ADDENDUM TO WPA ARTICLE

 

Appendix C: Faculty Assessment of DSP

  1. Type the name of the first student’s last name. Please double-check the spelling, since the computer will match records based upon the last name.
  2. Type the name of the first student’s first name.
  3. What grade do you estimate this student would currently receive in your class if you had to give him/her a grade now?

A       A -       B +        B          B      C +       C         C -       D +      D       F

  1. Among the students in all your sections of this course, how would you rate this student’s overall writing and reading ability?

So capable that the student really doesn’t appear to need this class

Very capable of doing the work in the class

Capable of doing the work in the class

Marginally capable of doing the work in the class

Incapable of doing the work in the class

  1. How would you assess this student’s motivation to do well in your class, including the ability to translate that motivation into productive action?

Very motivated             Adequately motivated

Not very motivated                   Unmotivated

  1. What one or two things most characterize this student’s ability and/or motivation in your class? (Make this a short answer – a phrase or two.)
  2. Add anything else you wish about this student in relation to placement and actual success or struggles in your class (strictly optional)

 

Appendix D: Student Assessment of DSP

  1. Please indicate which is true of your placement in a first-year writing class. Please read carefully. Only one choice will be accurate for you.

I originally chose to be placed in College English I (ENGL 1201) and also

enrolled in College English I with Reading and Writing Workshop (ENGL

1201-0160).

I originally chose to be placed in College English I with Reading and Writing

Workshop (ENGL 1201-0160) and also enrolled in College English I with

Reading and Writing Workshop (ENGL 1201-0160).

I originally chose to be placed in College English I with Reading and Writing Workshop (ENGL 1201-0160) but in the end chose College English I (ENGL 1201).

I originally chose to be placed in College English I (ENGL 1201) but in the

end chose College English I with Reading and Writing Workshop (ENGL

1201-0160).

  1. My overall opinion of being able to place myself into my English class this fall was

Very positive    Positive  Mildly positive   Neither positive nor negative

Mildly negative Negative           Very negative

  1. This question is only for those students who received an e-mail from Prof. Jones wondering if you placed yourself correctly. Do you believe that the e-mail or phone conversation about your placement helped you make the right decision? (This process might have included revising your survey placement essay.) Please indicate in the blank space why you answered either “yes” or “no.”

Yes______________________________________________________            __________________________________________________________

No________________________________________________________            ___________________________________________________________

  1. Please state how much you agree or disagree with the following statements (on a scale of 1 to 7, in which 1 indicates that you disagree strongly, 2 that you disagree, 3 that you disagree mildly, 4 that you neither agree nor disagree, 5 that you agree mildly, 6 that you agree, and 7 that you agree strongly).

I believe that I placed myself in the correct level English course.

I believe that the placement process gave me an accurate picture of what to expect in my English course.

I did not take the online placement survey that seriously at first.

I spent at least 30 minutes on the online survey essay about gangster films.

  1. Please state how much you agree or disagree with the following statements (on a scale of 1 to 7, in which 1 indicates that you disagree strongly, 2 that you disagree, 3 that you disagree mildly, 4 that you neither agree nor disagree, 5 that you agree mildly, 6 that you agree, and 7 that you agree strongly).

Placing myself into the English course has motivated me to work harder or do better than I normally would in English.

I found the placement process clear and straightforward.

College English I is harder than I thought it would be.

  1. Answer this question only if you chose ENGL 1201-0160. Rate how important each of the following factors were in your decision to place yourself in English 1201-0160 (on a scale of 1 to 5, in which 1 indicates that the factor named was of no importance, 2 that the factor named was of minor importance, 3 that the factor named was of some importance, 4 that the factor named was important, and 5 that the factor named was very important).

Concern about my writing ability

Concern about my reading ability

Concern about my ability to do well in college

Concern about my ability to well in new situations

Having heard about the course from friends

Advice from parents, other family, or counselors

                        Conversation with Prof. Jones, the director of placement

  1. Answer this question only if you chose ENGL 1201. Rate how important each of the following factors were in your decision to place yourself in ENGL 1201 (on a scale of 1 to 5, in which 1 indicates that the factor named was of no importance, 2 that the factor named was of minor importance, 3 that the factor named was of some importance, 4 that the factor named was important, and 5 that the factor named was very important).

Confidence in my writing ability

Confidence in reading ability

Confidence in my ability to do well in college

Confidence in my ability to do well in new situations

Concern that the course did not count toward graduation

Having heard about the course from friends

Advice from parents, other family, or counselors

Conversation with Prof. Jones, the director of placement

  1. If there was another reason (or reasons) why you placed yourself in the course that you enrolled in, please explain it.
  2. Please let us know if there is anything else that seems important about how you placed into your English course or how well prepared you were for that course.
  3. If there is anything that you think we should change about the direct self-placement process, please feel free to write your thoughts below.
  4. Including your name will help the English Department understand more clearly how direct self-placement worked. It will allow us to link the directed self-placement survey you took this summer with these survey answers. Giving your name is strictly voluntary. If you choose not to give you name, I will not be able to tell who you are because there are about 150 students who will participate in the survey. If you agree to this request, please write your last name first.

 

Success by Cohort

            This section provides strong evidence that students who score lower on the verbal SAT and holistically scored placement tests may appropriately place themselves in a regular College English class because they have greater confidence in themselves as writers. p; Table 1 shows that, in general, students who placed themselves into College English I were stronger students—more able, more confident—than those who placed themselves into College English Intensive.

 

Table 1

Comparison of Significantly Different Predictors of Performance in DSP College English I and College English Intensive Students (n for College English I = 155, n for College English Intensive = 52; except n = 152 and 51 for grades)

Variable

College English I Students

College English Intensive Students

Course grade (0-4)

2.93

2.59*

# of papers per year in HS

7.0

6.0*

How teacher would rate skills (1-5)

3.75

3.43**

How you rate writing skills (1-5)

3.67

3.29***

Confidence in completing assignment (1-5)

4.26

3.94**

Confidence you identified main idea of Warshaw passage (1-5)

3.81

3.37**

Confidence you wrote with clear focus (1-5)

3.62

3.20**

Confidence you supported points by referring to text (1-5)

3.97

3.43***

Confidence you wrote without errors (1-5)

4.04

3.61***

Holistic score of placement essay

3.75

2.47***

Verbal SAT

525

479***

* Independent samples t-tests indicate that figure is statistically different from that in first column at p <

 .02 level.

** Indicates that figure is statistically different from that in first column at p < .01 level.

*** Indicates that figure is statistically different from that in first column at p < .001 level.

 

However, the dynamics of choice show up much more clearly when the data is analyzed by decision cohort. That is, students made original choices for College English I or College English Intensive; then I evaluated those decisions and, in some cases, questioned them; finally those who were questioned decided to go with their original decision or to switch.  There were six such cohorts:

  1. Students who chose College English I and whose decision I did not question
  2. Students who chose College English Intensive and whose decision I did not question
  3. Students whose College English I choice I questioned but who stayed in College English I
  4. Students whose College English Intensive choice I question but who stayed in College English Intensive
  5. Students whose College English I choice I questioned and who decided to switch to College English Intensive
  6. Students whose College English Intensive choice I questioned and who decided to switch to College English I

 Because there were very few students in the cohorts that ultimately chose College English Intensive, I combined them for the purposes of making statistically significant discoveries. I also deleted the sixth cohort because there were so few of them. The statistically significant differences among the three final cohorts appear in Table 2. The most interesting finding is that among students marginally qualified for College English I, confidence may play a more important role in their success than sheer verbal ability or experience.

 

Table 2

Comparison of Verbal Ability/Experience/Confidence/Course Grade by Cohort for DSP Students

  (n for College English Intensive = 46, n for Unquestioned College English Is = 104, n for  

  Questioned College English Is = 45)

 

Unquestioned College English I Students

Questioned College English I Students

College English Intensive Course Students

Significance*

Course Grade

2.95c

2.87

2.56a

.043

Survey Essay Score

4.13b,c

2.90a,c

2.51a,b

<.001

Verbal SAT Score

537b,c

504a,c

480a,b

<.001

HS Composite Confidence Score

11.97c

11.47c

10.53a,b

<.001

Warshow Composite Self-Assessment Score

16.02b,c

14.55a

13.57a

<.001

Number of Books Read

4.45b,c

3.71a

3.82a

.001

Number of Papers Written

7.39b,c

6.22a

6.09a

.002

Superscripts designate the cohort(s) from which the given datum differs significantly, based upon Bonferroni or Dunnett’s T3 statistical tests: a = Unquestioned College English I, b = Questioned College English I, c = College English Intensive course.

* Significance refers to p value for the ANOVA, except in cases where variances were not homogeneous. In these cases, the Brown-Forsythe statistic is given.

This finding arises from a comparison of the three cohorts. As a group, the Questioned College English I students seem to have an ability profile that more closely matches the College English Intensive student but a confidence profiles that more closely matches the College English Intensive student. (See Fig. 1 and 2.) On the one hand, this should hardly be surprising, since I tended to question those students with low survey essay scores and, to a lesser extent, low verbal SAT scores. Nevertheless, the following analysis suggests that confidence may be what makes the Questioned College English I student succeed on the level of “regular” College English I student despite significantly lower ability and/or less writing experience.

Fig. 1. Comparison of Verbal Ability/Experience by Cohort (n for Intensive Course = 46, n for Unquestioned College English Is = 104, n for Questioned College English Is = 45)

Fig. 2. Comparison of Confidence Levels and Course Grade by Cohort

 

All College English Intensive students had lower course grades than the Unquestioned College English I group, but while not significantly different, the Questioned College English I students’ course grades were much closer to the Unquestioned College English I students’ than to the College English Intensive students’ (2.95 vs. 2.87 vs. 2.57). However, variables related to academic background like survey essay score or number of books read or papers written show that the profile of Questioned College English I students is more like the profile of the College English Intensive student and that both are different from the Unquestioned College English I students (see Fig. 1): Both Questioned College English I students and College English Intensive students are academically weaker than Unquestioned College English I students and, likewise, they are less prepared academically than Unquestioned College English I students. Significant differences obtain among all three groups’ verbal SAT scores and survey essay scores. These patterns are not true in relation to the High School Composite Confidence score. The Questioned College English I students have confidence more like the Unquestioned College English I students than the College English Intensive students. (Note, however, that Questioned College English I students rated their survey essay more like the College English Intensive student than the Unquestioned College English I student.) Thus it suggests that the Questioned College English I students’ ability to persevere and achieve at a high level may have more to do with confidence, or self-efficacy, than with tested academic performance or previous academic experience.

 

Online Research:  Gender Differences

            To illustrate the kind of research that may be done based upon collection of data from online survey that can be a normal part of placement evaluation, I would like to discuss some disturbing trends in relation to perceptions of and success of male vis-à-vis female students. Of the 15 students judged to be marginally capable of doing the coursework, 11 were male. Most telling, male students’ motivation was rated lower than females’ (3.0 vs. 3.36 on a 5 point scale, p = .001). Of the 21 students judged to be less than adequately motivated, 14 were male. The less motivated female students eventually averaged a B-; the less motivated male students scored between a C and a C- (if the two men who did not finish the term are not included). At the end of the term, 9 female students had grades of C or below; 20 male students did. Yet the 14 males labeled less motivated came into the course feeling just as confident, on average, as the 7 females did. Also, of the 14 less motivated male students, 8 received lower than projected grades and 2 withdrew. Of the 7 less motivated female students, only 2 received lower than projected grades. Overall, male students’ projected grades were lower but not significantly (2.65 vs. 2.8), but male students’ final course grades were significantly lower than females’ (2.61 vs. 3.04, p = .004). The shift between the projected grade and the final grade was significantly different for male and female students (p = .027). Yet, overall, male students did not have significantly lower verbal SAT scores or significantly higher survey essay scores, nor did they write fewer papers in high school. They read fewer books and magazines but read more newspapers.

            The research related to gender and composition reviewed by Reynolds shows that female students outperform male students in writing from a very young age and that male students are more apt to be apprehensive about writing (94-100). Reynolds thought that the literature was ambiguous about whether male students would be more or less apt to place themselves in College English. On the one hand, they tend to be more confident than their ability would suggest; on the other hand their apprehensiveness might lead to placement in basic writing courses. At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, male students were more apt to place themselves in the less advanced writing course; and the authors concluded this was likely due to male’s greater writing apprehension (Blakesley, Harvey, and Reynolds 226-228). However, they did not control for writing ability. That is, male students could have placed themselves based upon their knowledge of weaker verbal ability, not based upon lack of confidence per se. At Northeastern Catholic University, with writing ability and background about the same, male students were more apt to decide to stay in College English I when I questioned their placement (28 men vs. 22 women). However, the difference in the male and female students’ final grades in this cohort was similar to the difference in grades for the entire DSP population.

            These findings raise more questions than do answers. Why should a group of male students who are as well prepared, able, and confident as female students perform more poorly in their first-year writing course? Are young men simply not as interested in writing—or in the subjects that they are writing about, or in writing classrooms—as women? Do faculty perceptions of male students have to do with something beyond verbal ability or achievement? Do faculty perceptions of lacking motivation influence the performance of these male students? Interestingly, both male and female teachers perceived male students to be less motivated than female students. However, whereas male teachers did not grade male students significantly lower than female students (2.72 vs. 2.96, , p = .258), female teachers did (2.53 vs. 3.09, p = .006). Also, male students in female teachers’ classes dropped their grade significantly from their projected grade, where male students in male teachers’ classes did not. Thus, the problem of gender and writing achievement may be compounded by gender and teaching practices.

 

Appendix F: Means and Standard Deviations for DSP Survey Data

Variable

All Students (n = 220)

Men (n = 111)

Women (n = 109)

 

Mean

Stand. Dev..

Mean

Stand. Dev.

Mean

Stand. Dev.

Course grade

2.85

.892

2.67

.952

3.03

.794

Books read/yr.

4.08

1.24

3.9

1.29

4.26

1.17

Newspapers read/wk.

1.98

1.46

2.34

1.63

1.60

1.17

Magazines read/wk.

1.60

1.10

1.47

1.03

1.74

1.17

Number of papers/yr.

6.81

2.43

6.83

2.31

6.79

2.55

HS teachers’ assessment of skills

3.68

.668

3.60

.704

3.76

.622

Your assessment of skills

3.59

.638

3.60

.664

3.58

.613

Ability to complete writing assignment

4.18

.696

4.24

.677

4.11

.712

Composite confidence score

11.45

1.65

11.45

1.72

11.45

1.60

Confidence in identifying main idea

3.71

.815

3.77

.831

3.65

.798

Confidence in having clear focus

3.52

.830

3.50

.796

3.54

.866

Confidence in providing evidence

3.85

.848

3.86

.883

3.85

.815

Confidence in writing without errors

3.92

.801

3.90

.820

3.94

.785

Composite essay confidence score

15.00

2.63

15.03

2.62

14.98

2.65

Essay score

3.44

1.04

3.48

1.03

3.39

1.06

Verbal SAT score

516

46.3

512

41.5

520

50.6