English department changes introductory course format

Starting next fall, FMU will be changing the composition courses that are available for students. It used to take students three semesters to complete their composition requirements; the amount of time will be shortened to two semesters, students will only take English 101 and the English 102.

At a first glace it might seem that the change will simply do away with one of the classes, Dr. Rachel Spear, one of the main English professors involved in the transition, explained that that’s not the case.

“Students will receive analysis and argument skills in that first course and develop research and transfer skills, in that second course,” Spear said. “No course is being cut; no course is being split. Rather, a new sequence is centered on new courses developed in a way that accounts for students who might need or want more scaffolding of assignments as well as additional support in that first semester.”

Part of implementing this new program means that students will be given the opportunity to select between a traditional English 101 or an “extended” version of English 101 that first semester. English 101 is a traditional class, and English 101E (extend studio) has a corequistite of a writing studio (or English 101L). The latter is supplemental instruction, which will give students more writing practice and opportunities to revise their work.

While English 101 and English 101E are marginally different, they will be covering much of the same material while reaching the same goals. The main difference will be in how the professors help their students arrive at the end result.

With this change comes a much smaller classroom size. While professors used to have a room with up to 23 students, the new program will only allow 15 students in each class. This cut in the classroom sizes will give the students the ability to interact with their professors more and receive more feedback on their writing.

“Studies across the board highlight that smaller composition class sizes are largely beneficial in various ways for all students but especially at-risk students,” Spear said.

Before implementing these changes, FMU explored how other universities have reconstructed their composition programs. For example, Rider University is investigating this movie from a three course composition program to  a two course program, and the University of Arizona is an example of a successful implementation of the “Adapted Studio Model,” which allows students to receive extra help.

“While we discussed a couple iterations of what might work best for our institution and our students, we decided on the twosemester sequence with additional support through the self-selected studio,” Spear said.

With these new changes, FMU hopes that the new courses will help students strengthen the analytical and argumentative tools that they learned in their last years of high school as well as decrease the amount of issues that transfer students face.