The Pre-Test

On the first or second day of the semester, I gave my English 101 students a pre-test, or opening survey. I'm going to be giving them the same survey in about a week to see if their responses are any different. I plan to give them a summary of what they said (my compilation of their responses) for both surveys, but I reserve the right to change my mind. This is really for my personal use in developing my pedagogy.

What follows is the list of questions and my compilation of their answers. Twenty-five students took the survey, and I'm not writing down all the replies here, only the ones I saw in two or more of the surveys. The (sighs) are directed toward the obviously still heavily dominant 5PE formula in high school English classes, from the attention-grabber to the clincher.

1. What are some qualities of a good argument? List at least four.

17 said it has to be supported with evidence
12 said it addresses opposing views (this was a pleasant surprise)
8 said it has a strong position on the topic
5 said it uses personal experience
3 said it is well-researched
3 said "confidence" (spoken arguments, maybe?)
3 said it has a good introduction and conclusion
2 said it has a good tone

2. What do you know about writing an introduction for an essay?

17 said it must include a thesis statement (sigh)
11 said it has to say what the paper will be about
6 said it has to have an attention-grabber, or hook (sigh)
6 said it has to have topic sentences (for body paragraphs) (sigh)
4 said it has to have an overview or background on the topic
2 said it must be brief

3. What do you know about writing a conclusion of an essay?

23 said it should restate the thesis and main points of the essay (sigh)
5 said it should have a "clincher sentence" at the end (sigh)
3 said it must not bring up any new information or points (sigh)

4. How do you know if the evidence supporting an argument is valid or not?

6 said if the evidence is cited (not sure if "cited" here means simply that, or "it's cited, which enables you to evaluate the credibility and bias of the source)
5 gave answers suggesting that they use their own judgment
4 said if you research the topic
4 said if the sources are reliable and credible

5. What do you do if you're having a hard time getting started writing a paper for a class?

11 said brainstorm
8 said prewrite (some variation in phrasing but generally this activity)
4 said write an outline
4 said create a chart or concept map
3 said talk to the teacher
2 said read/research the topic
2 said listen to music
2 said have a conversation with someone about the topic

6. What do you do if you've written a paper for a class but aren't sure if it's good or not?

14 said get "someone" (unspecified) to read it and give feedback
6 said show it to the teacher
6 said take a break and then re-read it
4 said look at the rubric

Then I listed five rhetorical terms that I planned to talk about over the course of the semester and put a list of definitions beside them. I asked students to draw a line connecting the term to its definition.

Kairos: 8 right, 18 wrong

Pathos: 7 right, 18 wrong

Ethos: 4 right, 21 wrong

Enthymeme: 4 right, 21 wrong

Logos: 3 right, 22 wrong