PART 1: Description of the Revised English Major, 2003-04

 

The English Discipline revised the structure of the English Major into its current form starting with the academic catalog for 2003-05. The changes are the culmination of a series of gradual movements after the conversion from quarter to semester structure, and the new major better reflects the current faculty's goals and interests (eight new faculty have been hired since semester conversion). Notable new features are the separation of the survey courses from more specialized topics courses (a distinction reflected below in the outline of goals for each course grouping), the addition of a cross-genre introductory course that takes the place of a poetry-only introductory course, and the addition of a public presentation of English majors' research essays at the end of each semester in the Undergraduate English Research Symposium. The separation of the survey courses–moving them from the 3000 to the 2000 level–results from the desire to make the relationships and distinctions among English courses clearer and to give students a more useful sequence to follow so that they did not wait, as many were doing, until their last year to take foundation courses.

 

For each stage of the new major, English faculty decided it was important to define the goals and, therefore, to understand clearly the distinctions from other stages. While not part of the major, College Writing or its equivalent is a prerequisite for the major, and we included description of it in order to clarify what writing experience we could expect from students beginning the major.

 

I. COLLEGE WRITING GOALS

 

Successful college writing students should be able to do the following:

 

Writing

 

Assess a writing situation/assignment.

State a thesis clearly.

Convey thoughts clearly to a reader.

Know that writing conventions, including what counts as evidence, differ by discipline.

Understand that writing is a series of rhetorical choices.

Understand writing as a process (invention, planning, drafting, revising, proofing, etc.)

Understand and recognize the basic conventions of effective academic writing.

Write papers that reasonably approximate the basic conventions of academic writing.

 

Argument

 

Consider their audience.

Create a specific and appropriate academic argument.

Adequately develop and organize an argument.

Use appropriate evidence in support of a claim.

Recognize the relative formality of tone.

 

Sources

 

Use multiple sources.

Paraphrase, summarize, and effectively quote sources.

Define terms.

Understand citation norms and use an appropriate citation format.

Understand plagiarism and academic integrity, and UMM's disciplinary procedures.

 


Revision

 

Make meaningful and substantive revisions.

Locate error patterns in their grammar and find answers/help in a reference book.

 

Critical Reading

 

Critically read and assess academic papers, their own and others'.

Offer meaningful, constructive comments, both in writing and orally, on student writing.

Read a text closely, which includes recognizing the author's argument and understanding what a sentence actually says and how it fits into the author's overall argument.

 

Policies

 

Requirements

 

All sections of College Writing (Engl 1011) will

Require at least 15 pages of finished, revised prose.

Require multiple drafts and revision.

Require peer critique.

Require at least one argumentative paper.

Require the use of multiple sources in at least one paper.

Require at least one individual conference with the instructor.

Require at least one visit to the writing room.

 

Missed work policies

 

Instructors will have a clearly stated absence policy on their syllabi.

 

Late papers will be penalized. Instructors will have a clearly stated late paper policy on their syllabi. Papers turned in late due to absences, excused or not, fall under this policy unless prior arrangements with the instructor are made and confirmed.

 

Students are responsible for contacting the instructor beforehand to arrange to make up work missed due to unexcused or excused absences. Confirmed.

 

Students who, due to an excused absence, miss in-class work or work assigned in class which can reasonably be completed outside of class time should be offered the opportunity to do so; however, it is the student's responsibility to make appropriate arrangements beforehand.

 

Created Spring 2002

English Discipline

 

 

 

II. Description of new introductory course, English 1131

 

English 1131 courses are designed to introduce students to and give them practice in the basics of literary interpretation. Students should become familiar with the foundational tools of literary and critical analysis; the course emphasis should be on learning to gather evidence from a text and to use that evidence to support interpretations of it.

            In order to achieve this, students should practice close reading skills on different kinds of texts. They should hone these skills with a series of short essays (at least 2), reading quizzes, and, possibly, exams. Students should learn not just what the text says, but HOW it says what it says–what kinds of writerly choices are made, how language is being manipulated, how narratives are being constructed. We aim, overall:

• to improve students' ability to READ carefully and actively,

• to improve students' ability to discuss literature analytically (to get them beyond what many say is the high school standard of a response paper), and

• to introduce processes of making a critical argument, covering such things as (in no particular order): discovering basis for comparison, identifying pattern/variation, assessing implication; both interpretation (assessing what seems to be in a text or piece of text) and critical reading (exploring the cultural and intellectual structures of a text).

Each instructor will design a syllabus that includes assignments that address these goals. Assessment will then be based on student work.

 

III. Description of 2000 survey courses

 

The survey courses provide students with overviews of literary history. Two survey courses are offered for each of American and British literary traditions, and English majors are required to take three of these four. The survey courses have three goals:

• to acquaint students with the influential forms, writers, and cultural movements of the period,

• to explain how literary practices are challenged and change over time, and

• to scrutinize the idea of tradition itself, including reference to relevant debates over canon formation.

Student performance in the survey courses is assessed through a combination of tests (e.g., quizzes, midterm and/or final examinations) and analytical essays.

 

IV. Descriptions of other 2000 level course offerings

 

A. Goals for the Introductory 2000 level courses, including Engl 2011, Introduction to Poetry; Engl 2012, Introduction to Fiction; Engl 2013, Introduction to Drama, courses explicitly for non-majors as well as serving as electives for the major:

• Students should engage in study of the various forms, stylistic techniques and terminology of the genre.

• Students should study changing historical perspectives and various schools of thought and national or cultural literatures within the genre.

• Students should develop the ability to communicate their ideas orally in small and large group settings.

• Students should write several papers analyzing and interpreting different literary works, which includes forming an interpretive perspective and presenting evidence from the text to support it.

 

B. Introduction to Creative Writing: Primary Course Goals

• To learn and practice the conventions of short story and poetry writing.

• To recognize a writer’s use of those conventions in contemporary short stories and poems and to think critically about the choices the writer made.

• To understand and practice the process of writing, including invention, drafting, reading and hearing critical feedback, incorporating feedback, and revising.

• To learn to provide coherent, specific written and oral feedback to peers about their writing.

• To learn the art of reading poetry and fiction out loud for an audience.

• To think critically about a writer’s role and responsibility in his or her communities.

• To recognize the connection between writer, audience, and purpose.

• To become familiar with a variety of reasons that writers write.

For A. and B., each instructor will design a syllabus that includes assignments that address these goals. Assessment will then be based on student work.


V. Descriptions of 3000 level courses

 

A. Goals for Advanced Expository Writing

The general goal of the course is to make students far more conscious of their choices in constructing sentences, paragraphs, and essays.  They should understand the rhetorical effects of grammatical choices, of choices in sentences patterns, choices in language, choices in rhythm and tone, and choices in ways to strengthen coherence and unity in paragraphs and essays.

 

The means to achieve these goals include extensive revision, peer evaluation, and intense editing of drafts by the instructor.  Students write and revise 4-5 essays, each in a substantially different writing mode (e.g. argument, recollection, reportage, analysis). 


Equally important are in-class workshops on a variety of topics, from sentence rhythm to paragraph cohesion.

 

B. Goals for Grammar and Language (3000 level)

As with other 3000 level courses, this course focuses on a single topic: the English language. It covers that topic, however, both from an historical perspective and in terms of its current structure, status, and variations. Students are to learn how to assess the structure of a sentence, how to use fully a complex dictionary, and how to evaluate grammatical and semantic structures. They should understand, too, how language changes and varies, and should be acquainted with some of the different approaches that exist to the study of language.

 

C. Goals for other 3000 level courses

1. Special topics in literature

These courses provide students with a focused study of an author (or grouping of authors), literary period, genre, or theme. The courses also introduce students to critical debate or scholarly research on the selected area of study, and develop the skills necessary for writing research papers and longer (5-15 page) papers.

 

2. Advanced Fiction and Advanced Poetry: Primary Course Goals

• To become familiar with the academic discipline of creative writing and other writing communities.

• To practice the conventions of short story writing/poetry writing and to understand how

making choices about those conventions affects the way readers will understand your work.

• To practice writing a variety of forms and styles of short stories/poetry.

• To continue to hone the process of writing, including invention, drafting, reading and hearing critical feedback, incorporating feedback, and revising.

• To continue to hone one’s ability to provide coherent, specific written and oral feedback to peers about their writing.

• To recognize the connections among writer, audience, and purpose, and to be able to coherently explain how these connections play out in your own work, your peers’ work, and the work of other writers.

• To reflect on one’s own reasons for writing.

 

For A., B., and C. above, each instructor will design a syllabus that includes assignments that address the goals laid out here. Assessment will then be based on student work.

 

 

VI. Description of 4000 seminars (capstone)

• Students will read and discuss secondary critical and theoretical texts as well as primary texts in a small group, seminar setting.

• Students will define and pursue a research project, the culmination of which would be a 10-15 page scholarly paper.

• Students will present their findings publicly at the biannual English Research Symposium.

 

 

Part 2. Rationale for Changes Described in Part 1 (2001-02 Assessment)

 

Description of English 1100 courses, 2001-02

 

In the catalog for 2001-03, the English major began with a Variable Topics course at the 1100 level. This was a new required prerequisite to English 2011, Introduction to Poetry, the gateway course for the major. English 1100 courses focused on an idea, period, author examined from a variety of perspectives. These courses were designed to introduce students to and give them practice in the basics of literary interpretation. Students were to become familiar with the foundational tools of literary and critical analysis; the course emphasis was to be on learning to gather evidence from a text and to use that evidence to support interpretations of it. In order to help evaluate the success of this course, the English discipline devised and administered a supplementary and voluntary evaluation to students in the courses in the academic year 2001-02 (survey included below).

 

 

Results of assessment of English 1100 Variable Topics courses, 2001-02

 

More non-English majors took these courses than English majors, and the topic of the course seemed to affect strongly whether or not the course was the student's first English course at UMM. This suggested that the topic was more influential than the skills in students' decision to take the course. Standard university evaluations indicated that students enrolled in these courses ranged from first-year to seniors.

 

Student responses to the voluntary survey confirmed that the course topic received more attention than the skills in responses to at least one of the courses, but in all, students did recognize the instructor’s concern with teaching analytical skills.

 

Overall, students found the courses improved their critical reading and writing responses (most answers were "agree" for all sections/ topics).

 

While the survey results indicated that the course was at least moderately successful, the range of students taking the courses and the emphasis given to literary topics did seem to detract from giving English majors in particular a solid set of skills for the remaining courses in the major. While the major included a separate prerequisite for poetry, majors could take upper division English courses with little preparation for or practice in analyzing fiction or drama. The range of student skills in each of these courses–advanced English majors could, and often did, take an additional 1100 course as an elective–and the lack of consistent attention given to analytical skills for fiction and drama led the discipline to discuss with majors the possibility of a more major-focused cross-genre course. The response was positive, and the discipline elected to combine the interests of its two prerequisite courses, Engl 1100 and Engl 2011, into a single course, Engl 1131, Introduction to Literature, starting fall semester 2003. Topics courses became then focused at the 3000 level, where student skills might be more consistent and thus where the courses may better serve the majors. In turn, we designated a range of 2000-level courses for non-majors as well as majors; these will be the courses that serve the campus as a whole, leaving Engl 1131 aimed primarily at majors.

 

Assessment of the success of this revision (Engl 1131) will take place in three ways: in 2000 and 3000 level courses, instructors will judge students' familiarity with literary analysis and compare the results across sections and courses; in the senior year, students will take an exit survey (see below) that will include student perceptions of the course's role in preparing them for subsequent English courses; at annual majors meetings, faculty and students will discuss the usefulness and applicability of Engl 1131 to subsequent English courses.


Please take the time to respond to questions about the English course, "Engl 1100 VARIABLE TOPICS TITLE HERE," which you took with Professor ______________. Your answers will be used to help improve the English curriculum.

 

Are you an English major?  Y   N               Was this your first UMM English class?  Y   N

 

1) What do you think were the major goals of this class, and was the class successful in meeting these goals?

 

 

 

 

 

CIRCLE OR PUT AN "X" BEFORE THE ANSWER THAT BEST DESCRIBES YOUR REACTION TO THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:

 

1) This class improved my ability to read carefully and closely.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

2) This class improved my ability to discuss literature.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

3) This class improved my ability to analyze a text by thinking about how different elements (like plot, tone, theme, characterization, figurative language, etc.) work to create meaning.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

4) This class improved my ability to create and support an interpretation of a literary work.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

5) This class improved my ability to consider and evaluate several different interpretations of a text.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

6) This class taught me to pay attention not only to what is said in a literary work, but how it is said.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

7) After taking this class, I notice choices that writers have made in texts more than I did previously.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

8) This class improved my ability to organize and write short papers.

 

strongly agree           disagree          not sure          agree               strongly agree

 

TO RETURN THIS SURVEY, FOLD IT SO THAT THE CAMPUS MAIL ADDRESS ON THE BACK SHOWS, STAPLE OR TAPE IT CLOSED, AND PUT IT IN CAMPUS MAIL. Thank you!

 

 

Assessment of upper-division English courses

 

Revision of the English major after the shift to semesters (Fall, 1999) included the addition of a capstone course, English 4000, Variable Topics Seminar. While the 3000 level courses strive to cover primary readings in some breadth, the 4000 level courses put more attention on context and critical approaches and do not strive, as a major goal, to cover as much of a period or field. This is the major's capstone course. Assessment of the success of the 3000 and 4000 level courses included on evaluation of skills in the capstone essay (the final product of the 4000 course), discussions with majors at annual meetings, the number of majors participating in campus and national research presentations or conferences, and the number of students eligible for student awards.

 

Results of assessment of upper-division English courses, and ongoing assessment

After two years of teaching the 4000 seminars, the discipline decided to add a presentation component to the capstone. The result of re-evaluation of the capstone yielded the following description.

The capstone courses have three major elements in common:

1)  Students should read and engage with secondary critical and theoretical texts as well as primary texts.

2)  Students should define and pursue a research project, the culmination of which will be a 10-15 page scholarly paper. This paper should synthesize the student's own literary analysis with other appropriate sources; in other words, by "research project" we do not mean a report or review of the literature on a text.

3)  Students are required to participate in research symposium occurring at the end of each semester. This will help to prepare students for campus awards and research events, to build intellectual community among English majors, and to encourage students to see their seminar research as having an audience and purpose beyond the professor. This symposium is held each semester during the last week of classes. Students not enrolled in 4000 level seminars who are writing papers for independent studies or 3000 level classes are also encouraged to participate. Faculty and other students involved in these seminars are the main audience. Students are encouraged to present research orally, preferably in a format more interesting than the "read a paper out loud" format typical of academic conferences.

 

Ongoing assessment of the success of this revised capstone will come from the public presentations, from student responses at majors meetings, and from the new exit survey.

 

The English Major Exit Survey will be given to senior students starting in 2003-04. The discipline will review the results annually, at the beginning of the fall semester, and use the results to discuss potential changes to the structure of the major and to courses within the major. As we accumulate results, the surveys will also be compared across years.

 


English Major Exit Survey - Part I

 

 

Name:_____________________________________________             Date:_________________

 

This portion of the survey will allow us to keep a record of your contact information and your immediate plans.

 

 

Please provide a permanent address at which you can be reached:

 

 

 

 

If you can be reached directly at a different address for the next year or so, please provide it here (e-mail acceptable):

 

 

 

 

What are your immediate plans for the next year?

 

 

 

 

What are your long-range career goals?

 

 

 

 

If you participated in any research projects outside of your classes (e.g., MAPs or UROPs), please describe them here.

 

 

 

 

If you publicly presented any of your work in English in a forum other than the senior seminar symposium, please describe the presentation and its venue here.

 

 

 

 

(Please note that the questions you answer for Part II of this exit survey should be answered anonymously.)


English Major Exit Survey - Part II

 

This anonymous portion of your exit survey will allow you to comment on the structure of the English major.

 

1=strongly disagree      2=disagree      3=no opinion      4=agree       5=strongly agree

 

( The English major has given me a solid foundation in the study of literature.

 

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Comments:

 

 

( The variety of course offerings and independent studies allowed me to pursue my intellectual interests.

 

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Comments:

 

 

( The required courses at the lower levels (1000 & 2000) effectively prepared me for more advanced classes.

 

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Comments:

 

 

( The 4000-level seminar [skip this question if you did not take one] was well designed as a capstone experience: it drew on the skills I had developed as an English major and challenged me to apply them to a more demanding project.

 

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Comments:

 

 

( The English major challenged me to develop analytical skills and to think critically.

 

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Comments:

 

 

( The English major helped me to communicate more effectively, both orally and in writing.

 

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Comments:

 

 

 



UMM Assessment Results Page