112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Putting Organizational Metaphors to Work: Evaluating Remedial Assessment Within CSUs

Frances Suderman, California State University, San Bernardino

By exploring parallels between organizational metaphors and the programs/tools used to assess students’ preparedness for college freshman English composition courses, this paper seeks to contribute to the remediation conversation by rethinking existing approaches to assessment for the purpose of offering support to 21st century models of English placement.

Proposal: 

This paper explores parallels between metaphors used to describe organizations and the programs and tools used to assess students’ preparedness for college freshman English composition courses. I am particularly interested in ways that students’ reading and writing skills are assessed and how students are placed, or chose placement, into freshman English composition courses. 

Students entering a California State University (CSU) as freshmen must take an English Placement Test (EPT), which scores them based on reading comprehension and writing abilities. However, it can be argued that this timed test is not an accurate indicator or predictor of a student’s reading and writing abilities. As an alternative, some CSU campuses have implemented a directed self-placement (DSP) survey that asks students to reflect on their experiences with reading and writing and to place themselves into a level of freshman English composition that they select, negating the EPT. 

Yet, the EPT and other mechanisms are still in place, perpetuating the “remedial” label. To make matters worse, Early Start English (ESE), a four-day remediation program, is now a requirement for students who score below a certain number on the EPT. ESE then becomes a prerequisite for students who score low on the EPT. By continuing to require the EPT and by setting an additional requirement on top of it, ESE, the CSU is reinforcing its own methods of labeling underprepared students. In this way the CSU acts like a machine by using the same tools to measure student ability although such tools may not be accurate predictors of ability and achievement. Such mechanistic approaches, according to Gareth Morgan, “…can create organizational forms that have great difficulty in adapting to changing circumstances...” (28). Like a machine, the CSU has not adapted to new pedagogies that reinforce student choice and self-assessment like the DSP model. Furthermore, without a serious evaluation of mechanistic approaches to remediation, students are likely to receive conflicting messages about their reading and writing abilities. These conflicting messages threaten student self-efficacy by placing labels and boundaries on students’ reading and writing abilities based on test scores.  

Making use of recent scholarship, like Gareth Morgan, and surveying CSU policies and practices, this paper seeks to contribute to the remediation conversation by rethinking existing approaches to assessment for the purpose of offering support to 21st century models of English placement.