Pre-Test, Post-Test

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A couple of posts ago, I wrote about the pre-test I gave students in my English 101 class the first week of the semester. Two days ago I gave them the same survey and compared the results. As with the results I reported last time, I'm only recording a response for the open-ended questions if two or more students wrote it. Twenty-five students took the survey the first week, and 22 took it on November 16.

1. What are some qualities of a good argument? List at least four.
Pre-Test Post-Test
17 said it has to be supported with evidence
12 said it addresses opposing views
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
19 said it addresses opposing views
14 said it has to be supported with evidence
7 said it uses personal experience
6 said it must have a claim and reason
4 said it includes criteria
4 said it uses multiple appeals

Apparently a couple of people decided a good argument doesn't need evidence? -- this was the joke when I presented these results in class today, anyway. I like that there were increases in "addresses opposing views" and "uses personal experience." I have been encouraging them to write about topics they are well qualified to write about, to use their personal authority. We've been talking about claims and reasons this semester, and we've done an evaluation argument (using criteria) and are working on a definition argument, which will also use criteria.

2. What do you know about writing an introduction for an essay?
Pre-Test Post-Test
17 said it must include a thesis statement
11 said it has to say what the paper will be about
6 said it has to have an attention-grabber, or hook
6 said it has to have topic sentences (for body paragraphs)
4 said it has to have an overview or background on the topic
2 said it must be brief
13 said it must include a thesis statement
12 said it has to say what the paper will be about
6 said it has to have an attention-grabber, or hook
4 said it should lay out the structure/outline of the paper
3 said it must be brief
3 said it should give background information

I'm not surprised to see the sameness here. The question lends itself to matters of technique, as does the next one.

3. What do you know about writing a conclusion of an essay?
Pre-Test Post-Test
23 said it should restate the thesis and main points of the essay
5 said it should have a "clincher sentence" at the end
3 said it must not bring up any new information or points
21 said it should restate the thesis and main points of the essay
2 said it should have a "clincher sentence" at the end
2 said it should make a call for action

I'm glad to see that they've relaxed about the "no new information" rule, which has always struck me as especially arbitrary.

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

7 said if the sources are reliable and credible
6 said if you research the topic
6 said if you have personal experience with the topic
5 said if the evidence is cited

Again, I'm liking that some of them are showing confidence in their own experience as a source of knowledge.

5. What do you do if you're having a hard time getting started writing a paper for a class?
Pre-Test Post-Test
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
13 said brainstorm
10 said prewrite (some variation in phrasing but generally this activity)
4 said talk to the teacher
3 said create a Toulmin schema for the topic
2 said list some criteria
2 said create a chart or concept map
2 said change the topic

I wish more of them had written "talk to the teacher," but oh well. We've done some Toulmin schemas, which accounts for its appearance here.

6. What do you do if you've written a paper for a class but aren't sure if it's good or not?
Pre-Test Post-Test
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
11 said peer review
11 said show it to the teacher
6 said get "someone" (unspecified) to read it
5 said go to the Writing Center
2 said look at the rubric
2 said take a break and then re-read it

I'm happy to see the increase in "show it to the teacher." I've commented on (required) rough drafts all semester, and they seem to find it helpful. I'm glad also to see the Writing Center listed.

Term Pre-Test %age Correct Post-Test %age Correct Improvement
kairos 32% 59% 27%
ethos 20% 50% 30%
logos 12% 45% 33%
pathos 28% 73% 45%
enthymeme 16% 68% 52%

As I've said, this was just an experiment. It's hard to say how many of the correct responses (for the pre- and the post-) were lucky guesses, but here are the results anyway. I'll be using some of the remaining class time this semester to reinforce ethos and logos, that's for sure.