Robert L. Giron


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Montgomery College
Gival Press

Innovations 2012 Conference (Philadelphia, March 6th)

Make It Personal: Improving Student Retention & College Completion

Montgomery College-Takoma Park/Silver Spring
James Walters, Director of Student Life
Robert L. Giron, Professor / Chair, English Department
Stephanie Ndifohndung, Former Student of Prof. Giron's English 101A class

Background Information for Course Taught in Spring 2010:

General Course Information

EN 101 emphasizes the processes of critical thinking, reading, and writing. Students move from writing about personal experiences to writing for an outside, academic audience. Students write for different audiences and purposes using a variety of rhetorical strategies. Students will write in response to outside readings and will be introduced to appropriate documentation procedures. EN 101A teaches students the same skills as EN 101 but provides additional time for grammar and skills review.

All sections of EN101 and EN101A will participate in the portfolio pilot. To pass the course, students are required to submit a final portfolio that meets departmental requirements. Instructors will provide further information. The portfolio is separate from and in addition to the English Composition Folder required for this course.

EN 101: Studies in exposition. PREREQUISITE: Placement through assessment testing, successful completion of Basic English (EN 001 or EN 002 with a grade of A), or completion of EL 104 with a grade of C or better. Assessment level: RD 110.
Three hours lecture each week. 3 semester hours.

EN101A meets five hours per week.

Specific Course Outcomes
In order to pass EN101/A, student must gain competence in the following areas:

Writing Process:
• demonstrate the on-going writing process (pre-writing, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing)

• generate an idea that allows an essay and each of its paragraphs to be unified

• use thesis/idea, either clearly stated or implied, as the organizing principle for writing essays

• develop logical and coherent organizational patterns and paragraph structures

• use rhetorical strategies, based on audience and purpose, to develop essays

• develop a unified essay using personal observations, critical thought, and outside readings

• assess own writing progress and recognize areas for improvement

• incorporate appropriate feedback from peers and instructors when revising essays and provide effective peer feedback

• write essays that demonstrate an awareness of proper grammar and have few errors in mechanics

• use computers to draft, write, edit and research papers

• write a minimum of 4 essays of three pages or more

• select and prepare appropriate writing assignments to be included in final portfolios

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing:
• summarize and analyze readings
• articulate and support a position in response to readings
• develop own ideas in relation to words and ideas of others

Integrating outside words and ideas:
• incorporate words and ideas of others
• integrate information into essays by quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing
• demonstrate appropriate documentation procedures
• recognize and avoid plagiarism

1. The Bedford Reader (10th edition), by X. J. Kennedy et al.
2. Little Brown Compact Handbook
3. Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, ed. Robert L. Giron

Assignments Given:
1. Write an essay in which you explain the role your parent or caregiver has had in your life.

2. Now that you have brainstormed the positives and negatives (to you or someone in general) of being a parent or provider to someone, use that information to write a paper in which you focus on either the positives or negatives of being a parent or provider.

3. Now that you have thought about what some of the qualities of a supportive relative or person are, write an essay in which you define what it means to be a supportive relative or person. Be sure to use as many different development techniques/patterns as you can to make your essay as complete as you can.

4. Using at least 3 outside sources, write an essay on some aspect of planned-parenthood: a) Should planned-parenthood be mandated?
b) Should one be limited to the number of children he/she may have?
c) Whose responsibility is it to teach people how to be a parent?
(Use these questions to guide your choice of topic and how you argue your case in your paper; be sure to document all outside work used in the paper.)

5. After you have read the article “Briefly … Unplanned Pregnancy and Community Colleges” from the National Campaign, write an essay in which you address the following: Knowing what you know about this topic (both from class discussions, your previous essays, and the article itself), decide whether you agree or disagree with the premise of the article and in your development be sure to support your position. Be sure to quote or paraphrase from the essay as needed and cite the source.

Student Outcomes:

1. Students became aware of the advantages and disadvantages of being a parent / provider.

2. Students became aware of national and international policies on parenting and the need for planned-parenthood, as well as the complications of these policies.

3. Students wrote about their own positions in order to explain their own understanding of the issues of planned-parenthood.

4. Students questioned themselves with regard to parenting they received and the kind of parenting they might extend to their own children.

5. Students began to become familiar with poetic forms (we discussed specific poems from the poetry anthology) and discussed topics that were related to issues of relationships and parenting.

6. Students improved their writing and learned how to incorporate the ideas of others into their papers.

What I Learned Over Two Semesters (Fall 2009 / Spring 2010):

1. Students are interested in the topic and learned from focusing on these issues.

2. I modified my assignments (these shared above are from Spring 2010 as opposed to Fall 2009).

3. I provided more general background information and directed them to websites that were helpful and more specific to the topic of parenting and its issues.

4. I engaged the students by having them present the material I had them read / learn about but I pitched in when clarification and guidance was needed rather than presenting the material myself.

5. By having the students collaboratively focus on the material and present it to the class, they bonded and the class discussions were richer in Spring 2010 than the class discussions in Fall 2009.

6. I learned that it was crucial to connect the readings, discussions and writing assignments so that the thread of teen pregnancy and parenting in general was solidly bound into the course delivery.

7. Though I never asked students to talk about their private lives, I found that more students were willing to discuss their lives openly in class. Many more wrote about their lives in their papers, though some chose not to share these with the Program.

8. As many instructors know, it's important to let students know quite openly that their papers need not match the instructor's point of view; objectivity and critical thinking skills are the pillars for discussion, though one should honestly express his/her ideas when asked by students.

Student Comments Taken from Their Essays:

*Female Student:
"Community colleges should provide a comprehensive health service which not only focuses on physical fitness, but also emphasizes sex education more...It is essential for community colleges to pay more attention to preventing unplanned pregnancy in the first place. They can organize curricular or co-curricular activities that remind students of the consequences of unplanned pregnancies during their period of study in the colleges."

*Male Student:
"I think that the government and the private sector should invest more money in the community college system which will help the schools take steps to prevent unplanned pregnancy and promote healthy relationships among their students. The issue of teen and unplanned pregnancy is a public problem, so we (the people) should help those young mothers and fathers by supporting them mentally, emotionally, and financially because they and their children are the future of the nation and the whole world."

*Female Student:
"The National Campaign is not trying to point fingers but they are trying to 'improve the lives and future prospects of children and families and, in particular, to help ensure that children born into a stable, two-parent family, are committed to and ready for the demanding task of raising the next generation' (Briefly ... Unplanned Pregnancy and Community Colleges, 4)".

*Female Student:
"In this point in time, unfortunately sex sells. Sex is the new big thing among teens, television, ads, and shows. It's simply become an unavoidable topic.

I strongly agree delivering a powerful message can strongly influence the outcome of some behavior. People may stop engaging in reckless sexual behavior if they are constantly being alerted of the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. I wish I had received this knowledge before I had my daughter but I did not. Instead, I struggle through life, but I still hold my head high with a smile on my face!"

*Female Student:
"I believe that there are unplanned pregnancies because of lack of information or because people feel as though they won't get pregnant. Teenagers often fall target and are easily convinced to do certain things but what they don't often keep in mind is the possible outcomes. It's not just teenagers and young adults also fall victim to situations.

For most they have to simply witness and endure bad situations and learn for themselves; this is a downer and unpleasant but it's simply true. All we can do as people is get the word out and allow individuals to hear it for themselves. The voice that tells them to reconsider the bad choices that they might be making and help point them in the direction towards a life with purpose. Parents also need to allow themselves to start making it their purpose to explain and have personal talks with their children so they can at least have a better understanding of life. We all wish that we could improve the world in one way or another but it's truly impossible to make the world a perfect place."

—a teenage mother

*Male Student:
"Many colleges worry about unplanned pregnancies because many students drop out of college and go work to provide financially for the child. Some policy initiatives try to help some students with unplanned pregnancies by providing financial aid and other programs on prevention. Unplanned pregnancy is a serious issue and more programs should be available to educate people about prevention."

Personal Comment:

It may be unpopular to say but if any major change is going to happen it needs to start in the family and in churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques.

Educational institutions may move or positively affect the student in the classroom but actually the education needs to start much earlier.

Religious institutions must not ignore reality. This is the message I got from my students between the lines in their essays.