Sunday, July 16, 2017
Suggestions for Research
I would like to see more studies about advising, but with a focus on implementation. How well does a new "high impact" practice perform when installed at a new place, and why? How long does it take for the new practice to pay off? Can it survive a change in administration? What are the costs and benefits?
I like your reverse transfer idea, but it would require a lot of care at the design stage. We have reverse transfer students who only take a few classes, and not just in the summer. (In my experience, they are students who put off a Soph-level class and now can't schedule it at their own university to fit with their upper-level classes.) We identify those as transient students, but they aren't actually coded that way. A study needs to focus on students who transfer with around 30 credits with "a lot" of failing grades. The tricky part is that "a lot" is in the eye of the university beholder and they usually aren't below a 2.0. They just exceed some threshold that varies from school to school. If you can figure out how to collect the correct population, this could be extremely valuable. What is their success rate? How does that depend on their mindset about the challenge level of classes at a community college? (You can guess that I have my collection of anecdotes about that.)
The one about budget cuts would be interesting if it was possible to set up a case control pairing colleges with similar situations. I fear that would be a challenge.
Now about a study of administrative bloat? We are getting smaller (and have a smaller budget) but our non-teaching professional staff and administration is getting bigger. Because that would be about a time series for a given institution rather than a cross-sector comparison, it might have a better chance of making sense.
The people who got RIFed for speaking out might be the lucky ones: get out now while the getting is good, because the angry remaining faculty are unlikely to cultivate retention, happiness, and light for the tiny incoming class of students, and it is unclear how their MA program in creative writing will do without the leader of that program! How long will this one last after that management decision?
But that college has something most do not: Squaw Valley practically in its backyard and a ski team (and other prep school favorites like lacrosse) to bring in paying students. Maybe they don't need any classes at their college as long as the large fraction of their student body participating in intercollegiate athletics doesn't need large discounts to draw them in.
And the combination of a large (and likely expensive, since they must have to travel a long ways to compete) sports program is something they share with Bethune-Cookman. I don't know if Burlington College had sports in conjunction with a poor decision about borrowing a lot of money, but that combination might make it and Bethune-Cookman good candidates for a study of college management and Board oversight.
I was most interested in your comments about ESL. Coming from a background in Applied Linguistics and Composition I have taken many of my thoughts about ESL course work from Ilona Leki, Rebecca Leonard, Paul Matsuda and Suresh Canagarjah. What I have found since I started teaching multilingual (MTL) students and have kept in touch with colleagues at other institutions, is that one specific approach cannot work in each and every context. For instance, at my community college the demographic that we serve come from a variety of linguistic backgrounds, generally speaking and writing in a localized variety of English that was learned either as an additional language or along side their dominant language while growing up. Either way, the English they have to learn for college in the US is different and that distinction must always be made. And, really, no one speaks standardized English (Academic or edited English) as a first language, right?
Since learning how to use and edit it for more formal contexts is so challenging for these students, I like the idea of promoting academic genres from the beginning. This is where the research comes in for me. I have proposed to look at the retention rates of students over a three year period after having been exposed to the academic genres they will be asked to demonstrate early in their academic career. When I say early here, I mean as soon as they enter into their "ESL" writing courses. Often in the English disciplines we teach genres that do not always translate well across the disciplines. For those who speak English as their dominant language, the shift from rhetorical argument to lab report might be easy, but it's not the same for those who don't speak English as a dominant language and who have not been exposed to the spatial or formal features of the writing. I think it's also important to say that these genres should come from the disciplines at the college where the students are, these should be collected from faculty across disciplines and should not be the only writing students do, as I still think narrative and argument are important, too.