January 18, 2012

Students, TAs reflect on FP experiment

Curriculum changes to the Freshman Preceptorial (FP) this year resulted in an experience unlike any other for freshmen.

Teaching Assistants (TAs) were privileged with the opportunity to see the program shift before their eyes. Opinions as to how the program has changed revolve around the fact that freshmen were allowed to rank their desired courses.

“First of all, the biggest difference is that students got to pick what they wanted to study,” senior Supriya Kasaju, a TA in the Water and Humanity class, said. “When I took FP I just had to read what was handed to me. I guess you could say the same thing about this year because students didn’t choose the reading list, but at least they were able to pick their big subject.”

The elimination of the standardized curriculum allowed for professors to create and teach their own courses, which ranged from “Love” to “War.” Incoming freshmen were allowed to choose their FP course based on which subject was most appealing.

“It was good that we had options,” freshman Frank Foster-Bolton said. “Even though I didn’t get my first choice … I felt better getting my second choice than being thrown into a random class.”

The development of distinct course subjects, as opposed to the former overarching standardized curriculum, allowed for a greater comprehension of the course.

“This may be an obvious answer, but I would have to say the content changed the most,” junior Anna Novikova said. “It was much more focused than the FP that I took as a first-year. The class [Happiness] I was a TA for really dove into the subject for ten weeks.”

The single-subject FP courses skirted the barrier between required courses and regularly offered courses.

“I think it was a great opportunity for students to go a little bit deeper into the concepts. Because we had fewer subjects to cover, we were able to go to a much further depth than the previous FP system allowed for,” Novikova said.

Two of the main purposes of the FP program are to give freshmen a taste of the college workload and help them through their first term navigating the Knox academic trimester. TAs and students alike believe that the new program accomplishes these goals.

“I think that the workloads were pretty similar. I don’t remember the workload for my FP being overwhelming, and it seemed like the students in this year’s class were handling it well,” Novikova said.

“In terms of the difficulty of the work I feel like it was reasonable, that people were prepared,” Novikova said. “Some seemed surprised by it, maybe because they hadn’t encountered some of the concepts in high school, but I think for the most part FP served its purpose.”

Though there is no longer a common curriculum, aspects of college unique to Knox, like the Honor Code, remain a critical part of the topics reviewed in FP.

“I think that any program like that can be improved year after year, as more and more classes give feedback,” Foster-Bolton said. “I think that it was pretty effective, teaching the Honor Code especially.”

The absence of a required diversity aspect was highly debated, and continues to be reconsidered. Though it was not required, both Kasaju and Novikova indicate that a diversity of thought and culture were present in their classes.

“Diversity was definitely covered because we had international students. Our readings were filled with water issues from Asia to the Americas because water is such a global issue the entire globe needed to be covered for the class,” Kasaju said.

Diversity was built into the courses and supplemented by the opinions of the students.

“I think that diversity was addressed less directly,” Novikova said. “But I still think we addressed diversity in different ways.”

Upon further reflection, the TAs are split as to whether they would have gone through the new system if they had the chance.

“I liked my old one, but topic wise I would have picked this year’s. I wanted to take so many of this year’s FP courses on the name alone; they looked too good to pass up,” Kasaju said.

Novikova said there is still something to be said for the common curriculum as used in the past.

“I think that there is something to be said for having a common curriculum for all incoming students,” Novikova said. “I think that when it’s a whole campus involved and people are able to expand beyond the people they are with every class meeting, it’s a valuable experience even if you’re complaining about it.”

Julian Boireau
Julian Boireau is a senior majoring in international relations and minoring in French. This is his fourth year working for TKS, having served as co-news editor during his sophomore and junior years. He has been involved in journalism for seven years, serving as opinions editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, California. In September 2012, Julian received press credentials to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where he reported on remarks by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is also the recipient of back-to-back first place awards from the Illinois College Press Association for front page layout.


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