Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Looking from Two Sides

I was walking somewhere and saw a colleague from across campus the other day, and we started chatting in the way you do.  The colleague mentioned how much zie loves first year students because they're so enthusiastic and interested, and lamented how students seem to lose those qualities by the time they're in her courses in the third year.

I recognize levels of enthusiasm in first year students, but I appreciate how enthusiastic and interested my junior and senior level students are.

My colleague teaches juniors and seniors, mostly required courses for the major, and occasionally teaches electives at lower levels.

About half my load is first year writing, a course that's not on most students elective list; my junior and senior courses are pretty much electives for majors and minors.

I'm guessing the elective vs required thing is actually a bigger factor than the year in college.  What do you think?


  1. I think this is almost certainly true, which is one of the reasons I'm not comfortable with the current administrative push to offer students fewer choices and clearer "pathways to degree completion." Yes, they might graduate a semester or two earlier, but a semester's worth of tuition and fees at our little public SLAC is a grand total of $2,820, which seems a small price to pay for a little freedom to explore and take some classes that actually interest them.

  2. Goodness gracious, yes. Required courses are a BEAR. But I think part of that is that we require courses that people need but wouldn't take if they were electives. MATH. I get a double whammy-- I teach a large required first year math course. Imagine the enthusiasm for that...

  3. Oh, man, teaching a large required math course must be its own special hell. Our required math courses for non-majors here tend to be pretty small, with the idea that faculty can (and they really do, from what students tell me) help students a lot one on one.

  4. As someone whose load consists almost entirely of a required junior-level writing-in-the-disciplines course, I agree. (Admittedly, I don't have much basis for comparison, since I've never taught a truly elective course at my present institution. The other class that regularly appears on my roster is a 200-level lit course that fulfills a distribution requirement; there are themes, and theoretically students can pick one that interests them, but in practice they pick one that fits their schedules, and then -- not all of them, but enough to be dispiriting -- complain if they don't find it particularly interesting).

  5. In my required Gen Ed classes, I feel like half of my job is trying to "sell" the topic to the students, or at least increase their enthusiasm and get them to see the relevance the class has in their life. I'm typically pretty good at that and usually end up with students really enjoying the class because I make it seem worthwhile for them. Methinks I should have gone into sales...