While the University's size gives it advantages that smaller schools lack, students have long complained that it can make it a daunting place to study. But according to School of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Norman Adler, if a new series of classes taught in dormitories succeeds, the University will become at least "psychologically small." Over the next three years the University will introduce nine new interdisciplinary courses which will institute education in the undergraduate dormitories. Funded with $1.5 million from the Pew Charitable Trust, the nine introductory courses will involve all undergraduate schools, fulfill general requirements and stress Adler's goal of personalizing education. Geology Professor Hermann Pfefferkorn has already experimented with teaching one of these new courses. This year he team-taught "Evolution of the Physical World" with Chairperson and Physics Professor Gino Segre. The class is part of a two semester course on the evolution of life, specifically, physical and geologic processes in the first semester and biological evolution in the second. With money from the trust, Pfefferkorn hopes to provide students taking his class with modern teaching tools including computer and television projection screens and a comprehensive bulkpack of readings since no appropriate textbook on evolution has been published. Pfefferkorn has a software program that reenacts the moving of the continents throughout history and hopes students will have have access to computer software that enables them to better understand geologic change in their own dorms. Pfefferkorn noted that by following one central idea, evolution, his class "gives the students a magnificent overview of the natural world which they would only get if they took a much larger number of classes." "In two classes we do what they normally do in ten," he added. Pfefferkorn also said that interdisciplinary classes succeed since they challenge professors to implement imaginative ways to structure the varied information. Adler said that the interdisciplinary nature of the program will "create new courses on the cutting edge of knowledge." Three of the courses will be available this fall. Director of Residential Education and Christopher Dennis will work with Adler on the program and is looking to provide dormitories with coursework materials, including computer hardware and software packages and audio-visual aids. College Houses and first-year dormitories will serve as classrooms for many of the sections and as meeting places for guest lectures and films. Visiting international scholars will give lectures in the College Houses and also live in guest suites in the dormitories. The small team-taught courses will allow students to interact closely with faculty and peers and will feature projects requiring students to work in groups of four to six people. Presently, University professors have developed seven of the nine courses to be taught. These include courses in cognitive science, health and society, Asian civilization, evolution of the natural and social worlds, modernism and molecular biology. The topics for the last two courses have not yet been decided, and Adler said he hopes that students will make suggestions to the Dean's Advisory Board.Comments powered by Disqus
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