation workshops (86-7).

In some of the English for Specific Purposes classes, teachers set up their classes so students had to attend a minimum of fifteen hours of tutoring in writing each semester (87). The result of the collaboration between English for Specific Purposes and the Metro Writing Studio was greatly increased student writing performance. There was, first and foremost a “dramatic jump in these students’ … test scores from the initial placement test to the post-test,” and while a majority of students felt indifferent or annoyed with the requirement  to visit the Writing Studio for such a great number  of hours, after the course “91% of the students indicated that they would ‘definitely or maybe’ return voluntarily” (87-8). While the decision to use this model grew “organically out of a shared commitment to sustainable student success” (92), students at the college continue to show that they will self-select to get extra help (91). Therefore, collaborations between teachers and support services greatly enhance student success and allow them to have the autonomy to accomplish the difficult work faced by most basic and ESL writers (93).

I recognize that the concept of the Writing Studio comes out of the “Social Turn” model that was described by Janice Lauer in English Studies. During the 1980s, new theories of helping students in collaborative ways emerged. This involved students collaborating in the classroom, reading groups, peer review, and in places such as writing centers (121-22). Lauer also noted that the 1980s brought the emergence of Writing Across the Curriculum (125-26), which is something that Mohamad and Boyd address. At their university, they do not have a Writing Across the Curriculum model, so they envisioned their English for Specific Purposes as a way to implement such a model without taking up the time and resources it would take to implement this across multiple disciplines (78). Essentially, this was Farleigh Dickinson’s way of implementing the research and ideas that came out of an explosion of theory-building within composition as a discipline.

While Lauer’s research might tell us something about why such a model was implemented, it does not (and neither do the authors of this paper) explain how they funded this initiative. The university was able to hire an ESL coordinator, to help “facilitate cooperation and prevent fragmentation among services” and also eleven tutors per semester (85). These tutors are all provided with “paid professional development workshops that offer practical strategies for working with non-native speakers of English” (86). After seeing such an extensive creation of services specifically to help ESL English speakers, I have to ask: where does the money come from? I got my answer when I looked up more information on Farleigh Dickinson. Below, you will see the tuition breakdown between NOVA and Farleigh Dickinson. Students there are paying approximately $53,000 per year to attend school there. At NOVA, they pay approximately $5000 per year. How, then, can NOVA or other public colleges and universities with tight budgets compete with or at least offer a minimum amount of similar services to these schools? While I acknowledged in my last post that the writing center at NOVA has studied their outcomes and found them to be generally successful in helping students improve, I had a student tell me today that he tried to make a writing center appointment and was told that the center was fully booked for nearly three-and-a-half weeks. Unfortunately, the idea of mandatory writing center appointments, particularly fifteen hours per student, is not feasible at the average public college or university. Even getting students into a writing center one or two hours per semester may not be realistic.

While this article addresses excellent ways that writing centers can help ESL and developmental students improve their writing, major problems remain with how to equally serve such students at a variety of learning institutions.

[Above, you can see a breakdown of the cost of NOVA versus an “average” private college. Farleigh Dickinson comes out way above even this large sum. When students pay an average of $5000 per year for tuition at a community college, benefits such as writing centers, shown to help improve student outcomes, become a luxury rather than a necessity. At what point does this become a discriminatory practice?]

Works Cited

Lauer, Janice. “Rhetoric and Composition.” English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline. Ed. Bruce McComiskey. Urbana: NCTE, 2006. 106-152. Print.

Mohamad, Mutiara and Janet Boyd. “Realizing Distributed Gains: How Collaboration with Support Services Transformed a Basic Writing Program for International Students.” Journal of Basic Writing 29.1 (2010): 78-98. Print.

ENGL 810 PAB Entry 5

Williams, Jessica. “Undergraduate Second Language Writers in the Writing Center.” Journal of Basic Writing 21.2 (2002): 73-91. Print.

Do support services, such as the NOVA writing center, shown here, help produce greater outcomes inside the developmental/ESL English classroom? Williams would argue that, with the right tutor strategies, they do.

In considering issues related to developmental/ESL English at the community college, one important goal of teachers and the school alike is providing adequate support to make students successful in their courses. In looking at what support services are available to improve outcomes for developmental/ESL English students, writing centers are an important resource. Jessica Williams in “Undergraduate Second Language Writers in the Writing Center” examines the historical problems for both teachers and writing centers for addressing ESL students and what might be done to support greater outcomes for these students in need.

Williams notes that while teachers have been using writing centers as a place to help “fix” or “improve” ESL writing student outcomes, most writing center tutors succeed in helping writers with their writing issues, but fail to help them with language issues. “For the latter, some tutors may refer second language writers to handbooks, which generally contain explanations of troublesome grammatical forms and sentence-level exercises” which are often “frustratingly ineffective” (75). However, Williams believes that the research and particular methods can make the writing center effective for second-language writers and outlines methods for improving student outcomes.

First, tutors in the writing center can assist students by teaching students concepts systematically. This “system learning” is for when tutors and students are able to see grammatical or language patterns throughout writing. For example, when a student can recognize that the “regular past tense marking with ed” is a pattern, they can project that knowledge “onto new forms” (78-9). Applied linguists generally agree that such teaching is possible on the part of the tutor (78), as long as the the tutor knows the grammar rules himself (79).

Second, the tutors should act more as a peer and guide the second-language writer to negotiate the writing with them. ESL students prefer a more “directive” session with a tutor, in which the tutor behaves “as higher-standard interlocutors” with more dominant behavior. Research has shown that being more directive might be helpful for ESL writers (80), yet for the best results, negotiation, in which the learner participates actively with the tutor to facilitate comprehension and possible revisions will lead to the greatest outcomes (81-2). Texts that are negotiated with tutors tend to receive the most revision (83).

Finally, Williams addresses the sociocultural approach to helping ESL English students. The zone of proximal development is Vygotsky’s theory on learning, in which stretching current knowledge in interactions with novices or peers helps students internalize new knowledge (84). In the writing center, this can be achieved by asking the writing center tutor to act as an “interlocutor” in which they control the “flow of discourse, but there is a moderate mutuality” and active encouragement of the novice to contribute (85).  These three methods together can result in strong outcomes and gains for the ESL writer in their writing classroom.

The methods that Williams brought up as the ways to support ESL writers reminded me of Richard Fulkerson’s “Four Philosophies of Composition.” Within this approach, I can see how at least three of his philosophies can be accounted for in these methods. The formalist approach, which judges “good writing as correct writing” and “readability” (344) can be seen in Williams’ notion of system learning – students can be taught particular forms to make their writing more readable. I can see the philosophy of expressionism, which focuses on students as self-directed and teachers as non-directive (345) in Williams’ suggesting that students have some directive aspects in their writing. Finally, I see the mimetic approach, which says there is a connection between good thinking and good writing (345) when Williams points out that one of the biggest challenges for ESL writers is in reading comprehension. A struggle with comprehension of required college texts “can pose a tremendous challenge for these second language writers” (77). What is interesting is that Fulkerson acknowledges how problematic it is to use multiple approaches at once, or to use one approach and grade based upon another (346). However, writing tutors might escape these issues because they work one-on-one with the writer and they have no stake in the grading of the work. Therefore, it seems possible that support services like writing centers can help students simply based on their ability to perform multiple philosophies or functions without having to assess the work. Such a theory could explain one reason why students who use the writing center have greater outcomes in their classes than students who do not.

My own experiences working with students in class and one-on-one might speak to the possibility of the successful multitasking writing tutor. For example, when I teach my developmental composition course I do not generally teach grammar usage. As is widely accepted, particularly after Patricia Hartwell’s definitive piece “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar,” explicit teaching of forms is not particularly productive. However, when students are one-on-one with me and I can see small patterns of errors in their writing, discussing these issues, as a writing tutor would do, becomes more practical and useful. I also generally find that ESL students struggle the most with reading comprehension of any deficiencies they may have, and this is a major inhibitor to clear and understandable writing. I encourage them to read frequently (both for and outside of class), ask questions, and talk with their peers. Helping with basic comprehension of a given task or writing instantly makes their job easier. Finally, I see the value both in letting students making directives for their writing while also letting me guide them a bit – a middle ground approach is always better than allowing only them to talk or only me to talk when we conference about their writing. In addition, so much more is accomplished when I am facing only one student rather than 25 or more.

At NOVA’s writing center, the results of such benefits are definitive. The writing center has done their own studies showing the benefits of their work. Below, you can see that students who visit the writing center do better in their courses than students who do not. These support services, therefore, are crucial to continued ESL in the English classroom success.

 

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These statistics, from NOVA’s writing center program assessment in spring 2011, show that writing centers do make a difference based on the number of times the student goes. This supports the idea that with good tutoring techniques, students, ESL or not, can improve their writing.

Works Cited

Fulkerson, Richard. “Four Philosophies of Composition.” College Composition and Communication 30.4 (1979): 343-348. Print.

Hartwell, Patricia. “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar.” College English 47.2 (1985): 105-127. Print.

Williams, Jessica. “Undergraduate Second Language Writers in the Writing Center.” Journal of Basic Writing 21.2 (2002): 73-91. Print.

ENGL 810 – Paper # 2: Intriguing Questions – What Do We Do With Placement Tests in Developmental/ESL English?

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According to this article from Slate.com, between 2003-2013, community colleges only received an extra $1 per full time student. Community colleges have had to cut back, which leads to shortcuts such as placement testing over more proven multi-assessment measures to place students. Without increased funding, are community colleges doomed to continue misplacing and discriminating against English Language Learners?

The study of ESL/developmental English has one important question that has been asked now for close to twenty-five years. That question is: do placement tests work for placing students into developmental English, and if they don’t work, what can replace them to accurately place students in need into developmental English classes without placing everyone or no one in them?

The history of this question begins with the placement tests themselves. As I have mentioned in other posts, Harvard was the first school to pioneer the placement exam. These tests was meant to contain students who did not have “correct” English in separate courses from those students who did, suggesting that “language differences [could] be effectively removed from mainstream composition courses.” With an influx of immigrant students coming to study in the U.S. during the second part of the nineteenth century, most other schools began requiring language exams as well (Kei Matsuda 641-42). This practice continued on without question, according to Deborah Crusan, until approximately thirty-five years ago. Crusan notes that indirect measures of assessment, such as the Compass or ACCUPLACER, were used by schools because they resulted in less inter-reader unreliability that was traditionally associated with scoring of placement essays by independent raters. By the 1970s, however, academia started criticising such tests on the grounds that writing could not be assessed by a computer, and by the 1990s, the idea that writing can be tested indirectly “have not only been defeated but also chased from the battlefield” (18).

Despite the fact that the question of the accuracy of these exams seems to have been debunked, according to Hassel and Baird Giordano, over 92 percent of community colleges still use some form of placement exams. 62 percent use the ACCUPLACER and 42 percent use Compass; other schools use some combination of the two (30). These tests are still very much alive and being used although research by the TYCA Council shows that these tests have “severe error rates,’ misplacing approximately 3 out of every 10 students” (233). Worse yet, when students are placed into courses based on these standardized placement scores, it is found that their outcome on the exam is “weakly correlated with success in college-level courses,” resulting in students placed in courses for which they are “underprepared or over prepared” (Hodra, Jagger, and Karp).  At Hassel and Baird Giordano’s community college, the retake rate of classes in which students are placed ends up being 20-30 percent for first semester composition, showing the extreme proportion of students testing into a class for which they are unprepared (34).

There has been a massive amount of research done on approaches to fix this problem. Typically these approaches involve using multiple methods for assessing student writing or re-considering how we use the placement exam. For example, Hassel and Baird Giordanao found greater student placement and success using a multi-pronged approach. This approach includes looking at ACT or SAT scores (37); asking students to complete a writing sample, with an assessment corresponding to the writing program’s learning outcomes (39); examining high school curriculum and grades (41); and student self-assessment for college English readiness (41-42). On the other hand, Hodra, Jaggers, and Karp suggest revamping the way we assess college placement exams by improving college placement accuracy. These methods include:  aligning standards of college readiness with expectations of college-level coursework; using multiple measures of college readiness as part of the placement process; and preparing students for placement exams (6). They also recommend standardizing assessment and placement policies across an entire state’s community colleges, such as what Virginia has done with the Virginia Placement Test (VPT) (19).

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Unfortunately, even redesigns of placement tests that become statewide are not always a good solution. These notes from a NOVA Administrative Council Meeting last April show that despite efforts to create a statewide standardized test, students were less successful in English than ever. Does this add to the data that standardized tests just don’t work?

These outcomes lead us to a final question that still remains: if we know how to “fix” the problem, why are colleges unable to implement the solution? This comes down to money. One administrator said that multiple measures sound “wonderful, but I cannot think about what measures could be implemented that would be practical, that you would have the personnel to implement” (Hodra, Jaggers, and Karp 23). Until we find a solution to the problem of funding and staffing, the placement test will remain.

If we acknowledge that the money for such a revamp at most big schools, such as NOVA (which has over 70,000 students), is not going to appear now (or likely ever), what other potential solutions remain? In thinking about such solutions, I began to consider the reading on the “Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” by the New London Group that we read for class. In this manifesto, the writers note that current literacy pedagogy is “restricted to formalized, monolingual, monocultural, and rule-governed forms of language” (61). The demands of the  “new world,” however, require that teachers prepare students that can navigate and “negotiate regional, ethnic, or class-based dialects” as a way to reduce the “catastrophic conflicts about identities and spaces that now seem ever ready to flare up” (68). This means that colleges must focus on increasing diversity and connectedness between students and their many ways of speaking. To me, this acceptance of diversity of person and language inherently seems to be part of the solution. In recognizing that all students should have their own language, we start to break down the separation and therefore the tests that misplace and malign students.

If we are to subscribe to the “Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” but find that we cannot afford to include multiple measures into our assessment of students, Peter Adams might come closest to having a good solution that brings together help for ESL/developmental students, does away with the placement exam as a site of discrimination, and make mainstream students more aware and respectful of multiliteracies. Adams suggests that schools should still have students take placement exams, yet if a student tested into developmental, they have the option to take mainstream English. The idea is that the weaker writers could be pulled up by the stronger writers and see good role models. In addition, developmental writers take an extra three-hour companion course after the regular course, which has about eight students, leading to an intimate space for students to ask questions and learn (56-57). This model was found to be very successful at Adams’ Community College of Baltimore County; students held each other accountable, were motivated by being part of the “real” college (60). They also avoided falling through the cracks as they passed their developmental course but never registered for English 101, which is a common problem in many community colleges (64).

I truly believe that such a method as Adams suggests is a great idea for NOVA. I teach developmental/ESL English courses in which all of our students are developmental, with no “regular” students. In the “regular” sections of first-semester composition I have students who are well-prepared as well as students who passed the newly deployed VPT exam, which has resulted in more students than ever placing into regular first-semester composition. From my experience, these weaker students in regular composition tend to be more resilient – they are perhaps pulled up by the stronger students, or maybe they know if they can pass this class they are done with half of their English requirement. I compare this to my developmental students, of which I will lose approximately 30-40 percent each semester to failure, attendance issues, disappearance, or language struggles. With the approach Adams suggests, I believe that NOVA could help pull our developmental students up to a higher level of achievement and we could also empower them to continue on with their studies. This would cost much less than a multi-measures approach proposed by those seeking to fully do away with placement exams. I believe this solution would be the best way to “meet in the middle” and solve both the financial and discriminatory practices that are frequently related to placement exams.

Works Cited

Adams, Peter, et al. “The Accelerated Learning Program:Throwing Open The Gates.” Journal Of Basic Writing 28.2 (2009): 50-69. Print.

Crusan, Deborah. “An Assessment of ESL Writing Placement Assessment.” Assessing Writing 8 (2002): 17-30. Print.

Hassel, Holly, and Joanne Baird Giordano. “First-Year Composition Placement at Open-Admission, Two-Year Campuses: Changing Campus Culture, Institutional Practice, and Student Success.” Open Words: Access and English Studies 5.2 (2011): 29–59. Web.

Hodara, Michelle, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Melinda Mechur Karp. “Improving Developmental Education Assessment and Placement: Lessons From Community Colleges across the Country.” Community College Research Center. Teachers College, Columbia U CCRC Working Paper no. 51. Nov. 2012. Web. Accessed 23 Sept. 2015.

Kei Matsuda, Paul. “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition.” College English 68.6 (2006): 637-651. Print.

The New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Group 66.1 (1996): 1-32. Print.

Two Year College English Association. “TYCA White Paper on Developmental Education Reforms.” TYCA Council. 2013-2014. Accessed 18 Sept. 2015.

Engl 810 – PAB entry 4

Two Year College English Association. “TYCA White Paper on Developmental Education Reforms.” TYCA Council. 2013-2014. Accessed 18 Sept. 2015.

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In 2011, President Obama visited NOVA. He spoke about the importance of education for all of our citizens and the great challenge facing America to become number one in higher education again. He asked community colleges to face these challenges by working harder and helping get students through school. Yet with ever-decreasing budgets and increasing emphasis on placement tests and other “quantifiable” measures of success imposed by state legislatures, are these realistic goals?

This white paper discusses the impact of Obama’s push to make the U.S. number one in college graduates, and the impact that legislative efforts from this push are having on students (developmental students in particular) (229). It also suggests new methods for attempting to redesign developmental writing programs and make them more effective.

The authors first note the failure of placement exams such as the Compass and ACCUPLACER in putting students into the correct developmental classes. They note that these tests have “‘severe error rates,’ misplacing approximately 3 out of every 10 students” (233). They also note that many states have their own versions of these placement exams, often implemented by state legislatures in an effort to “reform” developmental education. For example, here in Virginia, the Virginia Placement Test (VPT) has been implemented statewide alongside Compass and ACCUPLACER. As a result of this exam, “the success rate in first-year writing has dropped significantly” and has caused part time and adjunct faculty to be reassigned or laid off, which “deprives developmental students of opportunities for personal contact with expert, caring practitioners … instrumental to their retention and success” (234-35). The writers of the white paper suggest that replacing these placement exams and replacing them with multiple modes of assessment, including a writing sample, is crucial (238).

In addition to the legislative push for tests such as the VPT, many states are seeing state legislatures inserting themselves into the community college with little or no input from faculty (235). These efforts have frequently limited students by putting them into classes for which they are unprepared, has required them to co-enroll in community colleges for developmental education and four-year colleges for other courses, and has even removed developmental education from some four-year schools, forcing community colleges to turn away an influx of underprepared students (232-33). Because these legislature members have little or no experience with higher education, the negative ramifications for both faculty and students are stark.

Despite the bleak outlook, the authors do offer some suggestions for developmental education reform. These include: mainstreaming, or putting developmental students in class with nondevelopmental students with an additional lab session; studio courses, which allows all students in need to meet weekly with a writing instructor to support the work of the course; compression, which is taking 8-week classes to finish two semesters in a single semester; integration or contextualization, which offers developmental content within other general education courses; stretch courses, which stretches a one-semester class into a full year with the same teacher; and modules, which divides specific skills into modules in which the students focus only on their areas of weakness (236-37). The authors note that no matter what a school chooses to do, two-year college English educators must be trained to take part in conversations and insert themselves into legislative discussions to talk about these issues and how to best support students who are underprepared while preserving the mission of open access (238).

The problems that are facing developmental education, as part of both Obama’s push for the U.S. to be number one in higher education, is certainly a noble and important goal, but as it begins to increase legislative interference in a field of which lawmakers know nothing, it becomes more problematic. The issues that the authors of this paper bring up remind me of Ralph Cintron’s essay in the “Octolog III.” He notes: “Where I teach, state funding has plummeted over the decades until today it is about sixteen percent. The university is developing plans for consolidating departments and units” (126). This is happening across the country, particularly at publicly funded colleges; in the community college this hurts particularly badly. While we are getting an ever-increasing influx of students in colleges due to the push for increased societal higher education, we are also getting an ever-decreasing amount of funding from the government. Yet, the government still finds it appropriate to create tests and measures that assess our students and us, such as the VPT, which show how we and our students are failing. It is ultimately a catch-22. This movement towards Neoliberalism, as Cintron calls it, means that the government can continue to justify reducing spending while they are also forcing unrealistic expectations upon students and teachers.

One example of modifications the legislature has made is the requirement of exams such as the VPT. This has affected my own college, NOVA, very negatively. While the government sees such exam implementation as a cost- and time-saving measure, students are being placed into the wrong classes more than ever before. Studies show that other methods are more effective, yet with ever-reduced and ever-stretched full-time faculties, funding such initiatives would be impossible. These tests ultimately cause more frequent failure rates and, as a result, even more government spending as students get a small amount of government funding each time they take a class. In an ideal world, the government would work with educators to see the true needs of students, increase funding to schools for proper measures of assessment, and work with us rather than against us.

This leads us, inevitably, to the question: can these issues ever be solved? Can we move away from the testing model towards something better, and can we increase funding to improve these measures? While President Obama has positioned himself as a champion of free community college, I am skeptical. While such a tuition reduction might help students, I do not see it, ultimately, as an increasing revenue stream for the college. If anything, it will increase the number of students, and therefore, underpaid adjunct faculty, which is a whole separate major issue. Until such measures are passed, I must continue to ask: at what point will we stop sacrificing our student’s time and money and government money on what have been statistically proven to be failing methods? My attitude, while pessimistic, seems realistic.

In 2015, President Obama proposed the idea of free community college for up to two years. While this has not come to fruition yet, it is certainly a talking point up for debate. Unfortunately, while such a proposal sounds meaningful, ultimately, will it help more young people to succeed, or will it result in even greater legislative control at the college?

Works Cited

Cintron, Ralph. Lois Agnew, Laurie Gries, Zosha Stuckey, Vicki Tolar Burton, Jay Dolmage, Jessica Enoch, Ronald L. Jackson II, LuMing Mao, Malea Powell, Arthur E. Walzer, Ralph Cintron & Victor Vitanza. “Octalog III: The Politics of Historiography in 2010.” Rhetoric Review 30:2 (2011): 109-134. Print.

Two Year College English Association. “TYCA White Paper on Developmental Education Reforms.” TYCA Council. 2013-2014. Accessed 18 Sept. 2015.