Effects on ASU Students

Increasing the instructor course load to 5/5 will affect ASU students in the following ways:

  1. Delaying feedback on writing assignments. Currently the department standard for turning back essays is two weeks. The NSEE’s “Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice” asks for one week. Since Writing Programs supports a process-based pedagogy, we often read multiple drafts of students’ work before students submit the final draft. However with a 5/5 load, many of us will be spending 37.5 hours on campus between teaching and office hours, leaving us little time in our schedules to grade papers and comment on drafts. Thus, it would be likely that students won’t be receiving feedback on graded essays for 3-4 weeks after turning them in. This will mean that most students won’t get graded feedback in time to write subsequent papers. As most ASU students value their grades and their education, they will be frustrated and discouraged by this, transferring much of that frustration onto their instructors.
  2. Reducing the likelihood of out-of-class contact with faculty.
    • Conferences: Currently instructors reserve the right to cancel classes in order to hold individual conferences with students to discuss feedback on drafts or final grades on essays. With a 5/5 load, this means that instructors will try to meet with all 125 students in a week’s time to work one-on-one with students on their projects. Any instructor working within the current 4/4 load paradigm can express how exhausting, yet meaningful these conferences are to student success. However, transitioning from a 4/4 to a 5/5 load decreases the likelihood that instructors will choose to provide students with individual attention . Furthermore, trying to accomplish 125 one-on-one engaging meetings within one week is untenable. This conflicts with NSEE recommendations for student engagement with faculty outside of class as well as CCCC’s position statement on Writing Assessment).
    • Office Hours: Currently, instructors are required to hold 4 hours of office hours a week. During peak weeks (when rough drafts or papers are due) students often try to see their instructors during office hours. If students were to meet with their instructor for an average of 15 minutes each, this would mean  that instructors have 16 time slots available during office hours. Therefore, when teaching a 5/5 load t instructors will have the time in office hours to see approximately 13% of their students, and will most likely be forced to turn students away or spend additional time (of which they have little since 37.5 hours a week will be spent on teaching and formal office hours) meeting with students.
  3. Technology: As ASU values entrepreneurship, it also values technology. Our students, as digital citizens, expect a level of technology use in the classroom including (but not limited to): email communication, digital content (in both face to face, hybrid, and online courses), electronic availability of grades, and instruction in digital composition environments (youtube, facebook, blogging platforms, twitter, instagram, etc). Creating courses that are in keeping with ASU’s  “innovation challenge” and the positioning of students as embedded digital citizens takes time. With a 5/5 load, instructors won’t have much time to build and revise digital course content. Also, email communication will be limited.  The  CCCC’s position statement on Postsecondary Teaching of Writing maintains,”Sound writing instruction depends upon frequent, timely, and context-specific feedback to students from an experienced postsecondary instructor.” Because students will often ask for this feedback digitally (i.e. via email or an LMS messenger), instructor ability to reply to students in a timely manner is necessary. Currently, instructors mostly strive to return students’ emails within 24-hours on weekdays; however, with 125 students contacting instructors multiple times during the semester, instructor contact with students via email or technology will be reduced.
  4. Dis-incentivizing Instructors’ numerous student retention efforts for a critical population of ASU freshmen and sophomores: Currently, ASU English Instructors are critical to student retention rates. Our classes are smaller (versus large intro/survey sections typical of other first-year offerings) and require one-on-one contact with students, providing a sense of connection and community that can be difficult to find in a large university. At a large university, relatively small classes help drive student retention because students often feel a connection to their writing instructor. Additionally, writing instructors do the following: send e-mails to remind students of excessive absence penalties, provide academic coaching and  opportunities for revision; send both formal and informal academic status reports, etc. Many of this work falls on the administrative side of teaching and can take up a huge amount of time. With the increased workload, tracking  individual student progress will be difficult to achieve, and as a result more students may fail due to absences. Furthermore, often students who  are having “adjustment” issues within their first year will discuss these issues with mentors they feel most comfortable with–and these mentors are often first year writing instructors. English Instructors consistently  provide students with emotional support in the form of  discussions in office hours ” counseling referrals, mental health check-in, etc. We believe that our function as facilitators of retention and the emotional support we provide for students are critical “unwritten” job functions. However, as our student population increases, adequately supporting students while performing the regular course design, grading, and content delivery of the instructor job will become untenable. As a result, student retention rates may drop in our courses. Furthermore, on the subject of  “troubled students” ASU counseling services claims, “often faculty and staff are in a pivotal position to positively influence a student and encourage the student to seek help.” However with more students and an increased workload, we can easily miss key signs of a disturbed or distraught student.

In summation, while Instructors are deeply impassioned about their jobs, increasing the workload will force instructors to make hard decisions to cut demonstrably valuable  content and practices from courses. We’ve outlined some of the major effects these will have on students above, but we certainly haven’t covered all of them.

 

 

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