By Mackenzie Dineen – Arts Editor
There are a variety of factors that affect a prospective student’s decision to apply to a college. These include the campus, the selection of academic programs, and extracurricular activities. One of Lasell’s unique appeals is that it maintains an average class size of 25 students or less.
However, Lasell has begun integrating larger class sizes into its curriculum. Ethics and World Civilization II, two core requirements that meet once a week in de Witt Hall, rather than the average classroom. Four sections of 25 students meet each week for History, in a lecture of 100 students maximum, and five sections of 25 Ethics students meet to create a lecture that is 125 students strong, at full capacity.
As a double Advanced Placement (AP) history student in high school, I fully expected to avoid any college history requirements. I found out one year into my Lasell experience that my six credits did not count towards the Knowledge Perspective. It was only possible to test out with not one, but two, additional College Program Examination Program tests. Each of which cost money. After a few confused emails, I found out why. The reason being, History 104 was designed so that the weekly “cluster” sessions could focus on discussion. The same generally applies to Ethics.
Initially I was frustrated. My AP European and U.S. History courses were just that – discussion based. I decided to put my grievances aside and give the course a try, and then reassess. Each cluster, a different one of the four professors moderated the discussion, providing information and questions. I found that because the content of the history cluster section was different than that of the individual class meetings, the course felt slightly disjointed, although it was definitely refreshing to learn different aspects of history. Ethics seems to have more of a continuity between cluster and class sections, and generally follows one curriculum.
In both sections, students are split into groups at round tables, where they answer questions and work on activities. I was pleased to find that these groupings did allow me to meet new students, and learn their perspectives on the subject, although I wish I had met more of the hundred or so students in my class. I also enjoyed hearing input about different professors.
The class was informative and interesting, until the last 20 minutes, which are designated for students to speak. Unfortunately, these 20 minutes never really embodied the promised discussion. Students from each table are forced to stand and summarize the answers their group came up with. Each of the 10 or 12 tables answer the same questions, resulting in a pretty monotonous end to class. The students at the last table have to be very attentive and creative in order to avoid repeating the exact same thing that everyone has already said. Some days the professors are assigned a set of questions, which resulted in a much improved, and varied discussion.
Many students agreed that answering questions in front of a large audience was not the most effective technique for them. “They shouldn’t dedicate people each week to speak; I understand participation is necessary, but some people have serious anxiety about speaking publicly,” said sophomore Danielle Hogan, a fashion communication student.
Class practices aside, such a large and full room makes focusing difficult. In a lecture hall, all seats would be pointed at the professor, whereas sitting at a round table makes watching the professor difficult. Thankfully, professors make rounds to check in on each group, but it did not quite compare to the attention students receive in their small classes.
I found that my experience in the smaller classroom was better for genuine conversation. These courses are still relatively new to the Lasell curriculum, and the professors and Teacher Assistants involved put in great effort and offered excellent insight, making them worthwhile.