Focus on Quality

Community Colleges Must Focus on Quality of Learning, Report Says offers this:

Increasing college completion is meaningless unless certificates and degrees represent real learning, which community colleges must work harder to ensure, says a report released on Thursday by the Center for Community College Student Engagement.

While national education goals prioritize attainment, community colleges must focus on quality, says the annual report, which is based on focus groups and data from three surveys: the 2010 Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the 2010 Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, and the 2009 Survey of Entering Student Engagement, which polled students in their first few weeks of enrollment last fall.

This year’s report, “The Heart of Student Success: Teaching, Learning, and College Completion,” centers on “deep learning,” or “broadly applicable thinking, reasoning, and judgment skills—abilities that allow individuals to apply information, develop a coherent world view, and interact in more meaningful ways.” By some measures, students are doing well.

Would it surprise you to know that I was frustrated by this study? The reason I was is in the article, by Sara Lipka, itself.

the national push for attainment could drive those expectations down further, she says, citing a remark she worries about hearing on campuses: “Well, sure, we know how to retain students and help them complete. We just lower our standards.”

I’ve heard it on my campus. Haven’t you heard it on yours?

My classes in developmental writing have a 40% attrition rate. I have seven essays, three revisions, and one hundred homework/classwork assignments.

Someone else at my college has 95% retention rate. She has two essays and no homework.

But if you are looking at attrition rates, her classroom is the more attractive.

One thought on “Focus on Quality”

  1. Dr. Davis,

    I have just stumbled across your blog and find it very interesting. You appear to be an instructor interested in the down-and-dirty teaching as much as the content you teach. (Although with writing, the process is the product, isn’t it?) Bravo. You’re clearly an intelligent, thoughtful, reflective individual genuinely wanting to be helpful to students and peers, alike.

    I am a high-school English teacher whose students receive dual-credit; my students simultaneously earn college- and high-school credit for my Writing 115 (pre-college, technically) and Writing 121 (beginning-level college writing) courses. I have taught at high schools, community colleges, and universities (okay, just one). I look forward to mining your blog for great ideas and am already impressed with your dedication to your craft.

    I haven’t yet looked through much of your extensive information, but I must comment one response I read. Someone said in one of the comments that s/he feels s/he is doing the work high-school English teachers should have done. Well, guess what–we at the high school, too, feel like we are doing the work that should have been done before us.

    What to do when our students don’t know “a lot” is two words? We do what any good teacher does: We teach it. We are all dealing with students whose command of written English is less than we might hope. That’s what happens when an ever-increasing percentage of the population attends high school, and that’s what happens when that same, ever-increasing percentage attends college. Of course the skills of the students are less than what they have been in the past, when college was reserved for those of the elite; of course students are less prepared; of course they are more divided, skill-wise, than they ever have been. This is neither the fault of the students nor their high-school teachers, but rather the result of an economy demanding a college degree as a requirement of any job capable of paying a living wage. We do not, in public high schools, choose the students in our classes. We teach those who come. We hope they want to learn.

    As a side note, I feel compelled to agree that students’ command of the mechanics of the language is, indeed, regrettable. Horrifying, even, to those who only teach college. For this reason, I’ve created a system of cumulative grammar and punctuation lessons–overheads, worksheets, and cumulative quizzes–and I test my students, both high school and college, once a week on these lessons. Again, cumulative is the key here. Those students more concrete-minded, those less comfortable with the subjectivity of writing, find this mechanics system reassuringly objective and (according to them, anyway) refreshingly useful in content areas other than English. I’d be delighted to forward my system to anyone interested.

    Again, I look forward to reading more of your blog and am excited to learn from it.

    Thank you,

    Chauna Ramsey
    English Teacher, Hood River Valley High School (Hood River, Oregon), and
    Instructor, Columbia Gorge Community College

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