Hartnell College, located in Salinas (an agricultural region), was founded in 1920; it is one of the oldest educational institutions in California and serves about 10,000 students. The ethnic profile includes: 56% Latinos (mostly linked to Mexico and Central American countries); 19% white; 4% Asian; 3% Filipino; 2% black; and 1% Native American students. Hartnell College is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution. The college offers the first two years of transferable general education courses, basic skills courses in English and math, and various workplace and career training, particularly in nursing and allied health programs. The college offers courses during spring and fall 16-week, and shorter summer, semesters. The English Department at Hartnell College aims primarily to prepare students for transfer to universities. The program’s learning outcomes: Upon successful completion of the English program, a student should be able to:
- Apply appropriate interpretive strategies to read, discuss, and analyze a variety of works of literature within any given genre and expository texts.
- Analyze and evaluate major themes and techniques found in literature and expository texts by applying appropriate writing strategies and skills.
- Demonstrate an appreciation for the aesthetic value of literature and expository texts from a diversity of cultural, historical, and ethnic perspectives.
I observed the teaching of a pre-collegiate level and a freshman level course, and I interviewed each of the professors teaching the courses.
ENG 101 Intermediate Composition and Reading Prerequisite: ENG 253 or ESL 265 with a grade of “C” or better or placement by Hartnell’s assessment. Lecture hours 3. Development of reading and writing skills including critical analysis of texts with emphasis on sentence, paragraph, and essay elements. Students will write a minimum of 6,000 words in graded assignments.
As listed in the course syllabus (of the section I observed), these are the student learning outcomes and course objectives for English 101 Intermediate Composition and Reading. Upon satisfactory completion of the course, students will be able to:
- Describe, paraphrase, and summarize college-level material accurately. Students should be able to summarize an article from their textbook or the popular press; identify, and evaluate main ideas, audience, purpose, organization, strength of evidence, and critical thinking strategies.
- Write focused coherent, well-developed largely text-based essays appropriate to the developmental level.
- These essays should be organized into effective paragraphs with major and minor supporting details, which support a clear thesis statement, and demonstrate competence in standard English grammar and usage.
- Demonstrate understanding of the recursive nature of the writing process.
Upon satisfactory completion of the course, students will be able to:
- analyze and discuss college-level texts in order to write papers that reflect critical processing and evaluation.
- identify the organizing principles of selected readings.
- demonstrate prereading and notetaking skills.
- analyze vocabulary in context.
- demonstrate an awareness of composition principles, such as audience, purpose, tone.
- utilize the writing process.
- generate and develop a thesis statement for a variety of thinking and writing strategies, such as classification, illustration, comparison/contrast, cause and effect, and argumentation.
- use different techniques to introduce and conclude effective essays.
- write unified and coherent paragraphs that use transitions appropriately.
- integrate material from sources into their own writing by summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting.
- develop syntactic awareness through the use of sentence focus, coordination, subordination, appositives, verbal phrases, adjective clauses, and parallelism.
- apply proofreading techniques to revise sentence level errors, such as comma splices, run-ons, and fragments.
- use MLA style of documentation.
As listed in the course syllabus (of the section I observed), this is the course content, that is, the specific skills students develop:
ENG 1A College Composition and Reading
Prerequisite: ENG 101 or ESL 101 with a grade of “C” or better or placement by Hartnell’s assessment. Lecture hours 3. Introduction to composition with emphasis on writing of exposition, and reading of selected works from a variety of academic and cultural contexts, and writing from research. Students will write a minimum of 6,500 words in graded assignments. Students can also place in English 1A through a qualifying score on the STAAR test.
The catalog describes the English Composition Placement:
Enrollment in any English composition course at Hartnell College will be determined on the basis of: An evaluation of the Hartnell College English Placement Essay or the Hartnell College English for Speakers of Other Languages Placement Examination.
A qualifying grade (C or better) from a previous English composition course at Hartnell College, or an equivalent course and grade (C or better) from another college.
The student has the option of taking a course at a level lower than the one designated by The English Placement Essay evaluation of the examination scores; however, the student will not be allowed to enroll at another level once this option is exercised.
On the day I observed the teaching of pre-collegiate English 101 Intermediate Composition and Reading (during the seventh week of the spring semester), there were 19 students (of the 25 registered in the class). All of them seemed to be in their late teens and early twenties, and all seemed to be Latino. The desk chairs were arranged in rows, and a the front of the room there was a computer and document camera workstation, and a screen.
The professor started class by greeting students and distributing a model script. He asked students to compare the script and the handout with instructions for composing introductions; he asked them to identify what their own introduction scripts were missing, and then to take ten minutes to improve their own introduction scripts. The handout describing what should be included in their introductions included this:
- Your name and identifying remarks–Hartnell College student
- Your purpose–writing a research paper for English 101 class
- Your topic–media and its effects on children
- Your focus for your study–whether and how children’s use of media, like television and advertising, affect children’s attitudes, behavior, learning, attention spans, gender roles, ethnic identity, self-esteem, etc.
- Your process–how you will conduct observations of children using electronic media (TV, video games, smartphones, pads or computers) and conduct your interviews of children or parents
- Your interview
- how it will begin with simple questions to obtain background information,
- then it will move on to more complicated questions about what he or she learns from what he or she sees on media
- Your note taking–add that you will be taking notes or recording what he or she tells you during the interview
- Who will see the research–that you will organize and write it; your teacher will read it; and that you will provide a copy for him or her if desired
- Ask–“Have you any questions about what we are doing before we start? Be prepared to answer
- Request–permission to use the information observed by you during your observations and shared with you during interview as part of your research
- Interview questions must be appropriately written for a child or an adult.
The same handout also included a list of “basic” and “complex” questions and “conclusions (e.g., what specific media is most used, the amount of time spent using that medium, attitudes toward the medium, behaviors, what is being learned, what ethnic representation is being seen, thank the interviewee). The professor affirmed students’ work so far: “Many of you already have those elements in your introductions; make sure that it includes the features” [listed in the model script]. Students began to write; he walked around the classroom, answered students’ questions, and checked on them as they worked on composing their scrips. He noted when there were two minutes left, and then projected “The Research Interview,” a document detailing the ten characteristics of an effective interviewer and of conducting an effective ethnography-based research interview:
- clear (simple, easy short questions),
- gentle (give interviewee time to think and answer),
- sensitive (listen, empathize),
- open (respond to interviewee),
- steering (know exactly what you aim to find out),
- critical (don’t agree or disagree, but be able to challenge inconsistencies),
- remember (what has already been said),
- balanced (don’t talk too much or too little),
- ethically sensitive (describe what will happen with answers and assure that they will be confidential; when interviewing children, especially, get written permission).
By then, I understood that the aim for the day’s class was to engage students in activities that would help them to formulate effective interview questions for their research, and to engage them in practicing how to conduct those interviews. They had already done some reading on the topic: how media affects children. Students were to interview both parents and their children. Then they were to consider their findings and compose their next essay. Later, I read the handout with instructions for assignment 2:
Our next writing assignment involves both primary and secondary research on the issue of media effects on children. You will be asked to read and summarize research done on this issue in the past and compare it to what has been done recently. Then you will conduct your own observational research and derive inferences from your observations on how children in your families are affected by media today. You will reflect on the research, observations and inferences to come to your own judgments about the issue and what it means to you and your own family. The essay will include parenthetical citations and a works cited that includes at least four articles from our textbook, two videos, two additional articles fro the Hartnell Discover Service databases, and your own observational research and interviews.
Students had already or were in the process of reading, summarizing, reflecting and making inferences (and understanding how inferences differ from observations) on two articles: Fowles’ “Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals” and Dudash’s “We’ve Come a Long Way, but Magazines Stayed Behind” (both in the required textbook, William S. Robinson and Stephanie Tucker’s Text and Contexts: A Contemporary Approach to College Writing, 7th ed.). “Observations,” the professor noted in his instructions, “are what you actually see, facts, not what you think they mean. Inferences are conclusions about what we think is going on based on what we see.” To underscore the lesson and illustrate the difference, he referred students to a video on YouTube.
The homework was to help students practice being able to separate observation from inference, and it also included a reference to another video, Dimitri Christakis‘ TED Talk (on YouTube) on media and children. Christakis’ ideas, the professor explained in his notes to the students, related to articles by O’Conner and Riffe et al. that they had already or were about to read (also in the textbook). Students would also be finding two current articles on the subject of media’s effect on children; they would be using the Discovery Service databases accessible from the Hartnell College Learning Resources Center website. The professor’s notes to the students clarified the assignment for me:
- Your primary research is to observe children watching television or using other media on at least three different occasions. You will observe what they do with and how they interact with their choices of media or TV shows. Record your specific observations first. Include names, dates, program titles, etc. Then write your inferences about what you have seen.
- Write a set of questions based on your research in order to discover more detailed information about how media is affecting the children you observed. You can interview the children and their caregiver or parents. Include the names, dates, questions and answers to your questions.
- Reflect on your observations, inferences, and interviews to come to conclusions that will form the basis for your thesis and findings for your essay.
- After all this work, you will be ready to write your essay. The essay will be due on March 17 with MLA style format and documentation, a works cited, and your notes from your sources.
Next, in order to guide the students on how to conduct their research interviews, and to help develop their confidence, as he said, the professor began to role play with one student who volunteered. The professor asked introduction-type questions following a script. He repeated the process with another student who volunteered. While role playing as an interviewee, the professor asked questions to help the interviewer/student clarify and narrow his intent, and to include all of the features listed in the model script. The professor modeled how the interviewer/student needed to reveal how the content of the interview would be handled (“it will be seen by the teacher in the class, but it will be confidential, no real names will be used… and if the interview was recorded no one outside the class would listen/view that recording”).
The professor role played a third time with a third student volunteer, and reminded everyone that they needed to start the interviews–and their introductions–with three important pieces of information: “Who you are, what you want, getting permission from the interviewee.” A student asked: “When we turn in this assignment, are we to turn in all of our notes?” The professor said “yes, everything; it’s going to be like a little book.” Another student wanted to know how old the kids (being interviewed) should be; the professor said, “if they can talk to you… four to fifteen.”
Then they discussed how to “give context and background,” and how to “maintain confidentiality” (e.g., making up names for the interviewees), and they moved on to watching a video (made by the American Psychological Association) about the sexualization of girls. The professor stopped the video in several places so they could all discuss the kinds of questions being asked (open-ended, close, follow-ups).
The professor showed another APA video on the definitions of sexualizing girls and asked that students “pay attention to how this is put together,” and how, specifically, the conclusion was composed. That led to a brief explanation about MLA formatting style, inclusion of parenthetical citations, and the importance of citing sources even if they’re images and videos. Then the professor moved the conversation to ways of narrowing the focus of their research: “You’ve been reading about ethnic representation and gender roles in the 1980s, so you can ask if the same is true today.” For the next seven minutes, students practiced composing questions that would allow them to focus their research on the effect of media on children. As students talked with one another, the professor walked around, answered questions and offered information. While students worked, he wrote on the board:
- Process or methodology
- Findings of your research
- Interpretations (inferences) and conclusions
- Limitations of your research
- Your reflections
- Riffe et al.
- Articles from Hartnell databases
- Observations (3)
- Interviews (3)
Next, the professor once again role played with a volunteer student, the aim being to help that student formulate effective research questions. Sometimes the professor answered questions humorously, and the entire class laughed easily. The professor concluded that activity by affirming that students “got the picture”; he reminded them “to be careful about how you phrase the questions, and to have back-up questions, about 25 of them, that’s a nice round number.” Then the professor pointed to what he wrote on the board and asked: “How is this related to your research paper?” A student responded and the professor affirmed: “Yes, this is an outline of how you could organize your research paper. This is not the only way to do it, but this way is a start.” Then he asked students what they wanted to discuss at their next class meeting. Once that conversation ended, he dismissed the class; a few students remained and asked him questions about the assignment.
In this class session, I observed that this professor applies/enacts several pedagogical approaches, including pointed emphasis on the process approach, providing study guides and lots of notes (electronically and in hard copy), presenting content through virtual and F2F modes, presenting content visually and audibly, incorporating reading content that is relevant to students, providing detailed instructions in handouts, and modeling what students should be doing in the assignment. He incorporates short in-class writing assignments, small group interaction, affirming students’ responses, and engaging/requiring that students participate in class activities. His syllabus notes the following about his “instructional philosophy”:
- English courses such as this one are designed to develop these reasoning, communicative, and creative abilities in students through logical, well-written argumentation so that they can exercise these skills in solving the problems of life in a modern society, to maintain and improve society, and to realize their individual goals and dreams. Fulfilling these purposes will require frequent written reflection and discussion of assigned readings in preparation for formal essays. To write well requires that you:
- manage your time well in order to complete assignments on time,
- read, annotate, analyze and interpret assigned readings for in class discussion,
- develop your reading skills by reflecting deeply and critically about the ideas you read and discuss,
- critically examine and reflect on your writing as well as that of others to improve your own,
- write in a detailed and organized manner, attributing and identifying your sources and references
- apply MLA formatting to research in support of your arguments
- proofread and edit your writing to improve your composition.
Once students were gone, I interviewed this professor. He talked with me for a generous 30 minutes, right outside the classroom. This full-time tenured professor is in his 12th year of teaching at Hartnell College. He is Latino and has a Master of Arts degrees in Education from a university in California. He teaches 10 face-to-face courses (in the English department) per year, most of them pre-collegiate courses, and some more advanced writing courses. Each course is capped at 31 students.
He said that he does not use different pedagogy when teaching Latinos, but that he understands his students, who are overwhelmingly Latino; many of them work over 40 hours weekly, in addition to attending college. Therefore, he does not “penalize” students for submitting assignments late: “I make accommodations for that; it’s tough… When I started teaching, I expected them to know how to annotate, write coherently, ask questions, turn in their papers on time. Those were my expectations. Those are the things they are supposed to do in college. But the reality is quite different. And that’s not culturally based. We see it more in Latinos, but that’s because there are more Latinos in this college.”
This professor said that part of his job entails convincing his students that college is important: “I bring in people who are successful, people who grew up here, from the community, to motivate them. I use more Spanish when I’m with my students. I’ve become much more physical [meaning that he incorporates activities that require that students be engaged and move about the classroom], just to shake them out of their passivity. The other thing I do is constantly remind them that they can be better than what they’ve been, because I’ve learned that many of them come from backgrounds that discourage them away from education and from moving forward.”
This professor said that while teaching Latinos he shares a bit of himself: “I do another thing in class with Hispanic students in mind–I share aspects of my life and upbringing that I believe they can relate to, like my own academic struggles, culturally relevant experiences involving family, and learning to navigate through communities outside the ones I grew up with. And, as you noticed, I also do a lot of direct, guided instruction.” This professor does not teach online, but he includes technology in his teaching (e.g., videos, audio files, use of the college’s learning management system, word-processing, electronic researching and use of the college’s electronic databases.)
Drawing from his experiences, this professor identified these three most important needs in order to improve the rates of success of all students, not just Latinos, in college writing classes:
- Supplement the habits that students bring (like being passive, not asking questions/being curious, not participating in class, feeling unsure of themselves) so that they learn to be active learners.
- Teach them time management because they procrastinate a lot.
- Teach them that college is different than high school, that they can’t act the same as they did in high school. There are not as many chances given in college, and not as many passes.
I observed the teaching of a hybrid English 1A freshman College Composition and Reading, and I interviewed the professor teaching the course. Following is a redacted description of the professor’s syllabus, and the notes I took during and after observing and interviewing her. The schedule of classes includes this explanation right below the listing of this specific course section: “This section is a hybrid. Some of the teacher-student contact hours are conducted at a distance. If you have any questions, please contact the instructor via email at [name and email of specific instructor is provided] for further information. Students can login for the Distance Ed portion starting Tuesday, January 20, at myetudes.org/portal and follow instructions.”
The college catalog describes the following about hybrid courses: “Advisory for Web-Based and Hybrid Courses: Students taking web-based and hybrid courses must have basic computer skills for operating Microsoft Word and e-mail, including sending attachments and files. Students also need access to the Internet and must have adequate hardware and software capabilities. Access to computers is also available at the Hartnell College Library/LRC.” Additionally, this professor’s multipage syllabus clarifies the following: Purpose of Course: It is a standard college introductory course that focuses on developing the writing, reading, and critical thinking skills that will enable you to be a more effective writer in your academic, professional, and personal lives. Course Objectives: Upon completing English 1A, students will be able to:
- Experience and develop an awareness of the importance of writing as a process.
- Demonstrate mature style in writing.
- Critically read, synthesize, analyze, interpret, and evaluate texts from a variety of rhetorical styles and cultural contexts.
- Develop a focused thesis and select relevant evidence to present in an argumentative or persuasive paper.
- Demonstrate basic research skills utilizing diverse resources from a variety of media.
- Gather, evaluate, and incorporate outside sources into a purposeful and coherent research paper.
- Apply MLA stylesheet conventions to research writing.
- Apply appropriate diction, style, and tone in relation to the subject and audience of the student’s writing.
Student Learning Outcomes:
- Write longer and more complex essays compared to English 101, built from a combination of several rhetorical patterns that pursue answers to challenging questions or advance substantial arguments that are supported with relevant, thoughtful, and sufficient evidence drawn (as appropriate) from written texts and the writer’s own experience and knowledge.
- Recognize that writing is a process requiring multiple drafts to create and complete an effective piece of writing.
- Gather, evaluate, and incorporate diverse resources into purposeful and coherent research paper with sources documented in MLA format.
- 3 graded essays which include a word count
- An 8-10 page research paper
- A final exam
- 10 one-page Source Reports that summarize and analyze the articles, web sites, and other sources you will collect for your final Research Paper
- Numerous shorter assignments and exercises to be completed in class and online–handouts, paragraphs, notes, prewriting strategies, drafts, revisions, reports
- Attendance (in-class and online)
- Regular reading of e-mail, private messages, and Course Announcements in Etudes (at least 4-5 times a week and definitely before class!). Check to see if there are any private messages as well.
- Thoughtful, attentive participation in class discussions and all online discussion forums.
- Regular reading of Course Schedule (Updated schedules can be found in the Announcements page in Etudes).
- A turnitin.com account (information in Etudes on this)
- An Exercise Central account (information in Etudes on this)
- Assignments will be graded “A” through “F.”
- All essay assignments, research paper, and the final must be completed with passing grades in order to be eligible to pass the course.
- Do not “recycle” essays or work written from another class. Chances are the requirements of the assignment are different. Be original. 🙂
- The failure to bring a draft to class for Peer Review or conferences on the designated days will result in a grade deduction of one step (i.e., B- to C+).
- Daily homework assignments may not be submitted late. If by chance you have to miss class, you must get the homework to the instructor BEFORE class starts for full credit. This may be done through an e-mail or private message.
- An essay will not be accepted if it is over one week late. Acceptance of late essays is entirely at the discretion of the instructor and will not be accepted if prior arrangements have not been made. Under special circumstances if an essay is pre-approved for late submission, for every day that an essay is late, your grade for the assignment will be lowered by one full grade (i.e., A to B).
- No makeup quizzes or tests. If you have to be absent on the day a quiz or test is given, then you must make arrangements with the instructor to take the quiz or test beforehand. All others who enter the classroom passed this time will not be allowed to take the quiz or test. Note: Time will be kept on the instructor’s computer. Do not consult your cell phone for time since it should be off!
- The grade book will be kept in Etudes. Check grade book section in Etudes for the point breakdown of all assignments.
On the day I observed this section of English 1A (during the third week of the spring semester), there were 23 students present (out of 30 registered). Most seemed to be Latino, a few were Caucasian, a couple Filipino; there were slightly more male than female students. Almost all seemed to be in their late teens and early twenties. Desks and chairs were arranged in a two-row square (the outer row lining the walls of the room and accommodating desktop computers). On the walls there were large pieces of paper with handwritten notes/reminders about following MLA. As I waited for class to begin, I noticed that the agenda for the day was written in green, red and black on the whiteboard by the classroom door:
- main ideas
- Thesis statements
- Module 6.2
- Post in discussion
- Get feedback from instructor
- Hybrid homework
The professor started class on time by asking students to take out the hard copies of the two articles assigned as homework: Robin Dunbar’s “You’ve Got to Have (150) Friends” and Sherry Turkle’s “The Flight from Conversation.” (The professor had provided links to each article, and students were able to access them straight from a database in the Hartnell College library.) Students were to assign numbers to each paragraph in the articles. As students numbered the paragraphs in the articles, the professor walked around the square, checking on their progress and answering questions.
I learned from the syllabus that during week 2 students worked on identifying possible writing topics for essay 1. They printed, read and annotated two articles: Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and Alan Greenblatt’s “Impact of the Internet on Thinking.” They posted comments on each of the articles online, responded to classmates in the Discussion Forum, watched a video (Growing up Online), and in preparation for class discussion, they noted which arguments in the texts they agreed or disagreed with, and completed and submitted the essay 1 Reading Handout. During week 3, students followed the same basic format: print, read and annotate two articles; post comments online; respond to classmates in the Discussion Forum, and in addition,
- determine writing topic for essay 1,
- consider evidence from the readings,
- and from the video,
- read information posted on composing thesis statements,
- post thesis for essay 1 in the Discussion Forum.
These activities aimed to scaffold the work due during week 4 and subsequently:
- read and annotate “Prewriting Strategies,”
- brainstorm and free write,
- complete activity in Etudes,
- register for Exercise Central,
- watch Growing up Online video,
- list two arguments that you agree with and two that you disagree with in video.
As students worked, the professor pulled out cards with each of their names and took attendance. Then, she reminded them to identify the main idea in each article, to identify supporting quotes, and decide if they agree or disagree with the ideas in the quote. They were to work in groups of three, talk to each other in low tones, start with the Dunbar article, and create a list of two columns (agree/disagree). As they worked, the professor walked around and checked on their progress and answered their questions. After approximately eight minutes, the professor began to call the student names on each of her cards once again. Each time, she asked the student to state the name of the article, the author of the article, to describe the authority of the author, to identify the paragraph number, read the quote expressing the main idea of the article, and the supporting point for the main idea.
She used the document camera to project the section of the article that the student identified. She called on every student, and if the student didn’t have an answer, she returned to him/her after a few others had taken their turns. Sometimes, she asked the student to describe if and how she agreed or disagreed with the ideas in her chosen quote (and, “is that true in your life?”), or to explain why she chose the particular quote. She also asked students to elaborate on “what makes this person an ‘expert'”? A few times, she referred to similar ideas in the other articles students have read and requested that students jot the connection in their notes. Often, she paraphrased the student’s chosen quote/main idea and affirmed, by repeating, the student’s words. They followed the same pattern for the Turkle article.
Next, she reminded students to register for Excersize Central (a tool in Etudes), and asked them to move to a computer and log on to the Discussion Forum and type their theses. (About 4 students had their own laptops.) As they began to set up, the professor addressed administrative issues: answer your private messages; look at the comments I’ve made. Once students were all seated in front of the computers, the professor went to her computer and projected some of the Etude pages (e.g., Discussion Forum) to remind them of how the class is set up. Then, she gave students about five minutes to read her comments and scroll through the class pages. She walked around and answered students’ questions.
Following that, she asked students to click on Module #7, the assignment for essay 1 (which she had distributed in hard copy the previous week). She showed students how to “bookmark” pages so that “it’s easier for you to follow the assignments, grade book, and activity meter.” “Remember,” she said, “I know when you haven’t read something; I can see it on my page.” At fifteen minutes before the one hour class was to end, the professor told students to take a few minutes to “catch up” on whatever they had not done online (e.g., review Module 6.2, Discussion Forum, posting thesis, reviewing instructions for the essay assignment). She walked around and talked with students.
I walked around and peered at the students engaged in their work. Five minutes before class was to end, the professor reminded students to review the next assignment (“look at Module 9, post on Brainstorming and Freewrite by Sunday”), to look at the schedule “so there is no confusion about what to do,” and she projected the “to do” list through the document camera. When students left, a couple remained and talked with her. (I perused the syllabus and noted that among the extensive guidelines and college/classroom policies, students are reminded not to “recycle” essays or work written in other classes, that every assignment must include a word count, that essays must follow MLA formatting, and that all essays, the research paper, and the final must be submitted to http://www.turnitin.com).
In this class session, I observed that this professor applies/enacts several pedagogical approaches, including pointed emphasis on the process approach, a little bit of lecturing, providing study guides and lots of notes (electronically and in hard copy), presenting content through virtual and F2F modes, presenting content visually and audibly, incorporating reading content that is culturally relevant to students, frequent repetition of her instructions orally, electronically, and in handouts. She incorporates short writing assignments, including those done during class time, small group interaction, scaffolding the online and face-to-face activities, affirming students’ responses by paraphrasing their ideas, revealing and linking the aims in scaffolding, and engaging/requiring that students participate in class activities.
Her syllabus notes the following about class participation: “Good participation involves both active listening and speaking. This includes paying attention in class, being prepared for class discussions, sharing your ideas in class, having your cell phone off, and giving thoughtful comments to your classmates during peer review days.” “Your in-class notes will serve as evidence of attendance.” “This classroom is intended to create a safe environment for students to take intellectual risks, such as sharing thoughts and opinions in an open dialogue with other students and instructors. A safe environment is free from offensive language, verbal attacks on other students, and rude behavior, such as interrupting when someone else is talking.”
Once students were gone, I interviewed this professor, for a generous 25 minutes, right in the classroom. This professor is full-time, tenured, and in her 13th year of teaching at Hartnell College. She is from the surrounding area, a Latina, and has earned two Master of Arts degrees in English at nearby universities. Like most of her students, she said, she is a first generation college graduate. She enjoys teaching in this setting especially because she believes she can be a model and mentor to other Latinos. Her teaching load is 5 courses per semester; each course is capped at 31 students. She is also in a leadership position in the English Department, and teaches all the courses in the department, mostly in face-to-face and hybrid deliver modes, but she also teaches at least two online courses per year (including English 1B, writing about literature).
When she teaches hybrid and online courses, she makes it very clear (in her syllabus, for example) that students must be able to use Hartnell’s Google email, that they must have basic knowledge/user skills in word processing (e.g., cutting and pasting, attaching documents, sending files, downloading attachments and software). They must have access to the Internet, basic computer literacy/competency, be familiar with computer hardware and software (e.g., MS Powerpoint, MS Word, and Adobe Acrobat Reader), and “effective electronic communication strategies” (i.e., students must know “how to construct a professional sounding message appropriate for the academic environment”).
This professor said that students in this and other English classes need strong support services, such as a Writing Center, where they can benefit from, for example, student-to-student tutoring. (Five years prior, the institution closed the Writing Center, but currently there is talk about addressing this lack of support for students in writing classes.) She said that teaching online (and to a lesser degree teaching hybrid courses) requires greater emphasis on providing examples, lots of information, and plenty of repetition for students. She said that usually her classroom is 100 percent Latinos, that she does not apply a different pedagogy when teaching Latinos, and that she “can relate” to her students because she is “a local person,” a Latina, and because it wasn’t “so long ago” that she was in their position.
Drawing from her experiences, this professor identified these three most important needs in order to improve the rates of success of Latinos in college writing classes:
- Teach them academic and life skills such as how to organize, how to plan, how to manage their time, how to reach out to professors and other sources of support.
- Require that students (especially those in developmental courses) visit the professor’s office and that they connect on an individual level.
- Consider and understand Latino students’ life circumstances and how it affects what the academy defines as “retention” and “success” (since those two markers may not mean the same to students).