Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Intro to College Life"-type courses

I think I may have been roped into teaching Intro to College Life next fall. Well, I sort of volunteered, but I haven't absolutely committed myself yet. This is a one-credit, pass / fail course that meets once a week, and a good number of the sessions seem to be taken up with mandatory presentations on Study Tips and Stress Management and that sort of thing. There's also a (tiny) community service component and a requirement that students attend a couple of cultural experience on campus, and I think there's also a discussion of the common reading book somewhere in there.

I'm trying to make up my mind. On the one hand, I like teaching freshmen; I like talking with them about the purpose of college and the idea of a liberal arts education, and I'm not teaching freshman comp next semester, so I won't get to do that in my regular classes. On the other hand, it sounds like the sort of course that would involve a lot of record-keeping (which I am not good at), and at worst, might also involve really bored students who resent having to take what amounts to a semester-long freshman orientation (I have some sympathy for this position). I'm not sure what to expect, never having taught such a course before.

Have any of the rest of you taught a course like this? How was it?

11 comments:

hck said...

I've taught our "introduction to working scholarly for philosophy students" several times, and it overlaps some with your course. If you read German: see e.g. http://www.phil-hum-ren.uni-muenchen.de/LV/hckProp10w/ for a syllabus and links to related documents.

Not very many students like it very much.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Thanks, hck (although sadly, I don't read German).

Susan said...

I'd ask some colleagues who have taught it...

heu mihi said...

I taught something like it last year, although we also have individual course content (which turned out to be a bit much for a one-credit class). I had the Honors section, which helped, I think, but my experience wasn't all bad. I liked getting to know the students and being able to give them my (obviously invaluable!) spin on the intro-to-the-liberal-arts bit.

However, I think that the problem with a one-credit course like this is that students expect it to be a blow-off class. My section had a good bit of reading (too much, in retrospect), and I think that a few of them resented that. Also...well, there are other, institution-specific problems with our course as it's currently structured (and it's being heavily revised for next year), so I won't get into those. But it was okay, on the whole, perhaps in part because the students were more relaxed and open there than they might be in most classes.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Thanks, Heu Mihi! From what I understand, the expecting-it-to-be-a-blow-off class thing is a problem with our version as well (although there isn't any reading other than our Common Reading book, there is a writing assignment which I guess some of them expect to be a joke, and fairly strict attendance requirements).

I'm leaning toward doing it, except I can't help feeling like offering to teach five classes is a sign of insanity.

Spanish prof said...

Is every student required to take the class? There is something like that in my institution, but it seems targeted to students that come from less privileged backgrounds: first generation, minorities on scholarships, etc.

I've spoken with many of the students regarding the course. Some find it useful, others think it's a waste of time. And, in my opinion, for a lot of them, it seems to be a way the administration developed for increasing their GPA so they don't drop out (importance of retention rates). They get D in most classes, but B+ or A- in this one, so it makes me suspicious of how their efficacy.

Fretful Porpentine said...

All of the first year students are required to take it. Transfer students aren't, so actually, at my institution, students from less privileged backgrounds are less likely to take this course, since many of them transfer in from community colleges.

And yeah, I suspect that in some cases, it is a way to artificially inflate the GPA, especially for students who come in taking a bunch of "basic" (read: remedial) courses, which don't count toward the GPA at all.

LearningByReading said...

I have to say I am not a big fan of these College first year experience type courses. If one has to be enrolled in such a course, then that is effectively an admission that his/her high school was not being vigilante.

MCB said...

I took one of those courses in my freshman year. The professor was a lawyer from Columbia (I think). Our class read The Scottsboro Boys. We also toured the libraries and read The Elements of Style. I still rarely use "that" in an essay. I got really into the class.

Just give them something interesting and have them grade their classmates' work. Good Luck

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Dolly Paolucci said...

Teaching freshmen can really make someone feel fresher, too! Both parties usually deal with the "first times" in class. Record keeping actually sounds fun! Students will learn how to organize things, and they can apply those stuff in their daily lives too.