Friday, March 28, 2008

Get Rid of the Semester

There’s an interesting piece this morning in Inside Higher Ed about students preferring intensive courses (3 weeks) and taking them one at a time, rather than the more traditional approach taking many courses simultaneously over a longer semesters (15 weeks). I’d like to see more studies of this sort. It is a reform that makes sense to me.

In the first year of this blog I wrote a post about the idea:
and following that learned from Burks Oakley that Colorado College actually does this now.

My own experience teaching in Summer 1 (4 week intensive course where class meets 3 hours per day four days a week) supports the argument. Students don’t have as many other obligations on their time and hence are more committed. Instructors respond positively to that student commitment. It is a self-enforcing cycle we should encourage.

Much has been made about how busy students are and hence how it might be unfair for an instructor to place intensive demands on the students. But instructors should place intensive demands on students as a normal matter of practice and likewise students should engage deeply in their school work so what they learn is substantial. If there are institutional impediments to that, it should be the institutional practices that change. When the only argument for having the teaching and learning accommodate the institutional practice is inertia, that marks the time for change.

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