SLICES OF LIFE WITH SEPTEMBER: CLASSROOM DEBATES WASTE TIME

SEPTEMBER SYMENS

srsymens11@ole.augie.edu

SliceOfLife

SSymens

As spring semester commences, it has once again come to my attention that classes are divided into four distinct categories at Augie. Really, though, only three of said categories ought to exist.

We can disregard labs, studio classes and music ensembles, since the classes I am seeking to label fall into the traditional desks-in-a-half-circle, professor-behind-the-podium model. The classrooms may be set up identically, but what takes place inside them almost always goes in one of four directions: they turn into lectures, professor-guided courses, give-and-take discussions, or what I like to call the dreaded Argument Sessions.

Lectures are fairly easy to identify. Typically, a professor talks at a large group of students for the entire class period with little to no student participation. Think BIO 110. This is a perfectly acceptable method of imparting education, but being the humanities-loving, liberal arts-y student that I am, I tend to long for a more intimate classroom setting, where the professor knows my name and it’s not necessary to shout questions across the room. They are what they are, though; lectures can stay.

The lines between what I have deemed “professor-guided” classes and “give-and-take discussions” can easily become blurred, but I am here to contend that the difference is not only present, but distinct. In professor-guided classes, professors (obviously) are the dominant initiators of conversation.

Typically, a class period will contain a mixture of lecture and discussion time, but discussions are clearly laid out in the syllabus so that students can prepare thoughtful responses ahead of time. Language, religion, history, and English classes typically follow this educational approach, which at least imitates a high school class and at their most provides us with an engaging atmosphere for learning. These scenarios are fine.

Give-and-take discussions, on the other hand, are the grown-up versions of professor-guided classes. In discussion-based settings, the professor and his or her students engage in conversations, usually about the homework texts or previously discussed ethical issues. The professor knows you by name, and you are comfortable asking questions and bringing your own relevant experience into classroom debates. This classroom setting is perfectly (maybe even preferably for a biased English major) fine.

Unfortunately, while the discussion format of learning can certainly be both intriguing and informative, classes attempting to initiate thought-provoking commentary run the risk of teetering dangerously into the zone of my final designated class category: those dreaded (really) Argument Sessions.

We’ve all been in at least one. The well-meaning professor asks a single question at the beginning of class, and the resulting discussion turns into a chaotic mess of an argument. Even if you wanted to get a word in edgewise about the original topic, you are prevented from doing so by the hodgepodge of tangents that are bouncing around the room. And in the end, when you’re left with two angry people who refuse to agree to disagree, the professor finally declares the argument “off-topic” and asks a new question. Repeat.

Of course, every discussion class will eventually encounter a similar situation, but in a give-and-take environment, the professor will (hopefully) steer the conversation back on track before it deteriorates into confusion. Professor-guided class discussions typically do not veer too far off course, and lecture classes don’t provide enough of an opportunity for Argument Sessions to occur, so, really, there is no excuse for these time-wasting class periods in which we learn nothing but the viewpoints of our more opinionated classmates.

Students and professors should work together this semester in order to ensure that all classrooms remain in the first three categories (and thus, remain environments conducive to learning). Don’t turn what could be a thought-provoking class into an Argument Session. Your classmates will thank you. Trust me.

September Symens is a junior English and journalism major from Omaha, Neb.

Classroom debates waste time

As spring semester commences, it has once again come to my attention that classes are divided into four distinct categories at Augie. Really, though, only three of said categories ought to exist.

We can disregard labs, studio classes and music ensembles, since the classes I am seeking to label fall into the traditional desks-in-a-half-circle, professor-behind-the-podium model. The classrooms may be set up identically, but what takes place inside them almost always goes in one of four directions: they turn into lectures, professor-guided courses, give-and-take discussions, or what I like to call the dreaded Argument Sessions.

Lectures are fairly easy to identify. Typically, a professor talks at a large group of students for the entire class period with little to no student participation. Think BIO 110. This is a perfectly acceptable method of imparting education, but being the humanities-loving, liberal arts-y student that I am, I tend to long for a more intimate classroom setting, where the professor knows my name and it’s not necessary to shout questions across the room. They are what they are, though; lectures can stay.

The lines between what I have deemed “professor-guided” classes and “give-and-take discussions” can easily become blurred, but I am here to contend that the difference is not only present, but distinct. In professor-guided classes, professors (obviously) are the dominant initiators of conversation.

Typically, a class period will contain a mixture of lecture and discussion time, but discussions are clearly laid out in the syllabus so that students can prepare thoughtful responses ahead of time. Language, religion, history, and English classes typically follow this educational approach, which at least imitates a high school class and at their most provides us with an engaging atmosphere for learning. These scenarios are fine.

Give-and-take discussions, on the other hand, are the grown-up versions of professor-guided classes. In discussion-based settings, the professor and his or her students engage in conversations, usually about the homework texts or previously discussed ethical issues. The professor knows you by name, and you are comfortable asking questions and bringing your own relevant experience into classroom debates. This classroom setting is perfectly (maybe even preferably for a biased English major) fine.

Unfortunately, while the discussion format of learning can certainly be both intriguing and informative, classes attempting to initiate thought-provoking commentary run the risk of teetering dangerously into the zone of my final designated class category: those dreaded (really) Argument Sessions.

We’ve all been in at least one. The well-meaning professor asks a single question at the beginning of class, and the resulting discussion turns into a chaotic mess of an argument. Even if you wanted to get a word in edgewise about the original topic, you are prevented from doing so by the hodgepodge of tangents that are bouncing around the room. And in the end, when you’re left with two angry people who refuse to agree to disagree, the professor finally declares the argument “off-topic” and asks a new question. Repeat.

Of course, every discussion class will eventually encounter a similar situation, but in a give-and-take environment, the professor will (hopefully) steer the conversation back on track before it deteriorates into confusion. Professor-guided class discussions typically do not veer too far off course, and lecture classes don’t provide enough of an opportunity for Argument Sessions to occur, so, really, there is no excuse for these time-wasting class periods in which we learn nothing but the viewpoints of our more opinionated classmates.

Students and professors should work together this semester in order to ensure that all classrooms remain in the first three categories (and thus, remain environments conducive to learning). Don’t turn what could be a thought-provoking class into an Argument Session. Your classmates will thank you. Trust me.

September Symens is a junior English and journalism major from Omaha, Neb.