A Study of the Relationship Between Freshman Composition and Student Performance in Intensive Writing Courses

A Study of the Relationship Between Freshman Composition and Student Performance in Intensive Writing Courses

Thomas K. Martin (Collin County Community College District, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2621-8.ch020
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The latter finding, while complicating the interpretation of the analysis, contributed most significantly to answering the question of whether or not ENGL1301 should be required as a prerequisite to other intensive writing courses. If ENGL1301 were germane to performance in intensive writing courses, then taking ENGL1301 before taking the intensive writing courses should consistently reduce the odds of negative outcomes in the subsequent courses. Since the sequencing of ENGL1301 did not predict the likelihood of adverse outcomes in intensive writing courses, and since college readiness and having effective writing skills were both predictors of the likelihood of adverse outcomes in intensive writing courses, the evidence suggests that ENGL1301 should not be required as a prerequisite to intensive writing courses. The data do underscore the importance of ensuring that students are college-ready and have some degree of writing proficiency, whether or not that proficiency comes from ENGL1301, before attempting intensive writing courses.
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The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between student performance in Composition/Rhetoric I (ENGL1301) and student performance in intensive writing courses to determine whether or not there was sufficient justification for requiring ENGL1301 (freshman composition) as a prerequisite to all courses that include intensive writing experiences as part of the Suburban Community College (Suburban) curriculum. Academic administrators identified six courses that comprised the operational definition of intensive writing courses for purposes of this study: GOVT2301 (American Government I), GOVT2302 (American Government II), HIST1301 (U.S. History I), HIST1302 (U.S. History II), HUMA1301 (Introduction to the Humanities), and PHIL1301 (Introduction to Philosophy).

In designing the study of the relationship between ENGL1301 and the intensive writing courses, two sets of variables were controlled: 1) students’ college readiness upon first entering Suburban (based on initial performance on the Texas Success Initiative [TSI] test) and 2) how ENGL1301 was sequenced relative to the intensive writing courses. In addition, two of the courses (GOVT2302 and HIST1302) are the second in each of two course sequences following GOVT2301 and HIST1301 respectively. Consequently, it was decided that the study should also control for students’ performance in the initial course in each sequence since it is reasonable to assume that performance in the first course would have an impact on performance in the second.

Other variables that were initially considered as having potential impact on student performance in intensive writing courses were ethnicity, gender, and age. A preliminary analysis found that these variables had little relationship with performance in intensive writing courses once TSI readiness was taken into account, so, to keep the models as simple as possible, these variables were excluded from the primary analysis that is the subject of this report.

Data for this study were extracted from Suburban’s student information system (SIS-Plus®, at the time) using a series of Hyperion Explorer (Brio) queries. The data were then analyzed using multinomial logistic regression in SPSS®. The decision to use multinomial logistic regression was made because the dependent variable (performance in intensive writing courses) was an ordinal variable that had been re-coded as a nominal level variable, and the independent variables were either dichotomous or scaled variables.

Data were extracted from SIS-Plus for all students who completed any of the intensive writing courses during fall semester 2007 or spring semester 2008. Once the students were identified, the following variables were extracted: college-wide IDs, course IDs for the intensive writing courses, terms in which the intensive writing courses were taken, and grades received in the intensive writing courses. Then, data for the remaining variables were extracted: term in which the initial attempt at ENGL1301 was made going back to fall semester 2002 (if it had been attempted), grade from the initial attempt at ENGL1301, and TSI readiness upon initial entry into Suburban. Data were manipulated to ensure that there was only one unique record per student. Additionally, chronologically sequencing variables were constructed and data were re-coded.

The final set of variables and their codings used in this study are presented in Table 1.

Table 1.
Final variable set and coding
Variable NameVariable DescriptionVariable Coding
g2301g33-Category GOVT 2301
First Attempt Grade
1= Withdrawn (Grade of W)
2= Nonsuccess (Grade of D or F)
3= Success (Grade of A, B, or C)
g2302g33-Category GOVT 2302
First Attempt Grade
hi1301g33-Category HIST 1301
First Attempt Grade
hi1302g33-Category HIST 1302
First Attempt Grade
hu1301g33-Category HUMA 1301
First Attempt Grade
p1301g33-Category PHIL 1301
First Attempt Grade
tsiroeTSI Readiness on Initial
Entry at Suburban
0= Not TSI Ready on Initial Entry
1= TSI Ready on Initial Entry
e1301gENGL 1301 First Non-W
0= F
1= D
2= C
3= B
4= A
e1301vg2301ENGL 1301 vs. GOVT 2301
-1= ENGL 1301 taken before given intensive writing course
0= ENGL 1301 taken concurrently with given intensive writing course
1= ENGL 1301 taken after given intensive writing course
e1301vg2302ENGL 1301 vs. GOVT 2302
e1301vhi1301ENGL 1301 vs. HIST 1301
e1301vhi1302ENGL 1301 vs. HIST 1302
e1301vhu1301ENGL 1301 vs. HUMA 1301
e1301vp1301ENGL 1301 vs. PHIL 1301

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