Category Archives: Standards

bethgulley

MLA 8: We Are Here, But Should We Have Come?

(American Attitudes toward the New Version of the Popular Documentation Style)

This post is written by member Beth Gulley.

I’m spending my sabbatical year teaching in Xi’an, China. As part of my work here, the faculty invited me to present something at an international workshop on comparative language education.  I wanted to speak on a topic important to US  teachers that would have relevance to the Chinese and European audience. I remembered that before I left the United States in August, faculty were wrestling with the new MLA guidelines. While I am teaching writing to English majors here in China, research and documentation seem to be absent from the textbook and other teaching materials. Teaching documentation could be a meaningful topic. I resolved to find out how American teachers thought the transition to MLA 8 was going.

In February 2017, I sent a query out to the Conference of Basic Writing listserv, the TYCA listerv, the Kansas Association of Teachers of English (KATE) Facebook page, and the Comp I listserv at my own institution—Johnson County Community College. (These are NCTE affiliate groups except for my own college.) I invited colleagues to send me answers to four questions:

1) Are you teaching MLA 8 to your students? If so, what level of
students are you teaching it to?
2) How are students responding to the change? Is MLA 8 easier or
harder for them to use than MLA 7?
3) What advice would you give to someone who was teaching MLA 8
for the first time?
4) What is the value of teaching a documentation style?

Shortly after I posed the questions, I received responses from all four of the places I asked the questions. In all, I collected nineteen responses that I could use; plus, three people responded just to say hello to me. Of course, English teachers are the best people in the world, and they often engage in the conversation in meaningful ways that do not in any way follow directions. Everyone wanted to share advice and resources, most people shared what they thought the value of teaching documentation was, but some people did not answer the question about how students are responding to the change.

In response to question one—Are you teaching MLA 8?—fifteen people said yes. Two people said they were teaching APA instead. Two people said they were still teaching MLA 7. The most important thing to me is that no one in the United States said they don’t believe in teaching documentation at all. The level of students learning MLA 8 included first-year composition students, basic writing students, English language learners, and high school students.

Fewer people responded directly to question two about students’ responses to the change. Of the people who answered, eight said they thought MLA 8 was easier for students. One said MLA 8 was harder for students. Four people were not teaching MLA 8. Six people did not answer the question. The main reason people thought MLA 8 worked better for students was because MLA 8 is more forgiving. The idea of the containers seems to connect with students as well. It doesn’t hurt that all the citation machines and writing center handouts were recently updated, too.

The richest part of the survey results were the answers to questions three and four. In fact, I was so honored and excited by the resources people shared with me that I built a website to house them so I could share them (MLA 8: We Are Here, but Should We Have Come?). In addition to the resources that are already there, I would be happy to add new ones that people share with me. The resources included handouts, presentations, lesson plans, and templates. One of my favorite lesson plans asked students to translate a works cited page from MLA 7 into MLA 8 after finding the sources from the page. Another teacher made pads of the MLA Practice Template for her students to use while working on their research papers.

After going through the responses, I found excellent arguments for teaching a documentation style. Mainly, in doing so we teach the values of our discipline—importance of authors, the location in a text, precise language. We help students think about the rhetoric of the citation as a way to evaluate their sources. We teach them academic honesty, to be excellent in small things, to use their handbooks, and to be organized. The complete list is on the resources website.

In the United States, we universally teach students to document their sources, but in China, teachers seem more apt to expect students to figure out documentation on their own. Despite this fact, my presentation was well received. Thank you to everyone who shared with me.

Beth Gulley teaches composition and basic writing at Johnson County Community College. She is currently using her sabbatical to teach English in Xi’an, China.

2017-may-policy-analyst-blog

What Happened in Your State This May?

This past month, seven policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: Arkansas, Idaho, New York, New Mexico, Ohio and Wyoming.

Higher Education

Idaho: In 60×20 in Idaho: New Community College and Update on Complete College Idaho, Karen Uehling writes that English “remedial” writing courses were “re-conceived as co-requisite courses” rather than as non-credit, pre-composition level classes. Idaho also approved a new community college.

New Mexico: Erin O’Neill describes the New Mexico Budget Standoff on Higher Ed Funding between Governor Susana Martinez and the legislature. Because the governor vetoed the legislature’s tax increases and “in effect defunded higher education,” the New York State Supreme Court heard oral arguments on May 15 to determine whether Governor Martinez overstepped the power of her office.

PreK–12

Arkansas: In Charter School Expansion Proposed, Donna Wake notes that ten more charters were proposed, coinciding with the proposed closing of three schools. Donna also noted that a Walton-controlled entity bought one elementary school and intends to open a charter school.

Idaho: Darlene Dyer reports that Select Idaho K-3 Students Will Take New Reading Test that will “provide teachers … with a better understanding of student reading skills.”

New York: Derek Kulnis files three reports:

Ohio: Robin Holland describes Ohio House Bills 176 and 181-Standards, Testing, and Teacher Evaluation, introduced to eliminate Ohio’s Learning Standards based on the Common Core and implement a new set of standards and assessments.

Wyoming: In Wyoming Enacts “Indian Education for All” Legislation, Tiffany Rehbein shares that Governor Matt Mead signed House Bill 76 requiring all students in Wyoming to learn about the American Indian tribes of the region. Tiffany noted that this “decision aligns with NCTE’s long-standing Guideline on Non-White Minorities in English and Language Arts Materials (1978).

What Happened in Your State This November?

capitol buildingThis past month, eight policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the District of Columbia, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Robin Holland shared that Ohio Expands Preschools and Early Education by voting to allocate funds.

According to Kris Cody-Johnson, WI Superintendent Evers Examines School Funding Distribution in order to make funding between schools more equitable.

In Updates on Act 46: An Act related to making amendments to education funding, education spending, and education governance, Anne Slonaker describes how towns in Vermont are merging into larger districts, impacting funding and school choice.

Kris Cody-Johnson cites the impact of school choice and vouchers on public schools in School Vouchers Grow in Wisconsin.

Janique Parrott reported in Mayor Bowser Nominates New Chancellor  that Antwan Wilson will be the next chancellor of DC public schools, noting Mr. Wilson’s support for charter schools and test-based accountability for teachers and students.

Darlene Dyer explored the Go-On Issues for Idaho, touching on Idaho’s push for 60 percent of Idaho’s citizens between 25 and 34 to earn a degree or certificate by 2020 and the reasons why they are struggling to achieve that percentage.

Ezra Hyland lists Grants for Minnesota Teachers from preschool through college. He also describes the Minnesota Charter School Segregation Challenge.

Clancy Ratliff shares Louisiana’s Standards for Students with Cognitive Disabilities and English Language Learners, also called the “Louisiana Connectors.”

In Welcome, Virginia Educators, Leila Christenbury lists a number of resources for Virginia educators. She also notes that the Proposed Notification of “Sexually Explicit” Texts Resurges as Virginia Board of Education Considers Revised Regulations.

Kris Cody-Johnson writes that a Wisconsin Bill Would Allow Licensed Guns at Private Schools.

What Happened in Your State this August?

capitol buildingThis past month, ten policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Reports were evenly divided between K–12 and higher education.

Higher Education

Erin O’Neill describes New Mexico’s General Education Revision Initiative and Michael Gos the Core Curriculum (General Education) Requirements in Texas. In New Mexico, “five areas of essential skills were identified: Communication, Critical Thinking, Personal and Social Responsibility, Quantitative Skills, and Information Literacy.” In 2014 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board “put into effect a new 42 semester credit hour core curriculum for all undergraduate students.”

Dan Melzer cites a research report from the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, recommending that UC Berkeley “eliminate the SAT as a factor in admissions decisions.” The report found that the disparate impact on students of color outweighed indications of success. In Study Finds Access to Technology May Lower Student Performance, Washington’s Amanda Espinosa-Aguilar suggests students taking notes longhand “retain their knowledge longer than those who do not.”

Stephen Ferruci highlights that while funding for corrections in Connecticut increased, the funding for higher education decreased.

K–12 Education

New Jersey and Pennsylvania have chosen opposite approaches to graduation requirements. Whereas NJ Adopts PARCC as Graduation Requirement (Kristen Turner) for Algebra I and language arts courses, Pennsylvania is exploring alternative assessments: Pennsylvania Governor Looking to Move Graduation Requirements Away from Standardized Tests (Aileen Hower).

Donna Wake reports on the New Arkansas Literacy Standards and how in 16 districts, Arkansas approved Waivers on Teacher Licensure similar to those granted in charter schools. Arkansas is one of a number of states allowing school districts to hire non-licensed teachers.

In ECOT, Charter Schools, and Voucher Programs in Ohio, Robin Holland reports on a study that found that “higher performing students opting to use vouchers to attend private schools performed significantly worse on state exams that lower performing students who, though eligible for vouchers, remained in public school.” Robin does note that the report merits further evaluation. She also describes the controversy surrounding ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) related to the discrepancies between student attendance and the funds requested by ECOT from the Ohio Department of Education.

Kris Cody-Johnson describes the committee formed in Wisconsin to Study Data Protection. That committee will study how student data are collected and safeguarded.