Online Directed Self-Placement at
Seton Hall University, a medium-sized diocesan Catholic university, had long used a writing sample, holistically scored by its own faculty, to place its students into College English I classes or a variety of “basic skills” classes. More recently the basic skills choice was changed to a “jumbo” course, a six-credit version of College English I, three credits of which do not count toward graduation. Faculty scoring ended several years ago when—lulled by the promises of efficient and reliable scoring from Accuplacer, an online service used to place millions of students each year—we allowed machines to score our students’ essays, even as we noted some anomalous results.
Up to this point,
the English Department had been able to set its own course. However, when the
College Board revamped the
Having the students take a DSP survey online would solve another problem: the Dean of Freshman Studies did not want students to have to focus on placement testing during orientation, which occurred in June. Students who lived at some distance from Seton Hall could not afford to come to the school on a separate occasion just to take a placement test or do online DSP. Putting DSP online solved this problem. Our site uses a combination of the web and a survey I created using an online survey-creation website.
However, I was
concerned about the elimination of the one-on-one conversations with students
that seemed an important part of the placement process as envisioned by Royer
and Gilles. For this reason, I built in the possibility of phone conversation
in cases where students’ placement seemed questionable. I also wanted students
to learn what it meant to read and write on the college level in a more
concrete way than I had seen in most other DSP programs. I chose a strategy
Once students took the online survey, three experienced faculty skimmed the surveys to see if the students’ decision made sense. In cases where it did not, a conversation with the student was required before a final placement decision was made. The tone of the conversation was to respectfully raise questions for the student, based on the survey, but to affirm that the student ultimately would make the choice.
Students were given a diagnostic test the first day of class. While it was not designed primarily as a placement tool, teachers were encouraged to approach students if their writing seemed particularly strong or weak to give them an opportunity to switch.
Resources for Exploring Online DSP