English core classes increase to four-units

Evelyn Caicedo

During fall 2010, the English department at Saddleback College presented a revision of the English 1A curriculum which would change the course to a four-unit class instead of three to be put forth in the fall 2011 semester.

The curriculum was changed due to the fact that “students are not adequately prepared for English 1B nor are they getting the skill set needed to succeed in upper division courses that require a research component,” said Suki Fisher, the co-coordinator of English composition.

So now English 1A, the course which focuses on expository writing skills, will be four-hour a week class to better the learning of the students and to better complete the next level of English.

“In reviewing the goals that we wished our students to have accomplished upon completing both 1A and 1B, we found some holes,” Fisher said. “Namely that we expected students to master skills presented to them in 1B without first giving them the introduction or development period in 1A.”

The shift to an essay word count of 4,000 words in 1A to 1B courses at 8,000 is said to be too great, and thus the unit change was to be needed for the students, according to Fisher.

“Currently 1A students are expected to learn how to organize an essay, develop clear ideas, write a complex thesis, and write fluidly with only minor grammatical errors,” Fisher said. “The added unit will allow us to address skill sets that are needed to prepare students for writing the research paper: namely, how to find, analyze, and respond to a given text.”

Fisher adds that by adding the curriculum change would also allow students to learn how to utilize an outside source, such as how to incorporate outside material, correctly cite the source, and correctly create a work cited page. All of which are skills students are expected to master when writing the research paper in 1B.

For a student to master the requirements of English 1B, he or she must know how to incorporate outside material and subsequently cite the source in the proper format and style, Fisher said. The curriculum change would allow students sufficient time to become proficient.

“Another advantage to the added unit is that it will allow us more time to review grammar and punctuation and to do it more thoroughly,” Fisher said. “So, we will be able to further prepare the students on multiple levels.”

Irvine Valley College and many other colleges in Orange County already have English 1A as a four-unit course so to change the Saddleback would only equal the learning material.

“In this process [of reviewing our proposal], we discovered that Saddleback College is the only school in Orange County to offer a three-unit 1A equivalent,” Fisher said. “All other colleges meet with their students for four hours, whether the course was three or four units. Every other community college understands the importance of this course.”

Currently Kevin O’Connor, the dean of liberal arts, and his staff are working toward scheduling English classes to not conflict with the next block period.

“The co-chairs and the English department worked very hard so that students would get minimal impact,” O’Connor said. “They will still be able to take other classes after that by changing start and end times of the courses.”

Fisher always leaves her class by explaining that writing is just like any other skill that needs enough practice to be achieved.

“If you don’t do enough to maintain proficiency, fluidity and coherence will ultimately be lost,” Fisher said. “This is absolutely one of the tenets that contributed to these much-needed curricular changes.” 

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