3 solutions for school game???/jan

Tue, 13 Aug 1996 19:07:06 -0500

I inadvertently posted the message below to ncte-talk instead of to Rhetnet.
Header deleted, but I didn't rekey the message. jan

From: IN%"ncte-talk@itc.org" 13-AUG-1996 11:27:56.17
Subj: [NCTE-TALK:7551] "thwarting?" - 3 "solutions"/jan bone
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 11:13:30 -0400
From: JANETBONE@delphi.com
Subject: [NCTE-TALK:7551] "thwarting?" - 3 "solutions"/jan bone
Interesting discussion...

I'm teaching remedial English comp, Roosevelt University, Chicago suburban
campus. Students: urban, multicultural, diverse, ESL. Some typical freshmen
who bombed the assessment multiple choice exam on sentence structure,
reading comprehension, etc. Some who have transferred with community college
or other college credit for English 101/English 102, often with As and Bs,
but who still bombed the assessment; they're furious at placement. Some who
may be university graduates or upperclassmen and fluent writers in native
language, but for whom English may be L2 or even L3; these often are
majoring in business, science, or pre-law.

Average age of student: 27. Most are part-time and in the workforce.

I give you demographics before "solutions" because I think some of the
problems (or lack of them at Roosevelt) come about because of the student
body make-up. Stands to reason that someone with a job (and most of our
students are working professionals, looking for the degree to give them the
competitive advantage in the workplace) and often family responsibilities
often has a different motivation and outlook than a 19-year-old suburban
right-from-high school kid.

Also: to earn the B.S. or B.A., no matter what major or field a
student has, Roosevelt requires competency in English as demonstrated by
grades and exit exams from the 100 (if needed), 101, 102 sequence
as certified by the composition department. New this year: a tightening of
the graduation requirements to include also a writing-intensive course,
preferably in the student's major.

With that out of the way, now possible "solutions":

I was taught in teacher training (6-12 certification, Ill.) 25 years ago
that a "good" teacher recognizes (at least) three modes:

1) teacher as authority (sage on the stage, I suppose)
There are times when this is appropriate. If a student needs to write in
complete sentences to satisfy the requirements, or at least to demonstrate
that he/she can choose to do so, then the teacher can, with impunity,
identify the components of a sentence and explain why we recognize a pattern
as a complete sentence. Etc.

2) teacher as skill-giver
I encourage students from Day 1 to bring in assignments from other classes
that require writing, and I initiate discussion of strategies that will help
them do well on those other assignments. Planning.
Information-gathering. Dictionary skills, especially for my ESL or
EFL students. Editing. Proofreading.

3) teacher as facilitator
Difference here is stepping in only when student needs nudge, and
encouraging and setting up situations in which student begins to solve
student's own problems..."have you thought about checking--?" "what library
resources are you planning to use?" "how much time, realistically, did you
build in for revision, editing, and proofing?"

It also helps that this remedial course is taught in small sections,
pass/fail grade based on portfolio + timed exit exam, and that those who
don't make it through on one try get a 2nd semester free--they don't have to
pay tuition again.

I'd like to see Eric Crump (and Mike H. and Beth Baldwin) post or send some
assignments and a syllabus, either on this list, Rhet-net, or privately
(to janetbone@delphi.com), along with some assessment standards. If Eric
isn't grading or giving assignments, how are the students demonstrating
growth or learning? How, in other words, is he justifying their time, and
his, in the teaching situation? I ask, not in criticism, but from interest
and the thought that his explanation may trigger new ideas in us for fall

Jan Bone