Author: Greg Underwood, English Department Chair at Pearl River Community College
As a chair, I helped oversee the Pearl River Community College English department’s shift from offering nine non-transferrable developmental hours before students could enroll in the traditional first semester writing course, to a track where those same students now directly enroll in a transferrable, four-credit hour first semester writing course.
We’re now in our second year, and our tracking numbers show that academically, students perform at or above the levels they did previously. Combined with the fewer developmental hours students no longer have to take, we now retain more students who complete graduation requirements faster.
We originally had two Developmental English courses and one Developmental Reading course. One of the English courses was paragraph-level, the other was essay-level. Based on testing indicators, students were placed in one of those English courses, or English Composition I, the college-ready level course. Any student enrolled in a Developmental English course was also co-enrolled in the Developmental Reading course.
The next step involved replacing that sequence with one five-credit hour, non-transferrable developmental, integrated reading and writing course. We used that model for two years. The next iteration had all students enrolled into college-level ready English Composition I. Students who needed remediation would enroll in a one-hour lab course to help with enrichment.
Finally, and after another two years, the lab course was dropped and the credit hour English Composition I course was created. We now have two courses, ENG 1113 and ENG 1114, both titled “English Composition I.”
HOW WE MEASURED SUCCESS
The basic measure was the percentage of students who successfully completed the first semester writing course under our 1114 model versus the percentage of students who would pass ENG 1113 with one or two prerequisite classes.
IF POSSIBLE, ADOPT DIGITAL EARLY
We were early adopters and had administrative buy-in, which always helps. We opted for a digital homework package to be used outside of class to maximize in-class time for writing instruction — a variation of a flipped-classroom model. That necessitated a partnership with Cengage. Once you go digital — with homework, ebooks, LMS integration — it’s absolutely essential that you work with a student-centered publisher you can trust, which is a hard combination to find.
ADVICE FOR SHIFTING TO A CO-REQUISITE MODEL
First, make sure you have a way to track what success is — if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Next, make sure you have buy-in from all interested parties, including faculty, staff, and administrators. Finally, be willing to change and adapt — it’s a process.
For faculty and adjunct training, try to have as much time as possible; we would pilot in the spring semester with a course or two and then implement department wide in the fall. Our co-requisite component was largely technology driven through MindTap, so we had folks from Cengage have multiple training sessions in the summer.