Faculty Perspectives on Courses and Teaching

The Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) is an academic unit in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts that is dedicated to offering supportive services to students who are willing to work hard to achieve their academic goals. CSP offerings include advising, tutoring and a Summer Bridge Program, but one of its most important components is the intensive instructional model used in introductory courses. Over 600 students each term enroll for intensive instruction in a variety of courses such as English, Mathematics, Chemistry or Spanish. By design each section has limited enrollment, frequent one-to-one interaction between instructor and student, consistent performance feedback throughout the course of the term, and additional class meeting time.

Dr. Charles Taylor, who teaches ENGLISH 225, Argumentative Writing, offers the following faculty perspective on his course:

My Argumentative Writing course differs from most, I think, in that we make such extensive use of discussion. I try to get students to recognize how Standard Essay Form (intro/body/conclusion) is part of every meaningful communication transaction, including simple conversations, advertisements, and print and broadcast news reports. Learning to recognize the format in a variety of situations helps students to acquire a comfort with the patterns of organized expression, with the result that they are able to control and refine their own writing. Our discussions about these, and other concepts, gives students the chance to brainstorm collectively, and to enter the writing process through a communicative medium with which they are more at ease.

 

The extra time outside the classroom that CSP instructors receive allows me to meet with students within a flexible appointment schedule. I find that fixed office hours can accommodate the schedules of only a relatively small number of students, while the latitude available within our program affords the opportunity to offer them a much wider range of meeting options. More contact means more chances to walk students through the process of revising, that so-important aspect of writing with which many of them seem least comfortable.

 

I require four papers for my course, and insist that two of them be submitted in at least two drafts. Students also receive at least two opportunities to workshop their papers: one mandatory and one optional. Many of them have told me that the work-shopping component--intimidating at first--has turned out to be the most helpful aspect of the course. I sometimes incorporate an overall theme for the term, and often give to students who request it permission to deal with multiple facets of a single topic over more than one paper. This freedom has helped some to think in complex ways about issues for which only a single point of view might have been evident at first.