Advisement Built into the Online DSP


Once students finished the online DSP survey, I had access to it and read their responses, including their essay, which I scored on a 1-6 scale. If my reading of their survey corresponded with their reading, which happened about 60 percent of the time, I simply placed them in their chosen course. Put another way, if I thought their profile did not match the course profile, I wrote a slightly personalized e-mail, providing some feedback, explaining my thinking, and requesting a phone conversation. The conversation might begin with my asking the student if she had any thoughts about the e-mail she received from me. The response might be anything from “I didn’t think I had to take the survey that seriously” to “I think you’re right; I’m not that strong in English” to “I just think I’m ready for College English.” If her essay was particularly weak and she had admitted spending little time on it, I might ask her if she would consider writing the essay over again. If she spent a good chunk of time and tried her best, and she received high grades in her high school English classes, I might ask her about the kinds of papers she wrote. I might ask her to think about how she works under conditions when she does not quickly succeed. If it is a typical conversation, a decision emerges in a way that seems neither coerced nor permissive. However, I may have to remind her that, no matter what I say, ultimately she gets to make the decision since she knows herself better than I do. Sometimes I encourage the student to go back to the website to look over the course description and sample B paper, to talk with her parents and e-mail me in the next day or two. Often, in such cases, it’s clear that the student is taking the placement process quite seriously.


Of course, this process takes time. However, it does not take significantly more time or money than the traditional forms of testing. I estimated about 14 minutes per student, including reading the survey, making phone calls, keeping a database, and actually placing the students. The cost of placing the entire freshman class of about 1200 students (minus about 600 placed through verbal SAT scores of 550 and higher) will be $4,500 this year, divided among me and two senior writing faculty who agreed to do the work. This is the same budget we had during the Accuplacer regime, but it gives the student far more information about the writing program and invites students into a different relationship with their educational choices.