Combined class increases learning potential

Tomy Hillers

ISU faculty members are using the combined power of three classes in an effort to increase students’ learning potential.

Susan Carlson, professor of English, said the main idea behind the program is to give students a different option in their classwork. The program is called “The Ways of Knowing” and will be fully included as part of the undergraduate coursework next semester.

Carlson said the program had a trial run during the 2000 spring semester, which involved only two classes in combination.

“We feel that related material will make the courses more interesting for the students,” she said. “They should shed light on the ways that two different disciplines can share material and concepts.”

Carlson said she hopes students will take advantage of the program, which includes Women’s Studies 201, English 201 and Political Science 215.

“We feel that one of the best selling points for the students who take both courses is that they will get to turn in the same assignments to both courses,” she said.

The courses will go beyond the classroom, she said.

“We are planning on having some extra incentives outside of the classroom for the students in the learning communities,” she said. “[Last year] we were able to take a trip to the State House to see the Legislature in session and were granted the honor of meeting the governor and the lieutenant governor.”

Corly Brooke, director of the ISU Center for Teaching Excellence, said the faculty members have worked hard to integrate courses so that students have a cohesive experience.

“Sometimes students have a misconception of learning communities in that they perceive them as groups of students living together in the residence halls who study together,” she said. “What we are striving for this year is to open students’ eyes and minds to the advantages of integrated classes and concept cohesion.”

Anyone can join the program, Carlson said.

“The difference between this learning community and others is that it isn’t particular to one major or another,” she said. “This one is actually for any student needing to fulfill a U.S. diversity or social science and arts and humanities.”

Joni Palmer, assistant professor of landscape architecture, is a co-instructor of the Reading and Writing and Learning Community. She said the courses will help students who are more visually oriented to become more fluent with their literary and writing skills.

“It will also give students a chance to collaborate on assignments while teaching each other,” she said. “We also have four field trips planned to local areas here in Iowa as an added incentive to students who choose the learning communities.”