There are a maximum of twenty-one students allowed in a class at this level. I conducted the research with one section of the course, which originally had seventeen students. Three students dropped out during the semester. The students ranged in age from approximately eighteen to fifty years. The majority of the students were Caucasian, five were First Nations and one was South Asian. There were five males in the class and twelve females.
Several of the students had already completed grade twelve English in the public system and were simply taking the course again to improve their grade and subsequently apply to enter high demand college programs. Other students in the class had not completed high school and had returned to college as adults in order to take the courses they need to do so.
For the most part, the students in English 050 are highly motivated to succeed in the course in order to proceed onto a chosen career path. They enter the classroom with solid English and student skills. The course is demanding. For the semester of this research, the class met from 1:30-2:45 p.m. every day. The reading load is heavy and a substantial amount of work outside of class is expected. Many of the students are taking other required courses, working at part-time jobs and raising families. As a student body, they are energetic, enthusiastic and focused.
Each time that I used the students’ personal narratives in the classroom, I had the students get into groups of four and each person share a story from his or her own life on the topic that I had assigned. After each person had had a turn to share a story in the small group, I asked each group to select one person and that person would tell his or her story to the entire class. While each of these selected stories was being told to the whole class, I jotted simple point form notes from the story onto the board. After all of the selected stories had been told to the class, I worked with the notes on the board and connected the students’ personal narratives to the course content that was the outcome for that particular lesson.