Friday, April 16, 2010

Non-Majors in the Classroom

During our discussion of teaching non—majors, we spent much time discussing the various formats of classes.  We started with six basic class types, their purposes, and their audiences:

  • Major Introductory Class, Introductory level class required for the major and associated majors (e.g., PHY 9 series, GEL 50, etc.); students with strong interest in pursuing the subject (although occasionally used as a general education class)
  • Major Core Course, core requirements for the major and sometimes elective options for closely associated majors (e.g., GEL 109 – for geology majors and civil engineering elective choice); students in the major or with strong interests in the subject (can also sometimes be used as a GE course)
  • Major Elective Course, course that meets elective requirements for students in the major, course requires significant prerequisites (e.g. practical courses); students are often upper division majors
  • General Elective Course, course that meets general education requirements, usually not assuming any (or much) knowledge in the discipline (e.g., astronomy, dinosaurs, etc.); students are often not in the major (or associated major), but can be, and are often interested in the material, and no students are assumed to be taking the specific class because it is required. 
  • University Core Course (math, writing, etc.), courses that are requirements of most every degree in a college, regardless of the major; students are often mixed among many majors in the class and are taking it because they are required, but unlike General Electives, their programs expect them to learn the material. 
  • Service Courses, courses that are required by another major in a different department (e.g., PHY 7 series); students do not include majors in the department offering the course

As we discussed these groups, we talked about how to include non-majors in the course.  How can we help them to understand the material?  When is it more appropriate to use specific examples to their background? 

An interesting discussion was on the benefits and detractions of diversity between non-majors and majors in a class.  Thanks John for leading a great session!

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