Freshman Poll Criticizes Section Methods Employed in General Education Courses
A sizable proportion of the freshman class disapproves of the teaching methods used in sections of General Education courses, although approving their general aims, according to a poll of 130 students taken by the Student Council.
In the same poll, students found the lectures the most valuable parts of these courses.
The poll, second in a series of three Council investigations relating to problems of the freshman year, asked members of the Class of '58, selected at random, to list the teaching methods used in their sections, the teaching methods they considered most desirable, the amount of time spent in their work, and the comparative value of the different parts of their courses, such as lectures, reading, and papers.
They also listed the objectives section instructors most often achieved in their sections, and voted preferentially for a set of six objectives commonly sought after in sections.
The freshmen used an elementary course in the Humanities, the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences, or General Education Ahf as the basis for their answers.
The majority of students in all courses indicated that sections should be devoted to general group discussion: 67 approved this plan as opposed to no more than 27 for any other method. But only 31 out of the 130 responses, or less than 24 percent, indicated that general discussion actually took place in their sections.
Disparity in Nat Sci's
The greatest disparity between general discussion and other procedures was in the Natural Sciences courses, where slightly less than 54 percent of the 42 students responding indicated a preference for discussion, yet less than 14 percent indicated that open discussion was actually practiced in preference to lectures by the instructor.
In the Social Science courses, 60 percent of the 20 polled indicated a preference for general discussion; but only 32 percent said that they themselves participated in it.
There were also questions on the poll which concerned the caliber of the student who benefited most from the sections. In response to the inquiry, "Who gets the most out of your sections?" the majority felt that students in the upper quarter of the class received the most benefit. Virtually the same majority agreed that the section men tended to aim their teaching at students in the second rank quarter.
But a significant, though smaller, majority decided that section instructors ought to direct their efforts to students in the third rank quarter.
Among the actual objectives of sections, students approved most strongly of developing analytical and interpretive skills, and filling in important material omitted by lecturers or in reading. These aims ranked first and second in the list of objectives most often achieved in sections.
Despite the broadness of the customary lecture in General Education courses, the freshmen indicated that lectures had contributed most to their understanding of their courses, decidedly more than reading or sections. Of 130 responses to the query: "Hour for hour, which has contributed most to your understanding of the course?" 57 replied lectures; 31, reading; 26, sections; nine, papers; two, conferences; and five did not answer.
The poll also indicated that a majority--61 out of 130--of the freshmen spent "most of the time under pressure" from their studies. Thirty-three were "occasionally" harassed; and 31 felt that they were "constantly" bothered. Only three students replied that academic obligations pressed them "rarely."
In accord with these findings, 48 percent of those polled said that one should be fully prepared for sections at all times; and another 30 percent said that one should be fully prepared most of the time.
But of those who answered the poll on the basis of a course in the Natural Sciences, a full 40 percent said that it didn't matter whether they prepared or not.