Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teaching loads: sessionals vs. regular faculty, UVic English

Who does more teaching in the UVic English department, sessional instructors or regular faculty, and what distinctions are there in their teaching responsibilities?

At this point I don't have the data to compare ourselves against other departments at UVic, or against English departments at other Canadian institutions, but in time I hope to obtain that information.

All data is current as of December 16, 2012. Note that I'll be talking in terms of sections rather than courses (since we teach multiple sections of many courses), and that I'm not distinguishing between 300- and 400-level courses, because our program considers them equivalent. Also note that I'm excluding courses taught through the Faculty of Engineering by instructors associated with English.

As well, I use the terms "sessional instructor" and "regular faculty," even though there are distinctions within each category, and some overlaps between the categories. Another day I'll talk about some of those issues, but for today I want only to consider them as distinct categories.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Literature, in composition

Over the next while, I'll be writing a series of posts about ENGL 135, the main composition course at the University of Victoria. I'm the coordinator for the course, after having acted for one year as the Writing Advisor responsible for our department's writing courses (excluding our Professional Writing minor), and having spent the previous four years working closely with the previous Advisor to develop and modify the course. The actual Advisor is the one with authority over the course, but because of my experience coordinating and teaching the course (11 sections over the last three years), I've got lots to say about it, so I'm going to say some of it here.

In 2012/13, we're running 58 sections of ENGL 135, one of them online, that are being taught by 25 different instructors (23 of whom are sessional, offering 55 of the 58 sections). There's an enrolment cap of 36 students in each section, that's exceeded only in extremely rare circumstances. It's mostly a "writing across the curriculum" version of first-year composition (WAC), with a heavy emphasis on "writing to learn" activities: and yes, with 36 students, it's unwieldy at best.

Enough background: on to the actual post.

I gather that there has been some discussion recently of whether the course (as currently designed) could include a literature component, and whether it might be a good thing to include such a component. In brief, it's sometimes said that English is the one discipline excluded from the current version of the course, and that there are arguments for viewing a late-term literature unit as a kind of "reward" for both students and instructors.