Tuesday, January 29, 2019

DR C's Academic Online Cruise: Week Two—Testing Trainees and Argumentation Topics

To read the initial post about DR C's Academic Online Cruise, go HERE.  


Day One 

Well, my plan to write in this blog at the end of each week has not come to fruition. I find that the first week of paper checking and other responsibilities as a captain have made it difficult to do. However, here I am, now, reporting “fer duty.”

I do my best to return graded papers as soon as possible. Generally, I have papers graded and returned by the next class session. Knowing that this first set may need me to make several detailed comments on the content presentation and marking of grammatical and mechanics errors, I am glad I have had the whole weekend to check these papers.

Experience has taught me that, most of the time, the first paper is not the most stellar. And checking these papers takes time. At least for me, even the best paper takes me about thirty (30) minutes. 

For me, just writing a few phrases of praise or pointing out an issue is not sufficient. I use a rubric and use it as a guide for my trainees to follow in addition to my comments and markings. One of the ways that I show my commitment to this marriage is my thorough effort in the checking of my trainees’ papers.

Also, as shared earlier, I am extremely committed to working on retention. Besides the use of a metaphor that works to develop some kind of unity among the trainees, research can be valuable. 

Testing the Trainees

I use two testing instruments that I used during my doctoral studies. One of the instruments addresses the issue of academic motivation. The other deals with the issue of one’s perception of how much a student feels a responsibility for outcomes.

Information regarding these issues can help me perceive how students may react when they do well on a paper or not well. Then, this can make me more proactive in anticipating and enacting ways to encourage students not to give up and continue to try in spite of a grade received.

So, at the beginning of this session, I passed out one of the testing instruments. Then, I passed out the graded papers. After doing that I emphasized that each person’s final grade for his and her life on this cruise will be based on improvement. So, I placed on the board a worst-case scenario hypothetical:

First paper’s grade: E = 50%
Second paper’s grade: D- = 60%
110 divided by 2 = 55% = E [2/3 of midterm grade]

Midterm Exam grade: C = 75% [1/3 of midterm grade]
185 divided by 3 = 60% = D-

However, since I grade on improvement, that student would earn a midterm grade of C-. Why? It is important that the student who has worked hard to earn a C (75%) for his/her midterm exam paper deserves to receive a reward for this hard work. And that is why I do not do straight math when determining the midterm or final grade of my student trainees.

It is necessary that my trainees know they are not “doomed” if they earn a poor grade. I am “in their corner” (a saying my Daddy would say to me with every endeavor that challenged me).

So, as I share this information, I did not see shoulders droop; I see some smiles. I perceive I have allayed many fears among my trainees.

"Excuse me, Am I Boring You?"

After covering this issue, I move toward discussing more about the theme they have written. I encourage any inquiries.

I observe that some are continuously looking at the clock. Perhaps, I am boring? I am not egotistical. Boring is not one of the criticisms I receive when from my previous trainees. My concern? If trainees are not focusing on what is being taught, then, the same mistakes will be made in future papers. I want to make it clear that in this advanced composition cruise I demand total attention and concentration. I want to make certain everyone is focused and understand what has been taught and presented in these cruise sessions.

So, at the end of this session, I assigned the trainees to write an introductory paragraph in class about the power of language as taught. They, also, are to assess the work themselves by answering the following questions:

1. Does the paragraph have an effective thesis? (20 pts. earned)
2. Does the paragraph have an “attention getter” beginning sentence? (20 pts.)
3. Is this paragraph well-developed? (40 pts.)

Ten points extra credit earned by virtue you tried. 

The session ends pleasantly with many more seeing the importance of paying attention continuously.😌

Day Two

Next week, a definition theme is due. Also, the argumentation midterm exam assignment will be due within a month. I discuss the importance of being able to define terms. The definition theme requires that each trainee defines himself or herself.

The argumentation midterm requires the trainees, keeping in mind that their audience is the US Congress, to write on a topic to convince Congress to enact or not enact a law.

The first step requires each trainee to propose and post a topic on Blackboard. It is there I shall approve or not approve the proposed topics. To avoid any “campaigning” for a topic, everyone is to post in the following format: “For or Against [name the national or international issue].” I offered two topics to serve as examples: “For or Against Capital Punishment” and “For or Against Stem Cell Research.”

My trainees have been busy posting. All posts are due by the end of this week. I have promised to render my decisions no later than the first day of Week Three.

How Do You Define Yourself?

Now, my discussion about definitions is quite relevant for both assignments. First, one needs to be able to define the self. I point out the ability to cope with a bully is based on how well the individual knows himself or herself. 

I demonstrated in class how I handled that situation as a youngster and as a professional. I emphasize my having the support of my parents whom I could talk to and be given support. And both encouraged me to look within myself and define myself and not let others define me.

I am one to pay close attention to body language; I can see my showing the correlation between dealing with challenging persons and knowing oneself really hit home with my trainees. 

Then, I show the importance of defining one’s term whenever engaging in an argument. Perhaps, there will not be an argument once everyone is clear about the terms. Again, my crew’s body language indicates an understanding of the importance of being certain who one is. Also, my crew sees what the key terms are that relate to the argumentation topics.

I share that they should not define themselves by any roles played, whether it is mother, father, executive, or any other kind of role as a worker. I explained to them that if they define themselves based on a role and that role changes, they may feel a loss of identity. However, one's personality traits "stay" with a person. So, I want one of their personality traits to be one that they should improve. I emphasized the necessity of providing specific examples and development in the body paragraphs.

Do Trainees Really Understand?

And, yes, I returned to them their graded impromptu introductory paragraphs. This helps me see if what I am teaching is really being understood. And the results of this paragraph let me know what I need to work on with my crew. It let them know what they need to review in their notes and in the assigned chapter—Chapter 6.

A lot of material has been covered these first two weeks. A final point that most understand is that missing a session is not wise. Attendance is paramount.

OK, I look forward to talking to you next week.


The week begins with an assignment due. The topic is the same as that for the onboard crew. Also, argumentation topics are due to be posted. 

Perhaps, having to submit a writing assignment may have discouraged some. This week begins with a smaller number of crew attending. This week I have fifteen (15) captain trainees. 
Yes, we are ready to roll! 😌

What do you think about DR C's Academic Online Cruise Ship? Tell us your thoughts in the comments box below this post. 

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