At the beginning of each term, I try to write a new introduction to my syllabus for each class. One reason is that I like to think about the material we’ll be covering in some interesting and new way, and I like to share a bit of my first thoughts with students through this writing. Here’s an example from Fall 2013:
For many years, community colleges thought that it would be best to have as many levels of math or composition below college transfer English to address the needs of students with different abilities. Some campuses, like CCSF, built 6 classes below transfer, which meant that it would take about 2 years just to get into a transfer class (and this assumes that a student would take all of the classes in order without skipping a semester, failing, or just giving up). A few instructors thought this seemed ridiculous and conducted a study. Well, not surprisingly, creating more classes and longer periods of time before getting into “real college” didn’t work; students failed, skipped classes, dropped out, and gave up. That model, which still exists on some campuses, is now considered a failure.
To combat this problem, these researchers offered a solution: accelerated learning. Rather than create more levels below transfer, they hypothesized that if they could create fast-paced, intensive courses that would move students to transfer-level as quickly as possible and with as much support as they could afford, students would be “college ready” faster. And, in their trials, they found this to be true. At BCC, the English department has taken this research to create English 204.
What makes this course special is that all students who assess below transfer, or who decide they don’t feel ready for English 1A will have 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of time in a lab with the instructor and tutors each week. They will be doing the same work that is assigned English 1A but with a great deal more support. At the end of the semester, along with every other English 1A & 204 student, you will turn in a portfolio of your writing that will be graded by two faculty from our department, and if you demonstrate English 1A competence, you can earn credit for that course.
As with all new things, along with all of the energy and enthusiasm we generate to make things work, there will be plenty of mistakes and confusion; I am asking for your patience and forgiveness to make it through the tough times, and for your energy and enthusiasm to help us achieve our goals.
Welcome to the class!