2013-14 Unit Plan

Mission Statement

The Butte College English department strives to cultivate an appreciation of language  and literature.  We profess    
• vivid, meaningful teaching.  
• the joy of creativity in language.  
• critical exploration of a multicultural world.  
• the benefits of clear writing in all fields of study.  
• the precision of critical thought and self-expression.  
• preparation for transfer-level academic research and writing.  

Program Description

The English department’s primary focus is the teaching of composition.  We prepare students for college-level writing through English 118 and English 119, and we teach English 2, which is required for an AA or for transfer. In addition, we teach English 11, which meets the Critical Thinking (CSU A3) GE requirement for transfer. We also offer a number of transferable literature and creative writing classes, and as of Fall 2012, we began offering an AA-T degree in English. In Fall 2012, we offered 113 sections, including 66 sections of English 2, 24 sections of English 119, four sections of English 118, and nine sections of English 11. The English Department accounts for 7.11 % of district FTES, up from 5.17 in Fall of 2010. This increase in FTES is due primarily to the addition of more English 2 sections to accommodate new placement rates; prior to 2010, 23% of new students assessed at the English 2 level. Currently, 48% of students assess at English 2.

In addition to our primary focus on composition, the English Department supports and promotes the literary arts through our literature and creative writing courses and by making provocative, diverse, and renowned writers available to students and the community. The Literary Events Committee presents both a year-round reading series and a spring creative writing conference, WordFire. The reading series provides an opportunity for Butte College faculty to read their creative work, presents an open-mic reading for students, and brings in both local writers and nationally known talent. The reading series is free and open to the public. Funding for the speakers has been provided by the department budget as well as Public Events Funding and profits from WordFire. Attendance at the events has frequently been standing room only in rooms that seat 60.

Last April's first annual WordFire conference was attended by over 100 students, staff and community members. Donors provided 10 scholarships for Butte College students and local high school students. Twelve workshops, a publishers' panel, and a student salon hosted by the student Literary Arts Club were featured. Noted nature writer David Lukas led a guided nature walk, and keynote speaker and Chico State University English Professor Rob Davidson and featured poet Susan Wooldridge opened the day.  

Support for diversity is also central to the English Department's mission. Some of this year's WordFire speakers will also be hosting workshops for Diversity Days, and a number of our courses meet GE diversity requirements, including Native American Literature, Cross-Cultural Film and Literature, and Queer Film and Literature, which is the only current Butte College course focused primarily on issues relevant to the LGBT*Qplus population.   

The English Department currently employs eight full-time faculty members and 41 associate faculty, up from 28 in Fall 2008. Associate faculty teach 75% of our sections. Of the eight full-time English instructors at Butte, only four teach full-time in English; three of the remaining full-timers have reassigned time to perform chair/coordinator or Academic Senate duties, and one full-time English instructor is on half-time leave for a year due to family issues. All of this leaves the English department with a pressing need for more full-time faculty leadership to assist with the work of the department. In addition, full-time faculty leadership is needed to help make our writing program more coherent and conducive to student success. Data from multiple sources clearly shows that the department's reliance on associate faculty to teach most of its courses has led to an increasingly inconsistent and unmanageable writing program that is not conducive to student success.

*Success rates for English 2 have remained consistent for sections taught by full-timers over the course of the last three Fall semesters, at close to 73% (excluding online sections). However, success rates for English 2 sections taught by associate faculty have gone down considerably, from close to 72% in Fall 2010 to 61% in Fall 2012. One explanation for the shift is the fact that English placements have changed and more students are placing into English 2. However, since success rates for full-time instructors have not gone down, this cannot be the only or even the primary factor. As placements shifted, we have added more sections of English 2 taught by associate faculty. In the Fall of 2010, we offered 43 sections of English 2. In the Fall of 2012, we offered 66 sections of English 2. Full-time instructors taught nine of those sections, compared to the six they taught in the Fall of 2010 (again excluding online sections). In comparison, associates taught thirty-five sections of English 2 in Fall 2010 and fifty-five sections of English 2 in Fall 2012, an increase of twenty associate-taught sections. Over the course of six Fall and Spring semesters beginning with the Fall of 2009, associate faculty sections of English 2 and English 119 were twice as likely to have average GPAs that were below 2.0. In those six semesters, roughly one in ten sections taught by full-timers had a failing average GPA. In contrast, two in ten sections taught by associate faculty had failing average section GPAs--double the rate as for full-time instructors' sections. Adding twenty additional sections of English 2 taught by associates is thus bound to have a negative impact on student success rates. The connection seems clear: as the number of sections taught by part-time faculty members has increased, student success in English 2 has decreased. In English 119, by contrast, success rates have remained consistent as numbers of associate-taught sections have decreased and the proportion of 119 sections taught by full-timers has actually increased. 

*Relying too heavily on associate faculty also produces issues with accountability. For example, 70% of the associate faculty we reviewed in Spring 2011 had English 119 syllabi that did not comply with the course outline or with legal requirements regarding attendance policies, despite multiple efforts by the department to communicate these requirements.

*Program coherence, a key factor in bringing about demonstrable learning gains for students, is also threatened by the English department's out of balance reliance on associates rather than full-time instructors. In a Spring 2012 survey, over a third of our English 119 faculty revealed using an approach to teaching composition (the methods of development approach) that a quarter of our English 2 faculty said actively contradicts how they teach writing. Fourteen percent of our 119 teachers said that they use another method—the five-paragraph essay method—that 75% of English 2 teachers noted as not simply ineffective, but as actually incompatible with their own approach. This incompatibility of approaches means that students learn one thing at one level only to have to unlearn it at the next, which clearly works against their success. 

*There is also a demonstrably and significantly higher variability and inconsistency of grading standards amongst associate faculty in English. Over the last six semesters, success rates varied an average of 21.8% more for associate faculty sections than they did for full-time faculty sections. That is, the average difference in a semester between the highest success rate and the lowest success rate for sections taught by part-time English faculty was 21.8% higher than the average difference between the highest success rate and the lowest success rate for sections taught by full-time English faculty in a semester. One conclusion from this data is that there is a much greater variability of grading standards and teaching practices for associate faculty than for full-time faculty. As a result, some students are passing when they shouldn’t be, and some students are failing when they shouldn’t be. Sadly, had all sections of English 2 achieved the success rate of the English 2 sections taught by full-timers in Fall 2012, an additional 194 students, or almost six and a half sections' worth of students, would have passed English 2 that semester. 

None of the above should be taken to mean that our associates are not professionally competent. Some of the differences in success rates can be explained by the fact that associate faculty more often teach at less desirable times of day (late afternoons, for example). The primary cause of the discrepancies in success rates, grading standards, and teaching methods, however, is certainly due to the conditions of part-time employment teaching English: few paid office hours and little time to work individually with the neediest students; the need to teach at multiple colleges using different curricula, approaches, and learning management systems; and little time for professional development and learning best practices and shared approaches from colleagues.

Future Development Strategy

Strategy 1

Two full-time faculty hires to help increase student success and improve program coherence and consistency of grading standards.

  • Inspiring passion through collaboration
  • Focusing on student success

  • Supporting Rationale
    Students taught by associates in English run a greater risk of failing, and grading standards vary far too widely amongst part-time English instructors.

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Supports Previous Program Review Recommendations
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Strategy 2

    Restore administrative assistant Deb Stearns to twelve-month status.

  • Inspiring passion through collaboration
  • Focusing on student success
  • Enhancing an innovative, responsive, and accountable culture

  • Supporting Rationale
    Deb Stearns is a key contributor to all endeavors undertaken by the English department. She collaborates with the chairs to ascertain new ways to gather data, schedule efficiently, increase faculty accountability, and promote student success. Her increased assistance is all the more necessary since the department has been expanding. With the increased number of associate faculty in English, Deb's assistance is needed to ensure that all English syllabi, book orders, and absence reports are submitted on time and in compliance with state and departmental policies. Additionally, Deb's work contributes directly to student success, as when she assisted the chairs in ascertaining which books are most commonly used in English; Deb procured copies of these books to give to CAS tutors to help them work more effectively with students who are writing papers on these books. In Spring 2011, Deb also assisted the chairs with reviewing English 119 syllabi for the inclusion of current course objectives and attendance policies. More such student-success-oriented projects and accountability-promoting measures will be possible if Deb is restored to a twelve-month position, particularly now that Deb has taken on the CMST department as well. The English department has grown from serving 5.17% of district FTES in the Fall of 2010 to 7.11% of district FTES in the Fall of 2012. This increase comes with a corresponding increase in administrative workload, again making restoring Deb Stearns to a 12-month position the right thing to do.

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Required Resources

    The English Department will continue to need its 54300 supply budget of approximately $9600. In line with research demonstrating the necessity for encouraging innovative teaching practices in order to increase student success and completion (Goldrick-Rab, 2010), as well as research demonstrating that instructional program coherence is a key prequisite to increasing student learning (Jenkins and Cho, 2012; O’Banion, 2011), most of this money is spent on professional development and stipends for associate faculty to participate in department assessment and curriculum development work. We are also requesting two new full-time English instructors and the restoration of Deb Stearns to twelve-month status.

    Current Revenue Stream

    The English Department depends almost fully on support from the Butte College budget. Occasionally money from Public Events or other sources helps to fund department literary events.

    Augmentation Requests

    Original Priority Funded Program, Unit, Area Resource Type Description Account Number Object Code One-Time Augment Ongoing Augment Supporting Rationale
    1 Yes English Personnel Two full-time faculty 11.000.613.1.150100 51100 $0.00 $193,912.00 More full-time faculty in English are needed to increase student success and to help promote program coherence.
    2 Yes English Personnel Restore Deb Stearns to 12-month status 11.000.613.1.150100 51100 $0.00 $2,110.00 Deb directly supports student success, innovation, accountability, and collaboration in the department.
    Total(s) $0.00 $196,022.00