Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Conversation Stopper

I was talking to two colleagues about possibilities for other classes to run in the large lecture format and some of the things to be aware of. For example, some people suspect that if we ran Diff. Eq. in the lecture-recitation format that we'd have a hard time finding qualified TAs. Also, since TAs get double-teaching-points, you don't start to save credit hours until the lecture grows to 200 students. Before you reach the 200 student mark, you're still compensating the same number of credit hours -- just shifting them from more expensive faculty to less expensive grad students. (And if your regular-sized classes have more than 37 students in them, then you'll never save money by shifting to a large lecture format -- if you work within our parameters.)

Then we started talking about the idea of a cohort. Some of the freshmen in very structured programs end up taking their math class in a large lecture and also their science classes in a large lecture -- with many of the same classmates. We thought that if the students were going to be taking multiple large lecture courses, then it would be good if they had the same classmates, as much as possible. Maybe we could team up with some of these departments with very structured coursework and build up "packages" for scheduling their students. If you're majoring in X and your placement score is Y, then this is your schedule for your freshman fall.

I mentioned that the way it turned out this semester that many of the students in my calculus class are all taking the same large lecture Chemistry class. I said that the professor of that class is using similar pedagogical techniques and that there is some overlap in the instructional technology that we're using, so the students end up being fairly well-trained early in the semester.


Someone volunteers a bit of information about the Chemistry professor: "You know, she used to be a man."