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