Student Achievement Assessment Committee
Upon completion of a degree, students in English Department programs are expected to:
- Use writing effectively—including current modes and evolving techniques and technologies—to explore subject matter and to communicate;
- Develop understanding of subject matter in relation to larger historical and/or cultural contexts, including multicultural contexts;
- Make connections between theory and practice. Students apply theory to understand texts, solve problems and teach effectively. Students generalize from experiences with texts, communication situations and teaching situations;
- Develop skills of creative and/or critical thinking.
These outcomes are the general ones for all Department programs, while assessment efforts within the various programs varied in terms of which outcomes were addressed, including both the general outcomes and the ways in which they are tailored specifically to different programs.
In Fall 05, directors of all programs met to discuss the need for more consistent assessment of program learning outcomes; this has led to a range of changes in each program, including a move to a portfolio assessment prelim exam process in the Rhetoric and Writing program, as well as large scale curriculum revisions in the Literature program that include revision of core courses to receive BG Perspective designation.
This annual report includes updates on both undergraduate and graduate programs and is organized within each section by program.
1. Learning Outcomes assessed this year:
Four questions on the undergraduate student evaluation form provide students in each undergraduate literature course with the chance to assess the degree to which the course helped them achieve the Department’s four learning outcomes.
These questions are worded as statements, to which the students are encouraged to give the appropriate degree of assent or dissent :
17. This course helped you use writing effectively—including current modes and evolving techniques and technologies—to explore subject matter and communicate.
18. This course helped you develop understanding of subject matter in relation to larger historical and/or cultural contexts, including multicultural contexts.
19. This course helped you make connections between theory and practice and apply theory to understand texts, solve problems, and/or teach effectively.
20. This course helped you develop skills of creative and/or critical thinking.
The rating scale used by students in answering these questions has five points that range from “Strongly Agree” (5) to “Strongly Disagree” (1).
|Question 17||Question 18||Question 19||Question 20|
Our primary assessment tool is student evaluations of courses, part of which,
questions 17-20, corresponds to the Learning Outcomes listed above. Put in
terms of those four outcomes, student ratings of graduate courses, on a 5-point
scale, were as follows:
|Fall ’05||Spring ‘06|
The Literature MA program focused on enhancing outcome 2 (#18) by enhanced cooperation with the American Culture Studies program, involving more faculty in cross-listed courses and advertising our offerings with our respective students.
Student ratings of graduate lit courses are as follows:
|Fall ’05||Spring ‘06|
Undergraduate Learning Outcomes: a) use writing effectively—including current modes and evolving techniques and technologies—to explore subject matter and to communicate; b) develop understanding of subject matter in relation to larger historical and/or cultural contexts, including multicultural contexts; c) make connections between theory and practice. Students apply theory to understand texts, solve problems and teach effectively. Students generalize from experiences with texts, communication situations and teaching situations; d) develop skills of creative and/or critical thinking.
Each semester we require that students taking Eng 209 and wishing to continue as Creative Writing majors provide a sample of work and a five-page, typed, double-spaced self-assessment of their work and goals for the program. Each academic year this process results in about 20-25 new majors in the program. We examine these portfolios and self-assessments for evidence of all of our learning outcomes.
In addition, graduating B.F.A. majors produce a B.F.A. thesis with a minimum five-page, typed, double-spaced introduction, in which they reflect on their work before entering the BFA Program and discuss their challenges and successes during the Program.
Graduate Learning Outcomes: a) develop their own writing style as fully as possible under the direction of competent and experienced instructors; b) produce a book-length thesis comparable in quality to the published work of serious contemporary professional poets and fiction writers; c) develop an understanding of their own work’s place within the context of contemporary literature; d) gain first hand editorial and production experience in literary publishing; e) develop pedagogical skills sufficiently to design and teach courses at the college level.
All M.F.A. students passed a comprehensive oral exam. This oral exam tested the students’ knowledge of their place within the context of contemporary literature, and is a key aspect of assessing our graduates. In addition, all students produced a book-length thesis. The overall quality of the graduating class can be seen through the work produced at Bowling Green State University that has been published or accepted for publication. Especially notable: Erik Esckilsen’s novel “The Outside Groove” has been accepted for publication at Houghton Mifflin; Renee Reighart’s fiction has appeared in Orchid, The Journal, and Motion Sickness; Randy DeVita’s fiction has appeared in West Branch, Orchid, and Third Coast; Stephanie King’s poetry has appeared in Hotel Amerika, Cream City Review, The Chattahochee Review, The Laurel Review, and New Delta Review; Suzanne Ondrus’s poetry has appeared in Colere: A Journal of Cultural Exploration.
In addition, the publications of recent graduates have been especially impressive. Anthony Doerr’s (MFA ‘99) new novel was named a Washington Post Book of the Year; Christof Scheele’s (MFA ’01) poetry chapbook “Eitherland” has been published by Three Sheets Press; Melissa Fraterrigo (MFA ’00) won the national Tartt First Fiction Award offered by Livingston Press for publication in 2006. Alicia Conroy’s (MFA ‘00) first collection of stories, Lives of Mapmakers, was published in January 2006 by Carnegie Mellon Press
All M.F.A. students worked for Mid-American Review at least one semester, gaining first hand experience in literary publishing. Notable are several students who currently have held the position of Managing Editor, Assistant Fiction Editor, Assistant Poetry Editor, and Assistant Prose Editor.
All M.F.A. students have taught in the GSW program, and also have taught one section of Creative Writing. As a group, the evaluations they received from their Creative Writing students were high. Some comments made were “The course was a valuable tool in developing writing skills and working with other
writers”; “Stephanie [King] provided an efficient and effective reading, writing, expression, education environment”; “This class has helped me write better than I thought was possible”; “I learned a lot about me as a writer and artist, as well as my style of writing”; “I have become a better analyst of fiction elements which will aid my journey as a writer.”
Rhetoric & Writing
The Rhetoric & Writing PhD program has tailored the general English Department learning outcomes above to provide much more specific goals for that program. In summary, the program’s learning outcomes are to prepare graduates (a) to teach a range of rhetoric and composition courses; (b) to work in computer environments; (c) to understand the rhetorical tradition; (d) to understand the impact of rhetorical history on contemporary rhetorical theory; (e) to be able to discuss competing theories and contested issues in the field; (f) to be familiar with research in a variety of methodological systems; and (g) to understand the role of scholarship in faculty work (and to start such work with conference papers, article submissions, etc.).
Overall Program Goal:
The implicit central goal of the R&W PhD Program (the goal toward which the program learning outcomes point) is to prepare students for faculty careers in rhetoric and composition. We assess this goal annually, in light of the job searches of students as the near completion of the program. In 2005-2006, all ABD students actively pursuing positions located good academic positions, either tenure-track assistant professorships or (in the case of two students) open-ended positions teaching in a nationally-known writing program developed so as to provide its faculty with good teaching loads and strong research support.
The offering of ENG 729 (in alternate years) gives a good opportunity to assess student awareness of the role of research/scholarship in faculty work and student efforts with conference papers and publications. As their end-of-term course portfolios showed, the 14 second and third year students who took the class this year demonstrated awareness of the research/scholarship climate in which they will be expected to work as well as serious (and often professional) efforts to revise earlier seminar papers for professional publication. In addition, 13 students provided specific evidence of their current professional efforts in rhetoric and composition: e.g., presenting papers at conferences, having proposals accepted for future conferences, being assigned book reviews on the basis of their correspondence with editors, receiving positive responses to queries about future article submissions, etc.
The individual-teacher assessment reflected in the previous paragraph is verified by the way the R&W PhD Program regularly takes note of (and publicizes in our web-based newsletter, Rhetoric & Writing Notes) student activities like conference presentations in significant national, e.g., Conference on College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Society of America, National Council of Teachers of English, Watson Conference, National Computers and Writing Conference, and Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference.
In 2005-2006, the professional and scholarly ability of R&W PhD students was further evidenced by the fact that our students (Chris Deneker) received the Shanklin Award for a graduate humanities paper while another (Inez Schaecterle) won the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Humanities. Eric Stalions recently was awarded a Katzner/Bookstore Award of $1000 to support his research. In addition, several current and former graduate students co-published articles with faculty and fellow students in peer-reviewed journals that include the Journal of Educational Technology and Society, Computers and Composition: An International Journal, and Computers and Composition Online, the latter hosted by the Rhetoric and Writing program and employing a number of graduate students as section and design editors.
English as a Second Language
The following are the ESL program outcomes for both undergraduate and graduate students: a) undergraduate ESL students will have sufficient grammar and writing support prior to admission into the General Studies Writing (GSW) program; b) undergraduate ESL students will have the oral and aural proficiency to understand and be understood by classmates and teachers in formal presentations, classroom discussions, and daily interactions; c) Graduate ESL students will have the writing, research, and documentation skills needed to complete capstone writing pieces (such as theses and dissertations);
d) International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) will have the phonological, pedagogical, and cultural skills and information necessary to be successful in their teaching duties (as per our compliance with the Pringle Law).
Most of ESL’s work this year was focused on writing-based learning outcomes (numbers 1 and 3 above). Also, though not directly tied to the learning outcomes, ESL has begun to implement changes to its Placement Testing procedures so that the results will be more detailed and accurate without requiring more time during the testing itself. Many of these changes are in direct response to the findings of the external consultant brought in to review our procedures in January 2005.
Scientific & Technical Communication
The undergraduate and graduate programs outcomes are for students (a) to be able to communicate effectively to multiple audiences; (b) to be able to present information to multiple audiences verbally and graphically; (c) to be able to present information orally to multiple audiences; (d) to be able to understand the culture of business and industry; (e) to be prepared to communicate primarily within a single technical discipline of their choice; and (f) to be sensitive to and to be able to communicate with people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
2. Assessment Methods and Procedures:
Beginning in Spring 2004, the English Department added its learning outcomes
to our student evaluation form for all programs at the graduate and
undergraduate levels; students are asked to rate how well their ENG courses
meet specific learning outcomes. The numbers generated by these questions are
not used in the process of faculty evaluation for merit or promotion/tenure, but
they do allow us to begin to assess how courses – or groups of courses – live up
to our learning outcomes. The following are the average course-by-course results
|Question 17||Question 18||Question 19||Question 20|
|Question 17||Question 18||Question 19||Question 20|
English 209 instructors assign the self-assessment essay and portfolio to students. Assessment is conducted by the English 209 instructors, the program director, and other 200-level instructors. Students are notified by the BFA Advisor if they are invited to continue in the program.
The thesis and introduction are read by the faculty committee students have chosen, as well as by the program director.
Graduate assessment for learning outcomes a, b, and c is done through the comprehensive oral exam, the M.F.A. thesis, and a survey of students for information on success in publication. Assessment for learning outcome d is done through consultation with the editors of Mid-American Review. Assessment for learning outcome e is done through study of student evaluations for the Creative Writing courses taught, as well as information gathered from undergraduate students applying for continuation in the B.F.A. major. Student performance in English 637, the course in the pedagogy of Creative Writing, aids in our evaluation of students’ pedagogical skills.
Rhetoric & Writing
An important--if general and intuitive--method of assessment is the judgment of individual teachers about student performance with learning outcomes that are central to courses they teach. We have begun exploring ways to make such individual-teacher assessment more explicit and to gather such individual assessments learning outcomes into cumulative profiles for R&W PhD students. See Section 4 for more information.
Preliminary exams, pre-dissertation proposals, and dissertations are key means by which we assess student accomplishment of outcomes c, d, e and f. Such assessment, we think, will be enhanced by our recent change in the specialized component of preliminary exams--a move from a second written exam to a four-part Specialized Portfolio. See Section 4 for more information.
The learning outcomes of the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program form the basis of the program’s Goals-Based Assessment Sheet, which
(a) Provides considerable specificity about the brief learning outcomes above;
(b) Indicates some activities and products associated with achievement of each outcome; and
(c) Suggests a format for students to log activities and products that indicate their achievement of outcomes.
The Goals-Based Assessment Sheet provides students with the basis of self-assessment of their progress, as well a heuristic to help students locate and artifacts to include as evidence of R&W PhD Program learning outcomes in Epsilon--which we envision as a internal, advising oriented online portfolio--and later as a basis of public web-portfolios that will enhance job-seeking and career advancement of Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program graduates.
English as a Second Language
To learn as much as possible about how well ESL is meeting its objectives as a service program, we employed a number of different strategies. To begin, the program conducted a general program self-study this year using comprehensive teacher surveys and student course evaluations. The surveys and the subsequent ESLProgram meetings included a review of course descriptions, learning outcomes, texts and assignments used in each course, and overall ability to meet the objectives set forth.
As the students served do not belong to any one department or college, ESL also decided to reach out to other campus organizations and programs who serve the same diverse population. In order to work cooperatively to assist ESL students, the program initiated a number of meetings across campus to determine how effective our current program is at providing students with the skills they need to be academically successful. To learn more about how well ESL is handling our writing objectives, the program began with GSW. ESL held numerous meetings with Donna Nelson-Beene, Carol O’Shea, and ENG W110 instructors to determine how well ESL were meeting the needs of ESL students prior to admission into GSW. ESL also discussed strategies to be sure students with ESL needs would not be missed in placement testing. GSW also reviewed end-of-term portfolios and placement essays of those ESL students our program deemed GSW-ready and those recommended for additional ESL coursework.
Another key partner, especially in dealing with undergraduate and guest students, is the Center for International Programs (CIP). ESL had numerous meetings with Jeff Grilliot and Anne Saviers from CIP to determine how best to share information with incoming students about placement testing and course offerings. Furthermore, in meetings with UASK and the Undergraduate Advisory Committee, the program reviewed course offerings (including the desired timing, pacing, and sequencing of courses) and answered questions about our courses to increase advisor awareness about special needs of ESL students and support offered through our program.
The needs of graduate students are quite different from those of undergraduate and guest students, and one committee already in place to help the program better partner with graduate programs is the ESL Advisory Committee. Through the ESL Advisory Committee, the program worked with graduate coordinators to discuss the writing needs of students in the various departments and degree programs. ESL collected writing samples and sample departmental assignments from the different departments so that ESL might better tailor assignments in graduate writing courses such as ENG 501 and ENG 506. Additionally, in an attempt to respond to the very specific requirements of the ESL graduate students in the Chemistry Department, ESL took part in a meeting with Tom Kinstle, Nora Cassidy, Heinz Bulmahn, and Terry Lawrence to find ways to better meet the writing and oral proficiency needs of these students. Regular meetings with the Graduate College have also helped ESL to shape policies and understand its mandate.
Scientific & Technical Communication
Student learning and achievement of course goals and objectives is assessed through collaboration in writing workshops, individual and collaborative oral presentations, writing journals, objective tests on course readings, through instructor’s application of standard writing rubrics in the field to all information products (text, video, audio and web-based integrations thereof), job or postgraduate school placement, through a new exit survey, and exit focus groups.
3. Inferences from Assessments:
1) While it would certainly be a mistake to assume that all students are fully able to assess the degree to which courses have helped them achieve the Department’s rather abstract and complex learning outcomes, the data suggest that most students believe their literature courses are helping them to achieve these outcomes.
2) As for the results for specific questions, the consistency across the two semesters is striking. In both semesters, students responded most positively to Question 18, less positively to Question 20, and still less positively to Questions 17 and 19—though all ratings were comfortably above 4.00. To judge from student opinion, it appears that our courses may be doing a slightly better job of acquainting students with the “larger historical and/or cultural contexts” of literature--and of enhancing their creative and critical thinking skills--than of making them more effective writers and helping them to see “connections between theory and practice.”
3) Again, to judge from student opinion, some of our literature courses seem to be more effective than others in helping students achieve the Department’s learning outcomes. Students in ENG 342 and 343, and in ENG 320, 323, 330, and 333, courses about which questions have occasionally been raised, tend to rate these courses quite high in relation to our learning outcomes.
4) To judge from student opinion, the Department’s upper-level courses seem to be doing a somewhat better job than its lower-level courses in helping students achieve the four learning outcomes, though this conclusion might be questioned on the ground that upper-level ratings routinely tend to be higher than lower-level ones in most Department (and probably in most University) courses.
5) It would be useful for the literature faculty as a whole to take a look at the above numbers next fall with an eye to identifying strengths and weaknesses in our courses—and for individual instructors in courses to take a look at the numbers with an eye to strengthening their effectiveness in helping students achieve learning outcomes.
6) Discussions with graduate literature students reveal some dissatisfaction with the variety of graduate courses we are able to offer, a problem resulting from the limited number of students in the program. A substantial number of first-year students also expressed an interest in the Teaching of Literature course, which has not been offered recently.
Our inferences from both the B.F.A. theses and the portfolios to enter the major demonstrate that the students are fulfilling the learning requirements. These documents present a picture of students who are learning to write effectively, and especially learning to respond to criticism and revise to improve their work. Also encouraging is the extent to which cultural awareness is shaping the creative lives of our writers – topics such as the role of religion in contemporary culture or racial conflict appeared in several theses. In terms of theory and practice, students are not only learning to write; they are learning how to learn to write; this awareness will make them better teachers—of themselves and of others. Finally, students are thinking creatively and critically about their work, raising good questions that will propel them in useful and productive ways into their upper division courses.
The following are some representative statements from the thesis introductions, written by graduating B.F.A. majors.
Using Writing Effectively:
“I owe some of the best work I’ve done in the past two years to the influence of my instructors and professors, whether or not it’s been a story that’s appeared in their workshops. Most of them have private writing crusades – and that’s a good thing, mind you – that I’ve adopted as my own without realizing it … and have been the driving force behind most of the improvements I’ve made to my writing …”
Historical / Cultural Contexts:
“As Palahniuk [a contemporary writer to whom this student was exposed during the program] pointed out, there are no novels that present a social model for men to share their lives. ‘Fight Club’ [this student’s thesis title] relates to men by asking the question, ‘What makes a man?’ ‘Who will tell you when you are a man?’ ‘What is a man supposed to be or do?’ … My male characters are trying to find their place in the world … This uncertainty allows my stories to relate to men wrestling with these issues, but almost anybody can relate to at least one of these stories in some way.”
“I hope to live up to [the] writings of Philip Roth some day. The irony of ‘Milk’ [a story in this student’s thesis] was my attempt to emulate the irony of O’Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’ and Guy de Maupassant’s ‘The Necklace.’ My … humor is influenced by ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole … In looking at my first copies [of his stories] I see how much I have grown as a writer at Bowling Green State University.”
Theory and Practice (including teaching situations):
“Though I am still quick to push a piece into a workshop, I now recognize the value of criticism and the power of revision … A talented and astute professor once told me that writers have to ‘sacrifice their little darlings’ and not get attached to individual lines or words … Sometimes they need to trim the edges off a story to get down to the juicy center.”
“I have never met a more willing group of teachers than the faculty of this program … Moving through their upper-level workshops, trying to write what I thought were ground-breaking stories that offered much in the way of formal experimentations, I received comments from these instructors to be careful that I didn’t sacrifice story to form. Which is exactly what I was doing.”
Creative and Critical Thinking:
“I could see that there was a deeper underlying meaning to most of the poetry that we were reading. I became interested in poetry and began to tie aspects of my life in with some of my own poems. This shed a new light on writing for me …”
In general, the program is doing a good job in seeing that graduate students are fulfilling the specified learning outcomes. Our students are graduating with two years of intense concentration on their own creative work, reflected in the high quality of theses. In addition to this, they all have the opportunity to gain first hand experience in editing and publishing, as well as the opportunity to teach a section of Creative Writing. Many of them are already publishing work, and we have also seen a number of significant publications from recent graduates.
Rhetoric & Writing
From its review of student activities and products, the faculty has a good sense of strong student accomplishment of the learning outcomes. There is, of course, a range of individual student accomplishment. But the overall achievement of students in the program coupled with the very high level of achievement of some students gives us confidence that the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program promotes a climate of student success with the learning outcomes that also serve as the program’s goals. And, as Section 1 indicates, the program views the continuing success of graduates on the academic job market to be a broad validator of our impressions about student success.
English as a Second Language
One issue that has become clear through ESL meetings with GSW is that students occasionally miss the ESL Placement Test and take the GSW Placement Test instead even though English is not their first language. This sometimes happens because students are immigrants or green-card holders. It also appears that some students believe they do not have to take the ESL Placement Test due to English’s role as a Language of Wider Communication (LWC) in their home countries. Not taking part in Placement Testing results in a variety of problems for students. First, students who do not have adequate language skills struggle in their coursework and often need to repeat GSW courses before passing. Students who may have sufficient proficiency to pass their coursework may receive lower grades and have linguistic issues that are not and cannot be handled in non-ESL courses. Also, some students are actually unaware that the ESL Program exists and that support courses are available.
Another important matter is the need undergraduate student writers have for more practice with grammar during their ESL coursework. Rhetorical issues, while still important, need not be the focus on these support courses. GSW requests a significantly increase amount of grammar taught to undergraduate students in our ENG 100 and ENG 101 writing courses. However, our current recommendations for students entering GSW or needing ESL support courses appear to be accurate. After reviewing student placement essays and/or end-of-term writing portfolios, GSW agreed with our assessments of student-readiness.
While the meetings ESL had with UASK and the Undergraduate Advisory Committee were a good starting point in what should be a close and responsive relationship, it is also clear that many international students are served by advisors who are not well-versed in the procedures, courses, and other services provided through the ESL Program. An example of this would be an advisor telling a student to wait until spring to take ENG 100, unaware that ENG 100 is almost never offered in the spring and such a decision could delay the student’s entrance into GSW by a year.
Student evaluations reflect student satisfaction with the content and approach of ESL courses. Many students indicate that they feel they are better equipped to handle the demands of their coursework after completing the ESL classes. Below are some typical excerpts of students’ comments from the 2005-2006 academic year.
ENG 101: “It is easier for me to write papers in other classes now.”; ENG 500: “My ability to write in English improved very much.”; ENG 501: “I learned a lot of styles of writing papers. It was so helpful for me.”; ENG 506: “This has helped me in figuring out how to go about my academic writing –thesis or dissertation.” “The writing assignments are very valuable to my field. This always helped me in my academic work.”
Scientific & Technical Communication
The S&TC Program can claim near-100% placement of its undergraduates and graduates in business/industry environments or in MA or PhD programs. This remarkable level of student success demonstrates that the program’s learning outcomes are being met and suggests that these outcomes are found to be extremely desirable both in the technical communication workplace, and in a variety of PhD programs that accept our MA graduates.
Although positive overall in terms of program assessment, the exit survey used last year with MA graduates indicated that students wanted more emphasis on applying practical skill sets in larger documents, and less emphasis on theory. Historically, our graduate applicants are seeking to learn skills that will advance them in their employment or will enable them to begin a career in a new field. Thus, the growing emphasis on theory in the program’s graduate offerings in recent years – and a word-of-mouth perception that the program was more theory-oriented -- may be a factor in the declining applicant pools we have received – a fact that has led to the suspension of graduate admissions to the S&TC Program for two years. In light of this, S&TC Program faculty will be reviewing the graduate curriculum for revision in the next year.
The practicum presentations and thesis defenses (and required portfolios and presentations) provided the students with opportunities to demonstrate criteria A, B, and C to in-house faculty, out-of-department faculty (in MA practica) and other interested parties. This year, all students who had practicum presentations and thesis defenses passed easily with positive comments from out-of-department faculty. Internships provided opportunities for students to evaluate their skills and performance in terms of business and technical success (Criteria D and E).
The program was also successful in accomplishing criterion F, sensitivity to and ability to communicate with people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Students were nearly unanimous in their positive feedback on this accomplishment. Since most of our current students are international, this is a testament to the excellent efforts the program has made in this respect.
4. Actions Taken/Program Improvements:
The literature faculty decided this year to implement several additional assessment plans next year:
1) Beginning in fall 2006, the program will be asking all instructors in ENG 201 to provide copies of the first two papers submitted by students in this course to an Assessment Committee (composed of 3-4 faculty), who will retain them for future reference. (It’s yet to be decided if students will be asked to create e-portfolios containing these papers.) As the students who wrote these papers advance in their programs of study, the Assessment Committee will ask them to submit papers for purpose of comparison. At a minimum, each student’s Senior Thesis will be compared with his or her first papers in ENG 201.
2) Each year, beginning in fall 2006, the Literature Faculty will select one or more essential literature courses for special review. The faculty who teach these courses will meet to discuss improving the consistency with which all course sections help students achieve the four learning outcomes. The first course to be considered (in 2006-07) will be ENG 201, the foundation of the major.
3) At the graduate level, the enhanced cooperation with ACS cited above is expected to improve the number and variety of courses available to MA Literature students, and an effect of the terminated MA TESL program is a small increase in numbers in both the MA Literature and the PhD Rhetoric and Writing programs, which should also help improve our breadth of offerings. We will be offering the Teaching of Literature course next spring.
Over the past several years, the Creative Writing Program has made major progress in curricula development: establishing the Thursday night readings; requiring vocabulary studies and examinations; requiring common readings and examinations of those readings; focusing individual courses on poetry theory and practice and fiction theory and practice; and requiring the self-assessment portfolios for students to continue in the program. The program continues to see these initiatives pay off. The base of declared majors continues to be strong. After having evaluated their self-assessment portfolios, the program accepted twenty-one new majors (and one minor) during the 2005-2006 academic year, and the total number of majors is close to one hundred.
The restoration of the Distinguished Visiting Writer position to the Creative Writing Program will permit us to expose our undergraduates to a richer range of teaching styles and creative work. It should be noted that the benefit of the DVW position does not end only in the year that each visiting writer spends with us, but continues in several ways. During 2005-2006, poet Amy Newman (Distinguished Visiting Writer during 2004-2005) published, in the distinguished literary journal Image, the text of the lecture that she offered here in the spring of ’05. She has given permission to reprint this essay online, on the Creative Writing Program website, and we trust that this will be the beginning of a collection of Distinguished Visiting Writer publications which our undergraduate (and graduate) students can use as a resource.
The Creative Writing Website, supervised and monitored by Wendell Mayo, now includes two valuable resources for undergraduate students (and graduates.) Careers Page—This is a password-protected page that contains detailed information and directly links to sites concerning publishing, internships, jobs, writers' colonies, and further graduate studies. Books by Graduates—This link is on the left sidebar and takes visitors to a page with citations for books by graduates from our BFA and MFA programs. These resources provide helpful practical information for professional development, as well as inspiration for young writers in the Creative Writing Program.
In addition, during 2005-2006, a collaboration between the Honors Program, the Program in Graphic Design in the School of Art, and the Creative Writing Program resulted in the display of undergraduate student writing, artwork and design in three shuttle stop shelters on campus. We look forward to continuing to develop and encourage such interdisciplinary collaborations in the future.
English 637, based on its success in the preceding academic year, has continued to be offered in fall and spring semesters and has been widely attended.
Rhetoric & Writing
A revised Preliminary Exam process--in effect for the first time this Spring semester--uses a portfolio of four sections (revising toward publication, curriculum development, initial dissertation reading list, and review essay based on the reading list) as the specialized component of the exam. One key reason we moved from a written exam to this specialized portfolio was to allow us to take a sharper “assessment perspective” on the work that students do as they complete course work and begin on the dissertation process. As we had expected, the first two Specialized Portfolios (submitted by students in May 2006) give more pointed evidence of student accomplishment on outcomes a, c, e, and g.
A pilot effort was made this year to (a) increase the acuity of individual-teacher assessment of outcomes within program courses, (b) explore linkages of course work and Epsilen portfolios, and (c) invent a system for gathering useful information about the individual-teacher assessment of students in program courses. The report of this pilot includes a number of observations and questions for consideration next year, when two new faculty members will be joining the discussion about how we can make individual-teacher assessment of learning outcomes in our courses more explicit and more cumulative, with multiple observations--by different teachers of several courses--reflecting cumulate assessment by the faculty.
English as a Second Language
As mentioned earlier (in part 1), some of the improvements the ESL program made are in the area of Placement Testing. In the fall, the program implemented new procedural protocols for our oral interviews. Referred to as the “bank teller” model, groups of students signed up for a half-hour time slot and sorted students into interview rooms as they became available. The idea here is that less time will be wasted when students arrive late or interviews run long. This worked fairly well in the fall and was streamlined somewhat for the spring, 2006, testing. The format of the interviews themselves has evolved as well requiring students to be more active in their participation.
In addition to the changes in the oral interview procedures, the program made some adjustments to the essay portion of the Placement Test. Previously, ESL offered students a single prompt to which to reply. However, the program realized that by giving students the choice of two prompts, those with higher skills could choose to write a more sophisticated essay and those with more limited skills could select the more basic topic. This also allowed ESL to avoid student complaints that they did not perform well because of the topic. These new prompts were piloted in spring, 2006, and appear to have been successful.
A final action taken to improve the quality, efficiency, and accuracy of our written Placement testing was to hold testing in campus computer labs so that students could have the option of composing on computer rather than by hand. While a number of students did elect to write by hand, many took advantage of the computer option and seemed quite happy to be able to draft in a manner more realistic to their usual academic approach.
In response to concerns that some students were missing the ESL Placement Test, GSW has begun putting a warning notice at the beginning of their online Placement Test instructing students who do not speak English as a first language to contact the ESL Program Office. The Center for International Programs is also actively promoting the ESL Placement Test and tells all international students they must either participate in testing or otherwise be cleared by the ESL Program Office.
Utilizing the information gathered in our teacher surveys, student course evaluations, and work with various groups across campus, we have begun to implement changes in some of our writing courses. The content and focus on the undergraduate writing courses (ENG 100 and 101) have been shifted to become more grammar-centric. The course texts and assignments have also been revised to reflect these changes. Graduate level writing classes are beginning to incorporate information gleaned from the departmental writing samples collected so that style, documentation, and organization in individual student assignments will be well-suited to his or her major field of study. Furthermore, decisions regarding the specific kinds of assignments, materials, and procedures for providing feedback have been made to create more consistent and standardized courses. This has been especially significant in courses like ENG 501 and 506, sequential writing courses which, in the past, occasionally overlapped or gapped.
ESL will continue to work closely with programs, departments, and organizations across campus to be sure we are best meeting the needs of the students we serve. Establishing regular meetings with CIP, GSW, UASK, Undergraduate Advisory Committee, ESL Advisory Committee, and the Graduate College will help provide much needed opportunities for dialogue and growth.
Scientific & Technical Communication
The primary improvement our program needs to make is in the area of recruitment. We are looking at ways to advertise the program more directly to high school guidance counselors and two-year colleges. The faculty has begun developing recruitment materials for both undergraduate and graduate programs. The success of the program’s placement of graduates indicates that the curriculum and instruction are sound, so the main focus will be on developing the program’s identity. Also, the certificate program needs more advertisement.
Deans Nieman and Thibault indicated a strong suggestion that the program examine a 4 + 1 model that would allow undergraduates to complete their degree in 4 years, and earn a master’s in 1. The program faculty will examine the possibility of this model and also of having the master’s degree exist as a stand-alone, 1-year program.
The College of Technology has also expressed an interest in having more of its undergraduate majors take a minor in S&TC. Given the amount of overlap between VCT and S&TC in terms of cognate classes (including ENG 388), many of the hours taken could count for both programs making the prospect of a minor more attractive.
In the past, many Literature and Creative Writing undergraduate majors took S&TC as a minor, but that trend has diminished in recent years. S&TC would like to ask advisors for Literature and Creative Writing to encourage our program as a minor.
Although this annual report does not include details about the assessment of the Integrated Language Arts major, several collaborative initiatives are underway with the College of Education and Human Development. This year, an ILA Core Committee was constituted, with a representative from the College of Education and Human Development. Part of the committee’s charge has been to review the Praxis II exam and design and deliver several study sessions for ILA and Middle Child majors in order to increase the pass rate. In addition, faculty across programs have been encouraged to utilize aspects of the Praxis II exam in their curricula to better prepare students for the exam.
In Fall 2006, the Department will begin a large-scale assessment project in which all ILA content courses in English will be matched with NCTE standards for the English Language Arts, leading to the development of select key assessments in courses and a stronger reflection of both content standards and learning outcomes in English courses. The Department will report on its successes in this area in its 2006-07 annual report.