Larger Core Sections Draw Complaints
Students, TFs Say Say Teaching Is Made More Difficult By More Crowded Classes
The 90 minutes Elizabeth A. Urban '96 spends Wednesday nights in Historical Studies A-12 section are a frustrating experience.
The section, designed to be a place for small group discussion of topics raised in the 575-student course, has grown too large, Urban says.
Students and teachers alike say the larger sections, the result of a cost-cutting decision by the Core office, have made teaching and learning more difficult.
Urban says her section with Teaching Fellow Javier Corrales started out with 14 or 15 students, but now includes more than 20.
"We are supposed to sit in a circle to have discussions," says Urban. "But now the circle has two rows. You have to turn around and you can't hear everyone. I don't know everyone in the class and I feel more intimidated."
Prior to this year, core sections were restricted to an average of 15 students. In a move to cut costs, the Core Office raised the average limit by two, citing a University policy that sections can contain up to 20 students.
Two students more on average does not sound like many, but some sections this year have ballooned to sizes up to 24 students.
Joseph S. Nye, Dillon professor of international affairs, leads Historical Studies A-12, "International Conflicts in the Modern World." Nye says he disagrees with the decision to increase the size of the sections.
"I have to take the numbers they give me, [but] I think it's bad. There is less chance for people to talk. It's a shortage on their education," Nye says.
Elizabeth R. DeSombre, a teaching fellow in two A-12 sections who also taught in the course last year, says size makes a significant difference.
"It's really hard to teach sections that big," she says. "[In A-12] we have the opportunity to do several interactive activities, role plays and debates. But it's hard to create a comfortable atmosphere for the students to participate."
DeSombre says she thinks her students' mid-term grades might suffer for lack of sufficient opportunity to speak with her about the course.
Already the large size of classes has drawn complaints in mid-term evaluations, DeSombre says. Some teaching fellows have suggested to their students that they write letters to Susan W. Lewis, director of the Core program, if they want to voice their complaints.
But some A-12 students say the large classes are not bothersome.
"I guess it's a problem," says James B. Cohane '96, another student in Corrales's A-12 section. "But it doesn't bother me that much."
Jehane K. Noujaim '96 says she is also in a 20-person section.
"A couple people complained on mid-term evaluations that class is too big," she says. "But our TF is really good at getting to everybody, letting everyone participate."
Pamela L. Metz, head teaching fel- "The sections are...a very important part ofthe course. It is an introductory level course,mostly first-year students," she says. Teaching fellows say it is predominantly thefirst-years who are intimidated to speak up inlarge groups. Metz says some TFs are now holdingextra sections on their own time, just forfirst-years
"The sections are...a very important part ofthe course. It is an introductory level course,mostly first-year students," she says.
Teaching fellows say it is predominantly thefirst-years who are intimidated to speak up inlarge groups. Metz says some TFs are now holdingextra sections on their own time, just forfirst-years