Teaching and Learning Project: Assessment Report

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Teaching and Learning Project: Assessment Report

English 90 – Spring 2005
College Wide SLO’s addressed/background information:

Developmental Education : English 90

English 90 Outcome: Write expository essays which integrate and synthesize course readings and are clearly focused, fully developed, and logically organized.
Research Question:

How effectively are we teaching students to write argumentative/persuasive essays that are clearly focused, fully developed and logically organized?

Study design

    • Method: All 90 instructors will assign a four to five page, typewritten, persuasive essay that draws upon at least three, and no more than five, short non-fiction articles that have been provided by the instructor or found within the course reader.  (Students should not be researching and finding articles/essays on their own for this assignment).  These argumentative/persuasive essays much include a concession/refutation.  Although English 90’s focus is not the teaching of formal argumentation, students should be aware of basic logical fallacies:  oversimplication, hasty generalizations, either/or thinking, faith-based reasoning.  This paper may be the last or second to last essay assigned. 

    • Sample: During fall flex, August ’05, we read and holistically scored 127 argumentative/persuasive essays from Spring 2005 English 90 sections (* see note below). These 127 essays were drawn from the 186 total essays received by a random sampling formula created by Myra Snell of the Math Department. (sample formula included below)

Scoring Technique: We used a holistic rubric for scoring essays.
Description of Proficiency: Using an agreed upon rubric, we assessed students’ work to be high, medium or low with proficient including all high and medium; not proficient included all low.
Expectations: Establish baseline data.
Results: from spring 2005
127 Essays (taken via random sample from 186 essays received)

H 8 (6%)

M 58 (46%)

L 61 (48%)

We assessed  52% of the papers to be proficient.  Of these, 8 papers (6%) were rated as High, and 58 (46%) were rated as Medium.

Meaning or Analysis

Analysis indicated once again that at least 13 (21%) of the non-proficient essays were given this grade due, at least in part, to the assignment.  In other words, the evaluators believed that the students could not produce a proficient, persuasive paper because the original assignment was faulty somehow (either it the assignments did not provide argument prompt – did not ask students to argue a contemporary issue in society -- or prompt did not address an issue there is an opposing side for). This affected results as participants were scoring papers based on a rubric for an argumentative paper, so even if essays were written relatively well, they received lower scores due to failure to address required argumentative elements.


After evaluating this analysis, Nancy Ybarra and I decided to recount the essays after taking out all essays in the Medium and Low categories that were written in response to faulty assignments (as defined in previous paragraph). (No essays written in response to these assignments had been included in the High category.) This recounting resulted in the following results:

Original Results

127 Essays (taken via random sample from 186 essays received)


H 8 (6%)

M 58 (46%)

L 61 (48%)

We assessed  52% of the papers to be proficient.  Of these, 8 papers (6%) were rated as High, and 58 (46%) were rated as Medium.
Revised Results

108 essays (19 essays from random sample removed because of faulty assignment)


H 8 (7%)

M 52 (48%)

L 48 (44%)

We assessed  55% of the papers to be proficient.  Of these, 8 papers (7%) were rated as High, and 52 (48%) were rated as Medium.
Revised Totals

The revised results shows an improvement of 3% in papers assessed as proficient. There was a 1% increase of essays in theHigh category (due to the total number of essays counted) , and a 2% increase in essays rated as Medium.

In addition, the evaluators noted problems with paragraph development, in particular, lack of unity and development of a topic sentence. They also noted problems with the following paragraph-level issues:

  • quote introduction, integration, and analysis.

  • In-text citation

  • Understanding of topic sentence as statement of a claim, rather than a statement of fact

On the essay level, evaluators noted problems with thesis statements that included student reasoning, rather than simple yes/no statements (For example: “The legal drinking age should not be lowered” rather than “The legal drinking age should not be lowered due to the risk of increased drunk driving incident.s”

An additional suggestion in terms of writing argumentative essays is that instructors work on argument as a mode of exposition from early on in the semester so that students are accustomed to the concept before this assignment.
In terms of sentence-level maturity, the evaluators noted a lack of transitions, and an abundance of run-ons and sentence fragments.
This information should be helpful as we design essay assignments for our students..
Use of results:

Action Plan: Continue to monitor instructor argumentative assignment to adhere to parameters of course outline and provide constructive feedback to instructors who need assistance early on in the semester. Post course outline argumentative essay requirements and model assignments on Blackboard for faculty to follow.

Suggest increased attention to paragraph development as well as argument as mode of exposition from beginning of the semester.
Timeline for Implementation: Fall 05

Responsible Parties: Joellen Hiltbrand

NOTE about number of English 90 sections used:

Due to an error on my part, I do not know how many sections of English 90 submitted the essays. I did not count how many sections submitted the essays before I created the sample.

There were 18 sections of English 90 scheduled in the beginning of the spring ’05 semester. I did not receive essays from either of M. Yeong’s two sections, nor from J. Ashmore’s section. In addition, I was not able to use K. Haskell’s essays because I had created the random sample before I received her essays (my speed in creating the sample rather than her delay in submitting the essays).
NOTE: sampling formula

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