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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thank God for no-shows

Most of the students I was supposed to see today didn't show up, so I was able to mark all the student assignments, as well as attending the department meeting and P&B. Whew.

However, the Registrar must wonder what the hell is going on with my classes: three students withdrew from today's 101. All of them needed to go--one I thought was already (albeit unofficially) gone, as I hadn't seen him in so long--but the sudden stampede must have been, well, interesting.

What I was interested by was the reaction of the young man I've been calling the B.S. artist. He was there, but he came up to me with his withdrawal slip and said, "We might as well get this out of the way right away; then I'll be out of your hair." I said I was sorry to lose him from the class, and he said, "Dude! I know!" He proceeded to tell me more about how sick he'd been but that he'd truly loved the class, the topics, found it all very interesting--and as he was leaving, he talked to a few of the other students saying he hoped he'd see them around campus. Perhaps I have become overly cynical; perhaps he truly did enjoy the class. (I did find it rather funny to be addressed as "Dude," I have to say--though I think he really meant it more like "Boy!" or "Man!"--that is, a generalize exclamation of emphasis, not direct address and not intentionally gendered.)

I've been trying to get some more of the briars and brambles cleared out from around my feet this evening, with limited success--though the success has been limited because I was interrupted by a phone call from one of my nephews, which is always a good reason to stop working and do something else.

One thing I did accomplish, however, is to continue an e-mail conversation about an assessment protocol that's being conducted. A number of sections of 100, 101, and 102 have been selected, but in my estimation, the "learning outcome" (actually a goal, but I'm not going to get into the specifics of assessment speak) has nothing whatever to do with 100 or 101. According to the e-mail I got, "We will be assessing our students’ Textual Literacy: the ability to analyze, interpret, and respond critically to texts of various genresWe will be assessing two learning outcomes: how well students identify recurring themes and how well students understand how a writer’s options such as characterization, setting, and diction are employed in any given piece of writing."

However, 101 (and, by extension, 100) deal exclusively with nonfiction, so as far as I'm concerned, themes, characterization, and setting are at best of minimal importance--and I don't address any of those things at all, not in the least bit, in 101. In 102, yes; in my lit electives, yes. But not 101. I said that to the person from the assessment committee who had let the selected faculty know about their being tapped to participate in the assessment; she took it to Bruce, and I was removed from the sample--but my concern about the disconnect remained, so I contacted her again, twice now: first to say that I was worried about whether I was not doing my job correctly in how I approach 101, then to quote the course description to her. According to the official course description, the following are the goals of 101:

1. To respond orally and in writing to texts, primarily nonfiction.
2. To write as a way of exploring, developing, and confirming ideas in a process of communicating them.
3. To compose essays that support and develop a point of view, using a variety of composing strategies.
4. To self-evaluate using a vocabulary specific to the discipline in order to discuss, revise, and edit one's own writing and the writing of others.
5. To revise in order to substantially improve the focus, organization, and development of ideas.
6. To locate, evaluate and cull information from archival and/or electronic sources.
7. To summarize, paraphrase, quote, and use MLA-style citations to document course readings and materials found through research in the construction and expression of a point of view.
8. To edit and proofread for usage and correctness of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
9. To produce approximately 4,000-6,000 words across a series of written assignments and essays subject to evaluation, at least one of which is an essay of 1,000-1,500 words.
Nothing in there about recurring themes, characterization, setting, diction...
She's said she'll take at least my initial e-mail, explaining my concerns, to the committee; I suspect she'll take this latest communique as well. I'll be very interested to hear how assessment manages to fix the disconnect between how we define "textual literacy" (a bizarre term in any case) and the fact that the texts and methods for demonstrating appropriate "literacy" in managing those texts varies greatly across our courses.
I had about a million other things in mind to do, too, but it's 8 already, and I need to get my fanny home for any number of reasons, not least of which the fact that I'm so wired, if I don't start unwinding soon, I'll be up until the wee hours and then staggeringly exhausted tomorrow.
So, till then...

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