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Program in Course Redesign

Tallahassee Community College

The Traditional Course

Tallahassee Community College plans to redesign College Composition, a required course for all A.A. and A.S. degree-seeking students. The course serves approximately 3,000 students annually in sections of 30 students in a traditional setting that combines lecture and writing activities.

This course serves as the foundation for reading and writing courses across the curriculum. Students successfully completing College Composition must take at least one more English course and two Humanities courses that require extensive writing. There is also a Florida graduation requirement that assesses essay writing, English language skills and readings skills.

A number of academic problems are associated with College Composition in its current form:

  • The student body is diverse, making it difficult to address individual needs.
  • Considerable class time is given to reviewing and re-teaching basic skills, thus, reducing the amount of time students have to engage in the writing process.
  • Success rates are poor (less than 60% annually), and many students have to repeat the course.* High number of students repeating the course places a financial burden on the English Department.
  • There is a heavy dependence on adjunct instructors, leading to problems with instructional consistency.
  • Low retention and poor transfer of skills to other disciplines are problems.

The Redesigned Course

The major thrust of the redesign is to provide students with student-centered learning experiences that promote active learning through interactive technology, individualized learning plans, and collaborative activities. The English Department has established a clear set of performance objectives and basic requirements of style and effectiveness, all part of a common syllabus.

The planned redesign has two major components. The first component involves using appropriate technologies to provide diagnostic assessments resulting in individualized learning plans; interactive tutorials in grammar, mechanics, reading comprehension, and basic research skills; online tutorials for feedback on written assignments; follow-up assessments; and discussion boards to facilitate the development of learning communities.

Students will submit mid-stage drafts to online tutors at TCC or to SMARTHINKING, reducing the burden on the Writing Center and the amount of time faculty spend grading papers. These activities will take place outside the classroom and will be accessible to students at any time.

The second component involves restructuring the classroom environment to include a wide range of learner-centered writing activities that foster collaboration, proficiency, and higher levels of thinking. By shifting to technology many basic instructional activities that can be readily individualized, the classroom portion of the class will be redesigned so that students and faculty alike can focus on the writing process and enhance the quality of the learning experience. Students may work in small groups or on individual writing efforts, depending on their identified needs.

Quality will be enhanced through greater individualization and collaboration, decreased response time and, in the case of interactive tutorials, immediate feedback. Increased time-on-task, increased interaction both in terms of human interaction and interaction with instructional materials, and increased opportunities to engage in the writing process will further strengthen course quality.

TCC will assess the impact on student learning through a quasi-experimental study that will be conducted by using eight sections of the redesigned course and a similar number of sections of the traditional course. Courses will be similar in terms of the array of student characteristics. The study will compare performance on a pretest and posttest of grammar, mechanics, and reading comprehension. To assess the impact on writing proficiency, eight written assignments from redesigned and traditional sections will be compared by using a standardized grading procedure. Overall performance data also will be collected. Students will be tracked through the next English, second-level composition course and two Humanities courses. Finally, the performance of students from redesigned courses will be compared to that of students from traditional courses.

The redesign of College Composition will result in greater standardization and make it possible to decrease the number of full-time faculty teaching the course, resulting in significant savings. An online orientation and support site for adjunct faculty will contribute to the consistency in learning environments.

Traditional Course Structure

  • 15-week term
  • 100 sections of 30 students (50 in fall, 30 in spring, 12 in summer)
  • 3 contact hours per week: 2 (1-hour) lectures and 1 (1-hour) workshop style class
  • Fifteen full-time faculty teach 64 sections annually. They prepare and deliver lectures; prepare and facilitate one workshop style class; prepare/revise, administer and interpret diagnostic assessments; prescribe activities based on diagnostics; create assignments and writing activities; grade written assignments; hold 5 office hours per week; spend 4 hours per week in the Writing Center; and monitor student progress.
  • Ten adjunct faculty teach 36 sections annually. They prepare and deliver lectures and facilitate one workshop style class, administer and interpret diagnostic assessments, prescribe activities based on diagnostics, create assignments and writing activities, grade written assignments, monitor student progress and hold 2 office hours per week.
  • Twenty graders provide approximately 27 hours of grading assistance per section. They provide comments and corrections for grammar and mechanics, and assist in grading final papers.
  • One Writing Center Director, four permanent part-time paraprofessionals, and four hourly part-time paraprofessionals work in the Writing Center. They work one-to-one with students on grammar and mechanics, thesis, structure, style, etc., and provide an aggregate 147 hours per week of assistance to College Composition students while class is in session.

Redesigned Course Structure

  • 15-week term
  • 100 sections of 30 students (50 in fall, 30 in spring, 12 in summer)
  • 3 contact hours per week: 1 (1-hour) class discussion and 2 (1-hour) structured labs
  • Eight full-time faculty teach 32 sections annually. They prepare and conduct class discussions, prepare and facilitate structured labs, create individual and collaborative assignments and writing activities, grade written assignments, monitor student progress, and hold 5 office hours per week.
  • Seventeen adjunct faculty teach 68 sections annually. They prepare and conduct class discussions, prepare and facilitate structured labs, select individual and collaborative assignments and writing activities from those created by full-time faculty, grade written assignments, monitor student progress, and hold 4 office hours per week.
  • Twenty graders provide approximate 27 hours of grading assistance per section. They provide comments and corrections on grammar and mechanics electronically, and assist in grading final papers.
  • One Writing Center Director, three permanent part-time paraprofessionals, and four hourly part-time paraprofessionals work in the Writing Center. They work one-to-one with students on thesis, structure, style, etc., face-to-face and online and provide an aggregate of 74 hours per week of assistance to College Composition students while class is in session.

Summary

In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:

  • Increase the consistency among the sections using technology-supported diagnostics, web lessons and other online supports
  • Individualize programs for students learning
  • Improve quality by increasing time on task
  • Increase access by providing online any time/any place options
  • Provide more timely feedback for students
  • Decrease faculty time spent developing and evaluating diagnostics
  • Decrease faculty time spent in preparing and delivering lectures
  • Decrease required time in class for reference librarians
  • Increase time for one-to-one and small group peer activity
  • Outsource evaluation of draft papers to SMARTHINKING
  • Decrease costs associated with the Writing Center

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