Position Statements

Presented to the Two-Year College English Association-Southwest Annual Conference October 19-21, 2000

October 21, 2000
Dallas, Texas

No institution of higher learning has been more democratic than America’s community colleges. No level of higher education can boast as long a record of serving academic and vocational needs, of enriching the intellectual climate, and of encouraging the lifelong love of learning in local communities as Americas community colleges. No level of higher education has been more welcoming to the poor, to minorities, to women, to returning older students, to immigrants and their grown children, and to the educationally underprepared than Americas community colleges.


Whereas a sensitivity to the nuances of language is essential to the mind and whereas this sensitivity to language and its uses is most directly studied in writing-intensive courses, that which threatens the quality of instruction in the writing classroom likewise threatens the intellectual competencies which undergird the very idea of higher education. Throughout the Two-Year College English Associations Southwest Region (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) administrative policies are now in place which endanger the high quality of writing instruction deserved by community college students and which erode the quality of the professional and personal lives of those who teach writing.

For more than 40 years research in the teaching of English and archived by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), of which the Two-Year College English Association (TYCA) is the community college affiliate, has documented best practices and recommends no more than 20 students per college level writing course and 15 students per developmental writing course. Recognizing that community college instructors give priority to teaching over research and publication, TYCA-Southwest further lists as a best practice a total of no more than 100 students per writing teacher.

A few examples of currently existing policies in the region that shortchange students and teachers, as reported by members in good standing of TYCA-Southwest, are:

  • Full-time course loads of 7 classes per full-time instructor.
  • Class sizes of 30 and even 35 or more students in college writing courses.
  • Class sizes of 25 and even 30 or more in remedial writing courses.
  • Part-time faculty teaching as much as 70% and even 80% of all writing courses.
  • Colleges where 100% of all remedial writing courses are taught by part-time faculty.

Therefore, the membership of the Two-Year College English Association-Southwest Region (TYCA-SW) does endorse the following three position statements, which will be listed for public and professional appraisal on its website. The names of all institutions that have in place policies that match the best practices, as self-reported by TYCA-Southwest membership, will also be listed on the website under each statement. Faculty and recent graduates with advanced degrees seeking jobs will now have easy access to the names of those institutions which have committed themselves to excellence in the teaching of writing by implementing the best practices in the writing classroom:

Position Statement #1
Faculty members must be given adequate time to fulfill their responsibilities to their students, their departments, their institutions, their profession, their communities, and to themselves. Without that time, teachers cannot teach effectively. Overcrowding the writing classroom creates the conditions of failure–for instructors as well as for students. Students write less and learn less; the amount of time available per student and per paper is reduced; learning is subverted.

When a writing instructor spends 20 minutes reading, analyzing, and responding to each paper for a class of 20 students, the teacher needs 400 minutes to complete these processes for that one assignment in just that one course alone. Effective instruction usually has the students writing every day with the instructor responding to five or more formal pieces of writing during a course. Looking at overcrowding another way, a typical 50 minute class period with 20 students allows for 22 minutes per student in college level courses and a little over 3 minutes per student in remedial courses (15 students). Furthermore, the full membership of TYCA-Southwest recommends that full-time instructors teach no more than five classes per term.

To ensure the optimum condition for the kind of one-on-one teaching required in first-year writing courses and to facilitate individual attention for each new writer at the beginning of his or her college career, TYCA-Southwest fully supports limiting the total number of students in the course load for teachers of first-year writing courses to 100 or less each semester.

The following colleges in the region are commended for engaging in best practices by adhering to the policies and practices as described in the above Position Statement. The “best practices” designation comes as self-reported by a member of TYCA-Southwest at the listed college.

College of the Mainland [TX]

Position Statement #2
Faculty have an ethical obligation to remain abreast of current developments in their discipline, most especially in regard to pedagogical matters concerning the teaching of writing. Faculty likewise have a duty to participate in the professional life of their discipline. Bringing in outside facilitators, while often valuable, cannot substitute for the kinds of professional exchange that occurs when faculty gather with professionals from beyond state and regional boundaries. Students benefit most when they learn from faculty who remain vigorously involved in the concerns of their profession. Colleges have a responsibility to allocate funding sufficient to pay for registration and travel by faculty to at least one professional development conference per year.

The following colleges in the region are commended for engaging in best practices by adhering to the policies and practices as described in the above Position Statement. The “best practices” designation comes as self-reported by a member of TYCA-Southwest at the listed college.

Position Statement #3
Part-time faculty contribute immensely to their institutions as a whole and to their students in particular, often by drawing upon Areal world experiences where good writing skills mean the difference between failure and success. In a 16 week long course meeting three times per week, and assuming that an instructor puts in three hours per hour in class of planning lessons, selecting reading assignments, and reading and responding to student writing, a part-time writing instructor with a Masters degree being paid $1,800 actually earns less than $10 per hour. Overcrowded classrooms exacerbate the problem further, with the teaching of ESL or remedial writing being even more labor intensive still.

A lack of fair pay, of office space, of access to professional development, and of input in departmental and institutional concerns for part-time English teachers are common practices at many institutions. Additionally, a high ratio of part-time to full-time personnel burdens those few full-time faculty charged with fulfilling institutional duties and places the reputation of the college itself in the hands of faculty whose primary professional responsibilities often remain to places outside the college. Furthermore, by their very nature developmental writing classes have the least prepared students and are comprised largely of students who come from backgrounds where standard English is not spoken; yet developmental classes are relegated disproportionately to part-time instructors.

TYCA-Southwest recommends that full-time faculty teach at least 70% of course offerings. TYCA-Southwest also recommends that when part-time faculty are hired, wages of at least $2,200 per three-hour course, access to office space in which to prepare for class and meet with students, and additional payment for office hours kept in accordance with the department policies of each institution shall be put in place. Additionally, if students are to be well-served, part-time faculty likewise need some access to professional development activities and training provided by the college.

The following colleges in the region are commended for engaging in best practices by adhering to the policies and practices as described in the above Position Statement. The “best practices” designation comes as self-reported by a member of TYCA-Southwest at the listed college.

Approved November 1, 2003
Position of the Two-Year College English Association–Southwest Region

Preamble: Recent technological advances and an interest in distance education on the part of college administrations have led to a strong push toward online delivery of college courses. In many cases, the move to offer online courses has been premature as many critical issues that ground the practice, both pedagogically and in terms of shared governance, have not been worked out or in many cases even addressed. TYCA-SW believes that a basic set of guidelines is necessary for the proper use of this media in English instruction. While we understand the attraction on the part of both administrations and students to online course offerings, we feel it is imperative that such offerings be of full pedagogical benefit to the student as well as fair and reasonable for faculty. With this in mind, we offer the following guidelines for the use of online instruction in English courses.

Guidelines: Within the Western Tradition, higher education has been built upon the foundation that teacher-scholars bring their expertise, ideas, and creativity into the classrooms of the institutions they serve. Sharing the excitement of creativity and discovery inspires students. From the beginning of this tradition, a tradition unique in history, faculty have retained proprietary interest in that which they teach and that which they publish. This policy has served students, faculty, and society well for going on eight centuries. The delivery of a faculty member’s courses online falls within this long established tradition. Therefore, TYCA–SW believes faculty who create courses for online delivery should retain the ownership of the courses they write in the same way as faculty who publish retain ownership of the copyright of whatever they publish. We cite the Galveston College Intellectual Property Rights Policy as a good step in this direction.

As some students choose to take more than one online course during their college careers, clearly they would benefit if they do not have to negotiate new technology each time. From that perspective, it seems only sensible that colleges have their courses on the same platform. We think this is the preferable situation. However, until faculty and administration of a college come to a workable agreement about faculty ownership of course materials, it is in faculty members’ best interest to locate courses off-campus where their copyrights will be protected. While the student is best served by having all courses offered by a college on the same platform, we believe that before we can recommend that step, it is important that administrations recognize faculty ownership of all course materials created.

Recommendations: To answer concerns over the integrity and variability of online offerings as well as security over testing, we recommend the following:

Student/faculty ratios should be low enough to ensure the active engagement of students and high academic achievement. Given the increased difficulty of teaching, critiquing and evaluating online work, we recommend colleges set the cap at 70% of the face-to-face limit for the same courses. We believe this limit should apply not only to courses that are fully online, but also to hybrid courses that have both an online and a face-to-face component.

Courses should be at least as rigorous as similar courses delivered by more traditional means, meeting the objectives and requirements outlined in the official course description as well as national, state, and local accreditation standards.

Instructional technologists able to cope with online security need to be readily available to ensure sites are safe from cheating and hacking.

Appropriate procedures for evaluation and verification that the student is submitting his/her own work should be mutually agreed upon by the instructor and the institution.

As English, especially writing, courses differ greatly from content-based courses, we believe there is a need for some sort of institutional quality control system (a checklist that all distance education courses must meet) developed specifically for English courses. To answer these concerns and others, we recommend the following (with some points borrowed from the National Education Association {NEA} policy on distance education):

Colleges should use only instructors whose qualifications are the same as those of instructors teaching in traditional English classes and who are prepared specifically and comprehensively to teach in this environment.

Courses that are offered should be consistent with the institution’s overall offerings and integrated into its mission.

Colleges need to ensure the presence of adequate infrastructure, with all that that entails, including appropriate facilities and equipment, libraries and laboratories as needed, adequate support for faculty and technical personnel on or off campus and efficient student services.

One question that often comes up is the online load. That begs the question, should there be a maximum number or a maximum percentage of such courses one can/must teach as part of the semester load? Allowing for the unique nature of disciplines, the limited number of distance education courses that might be available, and staffing limitations encountered by different departments, each instructional department within an institution should determine a limit for the number or percentage of distance education sections a faculty member may teach. Department faculty are closest to the scene and have a day-to-day knowledge that makes them the best qualified to make such decisions.

It is a disaster if someone ill-prepared tries to take on a distance learning course. We support the NEA’s statement that such courses should have instructors “who are prepared specifically and comprehensively to teach in this environment.” Any faculty member teaching distance education courses should have available thorough training in teaching such courses and should be required to train until competent. In addition, continued training in teaching distance education courses should be made available. An important question to be considered is, what training opportunities should be provided for faculty in designing such a course? The term “training” perhaps should be broadened to “education” because faculty really need much more than the technical training often offered by colleges. They also need to know something of the theories of distance learning, the rhetoric of hypertext, the current research on differences between reading hypertext and reading printed text, and the pedagogy of distance learning. Many experts in distance learning consider it to be a separate system, different from the “medieval model” of classroom learning still used in traditional classes. Simply transferring the old model of teaching (“I’ll put my lectures on the Web”) is not good online teaching. In addition, English faculty especially need practical training in the nuts-and-bolts of course management such as how to keep from being overloaded with drafts and e-mails from students around the clock. Of course, they also need the technical training in the platform being used to carry the course.

Therefore, TYCA–SW believes faculty should be offered a variety of opportunities both for theoretical education and practical training in distance education by their institutions. These opportunities could take the following forms:

  • In-service training on technical issues about the platform
  • Support for conference and workshop attendance
  • Support for further graduate education in rhetoric or distance education courses
  • Library subscriptions to relevant periodicals such as Syllabus and The American Journal of Distance Education
  • Encouragement of faculty research and publication on distance learning
  • Invitations to experts in the field of distance education for college convocations or in-service training
  • Acknowledgement of faculty efforts in distance education on evaluations

Another situation that often presents itself is an administration that is eager to offer online courses before faculty feel ready to create them. That raises the question, should an administration be able to order a faculty member to create and/or teach an online course as part of one’s expected, regular, contracted duties? We believe this is a bad idea. Many teachers prefer the traditional classroom setting or fear working so intimately through technology and that should be respected. Our position is that, in order to prevent this, college governing boards should adopt the policy that no faculty member can be forced to create or teach distance education courses unless such an expectation was one of the contingent factors upon which the hiring of the faculty member was made.

Finally, development of new courses with new methodologies is often done by full-time faculty members and in many places merits extra compensation or release time. Galveston College, for example gives extra compensation for the creation of online classes. Course development for distance education, is generally recognized as being even more time and labor intensive than for traditional classes. Every aspect of the course must be developed up-front, with no element left for development later in the semester as sometimes occurs in on-campus classes. In addition, Web-based courses often require the time-consuming task of seeking permission from owners of various Web sites to use their material in the course if the course is to be used beyond the immediate campus. Thus compensation in the form of a stipend or release time for course development for Web courses is appropriate. Therefore, the position of TYCA–SW is that faculty developing Web courses for the first time should be given a stipend appropriate to the time and expertise used to develop such a course or released from their regular teaching duties to allow them time to develop such a course. The Dallas TeleCollege model is one to be considered: it offers a stipend for course development to first-time online instructors.