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Four classes undergo redesign to align with Momentum Approach

2019-11-01-Momentum-Approach-English composition 2
Dr. Molly Daniel, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at UNG, said she has seen a difference in her students since she has implemented a pilot program of the English composition class. redesign is part of the University System of Georgia's (USG) Momentum Approach strategy.

Educator for English composition classes this fall at the University of North Georgia (UNG) are teaching the course with a different approach and new academic mindset.

Instead of assigning students a paper to write then moving on to another assignment, they can write a few drafts and select the best one for their English composition portfolio. The bulk of their class grade will be based on the portfolio, said Dr. Michael Rifenburg, associate professor of English at UNG.

"We want students to see this foundational writing class as a process, not a product," he said. "The portfolio model involves brainstorming, multiple drafts, revising and editing, and overall developing strong prose."

The English course redesign is part of the University System of Georgia's (USG) Momentum Approach strategy, which aims to increase student success with a tripod strategy of "Start, Enter and Follow." UNG has implemented the "follow" strategy this fall in three ways.

The first was to revise the curriculum of four courses and implement the changes in a pilot project at UNG. USG selected the required English and college algebra, while UNG officials picked U.S. history and introduction to psychology. All USG institutions are participating in the Momentum strategy, but are at different places in the process.

"They are high-enrollment courses," said Dr. Eugene Van Sickle, assistant vice president of Strategic Student Success Initiatives at UNG and a faculty member in the Department of History, Anthropology and Philosophy. "Many students take these but not all students are successful."

Once a committee revised the curriculum, a few faculty started teaching the redesigned classes. Dr. Molly Daniel, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at UNG, said she has seen a difference in her students.

"Students focus on higher order things like content and organization when we have multiple drafts," she said. "I give detailed feedback in one draft and their time to draft more revisions is extended."

Daniel, co-director of first-year composition, said she is noticing improved drafts among her students, who see how their writing progresses.

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Students in Dr. Molly Daniel's composition class work on a writing assignment. This year's course allows students to write a few drafts and select the best one for portfolio, which will count for a bulk of the grade.

Rifenburg, who helped redesign the English course as co-director of first-year composition, said he and a research student are collecting data to see if the new curriculum works. Based on early interviews with students, the English composition class is having the desired effect.

"Students appreciate the time to slow down and reflect on what they are writing," he said. "They like not being on an assembly line of writing assignments."

The second Momentum Approach strategy implemented is providing students extra support in the classroom.

"They are given a toolkit," Van Sickle said. "They are guided on how to take notes, how to study and how to read for the class."

Dr. Jonathan Beall, assistant professor of history, has directed his students to the history toolkit on D2L or eLearning@UNG website throughout the semester. For the two writing assignments, Beall displayed the assignments before the class and explained the instructions, which helped them understand how to approach the assignments.

"This time around the papers are better," Beall said.

The third initiative was advance scheduling for 4,400 new students. Van Sickle said before the students arrived at UNG's orientation, they filled out a questionnaire about their academic interests.

"Based on their answers, we built a course schedule for full-time and part-time students," he said. "They could change it when they arrived at orientation. Many of them didn't."

A survey by UNG's Orientation and Transition Programs reveals 85 percent of students liked the pre-arranged schedules.

The bonus was advance scheduling eased headaches for most departments across campuses. Van Sickle said it helped determine how many sections of a course to offer.

"It didn't seem as hectic to schedule classes as in the past," he said.

This approach along with the rest will be evaluated and altered as needed before more courses and curriculum are changed, Van Sickle said.

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