CCCC 2021 Proposal Review: Updates, Information, and Continuing Questions

Process

Ordinarily for the review of proposals submitted to the annual CCCC Convention, the organization follows a process like this. Proposals are submitted through the online system, and anonymized, then read and ranked by three reviewers. This is called Stage 1 Review. After all proposals are reviewed, the program chair (historically) has selected a smaller group of colleagues to meet in person at the NCTE office in Illinois to use the Stage 1 reviews of individual proposals and determine which to accept, and then assemble the accepted proposals into panels. The work takes place synchronously and in the same location. The program chair makes final decisions about the concurrent sessions that were submitted as panels and roundtables. 

Decisions about the program composition are made within some specific constraints, typically the number of rooms and time slots that are available based on the specific venue. The program chair and the Stage 2 reviewer group balance the values of inclusiveness (trying to ensure that the program includes a range of topics that meet the needs of the diverse CCCC membership) and quality (the proposed session will provide an effective, useful, and professionally valuable experience for attendees). The latter is judged according to the proposal criteria created by the program chair at the time of crafting the CFP. 

This year’s program review work, obviously, is different. In the context of the global pandemic, where time, resources, and mental energy are reduced and differently allocated. The process has had to be adapted. Because travel is less safe, the CCCC liaison, Kristen Ritchie, and meeting and events coordinator, Lori Bianchini, worked with me and my convention assistant, Andrea Stevenson, to design a process for Stage 2 review that is possible virtually. 

Over the course of several weeks in July, then, the materials were made available electronically, and as program chair, I created smaller groups of Stage 2 reviewers based on cluster areas. We started with an opening zoom meeting to talk through the process of electronic review, and the smaller teams coordinated with each other over the next few weeks to develop a process including synchronous and asynchronous components to determine acceptances and rejections, as well as the compilation of accepted individual proposals into 

This was a departure, of course, from the previous processes and had its ups and downs. Certainly for the group of reviewers, it was a different experience to collaborate from a distance, and rather than concentrating the work over the period of two or three days in a common space, it required adding the work on top of our other home and work responsibilities. At the same time, a flexible online approach meant that the issue of travel (which can be an inaccessible expectation for many folks) did not prevent participation. 

Moving Ahead

The process of decisions about the CCCC convention is complex, and the pandemic brings more uncertainty. Some of the complexity lies in  contractual obligations that are in place with the host city and because of the size of our convention, not only in the number of attendees but also in the unusually high number of session rooms required. The pandemic has forced faculty line retractions, a loss of substantial budgets and, in many cases, travel budgets being eliminated altogether. This is made visible by the reduced number of proposals received this year as well as news reports and direct conversations with colleagues.  

Looking ahead, we do know that the NCTE Annual Convention (CCCC is under the umbrella of NCTE, including for the purposes of organizing events like the national convention) has been moved to a completely virtual format. This was possible in part because the host city actually cancelled the in-person convention, as the convention center was being used for COVID-related medical purposes.  Currently, continued conversations between the Executive Director of NCTE, Emily Kirkpatrick, and the national groups that NCTE collaborates with for organization national meetings are ongoing regarding the on-site hosting of CCCC in Spokane in April 2021. To every extent possible, these conversations are proceeding with everyone in mind who is affected by the decision. 

What this means is that I’m approaching the planning process, from my end, as flexibly as possible. We know for sure simply because there were fewer overall proposal submission this year that any onsite convention held in Spokane would be smaller; we’re working on developing a process for proposal acceptance notifications that would also allow us to collect information from proposers about what is preferable and feasible for them, information that will then help inform the planning for any on-site versus virtual components. 

Likewise, we anticipate that the NCTE virtual convention will offer us important insights and lessons when it is held in late November, so that any of the planning between November and April can be supported by what we learn from that event. 

I think there are a lot of exciting possibilities for access and inclusion in a virtual conference, including access to the convention program for individuals who may not have previously participated in or attended CCCC. However the convention takes place, I am committed to making it as inclusive and accessible as possible for presenters and attendees. 

Important Dates

**We are hopeful that acceptances will be sent in mid-September. That communication will be accompanied by a set of questions that ask about your needs and preference related to virtual versus face-to-face convention attendance. This is important information for us to gather for the purposes of planning and of communicating with the sites in Spokane that are reserved for the convention at this time.

**Because the convention is scheduled later than unusual (April rather than March), and because there is a global pandemic, participants will not need to confirm their participation until mid-December

**We hope to make a final decision about the convention format by early January

Though it would be ideal to know more, earlier, about how CCCC 2021 will look, I ask for patience and flexibility as we work to adjust to the changing conditions in service of creating a meaningful and valuable professional experience next April, one that reflects the needs and values of the organization, field, and its members.

If you have questions, comments, or clarifications, feel free to send me an email: 4csconvention2021@gmail.com or holly.hassel@ndsu.edu.

CCCC 2021: Recommendations for (re)Submitting, and Transparency Goals

You have seen that we were able to extend the CCCC submission deadline to June 8 which, I hope, will allow some time for most people finishing up their work for the academic year to find space on their plates to draft and submit CCCC 2021 proposals. I wanted to offer some additional advice or recommendations for those who are thinking about resubmitting a previously accepted (or rejected) proposal from the 2020 convention. In this blog, I’ll talk about three items of potential interest to you: 

  1. The differences in the proposal evaluation criteria between last year and this year
  2. The changes to (and additional details about) the “Area Clusters” that proposers use to identify the topic of their proposal
  3. A change for this year that will allow proposers to receive feedback from peer reviewers 

One: Proposal Review Criteria: each program chair develops their own proposal review criteria; this is one of the jobs of the program chair. For those who may be submitting a previously submitted proposal, it would be helpful to take a look at the two sets of criteria side-by-side. You’ll see that there are some similarities regarding engagement of session attendees, awareness of audience needs, etc. However, it would be a good idea to think about how reviewers will be applying the 2021 criteria to submitted proposals and make any changes that you think will allow the proposal to be a good fit for the program. 

20202021
* Does the proposal engage the idea of commonplaces in some way,  either directly or in terms of the work the presentation/session will do?



· Does the proposal describe an experience for learners as much as content to be delivered (for example, will specify the role(s) audience members will be invited to fulfill during or in response to the presentation)? 

Does the proposal give evidence that the proposer is thinking pedagogically about the talk or session, with the learning needs of audiences/participants in mind? ·       

*Does the proposal articulate learning goals for the participants and means for how participants may pursue them? What will participants take away from the presentation? How do you plan to make it possible for them to do so? (For Engaged Learning Experience sessions, means could include–but are not limited to!–problem-solving groups, spoken-word poetry, dramatization/improv, making, role-playing, storytelling, etc. The number of leaders/facilitators listed should be guided by the goals of the session.)
The proposal…

*reflects an awareness of audience needs relevant to the topic: The proposal shows an awareness of the diverse professional needs of CCCC’s members and the field more broadly. Successful proposals will be aimed at an audience of experienced professionals in the field but who may not be familiar with the specifics of your topic.

*addresses postsecondary teaching and learning: The proposed session engages with the proposal theme, questions, or topics, as outlined in the Area Cluster and convention theme. Proposals are not required to engage with the theme in their titles but proposers should describe the pedagogical implications of their work for undergraduate or graduate education.

*is situated within relevant research and scholarship in the field: Proposers are not expected to have a complete bibliography as part of their proposal, but the proposal itself should demonstrate awareness of prior research and scholarship on the topic of the proposal. Parenthetical citations are sufficient to demonstrate this.

*demonstrates a clear and specific plan that aligns with the criteria for the selected session type*: The proposal clearly describes what will happen in the session and demonstrates that the authors have made careful and intentional choices in proposing a session type that is most suitable to the focus of the proposed activity.

Two:  Area Cluster Changes: You saw in the previous blog post CCCC 2021 Decisions and Advice | hollyjhassel some of the explanations for how 2020 convention chair Julie Lindquist and I had worked to manage the complex decisions around a transition that would allow for flexibility for participants to be able to share their work online, to delay sharing their work by resubmitting for 2021, or to document their acceptance in a different way on their professional documents. If you are reworking a proposal previously considered for 2020, here are some things to consider: 

The “area clusters” change each year because those are nearly exclusively within the purview of the program chair to update/change as they desire or as reflects new developments in the field or a particular emphasis in the program theme. I included in the call the previous 3 years’ clusters to show how those have shifted (and what has remained the same). I bring this to your attention so you can think about whether you might want or need to retool your previous proposal to align with a new area cluster: 

2018201920202021
1. Pedagogy (#Pedagogy)
2. Basic Writing (#BW)
3. Assessment (#Assess)
4. Rhetoric (#Rhetoric)
5. History (#History)
6. Technology (#Tech)
7. Language (#Language)
8. Professional Technical Writing (#PTW)
9. Writing Program Administration (#WPA)
10. Theory (#Theory)
11. Public, Civic, and Community Writing (#Community)
12. Creative Writing (#Creativewriting)

1. First-Year and Advanced Composition
2. Basic Writing
3. Community, Civic & Public
4. Creative Writing
5. History
6. Information Technologies
7. Institutional and Professional
8. Language
9. Professional and Technical Writing
10. Research
11. Writing Pedagogies and Processes
12. Theory
13. Writing Programs

1. First-Year and Basic Writing
2. Writing Programs and Majors
3. Approaches to Learning and Learners
4. Community, Civic, and Public Contexts of Writing
5. Creative Writing and Publishing
6. History
7. Information Technologies and Digital Cultures
8. Institutions, Labor Issues, and Professional Life
9. Language and Literacy
10. Professional and Technical Writing
11. Research
12. Theory and Culture
13. Inventions, Innovations, and New Inclusions
1. First-Year Writing
2. College Writing Transitions
3. Labor
4. Writing Programs
5. Community, Civic, and Public Contexts of Writing
6. Reading
7. Access
8. Historical Perspectives
9. Creating Writing and Publishing
10. Information Literacy and Technology
11. Language and Literacy
12. Professional and Technical Writing
13. Theory and Research Methodologies

Program Clusters (View the detailed list of potential topic areas in each cluster here: Area Clusters). New clusters this year include “Labor,” “Access,” “College Writing Transitions” and “Reading,” and include subtopics like these: 

AccessCollege Writing TransitionsLaborReading
*Students, diversity, and access
*Teaching and learning practices that support access, retention, and degree completion
*Access to college-credit course work
*Gatekeeping courses
*Access to the profession
*Accessibility for students, instructors, scholars
*Barriers to college participation
*Barriers to participation in the profession
*Writing studies work informed by disability studies
*Basic writing curricula and pedagogies
*Teaching non-degree credit courses online
*Developmental writing, reading, and learning support programs
*Teaching and supporting structurally disadvantaged students
*Public policies and politics of remediation
*Collaboration with secondary/K-12 writing writing programs and instructors
*Methods and measures of placing students in writing, reading, and support courses
*Dual credit/concurrent enrollment courses, programs, students, and training
*Reform mandates facing two-year colleges and other access institutions
*Labor activism and advocacy
*Contingency Studies
*Ethical writing program labor practices
*The state and status of labor in the field of writing studies
*Institutional case studies
*Teaching about labor issues
*The labor of online writing instruction and equity for instructors
*Organization and operations of educational institutions
*Working conditions for contingent faculty and graduate assistants
*Teacher support, mentoring, and professional development
*Integrated reading and writing courses and curriculum
*Evidence-based reading instruction
*The role of reading in writing courses
*Writing about reading
*Critical reading strategies
*Designing curriculum to support critical reading
*Preparing instructors for teaching reading
*Relationships between reading and writing

Three: Transparency about Process: one of the issues that I have heard often about CCCC and read in member group reports and documents is concern about transparency. As program chair, I prioritized two changes that I hope will support transparency. First, as I noted in the previous blog and in the CFP, an open-invitation was issued for Stage 1 proposal reviewers. Thanks to all who volunteered their names and to do this labor! A majority of those who responded had not previously had the opportunity to participate in the review process, and I am excited that so many colleagues will have a chance to shape the program. 

Likewise, as part of responding to concerns expressed throughout formal and informal conversations in the field about how and why proposals are successful or not, I’ve asked NCTE to prioritize making proposal feedback available, and when reviewers volunteered to review proposals, they also committed to providing written feedback to proposals that will be available in the proposal system database once the decisions have been finalized. It responds to the CCCC Committee on the Status of Graduate Students (what is called in the CCCC constitution a “special committee”—or a committee formed for a period of 3 years to achieve a specific goal or purpose), which conducted a survey of graduate students presented in this report.

I will acknowledge that any time you break from the traditional way of doing things, unexpected issues can crop up, and I can’t promise that there won’t be new challenges by opening up the process. My leadership style has aimed for transparency about processes, clear and open communication, and visible expectations, so I’m hoping that some of these changes fulfill that philosophy. Again, as so many of the CCCC ways of doing things are determined and redetermined annually on the basis of who the convention program chair is (including all of these changes), I’ll seek to learn more from participants with a short follow-up survey about how they experienced these changes to the process

Questions: Send me an email at holly.hassel@ndsu.edu or 4csconvention2021@gmail.com

How Stuff Works: Timing, Siting, and Review for the CCCC Convention

Unless you’re the sort of person who finds bylaws, constitutions, and policies interesting, the specifics of how the CCCC Convention operates are likely unclear. Given that the organization has had to make some very significant decisions in the recent months, I thought it would be helpful to distill some of the ways things usually work and explain the levels of flexibility that are available, including how the convention might make use of some of the digital and online options that 2020 allowed us to pilot. 

Three to Five Years Prior to CCCC Meeting

  • Site selection: Future CCCC Convention Dates and Sites: The usual process for selecting the convention site takes place over a period of a few years, with NCTE staff circulating a request for bids and then reviewing those bids from various locations. Historically, the convention location has gone through a cycle where it rotates from an East Coast site to a midwest site to a West coast site and then back to Midwest. This is to offer access to the Convention to our national membership in any given year. Making a commitment to a conference site comes with a significant outlay of funding–commitment for holding reservations in conference cities (as much as a million dollars of the CCCC budget for the period leading up to the conference).
  • Most of the decisions around convention siting planning are brought to the Executive Committee (elected annually) and the Officers (who are elected by the membership in the summer elections, and who serve a four-year rotation through various roles and make up the Officers’ committee) by the CCCC and NCTE staff. Sites are approved by a vote of the committee. The EC meets officially twice/year, and the Officers Committee meets monthly to address issues that emerge in an ongoing way.
  • Following the Milwaukee cancellation, the CCCC officers committee (whose responsibilities are outlined in the Constitution of the Conference on College Composition and Communication of the National Council of Teachers of English also the bylaws) discussed the possibility of having a more open rotation so that NCTE leaders–the umbrella organization for CCCC–can have more flexibility in pursuing cost-effective measures and have less rigidity in seeking convention locations. It also allows us to offset some of the penalties from Milwaukee commitments we had made if we are able to book a future convention in the city.

One to Two Years Prior to the Convention:

  • CCCC Officer and EC Elections: CCCC officers rotate through four years in the Officers Committee. The first year is when the assistant chair starts to develop the program information and learn about the CCCC governance work; the Associate Chair year (the second year), is the year of the CCCC program that that person chairs. The third year is when the elected officer is chair of CCCC–the organization itself–and is responsible for convening meetings, developing the agenda, assembling and charging task forces and committees, etc. In the fourth year, the person elected serves as “past chair,” a member of the Officers Committee that votes on decisions and helps lead the organization as well as providing continuity. This election and governance information is relevant because it is connected to the timeline and planning that happens prior to the actual Convention. These don’t line up exactly with the convention planning years because officer terms change 30 days following the NCTE convention, which is held in November. So right now, I am Assistant Chair, Julie Lindquist is Associate Chair, Vershawn Ashanti Young is Chair, and Asao Inoue is Past Chair. David Green is secretary, a position that has a term of four years.
  • Composing the Convention Program: During the 1.5 years leading up to the annual convention, the person elected to program chair follows a timeline that lays out when and how decisions need to be made.  This timeline is provided in the publicly available CCCC Executive Committee Handbook that describes how the convention is composed, how review of proposals take place, and the timeline for the events. However, this is a 180 page document so I direct your attention to Section 8, specifically page 147, where the process and timeline is described in detail. The information in the handbook reflects “pre-pandemic” planning timelines, and I have been working with the CCCC liaison, Kristen Ritchie, on adjusting those timelines in order to provide some flexibility in the timing of decisions in this uncertain time. For example, we were able to move the submission date back by a few weeks, and the process of putting the program together back by about a month (usually takes place in June on-site at the NCTE office in Illinois, now will take place online in July).

The Year Before the Convention

After the CFP is released, there is a lot of coordinating that takes place to assemble the program, schedule sessions, and coordinate with constituent groups or other professional groups who hold meetings at or in conjunction with CCCC. 

  • Constituent Group Planning: A factor that is part of annual convention planning and the timeline between meetings is the constituent groups who plan events at CCCC or contiguous with CCCC. These member groups or groups who collaborate with CCCC include events like the Research Network Forum, the CCCC Feminist Workshop, the TYCA National Conference, the Council on Basic Writing, the Qualtitative Research Network, the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, and the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing, among others. Each of those groups, of course, makes independent decisions about their relationship to the CCCC Convention. It is important for the CCCC program chair to be mindful of the other groups whose work has a mutually invested relationship to the annual convention planning process. 
  • “Back Office” or Behind the Scenes Work: A few other factors that influence the timing of the convention planning include the other responsibilities that are handled by NCTE staff, the size of the convention, and the workload of members who serve as reviewers. While some professional groups are able to ‘carry over’ a full program from one year to the next, the CCCC Convention, because of its size, faces different challenges. Anywhere from 2,800 to over 3,300 professionals attend the annual meeting which amplifies the planning workload in ways that smaller professional groups perhaps can be more agile in navigating.
  • Proposal Reviewing: Likewise, the workload for reviewing proposals takes place over the summer. Stage 1 usually happens when the proposal submission database closes (in most years, that is at the end of the first week in May) and reviewers have a few weeks to complete their work. This year, we’ve pushed the deadline back to the very end of May, which means reviewers will be looking at and evaluating proposals well into summer break. 
  • In usual years, Stage 2 review (again, described in Section 8 of the CCCC Executive Committee Handbook), takes place in June. The current quarantine conditions will require that that part of the process (which includes assembling accepted proposals into panels, for those that were not submitted as a panel) happens remotely, and will be pushed back to July. 
  • We are hopeful that even with that delay in the usual process of several weeks, that folks will be able to hear back about their acceptances by the start of the academic year, in part because we know that for many institutions, professional development funding needs are determined and requested near the start of the Fall term. 
  • After each convention, the CCCC office sends out a post-convention survey, asking about the experience that convention-goers had at the meeting. This past year, for example, one of the subcommittees of the CCCC EC used that as an opportunity to ask participants about their most engaging experiences, which I then referenced when thinking about decisions for the 2021 conference planning. 

Participation for 2021: The cancellation of the 2020 convention in Milwaukee has given us an opportunity to try out some ways of fulfilling at least one goal of the convention for attendees which is public dissemination of their work. You’ll see also in the online sharing site that CCCC and TYCA have been able to distribute some of their materials which offers the advantages of dissemination—being able to read and reference that work and to continue the scholarly conversations on those issues.  I don’t know yet what will be possible for 2021—but we are exploring as many ways as possible to make the convention accessible and seeking all ways to make convention participation as safe as possible for members.

If you are interested in an accessible overview of how CCCC Governance works, consult the User’s Guide to CCCC, created by a CCCC Executive Committee Subcommittee on Committees (for real).

How Stuff Works: Timing, Siting, and Review for the CCCC Annual Convention

How Stuff Works: Timing, Siting, and Review

Unless you’re the sort of person who finds bylaws, constitutions, and policies interesting, the specifics of how the CCCC Convention operates are likely unclear. Given that the organization has had to make some very significant decisions in the recent months, I thought it would be helpful to distill some of the ways things usually work and explain adjustments being made to respond to the pandemic.

Three to Five Years Prior to CCCC Meeting

  • Site selection: Future CCCC Convention Dates and Sites: The usual process for selecting the convention site takes place over a period of a few years, with NCTE staff circulating a request for bids and then reviewing those bids from various locations. Historically, the convention location has gone through a cycle where it rotates from an East Coast site to a midwest site to a West coast site and then back to Midwest. This is to offer access to the Convention to our national membership in any given year. Making a commitment to a conference site comes with a significant outlay of funding–commitment for holding reservations in conference cities (as much as a million dollars of the CCCC budget for the period leading up to the conference).
  • Most of the decisions around convention siting planning are brought to the Executive Committee (elected annually) and the Officers (who are elected by the membership in the summer elections, and who serve a four-year rotation through various roles and make up the Officers’ committee) by the CCCC and NCTE staff. Sites are approved by a vote of the committee. The EC meets officially twice/year, and the Officers Committee meets monthly to address issues that emerge in an ongoing way.
  • Following the Milwaukee cancellation, the CCCC officers committee (whose responsibilities are outlined in the Constitution of the Conference on College Composition and Communication of the National Council of Teachers of English also the bylaws) discussed the possibility of having a more open rotation so that NCTE leaders–the umbrella organization for CCCC–can have more flexibility in pursuing cost-effective measures and have less rigidity in seeking convention locations. It also allows us to offset some of the penalties from Milwaukee commitments we had made if we are able to book a future convention in the city.

One to Two Years Prior to the Convention:

  • CCCC Officer and EC Elections: CCCC officers rotate through four years in the Officers Committee. The first year is when the assistant chair starts to develop the program information and learn about the CCCC governance work; the Associate Chair year (the second year), is the year of the CCCC program that that person chairs. The third year is when the elected officer is chair of CCCC–the organization itself–and is responsible for convening meetings, developing the agenda, assembling and charging task forces and committees, etc. In the fourth year, the person elected serves as “past chair,” a member of the Officers Committee that votes on decisions and helps lead the organization as well as providing continuity. This election and governance information is relevant because it is connected to the timeline and planning that happens prior to the actual Convention. These don’t line up exactly with the convention planning years because officer terms change 30 days following the NCTE convention, which is held in November. So right now, I am Assistant Chair, Julie Lindquist is Associate Chair, Vershawn Ashanti Young is Chair, and Asao Inoue is Past Chair. David Green is secretary, a position that has a term of four years.
  • Composing the Convention Program: During the 1.5 years leading up to the annual convention, the person elected to program chair follows a timeline that lays out when and how decisions need to be made.  This timeline is provided in the publicly available CCCC Executive Committee Handbook that describes how the convention is composed, how review of proposals take place, and the timeline for the events. However, this is a 180 page document so I direct your attention to Section 8, specifically page 147, where the process and timeline is described in detail. The information in the handbook reflects “pre-pandemic” planning timelines, and I have been working with the CCCC liaison, Kristen Ritchie, on adjusting those timelines in order to provide some flexibility in the timing of decisions in this uncertain time. For example, we were able to move the submission date back by a few weeks, and the process of putting the program together back by about a month (usually takes place in June on-site at the NCTE office in Illinois, now will take place online in July).

The Year Before the Convention

After the CFP is released, there is a lot of coordinating that takes place to assemble the program, schedule sessions, and coordinate with constituent groups or other professional groups who hold meetings at or in conjunction with CCCC. 

  • Constituent Group Planning: A factor that is part of annual convention planning and the timeline between meetings is the constituent groups who plan events at CCCC or contiguous with CCCC. These member groups or groups who collaborate with CCCC include events like the Research Network Forum, the CCCC Feminist Workshop, the TYCA National Conference, the Council on Basic Writing, the Qualtitative Research Network, the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, and the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing, among others. Each of those groups, of course, makes independent decisions about their relationship to the CCCC Convention. It is important for the CCCC program chair to be mindful of the other groups whose work has a mutually invested relationship to the annual convention planning process. 
  • “Back Office” or Behind the Scenes Work: A few other factors that influence the timing of the convention planning include the other responsibilities that are handled by NCTE staff, the size of the convention, and the workload of members who serve as reviewers. While some professional groups are able to ‘carry over’ a full program from one year to the next, the CCCC Convention, because of its size, faces different challenges. Anywhere from 2,800 to over 3,300 professionals attend the annual meeting which amplifies the planning workload in ways that smaller professional groups perhaps can be more agile in navigating.
  • Proposal Reviewing: Likewise, the workload for reviewing proposals takes place over the summer. Stage 1 usually happens when the proposal submission database closes (in most years, that is at the end of the first week in May) and reviewers have a few weeks to complete their work. This year, we’ve pushed the deadline back to the very end of May, which means reviewers will be looking at and evaluating proposals well into summer break. 
  • In usual years, Stage 2 review (again, described in Section 8 of the CCCC Executive Committee Handbook), takes place in June. The current quarantine conditions will require that that part of the process (which includes assembling accepted proposals into panels, for those that were not submitted as a panel) happens remotely, and will be pushed back to July. 
  • We are hopeful that even with that delay in the usual process of several weeks, that folks will be able to hear back about their acceptances by the start of the academic year, in part because we know that for many institutions, professional development funding needs are determined and requested near the start of the Fall term. 
  • After each convention, the CCCC office sends out a post-convention survey, asking about the experience that convention-goers had at the meeting. This past year, for example, one of the subcommittees of the CCCC EC used that as an opportunity to ask participants about their most engaging experiences, which I then referenced when thinking about decisions for the 2021 conference planning. 

Participation for 2021: The cancellation of the 2020 convention in Milwaukee has given us an opportunity to try out some ways of fulfilling at least one goal of the convention for attendees which is public dissemination of their work. You’ll see also in the online sharing site that CCCC and TYCA have been able to distribute some of their materials which offers the advantages of dissemination—being able to read and reference that work and to continue the scholarly conversations on those issues.  I don’t know yet what will be possible for 2021—but we are exploring as many ways as possible to make the convention accessible and seeking all ways to make convention participation as safe as possible for members.

If you are interested in an accessible overview of how CCCC Governance works, consult the User’s Guide to CCCC, created by a CCCC Executive Committee Subcommittee on Committees (for real).

Have questions not addressed here? Feel free to post them in the comments, below.

CCCC 2021 Decisions and Advice

*update: we have been able to extend the submission deadline to Monday, June 8!

Hello colleagues, 

I’m writing as the CCCC 2021 in Spokane Program Chair,  in this more informal format (my occasionally used blog) to share some information about CCCC 2021 in Spokane, particularly how and why the program will be constructed, and the ways that I am collaborating with CCCC 2020 Program Chair Julie Lindquist to work to balance flexibility with continuity in the midst of the pandemic and the accompanying constraints and stressors that have resulted from it. 

CCCC and TYCA 2020 Online Sharing: Hopefully you have received the information about how to share materials online, available here: CCCC and TYCA 2020 Online. In the absence of an in-person meeting in 2020, Julie and I worked with the CCCC and NCTE staff to consider the various needs and material constraints that members of our field are facing right now, particularly for those whose participation is connected to employment evaluation like retention, merit, tenure, and promotion: 

  • Documenting Your Acceptance: Many presenters who planned to attend were still in the process of preparing their materials. For those whose current circumstances whether through childcare responsibilities, illness, other caregiving, financial circumstances, etc have made it infeasible to complete what they planned to present in Milwaukee, the peer-reviewed acceptance in the CCCC program can and should be documented on professional documents with a note that the convention was cancelled. For example, I had a panel presentation accepted but had not yet had a chance to draft my presentation; I’ll list that one on my professional materials as “accepted” with a parenthetical note (*conference cancelled).  
  • Documenting Posted Work: For those presenters who had completed their materials AND have the professional and personal ability to disseminate those materials at this time, the online repository provides a way to disseminate research, advance projects, etc., particularly those that, for various reasons, are not “portable” to the next year. The online space provides an opportunity to share that work, but no member or accepted program presenter should feel obligated to upload materials if it is not aligned with their professional and personal needs and abilities at this time. For example, as a member of a Task Force that planned to present results of a national survey that had been in the works for over a year, I had already worked with my group to prepare a presentation document. That one made sense to post to the TYCA online sharing site, and I’ll list that one as I normally would on my professional documents without an asterisk or qualifying remark.

CCCC 2021: Spokane

The timeline for convention planning is such that the CFP for Spokane has been in development for nearly six months. At the time of the conference cancellation, the convention database for proposal submission was in the process of being built. Quite a number of complex issues, then, have shaped the subsequent work to plan for the 2021 convention. 

CCCC chair Julie Lindquist and her team have worked tirelessly for nearly 2 years to develop the Milwaukee program and convention experience. Some of that work was very place-based and tied to the location; quite a lot of it was not. We decided as officers, the Executive Committee, and together as program chairs that with a convention the size of CCCC, and with the roles and governing documents that shape how the organization does its work, it was not feasible to simply “roll over” the full program to the subsequent year. 

We’ve agreed upon and moved ahead with a collaborative approach that allows for the 2021 program chair to maintain the original vision for the conference–focused specifically on the teaching of writing–while integrating those elements from the Milwaukee program that are compatible, of which there were quite a few: for example, Common Grounds pop-up coffee houses, Think Mobs conversation groups, Documentarians, and Engaged Learning experiences (ELEs). 

We took a lot of factors into consideration when making decisions about how to proceed, including with the decision not to automatically roll over accepted proposals from 2020 to 2021: 

  • Online options: Though the online repository does not ‘replace’ the in-person work of the annual convention, for the purposes of disseminating work and making professional progress for individual presenters, we decided that the opportunity to disseminate work electronically–and in a formal way that is documented by the organization–meets some of the practical needs that members have. Likewise, both Julie and I were attracted to the idea of what this option could provide for exploring the ways that online dissemination of research and scholarship might offer members. There have been ongoing discussions for years (particularly led by the Accessibility and Disability Studies leaders in the organization) about how to enable professional engagement in accessible ways, ways that don’t take as their default assumption the physical presence of teacher-scholars at the convention. This can serve as a kind of ‘pilot’ to see the drawbacks and advantages of this kind of virtual dissemination. 
  • Normalcy and flexibility: We have sought to balance the need for some sense of continuity, and normalcy, with adaptability and flexibility. The CCCC program development timeline and organizational business follows a somewhat rigid process, and so we have tried to adhere to those, when possible. Likewise, we have made some changes, particularly to the timeline and reviewer process, that we hope will add flexibility.
  • Fairness: The final program aims to be fair and ethical in recognizing that new work and new proposals need to have an equitable chance to appear on the program. We considered but ultimately decided against simply rolling over accepted proposals, while simultaneously building in some elements of the 2020 program, so that a 2021 program will be built that both honors the work of the Milwaukee convention and allows for new ideas, work, and projects to have a reasonable ability to receive peer-review feedback and a spot on the program. Though fairness is not an objective concept, we have sought to make the past and future processes as fair as possible. 
  • Situatedness: Much of the Milwaukee 2020 program had specific, place-based connections to the convention site, as we have sought–as an organization–to do more fully through the Social Justice and Activism at the Convention Committee recently and more historically, the Local Arrangements committees. As the annual post-convention survey reveals, as well, many attendees make decisions about whether to go on any given year in part because of the location.  Moving ahead with an open process that mirrors the one that has taken place historically seems to have the best chance of building a coherent convention program that moves the work of the field forward. 
  • The Work of the Field: An important consideration for me as 2021 program chair has been the need to not simply put at least this part of the work of the field ‘on hold’ for a year. Though writing studies scholarship, research, teaching and service takes place in multiple sites and on a range of timelines, the annual CCCC convention has historically been a large and influential gathering where significant work has taken place–to meet, organize, advocate, connect, agitate, and more. Ultimately, the intention of decisions around program building has been to acknowledge the importance of opening the conference to new work in the field and new scholars in the field. The efforts to build a digital and flexible way to move some of that work forward emerge from this principle.
  • People’s Lives: We know that the COVID19 pandemic and all the accompanying changes to people’s lives–a shift to distance learning for both K-12 and college students, caregiving responsibilities, emotional labor and stress that accompanies a crisis of this nature–has fundamentally disrupted the professional priorities we may have previously had. We’ve sought to balance normalcy and flexibility here by creating a) an online opportunity for those folks who are ready and who want to share work sooner rather than later, b) a program call that integrates elements of 2020 so that those who were accepted to that program can more easily link their previous proposal to the 2021 call, without needing to do substantive revisions, c) a new theme and vision for 2021 that will attract and make a space for a wide range of teacher-scholar-activists to collaborate and converse. 
  • Timelines: The usual timeline for CCCC is to make the CFP available at the current year’s convention, with an early May submission deadline. We have moved the submission deadline back to the end of May, in recognition of what is an overwhelming time for many teacher-scholars due to changes in their employment and home conditions. This is an effort to look forward to this major annual event in the field even as we grapple with our current material circumstances. Certainly no one knows what 2021 will bring at this point, but we are collaborating with an optimistic vision to continue the work of writing studies in the wake of COVID19.

That being said, we hope you will visit the TYCA and CCCC online convention site, where accepted presenters, committees, and constituent groups of the organizations (committees, SIGS, standing groups) have been posting materials, including information about ways that those groups plan to hold meetings or do business electronically (oth synchronously and asynchronously) in the coming months as we navigate the semester.  We are excited about the ability to “attend” multiple sessions at once, and for the organization to spotlight sessions through social media in order to distribute the work that members do widely. 

Public Landing Page  

I hope that this explanation provides answers to questions that members may have as they are thinking about their professional work in the coming year. I am happy to answer questions–contact me at holly.hassel@ndsu.edu. Julie Lindquist will be fielding the Documentarian role and work that is continuing into 2021, and the Engaged Learning Experience session model that is going to be carried over into the 2021 proposal process. She can be reached at lindqu11@msu.edu

I’ll be posting another blog entry shortly to offer additional explanations about changes to the convention schedule this year that we hope offers a bit more flexibility for some of the adjustments we’ve made while simultaneously allowing for maximum participation for proposers.

If you are interested in serving as a reviewer for conference proposals, you can sign up here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CCCC2021Stage1SignUp.

Thanks for reading! 

Holly (in collaboration with Julie)

For questions about the convention, contact Convention Chair Holly Hassel or Convention Assistant Andrea Stevenson at 4Csconvention2021@gmail.com. For questions about Documentarian roles, Think Mobs, or Common Grounds, contact Julie Lindquist at lindqu11@msu.edu. For questions about Spokane and the work of the Local Arrangements Committee, contact Bradley Bleck at bradleywbleck@gmail.com.

Advanced Writing Workshop Student Digital Projects

Fall 2019

For English 458: Advanced Writing Workshop this semester, students conducted field research at a site of their choosing. A final part of the project was to identify some digital way to share for specific audiences and purposes some of what they learned in order to contribute new knowledge in a public way. Check out their awesome projects here!

Sage: Learn more about her participant-observation project volunteering at the Salvation Army meal sharing community. https://sites.google.com/view/storyofthesalvationarmy/home

Jacob: Be inspired by Jacob’s take on college aimed at new students! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vF52UpNKEls&lc=z23suvajeknnt1uql04t1aokgvwahu3ujp0n1wzni4mfbk0h00410

Ryan: Listen to Ryan’s podcasts inspired by his “inside look” in a Facebook community group. https://soundcloud.com/ryan-janish-527561899

Katie: View Katie’s blog post and youtube video about cancer treatment and the communities that support patients. https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kellybreidenbach/journal/view/id/5de8391a98f6cf9101b8be3f and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsyzAnlYdGM&feature=youtu.be

Liberty: Listen to Liberty’s podcast about her study of sorority communities at the NDSU campus! https://soundcloud.com/liberty-colling/theta-thoughts

Hannah: Check out Hannah’s inside look into the community of artists in the ceramics programs here at NDSU. https://soundcloud.com/hannah-hirt/ceramics-podcast

Max: Check out https://homeofthehooligans.godaddysites.com/ to learn more about Max’s inside look at the local Air Force base.

Jenni: Visit Jenni’s Facebook page created for parents of heavy metal music fans! https://www.facebook.com/Metal-Music-101-For-Parents-of-Metal-Fans-108315207325486/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Sam: Emerging from Sam’s study of the community of Tioga, ND, her Facebook page with resources for new commmunity members of Tioga can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Community-of-Tioga-ND-105983797556797/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Advanced Writing Workshop: Student Field Site Research Digital Projects

For English 458: Advanced Writing Workshop this semester, students conducted field research at a site of their choosing. A final part of the project was to identify some digital way to share for specific audiences and purposes some of what they learned in order to contribute new knowledge in a public way. I know some are looking for comments and feedback so here are their project links: 

To Be (There) or Not to Be (There): A Compilation of Arguments and Evidence about Attendance Policies

I’ve been thinking a lot about the arguments related to mandatory class attendance policies, in part because my university and department are having discussions about the topic, and because I am at a new university where my own classroom policies are governed differently than they were at the other contexts I was in.  I find that having conversations about the issue brings up an unending set of questions, concerns, and requests for data, as well as considerations of labor, power, teaching, learning, and assessment. So I decided to start a list-in-progress of all the positions and policy rationales, documented with evidence or data when possible, also to save everyone the time of having to reinvent these arguments whenever a policy comes to your senate or department.

What I am specifically interested in here is the question of attendance policies that mandate failures after students miss a certain number of classes (for example, 20-25% of the course is typical). I have been at institutions, particularly in writing programs, which is also where I will focus my attention here, where 3 weeks of class is considered the limit (in a semester), or a certain number of class periods (9) after which a student automatically fails. Implicated in these discussions though, then, are questions of how and whether to take attendance; whether individual instructors attach a certain penalty to missed courses, the issue of having to adjudicate what are “excused” or “unexcused” absences, and how/whether students can ‘make up” whatever was missed by that absence. Here is my list in progress of Things to Consider in No Particular Order, with as many of the shared, overlapping, and competing positions reflected as I can think of.

The excused/unexcused dilemma: In K-12 contexts, there is typically a distinction between what constitutes an “excused” or make-up eligible absence, and an “unexcused” absence. There is often a blurry line between what constitutes either of these categories–illness, for example, versus a medical appointment etc. In college, this distinction is something that (from what I have seen) many faculty are loath to make. They resist being compelled to decide what is or is not a legitimate reason to miss class, and what is allowed to be made up or not. Often faculty will say that the activity or activities that took place during class can’t be reproduced independently. Increasingly, campuses are recognizing and/or accommodating for absences that fall under several federally-mandated jurisdictions such as pregnancy/family leave, military deployment, or religious events.

 

The relationship(s) established between teachers and students by various attendance policies:

Something I think about a lot here is the ways that our policies set up relationships and positions between students and teachers. Mandating attendance or punishing absence may set up a dynamic in which policy compliance is more of an influence over what is happening inside and outside the classroom than is a focus on what students are supposed to be learning, developing, or doing. For example, a policy that has a rigid focus on excused versus unexcused absences may then compel an instructor into a position of “judge’ about what can be made up. A department or university policy that mandates a student fail after missing a certain number of class than necessarily puts an instructor into a role of being forced to fail a student who has missed classes regardless of their performance in the academic work of the course. It’s true that this may be more or less of an issue depending on the type of course and the discipline. For example, writing courses may include an intense focus on process, on peer review, drafting and invention activities, and on collaboration, which are more difficult to reproduce if a student is not in class (see Trader, et al 2016 for some discussion of this).  It may also force students into “bad faith’ arguments to justify absences a position that taints the instructor-student relationship and creates cynicism.

 

Power and authority and the maintenance of standards:

Another important argument or consideration is the role of graduate teaching assistants, contingent faculty, or tenure-track faculty who may welcome a standard department policy or mandated university policy around the number of absences or % of class a student can miss and still pass. For instructors with perhaps limited experience or limited institutionally-conferred authority (such as GTAs) the complicated process of developing an identity and practices as an instructor as well as having to make judgements about what constitutes make-up-eligible absences can be an excessive mental load. Balancing and managing, for GTAs in a writing program for example, the work of graduate coursework and in many programs, teaching 1 or 2 sections of first-year writing is a challenging balancing act, and a standard, across-the board department policy eliminates some of the inevitable challenges that arise in classroom management.

Instructor Workload

Another consideration related to a non-standard or mandatory/punitive attendance policy is the workloa for instructors, particularly novice instructors or those with heavy teaching loads 4, 5, 6 courses per semester, and for whom accommodating student absences creates an additional burden, including creating alternative activities, uploading things to the course management system, assessing activities on a different timeline.

A related issue is what some have raised as a kind of emotional labor component or gender tax in which  women instructors may be expected to be more accommodating to students needs/demands outside of class than male instructors (see a recent study from El-Alayli, et al: “Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly from Academically Entitled Students,” published in the journal Sex Roles). A standard or mandatory attendance policy can make expectations more transparent and consistent, as well as create documentation for the purposes of appeals, grievances, or requests that might subsequently be taken to a chair or program administrator to resolve.

Fairness

Another argument/consideration is the question of fairness. As instructors, we of course want to create equity and inclusion in our classroom practices and policies. Having no standard expectation about what it means to be in class means  is open to interpretation. Or a lack of clarity about what the consequences are for not attending class may create inequities or unfairness, or at least the perception of it. If you’re like me, you have often had a conversation in Week 6 or 12 or whatever at the start of class when 50% of the class showed up that day and someone invariably asks “can we have extra credit for being here?” Students have an inherent sense of/desire for fairness and if being in class is viewed as something of an effort/work required of being a college students, then it could be argued there should be some value attached to it (or some consequence for not fulfilling that expectation).

 

What We Communicate to Students with Our Policies about What We Value

At points in the past, I communicated in my syllabus that I expect attendance and that I take attendance because I want my students to know that it matters to me if they are there. That is, college can be a bewildering and disorienting experience the first year, and so telling students that I see them, know them, and value them, by expecting their presence, is one way to say that what happens in our classroom matters–to me and to them.

 

How We measure learning, and what it looks like

What is relevant to this position/argument is the question of whether being in class is and of itself the desired outcome, or whether “being in class’ is actually a barometer for or metonymy for some other (either measurable or unmeasurable) thing that we as instructors think is important about students being in class. For those of us in the humanities, this can be in part the notion of conversation that takes place about a text that is intended to cultivate new ideas, test theories, pose questions, and invite exploration. Though discussions may not have a tangible documented outcome per se (some might) being there, as part of it, and (hopefully) participating in addition to listening, is part of the learning that is taking place. That being said, can we guarantee that ‘being there” translates into learning? If a student is in the class physically, ae they there, engaging, mentally?

The question to me here is how and whether we know and ensure what happens matters for the purposes of the course goals and course learning outcomes.

 

What is unique or not about writing classes, and our core disciplinary values in writing studies

For writing programs in particular, which is where I have seen discussions about automatic failure after a certain number of absences, much of the emphasis focuses on some of the core disciplinary values–that writing is a social and rhetorical act, that process–and developing self-knowledge and metacognitive knowledge about process–is the proficiency that distinguishes expert writers from novice writers, and that the work that takes place among writers and readers is core to the learning goals of the courses. On this issue, the question for me becomes whether these are a) impossible to reproduce for students who miss out on them, b) sufficiently weighted in the final assessment of student work such that there is a tangible demonstration of the value of that part of the course in the criteria that are used to determine whether students’ learned what they need to learn.

A competing argument/position might say that if students can miss 20% of the class and still produce the assigned final products 9 and perhaps some but not all of the process-outcomes that are structured into the course), then is it ethical or even an accurate assessment to say they did not achieve the goals of the course?

 

Placement and assessment:

A related point to me here is, then, if the above circumstances arises–a student doesn’t attend class but still produces what might be established as passing work (or even excellent work), then is this an issue of the class level/rigor? Are the activities and learning assessments sufficiently/adequately aligned with the goals and the instructional activities? Is the curriculum, even as it breaks down into, for example, a basic writing-first-semester-second-semester and potentially advanced writing course aligned? Is the way that students are being placed into those courses and the mechanisms by which their readiness to start the learning of the course doing its job?

 

Mandatory attendance/consequences for absence and the effect on student retention, learning, or academic performance

A question I have only begun to investigate is whether mandating attendance (or punishing non-attendance) actually influences learning (or grades, which may not be perfectly aligned with learning, depending on the course). Some of the sources I have read show that students who attend class do better. That makes sense. .Others offer the caveat that students who show up under a mandated attendance policy were the ones who would have shown up anyway, or that more conscientious students (as in the Big 5 personality categories) are more motivated by possible negative grade consequences for missing class, so it works to motivate those students.

For example, Crede, et al (2010) showed that “class attendance is strongly correlated with class grades and GPA in college-indeed the observed correlations with grades are larger even than those observed in meta-analytic reviews” (285). The same meta-study however, concluded that their results “do not only show that class attendance is very strongly related to academic performance and moderately related to specific student characteristic” (285). Rather, the results are “‘more supportive of a unique effects model in which class attendance and student characteristics make unique contributions toward academic performance, especially when considering other evidence suggesting that student characteristics such as prior achievement and certain personality traits are related to grades. That is, student characteristics and attendance are more strongly related to grades than to each other” (285). Later, though hesitating to assert a causal relationship, they note that their findings would have “strong implications” if “even a small proportion of the attendance-grade relationship is causal in nature” (286).  In other words, students who do better in class earn better grades. The trick is to figure out the relationship among the variables that influences both attendance and grades.

The second finding from that study is that there is a weak relationship between mandatory attendance policies and the effects they have on actual student attendance: “The weak positive effect for attendance policies, based on a small total sample, cannot in itself make the argument for mandatory attendance policies.” This was on the basis of 3 studies.

The authors conclude that “instructors and universities should allow their decision regarding mandatory attendance policies to be guided by a joint consideration of the best available empirical evidence and an evaluation of their educational philosophy.” Though they note that most educators would agree that class attendance is generally a “desirable behavior, and there is encouraging evidence that mandatory policies are not necessary for dramatically improving class attendance or class performance” (287). Just stressing the importance of attendance at the start of the semester both raised average grades and reduced the failure rate (from 23% to 7%).

Rendleman’s study answered one of the research questions they investigated: “Is attendance higher when it is required? Seemingly, the requirement didn’t boost attendance since the average was actually slightly higher when it wasn’t required. However, we conducted an analysis of variance test to see if the difference was significant. It was not” (348).

Carrots versus sticks:

Something that at least some of my favorite books point out (like Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do) suggest that the best way to ensure students come to class is to make sure that what happens in class is meaningful to students and is clearly linked to a task they have to perform or will be assessed on. This raises questions, to me, about how to ensure that what happens in class time is not just well-planned (which I think most instructors aim to do anyway), but also the significance of it to the learning goals of the course are visible and explicable to students.

As Rendleman summarizes: “Pinto and Lohrey (2016) discuss mandatory attendance in a philosophical back and forth, Pinto taking the position that attendance should be required and Lohrey the opposite. Pinto’s arguments include the often-cited fact that college students are adults and are responsible for their actions. He also believes that instructors should be responsible for attracting students to lectures, and not simply require attendance. Lohrey’s arguments in favor of mandatory attendance include learning students’ names, being able to remember who students are when recommendations are requested, and having a record available for college administrators. All her points can be seen as contending for attendance and taking role, but not necessarily for making attendance mandatory” (347)

What new instructors (GTAs, new adjuncts) learn when trained under various models

A concern I have about relying on  mandatory attendance and automatic failures as a way to provide departmental or institutional backing for new instructors is that these are formative years for future college educators (writing instructors in particular, who it seems to me are more likely to be granted responsibility for their own section of a course as a masters students or first-year phd students than in other fields, because of the labor structure of the field). In this case, a worry I have is that the “compliance” mentality–one in which seat time and being there is a barometer for a student’s commitment to the course, respect for the instructor, contribution to the classroom community, and academic gains–then is built into the ideas, attitudes, and identities formed for those instructors as they move into new educational contexts. In some educational contexts, that shortcut (or support system, depending on your perspective) may not be there, it may not be appropriate, or it may just not be applicable (for example, in online courses).

In this way, considering what both undergraduate and graduate students learn about what attendance does or how it reflects learning has larger implications than the current semester or institution.

The changing landscape around college credit, seat time, and metrics of learning (such as Prior Learning Assessment or Competency Based Education)

Increasingly, as Prior Learning Assessment initiatives, Competency-Based Education models, and online learning have started to demonstrate (or perhaps challenge, depending), the notion of seat-time is being replaced by structures and models where the learning students can or cannot do is measured and assessed differently than the completion of a certain number of credits or contact hours. Some folks see this as a liberatory development that means that the learning and knowledge that college students or potentially college students have can be valued and rewarded in ways that may have a disproportionately valuable impact on students whose competence ahs been cultivated in ways that are separate from the structure of formal education.

Online learning, as well, which is exploding across higher education, particularly in two-year colleges, necessarily challenges the assumption that physical and synchronous presence is the only or best way to a) teach and learn, b) measure learning, c) create a learning community. Though online classes are structured a lot of ways, the idea that students have to be somewhere all at the same time together is made moot by online courses in which students participate in discussions, activities, and assessments, but do so asynchronously.

On the other hand, some detractors of online learning (or the erosion of the traditional models of higher education) worry that removing the emphasis on same-room/same-time learning creates a utilitarian and vocational model of education that contributes to the neoliberalizing of college. If college is supposed to be a space in which students grow emotionally, civically, and intellectually, not just earn a credential to get a job to earn money, then the decentralization of the time and space of learning may contribute to what some see as the central mission of the institution.

An older study of medical students found that students who attended 4/5 of lectures performed best, but that those who reported attending only 1/5 of the lectures scored second best in the class and on the standardized test, noting that “There is a sizable group of students who do very well in learning the required materials without the aid of lectures (Hyde and Flournoy, 1986).  This is, of course, more relevant to large lecture courses in highly selective academic programs than to first and second-year courses and the applicability to new college students and non-selective contexts is probably limited.

Consequences to different student groups

As an instructor who taught for 19 years at multiple open-admission or two-year college sites, one of my worries about mandatory attendance policies (or punitive ones, or automatic failures cut-off points) is the ways that they may disparately impact in negative ways vulnerable and underserved students. For example, absences from class for students in these contexts are just as likely to be caused by unreliable transportation, caregiving/family responsibilities (not just children–often my students had obligations to care for siblings, or in the case of multilingual students, to attend medical or other appointments with family members to serve as translators). Students in these contexts are more likely to work part or full time, and may have little agency in their work site to influence their schedule (so many are called in to work shifts that they are not scheduled for, or are scheduled by managers without regard for their school obligations).  I also see perhaps disproportionate impact on students with invisible disabilities, with mental health issues, etc. Another concern is that policies are sometimes made by individual instructors (or other campus entities) requiring a doctor’s note to document absences for medical issues, though this may unintentionally punish students who do not have access to health insurance (likely low-income students but not exclusively that group) and for whom a doctor’s visit is beyond their financial reach.

Student Agency and Characteristics

An additional argument that is sometimes made is that in college, students are adults and should have the ability to choose whether or not they attend class, in particular because they are the ones who must absorb the consequences of that choice.

The results of one 2017 study, “Do Attendance Policies Improve Student Performance? The Relationship among Attendance, Class Policies, and Grades” found that “While the link between attendance and grade performance is positive we do not find that attendance policies improve either course performance or even class attendance itself” (Rendleman). They also, in summarizing their results note that the students in their study “… seemed not to consider grade penalties and rewards for attendance. Attendance, in general, did result in higher grades though” (349).  This study was within the context of an agricultural economics course.

 

What am I missing from my list? Please help me identify additional issues/concerns by posting in the comments section  or twitter/FB, or emailing me at holly.hassel@ndsu.edu (or tweet: @prof_hassel)

 

References

Bain, Ken. What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard UP, 2004.

Crede, Marcus, et al.Class Attendance in College: A Meta-Analytic Review of the relationship of Class Attendance with Grades and Student Characteristics.” Review of Educational Research., vol. 80, no. 2, pp. 272-295.

El-Alayli, Amani, Ashley Hansen-Brown, and Michelle Ceynar. “Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly from Academically Entitled Students.” Sex Roles, vol. 79, 2018, pp. 136-150.

Flaherty, Colleen. “Dancing Backwards in High Heels.” Inside Higher Ed 10 January 2018. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/01/10/study-finds-female-professors-experience-more-work-demands-and-special-favor

Hyde, R. M., & Flournoy, D. J. “A Case against MAndatory Lecture Attendance,” Journal of Medical Education, vol. 61, no 3, pp. 175-176.

Mancini, Tracy. “First Day Attendance and Student Course Success: Does Being There Make a Difference? A Literature Review.” The Community College Enterprise, vol. 23, no. 2, Fall 2017, pp. 32-57.

Pinto, Jo Ann and Peter Lohrey. “Point-Counterpoint: Should Attendance Be Required in Collegiate Classrooms?” Contemporary Issues in Education Research, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 115-120.

Potter, Claire. “Do Attendance Policies Discriminate against Disability?” Chronicle of Higher Education. 2 August 2014.

Reed, Matt.  “Judging Absences without Judging Students’ LivesInside Higher Ed. 8 October 2018.

Rendleman, Matthew. “Do Attendance Policies Improve Student Performance? The Relationship among Attendance, Class Policies, and Grades.” NACTA, vol. 61, no. 4, Dec 2017, pp. 347-349.

Trader, Kristen Seas,  Jennifer Heinert, Cassandra Phillips, and Holly Hassel. “‘Flexible’ Learning, Disciplinarity, and First-Year Writing: Critically Engaging Competency-Based Education.” WPA: The Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administratorion,  vol. 40, no. 1, Fall 2016), pp. 10-32.

Warner, John. “A Failure of Empathy.Inside Higher Ed. 2 August 2016.

 

Inside Baseball: Backroom Decisions and the UW Mergers

It’s true there’s a lot that the general public doesn’t understand about higher education and the UW changes that have been approved by the universities’ accreditor, but that doesn’t mean that the communities who have supported those campuses don’t deserve to know. Something that matters a lot to former UW Colleges campuses and their communities is a designator determined by our accreditor: “branch” or “additional location.” Changes to that designator may seem like “inside baseball,” as one UWSP executive administrator said to me, aka, only of interest to or having an impact on those working within the higher education institutions. However, the inside baseball of the changes to our UW Campuses, often the heart of many of our small communities, does matter to Wisconsin citizens, and they deserve to understand why.

It matters in the same way that baseball fans might not know all about the rules or changes to baseball as an enterprise or institution, but fans care about how they affect the game. In this case, the change in status could affect a wide range of things: guaranteed transfer, associate’s degree access, developmental course offerings that support students who need a bridge to college-level work; arts and cultural events, athletics, among others.

To start, every university needs to be accredited by a regional accreditor, at least if they want students to be able to use federal financial aid in order to go there, which a lot of students need to do. In the case of UW campuses, we are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, whose guidelines spell out what it means to say a university is required to offer on its various locations.

Under the restructuring proposals, UW Colleges campus faculty advocated to be branch campuses, our historical designator, in part because it is a designator that ensures a minimum number of courses, curriculum, or resources are available to the students, staff, and faculty who teach and learn there. Those distinctions are outlined in the HLC site; a branch or an additional location. Briefly, a branch campus means that it is separate from a main campus, but is considered permanent, offers a sufficient number of courses to attain a degree, has its own faculty and administrative structure, and has authority for its own budget and hiring.

By contrast, being considered an “additional location” means that all that has to be offered on site is a minimum of 50% of courses that lead to a degree, with no base or threshold number of students. This means it would be much easier for the main campus to cut or curtail developmental programs, to stop offering an Associates degree altogether, or to end “guaranteed transfer”–or simply put no resources toward continuing or supporting the long term practice in our community of students putting in a year or two at UWMC and then transferring as juniors elsewhere in the system.

With two of the UW comprehensive campuses (Stevens Point and Milwaukee) already chomping at the bit to demote two-year campuses to additional locations, the minutia of inside baseball, as a part of a larger strategy that affects the communities that have invested in the Marshfield, Marathon, Waukesha, and Washington campuses should be of keen interest to local County Boards, to parents of high school students, and to community members, as well as the students (nontraditional and traditional age) who have relied on these campuses as affordable and local pathways to their educational goals.

Let’s walk through some of the short and long-term implications of losing the branch designator. For example, if UW Marathon is an additional location of UW Stevens Point, then we should pay attention to what is lost in the downgrade–permanence, autonomy, and degree completion options.

So imagine a new student, Sara, starting at a branch campus in 2022-2023. As a branch, she could be assured that there would be an academic advisor to meet with immediately, as well someone to help her with financial aid. As an additional location, she might have to wait until Tuesday or Friday, when someone from the main campus is there to provide that help or a part-time employee is on site. Perhaps she needs accommodations for a disability–except the Accommodations Coordinator is only there on Wednesdays.  During the course of the semester, Sara has some academic issues and needs to see a tutor, or maybe a mental health issue. Unfortunately, being a satellite of UWSP or UWM means that maybe those services aren’t offered at all–or only on the main campus, or one or two days a week. And if only 50% of a degree is required to be offered, the course offerings would be able to fall to a much lower threshold–meaning that any student who started at the satellite campus would need to transfer to the higher-priced and geographically distant main campus or another UW four-year much sooner, potentially increasing the debt load she incurs for a college degree.  Conceivably, the main campus could decide to meet obligations by offering 50% of the classes toward a degree, and maybe that degree would only be Business, or Education, or some other singular special program. Central Wisconsin students, particularly place bound students, would see a reduction in access and affordability.

But for communities, cutting the curricular offerings has other implications. If the designator change requires only half of a degree offering be made available on the campus–then decision makers would necessarily prioritize the core offerings, should an AAS even still be a degree that the institution decides to maintain. This would mean math, English, possibly some of the other general education courses like history, sociology, psychology, biology etc at the lower-division level. But why would you need a music program, or a theater program, or an art program at an additional location? Why would we offer a student newspaper, or a literary magazine? They are high-infrastructure, high cost, and serve a relatively small part of the student population–but they are one of the primary cultural resources that our campuses offer our communities. Visiting lecturers, scholars, or artists are linked to the curriculum.

The thing about inside baseball is that there’s typically a strategy at work. You’re not bunting, stealing, or sacrificing just because. There’s a an end goal in mind for scoring runs. Communities in Wisconsin should ask what this inside baseball move is intended to do–who will win, and who will lose.  

Reflections on Leaving Wisconsin, or Ghosting UW, Heartbreak Edition

I have worked at UW Marathon County since 2002, when I first completed my PhD in English. I made my life here. My family is rooted here (my children were born here, my husband’s family lives here). Now I am leaving Wisconsin because of the ways that working in higher education in the UW System in this state has become essentially unbearable, at least for me, as a faculty member in the UW Colleges–the open access and local pathway to a UW degree.

I’m writing all this down because what I most wish is that the everyday residents of Wisconsin and the members of our communities understand what the costs of the decision to dismantle the UW Colleges are–what this will mean for our communities and for our state. The way stories are reported about this are usually shaped by announcements and press releases from the UW System. Or our administrators who are invested in presenting the best possible image of the change. This is not to say that there might be positive outcomes. But for me, this last six months has been absolutely heartbreaking–not because of personal costs to me but because I see this as an absolutely devastating blow to higher education in this state.

Here are the reasons I am leaving Wisconsin:

  • The failure of the state, the Board of Regents, and the UW system to adequately support the students who most need access to higher education; UW Colleges students are most likely to be first-generation college-goers, to be Pell-grant eligible, and to have dependent responsibilities and to work in addition to go to college. The endless budget cuts (disproportionate to our overall budget) are a reflection of the cavalier attitude our state leaders have toward students who have been traditionally underserved by higher education.

  • The hostility the UW has faced from the public and the legislature,

  • Relentless budget cuts, resulting in the constant expectation that UW faculty and staff must “do more with less” to serve our students

  • The contempt and disrespect shown to the UW Colleges and Extension by the System president and the Board of Regents in their decision to dissolve our institution, throwing away four decades of curricular, governance, and program-building work that brought the Wisconsin Idea and UW quality to all corners of the state.

  • The disinvestment in the liberal arts fields that have both been the foundation of a university education and provided the kind of critical thinking, reading, and communication skills that give students social/economic mobility and civic engagement.

What I have always, always loved about my work at UW Marathon was that it provided a pathway–an open access pathway–for any student who wants to pursue higher education. I loved working with the diverse range of students that I had in my classes. Nontraditional students returning to college after a first effort, or after having never attempted to go after high school. Students from Phillips or Athens and Merrill. Students who tried it out for a semester and then grew, learned, and realized a better path for them was the military, or dental school, or some other personal goal. Students whose parents had not graduated college (like mine) and who needed the extra support, the affordable tuition, and the expert teaching skills of the faculty on our campus. For many of these students, the UW colleges campuses (whether here in Wausau or in Richland Center, Rice Lake, or Marinette), was the primary–if not only–way they would be able to get a UW education. Many of our students work long hours, they have family responsibilities, they do not have the means to go away to college: there are as many reasons why our students choose to study here, usually close to home, as there are students.

What I loved about the UW colleges-the relationship that we had as 13 small, two-year campuses to each other across the state, was that this institution had strength and will to protect the Wisconsin Idea, and to maintain a UW presence in our local communities. Despite continued divestment from the state in the form of nonstop budget cuts and manufactured budget crises, we are a scrappy bunch who used our state-wide network to develop responsive and rigorous coursework, who could be a community of scholars in our disciplines for each other, even if we were the only music faculty member or biology faculty member on our campuses. We could reach out to our departmental colleagues at Marshfield or Fond du Lac for that disciplinary community. We could build relationships throughout the state that made our campuses strong, vibrant, and energizing places that create opportunities for our students.

There are a lot of other reasons that I spent 16 years of my career here. And I will say that I experienced nothing less than months of grief and heartbreak when UW System President Ray Cross made the announcement that he would be dissolving the UW colleges and attaching them to local four year campuses. The details of what this means probably seem like insider baseball, but they really do matter. For me, it means that the institutional work I had done for the last decade and a half no longer had a place–the policy work that I had developed with colleagues on promoting gender equity, on making our evaluation processes fairer, on creating a unified and seamless first-year writing and learning support program from placement to degree…all of these not only would not have any institutional place, but in all likelihood would not be able to be sustained into the future, in part because under the new arrangement, all of our curricular, governance, and programming autonomy would be gone, and we would fall under the structures and systems of our ‘main’ campus. And it’s true that is probably be going to be fine for lots of our campuses. I am not pessimistic overall about this change except to the extent that the faculty and staff on our campuses have built incredible programs and resources for students that we can’t be at all certain will have a future, and if they do, it will be at the behest of what has been referred to as our “parent” campuses.

When I had the opportunity to address the Board of Regents at its November meeting–where they approved the resolution dissolving our institution–as well as reassigning UW Extension and some of its programs to UW Madison or UW System Administration–I tried to capture what is special about our UW Colleges campuses, and share voices of students who chose to attend our campus (UW Marathon). Ultimately, the institutional structures of our campuses matter less in the big picture than does the mission–which is open access, and affordable tuition, with UW Quality. That being said, what the institutional structure guaranteed was that we had our own identity and autonomy to maintain those things.

What demoralizes me about the “restructured” UW System is that without the UW Colleges as an institution, there are no guarantees that that mission will remain in place. Individual institutions (Platteville, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Oshkosh) will be the ones who decide whether to maintain that mission–and in the constrained and competitive environment that the Wisconsin legislature, the Board of Regents, and the UW System Administration have created (by reducing state funding, by lifting caps on how many students can enroll at a campus, creating inter-campus competition for student tuition dollars), all those main campuses are disincentivized from retaining that mission. Already, in discussions at the System level, campuses are pressing system on the details of maintaining lower tuition at branch campuses. Will they maintain it? I don’t know. I hope so. In 3 years, when the competition worsens, or when the Wisconsin counties who have contributed their resources and support to the Colleges campuses (they pay for the facilities, one of the efficient and community-grounded features of our campuses) perhaps feel disinvested in a campus that is now no longer UW-Marathon County or UW Barron County but rather UW Stevens Point @ Wausau or UW Eau Claire, Rice Lake campus. Well, it’s not hard to imagine that perhaps those counties are not as invested in maintaining the infrastructure of those campuses. I don’t know if that is what will happen–but I fear that this mission and the students we serve, in such conditions, will be priced out of a UW education if any of those conditions change.

I am not exaggerating to say that I have gone through a six month grieving process. I have broken down crying at my brother-in-law’s farm, after watching a particularly sad episode of The Walking Dead, in my office, on a skype call with a colleague, among many other sites. I have watched colleagues do the same.  I am heartbroken at what is happening, and I am not confident at all that the many promises that have been made at the UW System level will be fulfilled, particularly because of the last 3 years of eroding the protections and the structures that made UW a great place to work. Perhaps others are less grief-stricken, and more optimistic. I won’t presume to tell their story here. But I know I can’t risk the stability of my family or working toward the professional goals I have in my fields of study (writing studies and women’s and gender studies) betting on a ground that seems particularly shaky to me.

As someone who loves the fields that make up the liberal arts–my college and graduate coursework and intellectual love has always been in literature, history, philosophy, Spanish, music, English literature, women’s and gender studies–and who has worked to help students and our community appreciate those as well (including the Harry Potter-based camp I have co-directed here on my campus for 11 years–a literature based camp!), the moves at UW Superior and UW Stevens Point to essentially decimate those fields also hurts my heart. But it is more than a personal sadness to me, because I could work through that. It is, what feels like, a cavalier abandonment of the communities in the Northern part of the Wisconsin. North of highway 8, where large numbers of UW Superior and UW Stevens Point students hail from, the abandonment of a commitment to supporting major programs in those areas that have been the hallmark and foundation of a university education seems particularly cruel to me. These are the majors that students often don’t come to know and declare until they get to college, because high schools (particularly our small, rural high schools in the north) don’t offer courses in Philosophy or Geography or Anthropology.

My worst fear is that this combination of a) reducing the commitment to affordable UW education by weakening the two-year college campuses’ sustainability and b) limiting the access to liberal arts majors in four-year campuses will ultimately have the effect of deepening class stratification. Where students who perhaps are the first in their families to go to college and/or working class have fewer and fewer choices–choices that might be what launch them into professional careers in law, academic, medicine, public policy, or other fields that have cultural capital and influence. We will lose the voices of those we must desperately need in our public dialogues. I worry that eventually, our Colleges campuses will close, and what is left for the Northern part of Wisconsin working families is vocational degrees and technical focused bachelors degrees, so that these are the only options for many students. There is nothing inherently wrong with vocational/technical degrees–but the liberal arts core and comprehensive course of study in four-year campuses offers choices to all students–those who are poor, or work full time, or have children, or just didn’t think college was for them, or stayed home to work for the family business or on the family farm.

I worry that people with money will always have lots of choices. I worry that this restructuring just hurts people without money.

I know people who love the UW System hope that the November elections will shift the tide and bring in progressive political leadership who can try to undo some of the damage that has been done with this decision to dissolve the UW Colleges. But we cannot undo the decision. And we will still have press releases and announcements that tout a narrative that people want to hear–but I don’t think it’s accurate, and I don’t think the logic or data are being presented in good faith. It’s a political game aimed at manipulating public opinion and maintaining power and money.  So I can’t stay and watch, or listen, or try anymore. Because it is too hard, and too sad.

April 19, 2018

*I use the term “merger” to describe this decision because that was how it was originally framed by the System Administration. It was later changed to “restructuring” for political purposes I won’t go into here.

**I am speaking here as an individual and not in any formal capacity I serve in the UW Colleges.  The comments here represent only my own views.