The Voice: Winter 2001

The Voice

New courses offered to freshmen

Dordt offered two new courses this fall: “ASK 050: Basic Mathematics for College Students” and “ASK 060: Basic Writing for College Students.” Based on several years of discussion among faculty and Academic Skills (ASK) Center staff, the courses are designed to help students review pre-college work, and one or both are required for all incoming students who do not meet the college entrance requirements for mathematics or writing. Students are given the opportunity to test out of the courses.

Students taking the English course must pass it before taking the general education requirement, “ENG 101: Grammar and Composition,” and students in the math course must pass it before enrolling in any other mathematics-based course. Although the courses count toward determining full-time status, financial aid, and a student's GPA, they will not count toward graduation credit.

This past semester, the ASK Center offered two sections of English writing of twelve students each, and one mathematics class of twenty-four students. One section of each class will be taught next semester.

The ASK courses are being taught by two adjuncts. Rather than require a master's degree, which is generally a minimum prerequisite for Dordt faculty, Pam De Jong of the Academic Skills (ASK) Center sought candidates who demonstrated excellent teaching ability. Dale Vander Wilt, who is teaching the math course, is executive vice president of First National Bank in Sioux Center but taught junior high and high school math for thirteen years. De Jong said of Vander Wilt's teaching, “I've heard students say, 'If I had had a teacher like this in high school, I wouldn't have had to take this course.' Of course,” De Jong hastened to add, “some of these students have had excellent instructors before, but they either didn't take the math courses needed or didn't take their learning seriously at the time.”

She is also pleased with the work of Audrey Den Boer, who is teaching the writing course. “We needed someone who could empathize with a student who struggles,” said De Jong. “Audrey's background in teaching English as a Second Language helps her do that.”

De Jong explained, “The purpose of these classes is not to allow Dordt to accept more poorly-prepared students; instead, we want the classes to help at-risk students who have been accepted to succeed in college.” Dordt has always accepted some students “on probation” or with “conditional admission”; now they use the term “admission with special provisions.”

De Jong was pleased with how things went this semester. “It's been a good first semester overall. Parents were very grateful we had this class. And, for the most part, students have been pleased too.” Dordt has committed to a two-year pilot program for these courses, and De Jong looks forward to studying the long-term benefits as the students continue their college careers.

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