Department of English sees course increase

Michelle Pierce

Over the summer, a total of five sections of English 2001 and 1000 were added to the fall semester courses in order to accommodate the rise in the number of students requiring the class.

Compared to the fall semester of last year, almost 150 more students have enrolled in English 1000 and almost 600 more students have enrolled in English 2001, said English lecturer Catherine Talley.

English 1000 is an expository writing course taken by freshmen, while English 2001 is a writing across the curriculum course taken by sophomores. The general education program at Appalachian State University requires both courses, meaning every student needs to get credit for the class in order to graduate, Talley said.

“We have an obligation to offer the number of sections that’s needed to cover that requirement for student graduation,” Talley said. “It gets problematic when the demand is so high that we start running out of teachers and have to start to compromise on our ability to teach effectively.”

Talley said a possible cause of this increase in demand for the two writing courses this year could be due to students getting off track and taking required courses outside of the recommended time period.
This year, one concern for writing teachers is being able to still give constructive feedback to each individual student considering the increase of students that each instructor will be teaching, Talley said.

“It isn’t constructive for a writing student to just receive a letter grade because it doesn’t give them any indication of what they did well or what they need to work on,” Talley said.

“Many teachers volunteer or are asked to take an extra class for one time pay only. Yet, this particular semester, the amount of overloads needed far exceeded the people who actually wanted them,” Talley said.

Unlike many lecture classes, a writing class requires teachers to evaluate each individual student’s work. Yet, with an influx of students enrolled in these courses and no additional teachers in the English department, the amount of time each teacher can devote to personal student feedback is shrinking, Talley said.

“Faculty attempt to give their students just as much attention as they always have,” said Kim Gunter, assistant chair for composition. “One-on-one instruction is something we pride ourselves on here in the composition program.”

Gunter said approximately 11 faculty members are teaching overloads this fall, which means that most of those faculty members are teaching five classes this fall instead of the usual four courses each semester.

Recent cuts in education funding at the state level make hiring more teachers increasingly difficult, Gunter said.

The Dean and Associate Deans in the College of Arts and Sciences set course caps, and those caps have risen significantly in the last few years. Since 2008, there has been an increase of six students per classroom in English 2001 and 1000, Gunter said.

According to the Association of Departments of English, college English teachers should not teach more than three sections of composition per term. The number of students in each section should be 15 or fewer, with no more than 20 students in any case.

It is the hope of the English department that more students will visit the University Writing Center in order to receive more one-on-one attention that they may not be able to find in the classroom in order to strengthen their writing, Gunter said.

Story: MICHELLE PIERCE, Intern News Reporter