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Smith School to cut some of its core class sizes

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, December 5, 2010

Updated: Sunday, December 5, 2010 21:12

The Smith School is growing, but its classes are shrinking.

Next semester, the Smith School will cut some of its core class sizes to make discussions more intimate and understandable for students.

Finance and Management and Organization will undergo changes. These introductory classes, which are usually comprised of about 180 students, will now hold a mere 60 people. In previous semesters, there were two lecture sections. In the spring, there will be at least seven.

"There's a general feeling that smaller is better when it comes to class sizes," said Assistant Dean Patricia Cleveland. "Current generations of students like a lot more personal attention."

Although Cleveland says she is pleased with the current program, she anticipates that downsizing will benefit both faculty and students.

Junior finance major Blair Broser wishes the adjustments were made sooner.

"I'm upset that I won't be here for those classes because I would have paid more attention in class and been more inclined to go," Broser said. "I think I would have had a better relationship with my teachers."

The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee proposed the idea in order to create a better educational experience for students, said committee chair Phil Evers.

"After reviewing the curriculum and looking at what other schools were doing, the one thing that stuck out was that we had junior level courses in large lectures," Evers said. "We wanted to improve student-faculty interactions."

The other core business classes, Introduction to Information Systems and Business Law, are already taught in this format. Evers said that the new classes would likely mimic their success.

The new class structure will allow for more than simple, standard lectures, Evers added. Teachers will be able to engage the students in real discussions that require their participation.

"It's difficult to ask questions in a 180-person class," Evers said. "We didn't want the students to be just a face in the crowd."

Because smaller classes will promote better, more intimate discussions, Friday sessions will be slashed.

"I think students will like not having to go to Friday discussions, so they'll like the atmosphere of the class better," said Brian Horick, who is in charge of scheduling the classes and sections.

Without Friday sections, students will take their quizzes and tests in their lectures. Whereas large lectures used to have one common exam administered at the same time, the new, smaller lectures will have separate exams based on the day and time the section meets.  This will likely eliminate the late-day exams.

"I hated nighttime exams," said junior marketing major Chelsea Schneider. "I would sit and anticipate it the whole day."

The instructors also appear to support of the changes.

"These courses have the potential to be successful, provided the faculty use this opportunity to introduce new formats and learning tools," said Mark Wellman, who currently teaches a Management and Organization section. "Small classes give the teachers flexibility to do things that cannot be done in lectures."

Wellman said that for it to be a positive change, teachers should "move away from multiple choice and deliver content and value beyond what is in the textbook."

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