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Small Classes enhance student learning

New initiative helps undergraduate students enjoy more intimate and productive learning experience
October 12, 2010
By Russ Cooper
Source: Concordia Journal

The Small Class Experience project helps undergraduate students enjoy a much more intimate and productive learning experience.

The project supports Concordia’s goal of improving student experience by fostering active and collaborative learning, as set out in the 2009-14 Strategic Framework. Developed by the offices of the President and the Provost with the four Faculties, the Small Class Experience consists of roughly 20 programs.

Examples include lecture classes will now be supplied with more TAs, who will then lead small tutorial groups to encourage in-depth conversation on given subjects.

Arts and Science will have a Students Under the Radar program to bolster middle-of-the-road students who fall outside the populations generally focused upon for encouragement – those in the very bottom and very top percentages of their classes – through informal mentorship with third- and fourth-year students.

The Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science will have a Tutors On Duty program; 45 grad students at the ready, online or at a drop-in centre during specific hours, to aid undergrads with problems. Also in engineering, there is a project to ensure many of the most experienced professors teach first-year students.

The vast majority of students need take no action to access the project. These measures, individualized for the needs of departments and particular classes, have been incorporated directly into the curriculum. (The one exception is physics, which has set up a series of optional tutorials.)

The Small Class Experience won’t only benefit the students, but also serve to improve the faculty experience, says Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning Ollivier Dyens.

“If students are better prepared, more confident, then teaching becomes much easier and much more enjoyable,” says Dyens.

An added advantage of the program is how it provides extra funding for grad students to work as TAs, keeping them focused on their research and careers.

“I am really excited about this initiative. The departments have been very enthusiastic and we are all looking forward to being able to improve the academic experience of our students,” says Catherine Bolton, Associate Dean, Student Academic Services for Faculty of Arts and Science.

The initiative will continue throughout this and next academic year.

Related link:
- 2009-14 Strategic Framework [PDF]

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