Volume 93, Issue x

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Too much innovation?

Editorial cartoon

Too much innovation?

Students at the University of British Columbia are running to faculty offices all over campus – rumour has it spots in X-files 101 are going like wild fire.

Perhaps this situation isn't quite reflective of the new program at UBC, but the theory behind the two are similar. The west coast university is prepared to try an experimental program in which students will attend classes on specialty topics, requested by students, taught by students and graded by students in conjunction with the professors.

The purpose behind this program is to give students the opportunity to explore topics without the limitations of the normal lecture format.

While the university should be commended for it's innovative approach to learning, a situation like this could quickly lend itself more to hindrance than help.

The university is right to recognize that student's often have more creative approaches to learning than professors who have been teaching the same material for years. They are also right in giving student's credit to recognize legitimate holes in the program and responding to their requests for knowledge. However, if students are carrying out duties which are normally the responsibility of professors, the university is wrong.

Student feedback is essential for maintaining a relevant and interesting university curriculum. When a student brings a valid concern about the program to a professor's attention, shouldn't it be the professor's responsibility to fulfill the needs of the students? Saying to students, "Hey, great idea, why don't you draw up a syllabus for that and we'll start you teaching next term" seems like the professors are passing the buck.

Another area of concern is the manner in which these courses are graded. Presently, the courses set to begin in January will be receiving letter grades or a pass/fail – nothing with a numerical equivalent. If the courses are supposed to be on the same educational level as professor-taught ones, the grades should be reflective of the same stratified system. Besides, some students just need to know their "A" is better than their classmate's "A" because they scored an 87 while the other guy only got an 82. Sad, but true.

It doesn't take the sharpest tool in the shed to see the inherent limitations built into a student driven program. It seems obvious there is only so far a program like this can go and only so few whom it may benefit. University students require a few good years of practice before they have enough confidence to participate in a program where the student, not the professor, is the one giving the lecture.

Taking student initiative to the edge and back is a great thing, but it would be wrong to let faculty ease up on honing their skills as great lecturers.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999