December 22, 2010

PCCC Winter Break

Passaic County Community College will be on winter break from December 23 until January 2.

Offices will reopen on Monday, January 3rd.

Registration for the 15 week semester is on January 13 – 15 and 18.
Registration for the 12 week semester will be held February 7 & 8.

Classes will begin on Wednesday, January 19.

December 15, 2010

Silk City Accepting Submissions

Cover photo by Mark Hillringhouse
PCCC’S student literary journal, Silk City, is now accepting online submissions.

Students, faculty and staff may submit poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, and black and white photography.

Send all work as an email attachment to

Include your full name in the email. All work must be properly formatted.

Questions and inquiries may be addressed to the advisors Professor Mark Hillringhouse and Professor Mark Tambone.

December 13, 2010

Responding to Student Writing

Elizabeth Nesius gave a presentation on responding to student writing to PCCC faculty across curricula on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, from 4:30-5:30 in the Library Classroom in the Learning Resource Center.

The presentation was designed for non-writing faculty, although it is hoped that writing faculty would be able to get some benefit from it as well. The presentation gave tips on responding to students' writing in a quick and efficient fashion while maximizing the usefulness of that feedback for students. Tips included effective use of rubrics and comments, and sample responses.

Faculty from a variety of disciplines attended, and feedback was generally positive. The presentation will be offered again in Spring 2011 and can be viewed here. In Spring 2010 this presentation will be part of a 2-part workshop series: Creating Effective Writing Assignments and Responding to Student Writing.

December 10, 2010

Writing Contest Winners

Announcing PCCC’s First Annual Writing Contest winners!

Writing is alive and well at PCCC. We had 78 total entries in the 4 categories. There were many outstanding entries, and students were enthusiastic about the contest.

Special thanks to the dedicated judges who generously donated their time (right at finals!) to choosing our winners:

Mark Hillringhouse
Elizabeth Nesius
Ken Ronkowitz
Academic Essays
Martha Brozyna
Alexandra Della Fera
Randy Jenkins
Short Fiction
Kelly Bender
Mark Hillringhouse
Latoya Reid

Creative Nonfiction
Emily Eklund 
Mark Hillringhouse 
Maggie Holland

Thanks also to the very generous individuals who donated prizes:
Martha Brozyna
Greg Fallon
Sally A. Handley and Sally Handley Inc. 
Mark Hillringhouse
Anita Kumar
Elizabeth Nesius
Jim Thoubboron

And now, without further ado, the winners of the Writing Contest are….

1st Place: Jennifer Torres, “Almost There”
2nd Place: Javier San Juan, “Ideal”
3rd Place: Leonel Quintanilla, “Fatherless infant with earsplitting cry”

Honorable Mention:
Patrick Fortunato, “Audio Blind”
Mark J. Holmes, “Happy Anniversary”
Maryam Ishak, “Snow Falls on All”
Jose F Serrano, “Don Jose”
Linda Swanson, “In fields of green, I cry”

Academic Essays

1st Place: Guillermo Aguilar, “An Oligopoly on Wall Street”
2nd Place: Cynthia Retuerto, “The Humane Society”
          Tied with Kevin Fetish, "Differences in Democracy/The Song Remains the Same"
3rd Place: Kristopher Perovic “Science and Skepticism”

Honorable Mention:
Jason De La Cruz, “Othello and A Midsummer Night's Dream”
Kevin Fetish, “Ethical Monotheism Among Ancient Peoples”
Kathy Lopez, “Is Google Making Us Smarter or Stupider?”

1st Place: Brionne Ramsingh, “Prequel to Iliad” and “Sequel to Iliad”
2nd Place: Cynthia Andreux, “The Boy Who Wanted to Be Tall”
3rd Place: Thomas Feliciano, “Familiar Enemy”
          Tied with Genessa Terrizzi, “Death Walker”

Honorable Mention:
Kevin Byrd, Untitled
Kimberly Gomez, “Don't Go”

Creative Nonfiction
1st Place: Jaine Radel, Untitled
2nd Place: David Hernandez, “Diversity in American Life”
3rd Place: Megan Portorreal, “My FiancĂ©’s 23rd Birthday”

Honorable Mention:
Jason De La Cruz, Untitled and “My name is Jason De La Cruz”
Carolyn Guevara, Untitled

Thank you to everyone for your support in making the contest a success! We will be publishing the winning entries in a writing contest magazine and holding a reading of winning entries in spring. We hope to see you there!

December 9, 2010

Grammar for the Texting Generation

Texas schools looking for a way to improve grammar and performance in writing by the current texting and Twitter generation of students will be turning to a new high-tech "Writing Coach."

The State Board of Education recently approved a plan to offer Pearson's Texas Writing Coach as a tool for school districts.

It provides print and digital instructional materials which teachers can customize for students - English language learners; advanced; struggling and trying to catch up in class; on-level or have other unique needs.

The interactive, writing and grammar program is aimed at middle and high school students. It gives students personalized help through a digital writing "coach" component that gives immediate feedback to individual students, right down to the paragraph level of essays.

To learn more about Texas Writing Coach, go to

December 6, 2010

Technology and Writing

Writing Intensive students and faculty have access to some technology hat was purchased as part of the Initiative.

For example, we require that WI students use tutoring in their class. That can be face-to-face in our Writing Center, but it can also be using the eTutoring service that we have available at PCCC.

We also require WI students to use an ePortfolio for these course sections.

All WI course have a LibGuide with online resources for that course. Most of these web sites are collaborative efforts with faculty, librarians and Initiative team members contributing and editing the site.

We have also contributed money to the College's purchase of the Echo360 video classroom capture software and hardware. This allows faculty to not only capture classroom activities (lectures, presentations etc.) but also create brief videos on their own time to use in class.

In addition, we encourage WI instructors to also use the Blackboard learning management system, our online Library resources and subscription streaming media services which are available to all classes.

Overall, what is most encouraging in our use of technology is that we see a "ripple effect" of use outside the Initiative and the WI courses sections.

The Writing Initiative has played a very important role in making the case for portfolios as a means of campus-wide assessment, and using portfolios is slowly taking root in the campus culture.

Faculty outside the Writing Initiative – including those in areas such as Early Childhood Education, English, and the College Experience - have successfully piloted or will pilot eFolio in their courses.

As a result of these efforts, the Vice-President of Academic Affairs has outlined a five-year, three-phase plan to adopt portfolios for assessment in several academic programs. In the meantime, the Writing Initiative team is implementing strategies to increase use of electronic portfolios, including hiring a faculty mentor for portfolios, and discussing best practices at the Faculty Institutes.

LibGuides is certainly the most popular of the resources we have introduced as part of the Initiative. Having started as a resource for Writing Intensive courses, PCCC now has 216 LibGuides in various disciplines and different uses. Only 30 of those are actually part of the Initiative itself. So far this year, the Guides have had 58,530 hits on the home page and 186, 726 views on the Guide pages.

The Virtual Teaching and Learning Center

The Virtual Teaching and Learning Center is the collective online home page for all the Writing Initiative's online resources.

Our Initiative faculty fellows can download resources and also post their course syllabi, class and resource materials for use by other faculty members and students.

The site offers web resources on:
  • The Writing Initiative
  • The Writing Center
  • Portfolio Use at PCCC and help using our ePortfolio software
  • eTutoring resources
  • Information on current faculty professional development opportunities
Though the website is focused on faculty professional development, students will also find useful resources.

For example, there are links to
  • LibGuides for all Writing Intensive courses. These guides contain many things that will be helpful to students in any section of that course. 
  • Other non-WI course guides
  • Student Workshops available in the Writing center for all students at PCCC
  • Student help sites - including library guides on topics like creating bibliographies and citations, information on the College Writing Exam, Disability Support Services, help using ePortfolios and eTutoring, the PCCC Writing Center, a guide to Online Learning at PCCC and the Online Success Center.
Go to as your starting place for all things teaching and learning at Passaic County Community College.

December 3, 2010

Workshop Today: Studying for Essay Exams

WORKSHOP: Studying for Essay Exams -- Friday, Dec. 3, at 4:00

Preparing for an essay exam requires both essay writing skillls and study skills, and so it is often a stressful task for students.

This workshop will address:
  1. how to prepare before the exam - determining the main themes of the semester, organizing notes, etc. 
  2. the different types of essay questions instructors typically use and how to answer them
  3. how to organize the essay
  4. We will also look at sample student essays and critique what was done well and where they need improvement

Get ready for December's final exams!

December 2, 2010

Changing Engagement in Large Lectures

NJEDge.Net is offering a free webinar featuring Perry Samson, from the University of Michigan on "Changing Engagement in Large Lectures."

Professor Samson has ideas for making the sage-on-the-stage lecture hall more engaging and is developing software called Lecturetools at the university.

Lecturetools is a web-based alternative to clickers (student response systems) that has been shown to dramatically increase student engagement, even in large lecture classes. This presentation walks through how to set up a course and a lecture and then invites participants to play along as virtual students.

The University of Michigan will make Lecturetools available to other schools.

Dr. Perry Samson, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, created Web-based software, LectureTools which lets students use their computers during classes to pose anonymous questions, mark up lecture slides, and answer questions posed by the instructor in real time.

Perry was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal in June 2010 on his Lecture Tools.

Perry Samson, Ph.D., a meteorologist and professor at the University of Michigan, teaches a lecture class in Extreme Weather. He explains how tornados form and why climate change may result in more intense hurricanes. Now he’s shaking up education with a robust interactive response system called LectureTools, which makes use of the laptops his students carry into his lecture hall.

During class, students can view Professor Samson’s PowerPoint slides on their laptops and take notes directly on the slides. Using a chat window, the students can anonymously ask the teacher’s aide questions during the lecture. Professor Samson can see the questions, too, providing him with valuable insight into the student’s comprehension of his lecture without disrupting the flow of the class. Students can also rate their understanding of the slides, giving him more immediate feedback.

We will be broadcasting the webinar in A111 of the Writing Center December 8th, Wednesday from 11:15 to 12:30 if you would like to attend.

You may also register online and view it from your desktop.

November 30, 2010

Rubric Alignment

There has been concern at PCCC in the Testing Department about the adoption of the Writeplacer test at all nineteen NJ community colleges this year. There has been discussion about the possibility of using it as our College Writing Exam (CWE).

Elizabeth Nesius and Ken Ronkowitz from the Initiative had aligned the CWE rubric with the WI writing rubric two years ago so that the course-based assessments hat we use can be better correlated to CWE baseline scores for the college at large.

This past summer, they also aligned both rubrics with the College Board's Writeplacer rubric that PCCC uses for initial college placement. We presented that alignment to the College Writing Committee and Dr. Stassis.

Although we can show an alignment of scores and in criteria, the Initiative team feels that it would be inappropriate to use an entry/placement exam as the exit exam as the CWE is now designated.

The Initiative will also continue to use our own modified criteria language for the WI rubric since the user audience is students and not professional essay readers.

November 29, 2010

Branding the Writing Initiative

We have increased our “branding” campaign to let the college community know about the Initiative.

This past summer, PCCC hired a full time publications person, Page Saunders, who we are working with to develop additional promotional materials. Besides our branded folders and flyers that all students receive when they first visit the Center, we have pending orders for bookmarks, appointment cards, and flashdrives. We collaboratively created a logo with Page that features the WI for the Writing Initiative and for the Writing Intensive courses to use on new promo items and online.

This past year we also created a YouTube site and Facebook page These are not only places to post resources and updates where our students (and a surprising number of our WI faculty) see them, but we hope to use it in 2011 to connect with writing programs at other colleges.

This blog has replaced the Initiative Newsletter which was used in the first two years of the grant. The blog is a far more dynamic way of updating the community on a weekly basis rather than once a semester. It also allows us to provide links to resources online both on our own web pages and on other sites. All previous newsletter articles are now archived on this blog.

We are getting increasing traffic all year. Besides the expected U.S. visitors, during the month of September 2010 alone we had visitors from Brazil, India, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia, China, Mexico, Malta and Malaysia. Our blog stats show that people are finding us primarily via links on our Initiative websites, links on our Facebook page and on other blogs, and from Google searches.

November 24, 2010

Community College Buzz

Five of us from PCCC presented at the Two Year College Association conference in Washington DC this month.

What were the topics that were trending there in the presentations and conversations?

  Enrollment continues to surge at the state's public colleges and universities, thanks to a population bulge and a poor economy that has served as a catalyst for some to return to school. At Passaic County Community College enrollment has topped 10,000 as a 20-year growth trend continues. The number is 9 percent higher than last September.

BUZZ #2  WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT and TRAINING   The community college growth is fueled, in part, by people looking to retrain for new careers in a tough economy. But it also reflects cost-conscious students who opt for bargain rates during their first two years of college.

BUZZ #3  DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION   Record numbers of students are arriving on community college campuses this fall, but Education Week says that a majority of them—nearly 60 percent—aren’t academically prepared to handle the classwork.Call it developmental, basic skills or remedial, 3 out of every 5 community college students need at least one remedial course, and fewer than 25 percent of those students successfully earn a degree within eight years, according to the National Education Longitudinal Study. Colleges are having to look at ways to address the problems and lower the $2 billion-and-rising annual cost for remedial education.

   The Obama administration has put a lot of money and attention towards community colleges. But two things that the administration wants to see improved are the the amount of time it takes to get a "two year" college degree, and the number of students who actually make it to a degree.

Some colleges are looking at where those concerns cross. For example, developmental education and graduation rates are connected. You can improve graduation rates if you use admissions standards. Don't let in the weakest students, and you will certainly increase your graduation rates in a few years. (Of course, you could also lower your standards and let more students get by, but that has pretty limited appeal to everyone from the federal government to employers.)

One counter-intuitive trend in dealing with these students is to push them through remedial work faster. (It reminds me of how ADHD patients are given drugs that speed up their system, when you might expect they needed something to slow them down.) Computer software that personalizes remediation and monitors it, more frequent class sessions and longer classes are all part of these programs. Early-intervention systems that identifies students who are failing and falling behind and can then provide support before they drop out are a hot trend. Grouping students into learning communities is another approach. These cohort communities move through developmental education together and then co-enroll in their first college-credit courses the next semester.

Cross-posted from Serendipity35

November 23, 2010

Faculty Development

During the past year, we met our milestones for WI courses designed (19), courses piloted (10), and additional sections implemented (8).

The most important change during the past year in faculty development was the addition of a second faculty development opportunity for faculty who are new to teaching a writing intensive course section but who are not developing a new WI course.

During year 4, we will pilot five new WI courses, but three of those (Math 101 & 105 and Biology 101) began development during the 2010 summer session. With only one additional WI course required (though we anticipate that several others will ultimately be developed), the bulk of our institutes from this point onward will be for new faculty taking on an already developed WI course.

The term faculty “institute” may be a misnomer at this point. They have evolved from the initial 4-day presentation-heavy format with more than twenty participants in 2008, to groups of 4 – 8 meeting for two days in a much more collegial and seminar-style setting.

There are now 43 instructors who have been through the instructional development process in writing, critical thinking, information literacy and have been introduced to our writing technologies.

In addition, as described in the grant for year 3, we have worked with area high school teachers.

“The Handbook for Developing Writing-Intensive Courses” is now in a “sixth edition” with significant revisions from the first version created from the materials used in the initial Faculty Institute in summer 2008.

For example, there had been concern last year that the “minimum requirements” for a WI course seemed unclear to some faculty. The handbook now clearly identifies the seven requirements both in the detailed portion of the handbook that is the “textbook” for Institutes, and on a single page in the appendix.

We have also written a “Handbook for New Faculty Teaching Established Writing-Intensive Courses” that has been used at two seminars for those new instructors. This is the text for those two-day sessions. (Both Handbooks are in the Appendices.)

We are also pleased that the College Writing Committee and the Professional Development Committee recently jointly presented a “Writing Across the Curriculum Roundtable” to the community as a forum for discussion on improving writing at PCCC.

November 18, 2010

Grant Year 3 Report

The year for our Writing Initiative ends at the close of October and so we are now into year 4 of the grant.

In the program narrative, 28 objectives are identified to be completed by the end of the five-year project period. During year three, the narrative directed the team to focus on the six specific objectives, which are summarized below and will be covered in more detail in future posts.

This past year the Team has worked with faculty to design seven new writing intensive (WI) courses. Five were piloted in year three and two are being piloted in the fall 2010 semester. We also trained 14 new WI instructors and launched 8 new sections of previously developed courses.

In addition to the program assessments done by Institutional Research, we have added our own course-based assessments of all WI courses offered through the artifacts in student ePortfolios.

We also conducted our first student and faculty surveys and focus groups following the spring 2010 semester.

In faculty development, we have now trained 38 full-time and part-time instructors in teaching WI courses and in using the technologies, critical thinking and information literacy.

We have served more than 600 WI students so far in the Writing Center, through one-on-one appointments and student workshops.

After the October 2009 visit by our outside evaluators, their report identified areas for improvement that included branding, the Task Force, writing rubric alignment, working with faculty, clarifying WI minimum requirements, faculty compensation and course-based assessment via portfolios.

We will address those areas in future posts as we prepare for our outside evaluation visit on November 30.

November 16, 2010

Writing Intensive Courses Offered for Spring 2011

Students at PCCC have a graduation requirement to pass with a "C" or better two writing-intensive courses prior to graduation. (Click here for specifics on requirements based on your degree program)

The following courses are Writing Intensive (WI) sections available for the spring 2011 semester. All WI sections are limited to 25 students, so register as early as possible. Students can only register for one WI course per semester.

Paterson Campus
BS 102 M01
CIS 101 M04
CT 101 ME1
EN 205 M02
ENS 106 M07
HI 102 ME2
MA 103 M01
PS 101 M03
SC 104 M01

CT 101 WE1
HI 102 W03

EN 205 P01
PS 101 P02

Online Sections
AE 101 OL1
EN 212 OL1
HI 101 OL2
HI 202 OL1
MU 106 OL2
PH 101 OL1
PL 101 OL1
PS 101 OL3

November 10, 2010

A Writing Across the Curriculum Roundtable at PCCC

The College Writing Committee and the Professional Development Committee are presenting a Writing Across the Curriculum Roundtable on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 3:30-4:30 PM in the Paterson Room in Academic Hall.

This is a forum for the discussion of ideas focused on improving writing across the curriculum at PCCC.

Topics will include:
  • Journaling: Where Ideas Take Flight - Margaret Holland
  • Dramatic Writing: Creating Scenes to Explore Topics - Mark Tambone
  • A Creative Way to Teach Critical Thinking - John Fruncillo

No registration required. Bring your own writing ideas to share.

November 1, 2010

November College Writing Exam Dates

This month there will continue to be WALK-IN testing at the Paterson Campus ONLY.

1) No Appointment is required, but a PHOTO-ID is required.
2) You may appear any time during the time ranges listed below.
3) If you have taken the exam previously, you MUST bring an approval letter from the Writing Center to be allowed to retest.
4) Some sessions times are LIMITED to ONLY 5 seats on a first come, first served basis.
5) ONLY 1 test session per person per month is allowed.

The topic theme for November is"consumerism."

WALK-IN Testing Room E215, Paterson Campus

Nov 13th (Sat.)

9AM to 12PM

Nov 16th (Tue.)

9AM to 2PM

5PM to 6PM

Nov 17th (Wed.)

9AM to 2PM

Nov 18th (Thu.) - LIMITED

9AM to 2PM

5PM to 6PM

Nov 20th (Sat.) - LIMITED

9AM to 12PM

October 25, 2010

PCCC Writing Initiative Presenting at TYCA Conference

The Writing Initiative team and WI faculty fellows will have a major presence at the Two Year College Association (TYCA) Northeast regional conference next month. Five members of the PCCC community will be giving presentations.

"Capitol Improvements: The Two-Year College as an Agency of Change" will be held November 4-6, 2010 in Washington, DC. TYCA's regional conferences foster the intellectual and pedagogical growth of English teachers and administrators in the two-year colleges throughout the region.

On Friday, a session on "Writing Connection: Bridging the Gap between High School and College" will be done by Alexandra Della Fera, Elizabeth Nesius, and Ken Ronkowitz.  This presentation is on our Connections program to work with area high school teachers across disciplines to create varied opportunities in writing-to-learn rather than the traditional learning-to-write approach that might apply only to the English classroom.

One of three presentations on Saturday from PCCC is "Collaborative Assessment: Working Together toward Institutional Change" by Elizabeth Nesius and Kelly Bender. Their looks at methods of collaboration for course-and program-level assessment and data-sharing to help both faculty and program administrators. Instructors can improve the WAC elements of their courses without sacrificing content, while still furthering the program mission of helping students to write well and think critically in any discipline. Writing program administrators, on the other hand, can improve both the writing program implementation and the training of its faculty to teach WAC courses. Students will benefit by experiencing WAC courses that are clearly defined, engaging, and optimized for their learning.

Ken Ronkowitz will present a workshop on "Adopting Open Textbooks." Open textbooks are openly-licensed textbooks offered free online by authors. The open license sets them apart from traditional textbooks by allowing users to read online, download, and print. They are also editable so instructors can customize content, cross-platform compatible and work with adaptive technology. This session looks at the how to identify, evaluate, and adopt Open Textbooks, and training opportunities for those wanting to adopt open resources, do peer reviews or open their own writing. Ken is an Advocate/Trainer for NJ as part of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER).

Also on Saturday, Christine Redman-Waldeyer will present on "Public Writing: Linking Journalism, the College Newspaper, and Composition." Teaching journalism is always challenging but more so in a community college setting where students may not be prepared to write academically. It is one opportunity to prepare our students how to research and because students’ work is often “public” because it is tied to the college newspaper it helps students understand accountability, teaches them the need to consider what is libelous, to consider expert opinion, and the need to observe without bias.

TYCA (Two-Year College Association) is an organization under the umbrella of the NCTE (National Council of the Teachers of English) specifically designed for two-year college English teachers. Within National TYCA, there are seven regional TYCA organizations. Each works to foster the intellectual and pedagogical growth of English teachers and administrators in the two-year colleges throughout the northeast region. Our specific goals include conducting our annual conference in the fall and publishing a newsletter, which features members' articles, fiction, and poetry.

October 20, 2010

Workshop: Attacking The Question

PCCC Writing Center workshops are open to all PCCC students and designed to help students become better writers in a variety of situations. All workshops are free and you do not need to register. Be sure to arrive for the starting time as we begin promptly.

Some workshops may focus on the CWE, but all are designed to provide information that applies to writing in other academic settings.

Attacking the Question
Tuesday October 26 at 5 pm and repeated on Wednesday 1:10 in the Writing Center

Ever get an essay assignment from an instructor that seems to make no sense whatsoever? Ever sit down to write a paper only to realize you don't even know where to start? An essay begins with the question or prompt. What is being asked of you? What is required in the answer?

This workshop will teach you how to "attack" an essay starting with the question. You'll learn to decode "professor speak" and figure out what's really being asked of you. From there, you'll learn how to formulate and organize an answer. This workshop is very useful for students taking the CWE to help you determine exactly what a question is asking, and how to go about answering it.

October 19, 2010

Student Writing Contest

Announcing the Writing Initiative's first annual Writing Contest!

The contest will kick off tomorrow, October 20, the National Day on Writing and will continue through November 24. We will be accepting submissions in 4 genres: poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and academic essays.

Judges will choose a first, second, and third place winner, and winners will be announced on December 10. 

All PCCC students are invited to enter!

Submission guidelines:

Poetry                            75 line maximum

Short Fiction                  6,000 word maximum

Creative Nonfiction      5,000 word maximum

Academic Essays          4,000 word maximum

Submissions must be typed, single or double spaced, with no name listed. Your name should appear only on the submission cover sheet. The sheet can be downloaded from this page or picked up in the PCCC Writing Center.

Submissions may be turned in via email at, or delivered by hand to the Writing Center (located on the Paterson Campus, in the library).

At the Passaic Academic Center, entries can be delivered to PAC-113 on Wednesdays between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

Submissions will be accepted between October 20 and November 24.

Judges will choose a first, second, and third place winner in each category. Winners will be announced on Dec. 10.

Questions? Contact Elizabeth Nesius at or 973-684-6160.

October 13, 2010

Enrollment Up At PCCC and Most NJ Colleges

Enrollment continues to surge at NJ's  public colleges and universities. Part of that is due to a population bulge and also a poor economy that has served as a catalyst for some people to return to school to improve their employment resume.

The community college growth has been fueled by several initiatives by the Obama administration. People looking to retrain for new careers in this tough economy has been a focus of those initiatives.

Students and their parents are also being much more cost-conscious and are opting for the much lower tuition rates during their first two years of college and then transferring to 4-year schools.

That is one reason why our Writing Initiative has concentrated on the redesign of General Education courses as writing intensive. Those GenEd courses are the ones that will transfer to NJ's 4-year schools.

Here at Passaic County Community College, enrollment has topped 10,000 as a 20-year growth trend continues. The number is 9% higher than last September, said President Steve Rose.

According to Randy Jenkins, Director of Online Learning, online enrollments are up 36% over the same time last fall.

PCCC converted a storage garage on the Paterson campus into six new classrooms and they were immediately filled with classes.

Our newest campus in Passaic which last year "is already at capacity," said President Rose.

In our neighboring county, Bergen County College opened its fall semester with more than 17,000 students as enrollment grew in both its distance-learning courses and its new campus. Enrollment at their new Meadowlands campus in Lyndhurst grew by more than 58% from 2009, and students enrolled in online courses increased 12 percent from last year.

At NJ's 4-year colleges,growth is also the trend. NJ's largest university, Rutgers, has three campuses with more than 56,000 students this year, up from 53,000. The state university plans to add 2,000 more dormitory beds at its main campus over the next two years.

There are about 230 more students this year at Montclair State University which has an enrollment of 18,402, making it the second-largest university in the state.

At William Paterson University in Wayne, enrollment is up 4.6 percent to 11,217.

October 12, 2010

October College Writing Exam Dates

This month there will continue to be WALK-IN testing at the Paterson Campus ONLY.

1) No Appointment is required, but a PHOTO-ID is required.
2) You may appear any time during the time ranges listed below.
3) If you have taken the exam previously, you MUST bring an approval letter from the Writing Center to be allowed to retest.
4) Some sessions times are LIMITED to ONLY 5 seats on a first come, first served basis.
5) ONLY 1 test session per person per month is allowed.

The topic theme for October is "multiculturalism."

WALK-IN Testing Room E215, Paterson Campus 


Oct 16th (Sat.) - LIMITED
9AM to 12PM

Oct 19th (Tue.) - LIMITED
9AM to 2PM
5PM to 6PM

Oct 20th (Wed.)
9AM to 2PM

Oct 21st (Thu.)
9AM to 2PM
5PM to 6PM

Oct 23rd (Sat.)
9AM to 12PM

October 11, 2010

Survival Grammar Is Back

Join in every week for a grammar lesson with these very popular workshops that address many of the grammar issues that students face in their writing.

Each workshop begins with a lesson and continues with interactive exercises to help you practice your grammar and improve.

All PCCC students are welcome, no matter what level. A different grammar topic will be featured every week.

In the PCCC Writing Center
on the main Paterson campus, within the library
Mondays from 5:00-6:00 and repeated (same topic) on Fridays from 1:00-2:00

On the Passaic Campus
room P113
Wednesdays, from 11:45-12:45

October 8, 2010

Portfolio Mentoring

For the 2010-2011 academic year, we have added Professor Anita Kumar as a peer mentor for faculty teaching writing intensive classes.

Anita is full-time faculty in the Early Childhood Education department. She has been an enthusiastic proponent of writing in the disciplines. Though ECE courses cannot be offered under the Initiative as WI courses, she includes many of the WI components in her classes and has been using ePortfolios for two years.

She began using our eFolio product in her classes voluntarily because it was something that education departments at the 4-year colleges do as a regular practice.

Professor Kumar has presented to PCCC faculty at our WI Faculty Institutes. She also did a team presentation in March 2010 at the NJEDge.Net Faculty Best Practices Showcase at Seton Hall University along with Elizabeth Nesius and Ken Ronkowitz. That presentation, "Soft Launching An Institutional ePortfolio Initiative," highlighted PCCC’s decision-making process approach to piloting online portfolios to support student learning and assessment.

This year she was appointed by the Vice President off Academic Affairs, Dr. Jacqueline Kineavy, to lead a study on the adoption of portfolios across the college community. The committee will look at portfolio products, adoption strategies and methods of assessment. The plan currently is to introduce portfolios in the required College Experience course and in the Humanities department.

Because Anita brings a strong pedagogical background to portfolio use and has extensive use in the current portfolio product, we decided she would be an excellent choice to mentor WI faculty in portfolio use during this year.

September 20, 2010

College Writing Exam Wanaque Fall Test Dates

Students wishing to take the CWE at the Wanaque campus this semester should arrange for CWE assistance or to register for one of the test dates below with Kathy Coffey in room W128, 973-248-3019 or

Students from any campus may take the exam without prior registration on the Paterson campus Walk-In test dates. see 

Fall 2010 Dates and Start Times

Theme for September: Careers and the Workplace
Monday, September 27th 11AM to 7PM Testing Room

Theme for October: Multiculturalism
Wednesday, October 20th 11AM to 7PM Testing Room

Theme for November: Consumerism
Thursday, November 18th 11AM to 7PM Testing Room

September 14, 2010

Free Books

Most of us eventually seem to collect more books than we actually need or want. Donating books is a direct and cost-effective way to help students, schools, libraries, and literacy organizations.

The local library seems like a logical place to donate used or unwanted books.

While many organizations appreciate a donation to a used book sale or book drive, most libraries are very selective about how many and what kinds of books they will accept into their collections. It requires time (and therefore money) to process books into a library’s cataloging system, and each library has to balance its unique collection development needs with limited physical space.

One of the PCCC librarians, Joseph Petta, has actually created a guide to donating books. The PCCC Library regularly offers a cart full of books that have been weeded out of the collection and they are inevitably taken by students by the end of the day.

The PCCC Writing Center also has a free books effort  with several shelves of quality fiction and non-fiction books that students may take when they visit the Center.  Make the Reading - Writing connection and drop by to pick up a book!

September 13, 2010

Find Out About Taking The College Writing Exam

The College Writing Exam (CWE) is an important graduation requirement for all PCCC students.

For the CWE, students are asked to write a five paragraph essay of at least 450 words from a general topic or a topic from their major that is given at the start of the test. Students will be given the theme (but not the actual question) of the general question when they register so that they may prepare some ideas for their essay.

Students are expected to use a computer to type their essay, but the computer will not allow you to use the spell check, grammar check or the Internet. You should allow two hours for the exam.

The Writing Center is offering workshops on Preparing for the CWE. This workshop is intended for students who have never taken the CWE.

We will review the exam requirements, how to register, strategies for planning the essay and information on how to prepare and practice.

9/15   5:00 - 6:00 PM
9/20   5:00 - 6:00 PM
9/21   10:30 - 11:30 AM
9/23   1:10 - 2:10 PM

Students who want help preparing for the College Writing Exam can also make an appointment at the Writing Center to work with a writing consultant. Though we recommend making an appointment to make the best use of your time, walk-in sessions are available if a consultant is free.

Any student who has take the CWE but not passed should review their failed exam with a writing consultant. You must make an appointment as the Writing Center will need at least 24 hours to obtain a copy of your exam from the Testing department.

September 10, 2010

Find Us on Facebook

The Writing Center now has a fan page where people can see updates, Center hours, and general goings on within the Writing Center. It also contains links to our website and the Writing Initiative website.

The page has followers from both in and outside of PCCC, including connections to writing centers at other colleges around North America. To become a follower of the PCCC Writing Center on Facebook, click the "Like" button below.

We created a Facebook page for the Center to increase our network of both students and faculty who have an interest in Writing Center work and the Writing Initiative at PCCC. Most of our students are on Facebook regularly, as are our faculty! This is an easy way to reach a large number of people at the same time. It saves us from having to print and post flyers, saves time, and keeps us from cluttering up people's in-boxes.

Updates will be posted regularly, so be sure to stop by and see what's going on!

September 9, 2010

Writing Help at the Passaic Campus

Fall 2010 marks the first semester that the Writing Initiative will be present on the new Passaic campus.

The first Writing Intensive course to be taught at Passaic will be Introduction to Psychology, PS 101-P02. It meets Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11:45-1:00 and will be taught by Professor Thomas Page.

Writing support for this course and for preparing for the CWE will be available on the Passaic campus on Wednesdays, from 10:00AM-2:00PM, in room 113. The writing consultant for the Passaic campus this semester is Martha.

For more information about the Writing Center at Passaic, go to

September 8, 2010

The Writing Center at Wanaque

The Writing Center will have a presence on the Wanaque campus again this semester.

Students looking for help with their WI course assignments, WI students looking for writing help with writing in their other courses, and students preparing for the CWE are all welcome to come for assistance.

Traditionally, the Wanaque writing consultant can be found in the computer lab next to the library.

WRITING CENTER at Wanaque Hours 
Tuesday   10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Wednesday  2:00 PM - 8:00 PM
By appointment only  - contact the Writing Center

WI courses have been offered on the Wanaque campus since Spring 2009. This semester, the following courses will be offered:

CT-101-WE1: Critical Thinking
HI-102-W02: Western Civilization II
PS-101-W03: Intro to Psychology

For more information about the Writing Center at Wanaque, go to

September 7, 2010

College Writing Exam Test Dates for September

This fall the testing department will continue the WALK-IN testing on the Paterson Campus that was piloted this past summer.

1) No Appointment is required, but a PHOTO-ID is required.
2) You may appear any time during the time ranges listed below.
3) If you have taken the exam previously, you MUST bring an approval letter from the Writing Center to be allowed to retest.
4) Some sessions times are LIMITED to ONLY 5 seats on a first come, first served basis.
5) ONLY 1 test session per person per month is allowed.

The topic theme for September is "careers and the workplace."

WALK-IN Testing Room E215, Paterson Campus

Sept 18th (Sat.)
9AM to 12PM

Sept 21st (Tue.)
9AM to 2PM
5PM to 6PM

Sept 22nd (Wed.)
9AM to 2PM

Sept 23rd (Thu.)
9AM to 2PM
5PM to 6PM

Sept 25th (Sat.)
9AM to 12PM

Documenting Teaching Effectiveness

We often have a sense in education that something is working (or not working) but it's difficult for us to produce the evidence that some practice or piece of technology is the reason.

The Writing Initiative at PCCC is a five-year federal Title V grant and we have numerous requirements to assess our success at improving writing and the teaching of writing at the college. Producing evidence of effectiveness beyond the anecdotal information from teachers, students and our writing consultants one of our biggest challenges.

Right now, the Initiative team is working on our year 3 report for the outside evaluators who review the grant each October.

The Seeking Evidence of Impact Initiative that is part of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) is an ambitious new initiative intended to bring the teaching and learning community into a collective discussion about ways of gathering evidence of the impact of innovations and current practices.

They are trying to bring the latest research and commentary in the area of learning technology effectiveness together. This includes white papers, articles, websites, reports, and other resources.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (Jossey Bass Higher and Adult Education Series)

I have been looking back into books on assessment that I used in the past. One of those is Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo and Cross) which is a general handbook that offers teachers at all levels how-to advice on classroom assessment, including what classroom assessment entails and how it works, and also how to plan, implement, and analyze assessment projects.

If you are new to formal assessment, the case studies that detail the real-life classroom experiences of teachers carrying out successful classroom assessment projects are useful. Although the book focuses on K-12 settings, the information often applies to higher levels too.

What the Best College Teachers Do

For higher education, Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2004) is also an interesting book to look to for some possible answers to what makes a great teacher great. The book was the result of a 15-year study of nearly a hundred college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities.

One finding was that it's not what teachers do, it's what they understand. In general, lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the way those teachers comprehend their subject and how much they value the learning process itself.

Think back on your own best teachers - especially those in high school and college - and they probably impressed you with how well they knew their subject but also with the way they engaged you and challenged their students.

For me, that always included interaction beyond the classroom Q&A. I knew that the best teachers felt that teaching really matters and that students can learn.

Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching is a text more likely to be used by college faculty members in groups and in workshops. It covers topics like problem-based discussion and integrating teachers' experience with recent research and theory on learning. It also provides assessment and research projects that can be used in classes.

If you want or need to get more into the quantitative part of assessment, practitioners, Assessing Performance: Designing, Scoring, and Validating Performance Tasks has step-by-step guidance for developing, administering, scoring, and validating a range of performance tasks. Though I find developing scoring tools, training raters, reducing rater bias, reviewing scores and report results less interesting, it is a necessary part of the job for some people in any educational setting.

Part of our Writing Initiative at PCCC is to introduce students and faculty to technology. ePortfolios, eTutoring, lecture-capture technology, and supporting courses with Web materials like LibGuides are all part of our day-to-day work. Using Technology Evaluation to Enhance Student Learning, (Teachers College Press, 2004) is a look at the technologies that have real, long-term payoffs for student learning so that you can make research-based decisions concerning the use of educational technology.

September 3, 2010

Information Literacy

The Writing Initiative aims to increase achievement and program completion rates for PCCC students by integrating critical thinking, information literacy and technology into college-level writing intensive courses.

Broadly stated, we require WI courses to incorporate research requirements that exercise information literacy competencies in at least one of the writing assignments.

Information Literacy (IL), as defined by PCCC, consists of:
  1. Defining and articulating the need for information
  2. Information Retrieval
  3. Citation of Sources
  4. Evaluation of Sources
  5. Using information effectively in writing assignments

These competencies have been assessed in an ongoing fashion in The College Experience course via the Information Literacy Research Project, and will be assessed further in the Title V Writing Initiative.

In general, PCCC students have fared well in retrieving information and identifying citation information, but have struggled with information literacy competencies that require more critical thinking, such as formulating a thesis statement, critical evaluation of resources, and extraction of useful information from resources. In the Writing Initiative, special emphasis is placed on the latter two competencies especially.

Courses designated as WI should have an assignment or assignments that cover a minimum of three out of the five broadly defined IL competencies. Competencies 4 and 5 are required to be covered, in addition to one of the other three competencies.

The IL requirements need not be covered in one assignment; in fact, it is often beneficial to both instructor and student to break the research process down into steps.

Each student in a WI course also must create an electronic portfolio in which are archived selected assignments from the WI course. Minimally, students must include examples of any formal writing and particularly those that exhibit elements from the critical thinking rubric and the information literacy rubric.

PCCC Librarians have developed a master IL rubric that allows instructors to assess IL competencies on a four-point scale ranging from beginning, developing, competent to accomplished. In addition to the rubric, a list of performance indicators associated with each of the five major IL competencies can be used for ideas on how to incorporate the IL competencies into WI assignments. The rubrics and more information on how we are using information literacy in the Initiative is online.

September 2, 2010

The PCCC Writing Center Hours for Fall 2010

The Fall 2010 semester has started!

The Writing Center will open after Labor Day, on Sept. 7, and for the first time will be serving 3 campuses.

In previous semesters, Writing Intensive courses have been held on the Paterson and Wanaque campuses, but this semester we have expanded to the new Passaic campus, with a section of PS 101.

Writing Intensive students can come to the Writing Center on any campus for help with writing for their WI or any other courses. In addition, students preparing for the CWE on any campus can come for help and information about the exam.

The Writing Center will be open at different times on each campus. Days and times are listed below.


10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

10:00 AM - 8:00 PM

10:00 AM - 5:30

Appointments and walk-ins welcome


10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

2:00 PM - 8:00 PM

By appointment only


Room 113

Appointments and walk-ins welcome

For more information about the Writing Center, visit
For information about the Writing Initiative and Writing Intensive Courses, go to
For information about the CWE, check out

September 1, 2010

Math Science Faculty Institute

The Summer Writing Initiative Faculty Institute held in August was different in that all the participants are developing math or science writing intensive courses.

This two-day Institute is the first of two parts for faculty developing WI courses that will be piloted in 2011. The second 2-day Institute will be held during the January 2011 break.

The seminar style sessions address the goals and methodologies of the Initiative, the process of creating course materials and the tools and support available to students and instructors in these courses.

Professors Radha Sankaran, Fillmore Corpus and Kristina Oriente from the math department and Meg Sloan from science worked with the Initiative team on August 25 & 26 for full day (9-3 pm) sessions.

Professor Sankaran is developing Math 103 Statistics as a writing intensive course section. Professors Corpus and Oriente are co-developing Math 101 as WI. This is the first time we have had two faculty develop the initial section of a course. The hope is that while one of them will pilot the course, the other will be ready the following semester to offer a second section as WI.

Professor Sloan is redesigning Biology 101. The second half of that sequence (Bio 102) was developed this past year and is being piloted by Professor Griedanus this semester.

The following topics were covered during this first part of the Institute:

1. An introduction to the Writing Initiative and the WI Course Development Handbook
2. Defining Writing Intensive courses
3. Aligning course and department goals with WI goals
4. The WI course development process in detail
5. WI Course syllabi creation
6. Generating WI assignments - incorporating critical thinking & information literacy
7. Tools and support in brief (Writing Center use, LibGuides, eTutoring, WCOnline, media etc.)

The faculty now work during the semester to develop their syllabi and assignments and will meet twice with the team during the semester. In January, during part 2, we will all review the assignments and critique what was developed. The second part of the Institute also focuses on the technology elements of the WI courses - portfolios, LibGuides, eTutoring - and assessment of student work and of the WI course design during the pilot semester.

August 31, 2010

Fall 2011 Writing Intensive Courses

Today is Convocation at PCCC, so it's the last day that classrooms will be empty before the semester begins Thursday.

There are 18 Writing Intensive course sections this semester of the WI courses that have been developed over the past three years.

Students at PCCC have a requirement to take one or two WI courses based on their degree program.

WI courses available to students this semester

AE-101-OL1 Appreciation of Art Thoubboron
BS-102-ME1 Biology II Greidanus
CT-101-WE1 Critical Thinking Hillringhouse
EN-205-M02 Intro to Literature Redman-Waldeyer
EN-205-OL1 Intro to Literature Klopfenstein
ENS-106-M01 Public Speaking Risher
HI-101-ME2 Western Civilization I Brozyna
HI-101-OL2 Western Civilization I Jenkins
HI-102-W02 Western Civilization II Drakulich
MU-106-OL2 Appreciation of Music Ayala
PH-101-M02 Intro to Philosophy Fruncillo
PL-101-ME1 Intro to Political Science Getso
PS-101-ME2 Intro to Psychology Termanini
PS-101-OL3 Intro to Psychology Cianci
PS-101-P02 Intro to Psychology Page
PS-101-W03 Intro to Psychology Murphy
SC 104-M01 Environmental Science Baranowski
SO-202-M01 Cultural Anthropology Burkart

August 30, 2010

High School Connections 2

Professor Della Fera presenting at the Connections seminar.

Last week, the Writing Initiative held its second two-day High School Connections seminar. One component of the Writing Initiative is to make connections with the area high schools and share with them what we are doing with the teaching of writing across disciplines.

We have held two Connections seminars this summer for a dozen high school teachers. We invited teachers in all disciplines and got registrations from teachers of English, social studies, business, Spanish.

Participating schools included Clifton HS, Passaic County Technical Institute, Wayne Valley HS, Manchester Regional HS, the Paterson Pre-Collegiate Teaching Academy and JFK High School in Paterson.

In these sessions, teachers shared best practices and lessons that they use in their classrooms.

Amongst the topics we discussed during the seminars, we asked participants to consider these:
  • What are the top 5 things PCCC should know about what your school and students are doing in regards to writing?
  • Does your school have: a writing center; writing across the curriculum program; portfolios; or writing magazine?
  • What technology works and doesn't work in your classroom?
  • What would you like to know about the expectations that PCCC has for entering students?
  • What might a college (PCCC and others) offer to your school that would improve your ability to use writing in the disciplines?
Using technology to help teach writing is a popular topic but most of the high schools have limitations on their Net access, especially to things like blogs and podcasts. We asked participants to check their school's access to a list of sites linked on our website.

We hope to continue the conversation next year with some participants and their schools. Several of the teachers who attended also teach as adjuncts for PCCC in our dual enrollment program. The dual enrollment program offers area high school students to take PCCC courses and receive college credit in a number of subjects.

We continue to update our Connections online resources that were used during the seminars and added to by the participants.

During the 2010-2011 academic year, the Initiative will be making additional connections to the writing center and writing programs at the 4-year colleges that our students often transfer to after completing their Associate degree at PCCC.

August 20, 2010

Putting the Lib Into Our LibGuides

This week I offered a LibGuides Advanced workshop for the PCCC Librarians.

Librarians have been a part of the Initiative's use of the guides since we started using them in 2008.

Starting with the PCCC Library's own LibGuide, we introduced them to the software.

Glen Bencivengo was the "early adopter" on the library staff and he created the original guide for the first Writing Intensive course we developed, Western Civilization II.

The plan has always been that every WI course would have a LibGuide that would be created as a collaboration between the faculty redesigning the course and the librarian who works with that subject area.

A number of guides have been created by the library staff and I used that group as a sounding board for developing a list of beginning and more advanced LibGuide skills for workshops that I plan to offer this fall to our college community.

In this advanced group, we focused more on design elements, formatting, HTML code and scripts.

My own guides includes a meta-guide on using LibGuides that I use for training and workshop presentations and that has also been used by other colleges as a starting place for their guides.

The LibGuides software encourages sharing guides and content. When you create a new guide, it asks if you want to use another guide in the system as a starting place and offers you a way to ask permission of the owner.

Currently, there are 104,451 guides by 22,921 librarians at 1580 libraries worldwide. Even if you don't subscribe to the service or create your own guides, they are a tremendous resource for students and faculty at the secondary and higher ed levels.

Here are some examples of LibGuides that focus on the "lib" part from our staff:

August 18, 2010

Two New Writing Intensive Courses For This Fall

Two new Writing Intensive (WI) course sections will be offered for the first time this fall. Thirteen different courses will be offered as WI this fall in eighteen course sections. Most courses are offered face to face, but there are also 5 sections offered online as noted below.

ENS 106 M01 Public Speaking will be taught by Professor Risher.

This course prepares students for effective public speaking presentations. Students research, organize, write, and deliver a variety of speeches designed to inform, persuade, motivate, and entertain in diverse public settings.

For more information, see the Public Speaking LibGuide

BS-102-ME1 Biology II will be taught by Professor Greidanus. 

It is the basic study of representative organisms of the five kingdoms, with an emphasis on classification, differential features, and reproduction. For the plant and animal kingdoms, it covers fundamentals of development, physiological control systems, organ systems, nutrition, movement, ecology, and selected biological problems of representative organisms. The laboratory sessions include dissections and experimental studies of selected representative organisms for all kingdoms.

For more information, see the Biology II Libguide

Complete list of WI courses available to students this fall

Appreciation of Art
Biology II
Critical Thinking
Intro to Literature
Intro to Literature
Public Speaking
Western Civilization I
Western Civilization I
Western Civilization II
Appreciation of Music
Intro to Philosophy
Intro to Political Science
Intro to Psychology
Intro to Psychology
Intro to Psychology
Intro to Psychology
SC 104-M01
Environmental Science
Cultural Anthropology

August 16, 2010

The Bookstore Has Moved

The PCCC Bookstore has moved across the street to a new, larger location. They are now located at 125 Broadway Suite 104 on the ground floor of the Broadway Parking Garage complex (across from Wendy's and next to the DMV).

The 3100 square-foot facility is about 20 per cent larger than the former location, and has more room for clothing, backpacks, electronics, printer ink cartridges, and other peripheral supplies. A larger stockroom will permit the bookstore to keep more books and other supplies in stock.

Back-to-School Hours (Starts Aug. 28)
Mon-Fri 9:00 am 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am 12 noon

Visit the PCCC Bookstore Online