concurrent enrollment


Anon, they fierce encountring both concur’d,
With griesly looks and faces like their fates
But dispar minds and inward moods unlike.
—Thomas Hughes, The Misfortunes of Arthur (1587)

When I first started to explore the partnerships that my university writing program had with local high schools, one phrase that got my attention was “concurrent enrollment.” It was a foreign-sounding term, with hints of bureaucracy. At first I favored the related term “dual enrollment” to characterize this negotiation of high school and college curricula in one place. Surely dual nicely describes these two things happening at once. And, in emphasizing two elements, one can stress balance as the appropriate skill in managing the work.

It didn’t take me long, however, to see that an instructor of one of these courses faces far more than two elements. Within the same class, an English instructor may have to address a school-wide focus on a specific theme or activity (e.g., a scholarship application or a letter of thanks), a state-wide emphasis on particular texts or articulated skills, a nationally produced exam such as Advanced Placement, the university-driven FYW curriculum, and more. Other forces include parents, school boards, program coordinators offering suggestions, seemingly endless curriculum reform and development, etc. No, “dual” is overly simplifying. And, after a foray into the OED  and some reflection on what it means to “concur” or to be “concurrent,” I warmed to the term concurrent enrollment as having much greater potential for truly capturing the many elements flowing through these courses.

The epigraph above includes one of the earliest uses of the term, “concur,” a meaning which at the time had a much greater element of clashing, contesting forces than today’s almost polite associations with concurring. “I concur” can signify an absence of debate or “dispar minds.” But the earliest definitions of “concur” included: “To run together violently or with a shock” and “To run together in hostility; to rush at each other.” In time, our more placid, cooperative use of the term has become primary, but we should not completely forget or elide the trace of chaos in the “currents” of these relationships. Concurrency, which suggests flows of water, money, or electricity, has a more dynamic quality, a suggestion, too, of power or of burgeoning force.

When I think of what we are trying to do in these courses, I favor a discourse of circulation and extension rather than one of balance or equivalence. Dual enrollment sounds like compromise. We should not look at these partnerships as sites for simply moving college courses to high school sites, as if doing so could happen without consequences. Concurrent enrollment more fully describes the running together of sometimes competing and contesting forces that have the potential to produce something more powerful and more active because of their combination. Balance may be out of the question, and some chaos may be inherent. But concurrency at least marks the attempt to link and enable something that cannot exist without this experimenting.


A First Post (Introduction)

The world does not need another blog, so let’s not call this one.

And, anyway, most blogs lose steam quickly if they are just a one-way communication from a source to an audience. As faculty coordinator of UConn’s Early College Experience English courses, I communicate with teachers through emails, official ECE documents, and at conferences. Why do I (or we) need yet another place to store more commentary?

Well, I wanted to have an informal “meeting place” where conversation might come out of our experience with teaching these courses. Our ECE English program is massive, and I feel like I am still only just beginning to glimpse and appreciate how ECE teachers harmonize the various requirements and suggestions that come from UConn, their home schools, AP, school boards, and more. Part of my work in 2017 includes getting a much closer look at the ECE courses themselves, including student writing. When I see something in a course that seems exciting, fresh, or just insightful in some way, I hope to, with permission, comment on what I see or have that teacher write a word or two about this aspect of the course.

I do also expect to use the site as a place to “say more” about things I have said in more official places. The teaching of FYW courses continues to evolve nationally and at UConn, and I will want to comment on those things. Early posts will likely reflect more of my own thinking. But I want to foreground collaboration and what teachers (and students) are doing in ECE whenever possible.

Things on this site might change as I learn more about what can or cannot work, but, at this point, my goals in setting up this site include providing a forum for:

  1. Ongoing discussion of the teaching of writing in First-Year Writing courses, especially UConn-branded FYW courses. This includes the circulation of ideas and practices that are currently working in our ECE sections (as well as issues and constraints that we face). Ideally, much of the material in this space will come from teachers themselves.
  2. Ongoing discussion of high school teaching as it relates to college-level writing and general education requirements at UConn and elsewhere.
  3. Further articulation and annotation of evolving program-specific policies.

Finally, because the university-provided WordPress sites attract armies of spambots, the comments section of these posts is turned off. Please contact me with any suggestions, comments, or questions. I will be sure to post relevant discussion followup when it comes to my attention. Thanks for reading!