Susan Schorn, writing as a guest on author John Warner’s blog Just Visiting, has written a compelling post on one of the many issues facing writing instruction in the age of the constant budget crisis. In “Teaching in Thin Air,” Susan illustrates the direct link between higher class caps in writing classes and student drop-out rates, negative evaluations, and teacher burnout. To diffuse a teacher’s attention in a writing classroom, she points out, is to guarantee minimal writing instruction for each student.
“Though I’ve never climbed Everest, I’ve spent considerable time in academia’s version of the death zone: the super-sized writing classroom. I’ve taught writing-intensive courses in “overflow” sections with 26 students or more; I’ve worked with instructors who regularly taught sections of 32, 40, or even 60 students. Of course, “teach” is probably the wrong verb—any instructor who has helmed one of these mega-classes knows it’s virtually impossible to teach the students much about writing. There simply isn’t enough instructional oxygen to sustain learning.”