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Education

Diversified Learning
New Program Offers Unique Course Options for First-Year Students

Designed by individual instructors or teams of instructors based on their intellectual pursuits and training, Wittenberg’s new topical, first-year seminars now provide a unique array of learning options for incoming students.

Introduced as a pilot program at the beginning of the 2003-04 academic year, the seminars, or WittSems for short, replace the university’s 12-year-old Common Learning program, which had slowly outrun it course on campus as evidenced by the decline in morale among students in the program.

“We felt increasingly that students needed a choice in the subject matter they studied, which in turn would make them more engaged in the entire Wittenberg experience,” said Bob Davis, director of the WittSems program and associate professor of English. “We also wanted to take advantage of our own faculty members’ teaching interests.”

As a result, new students had the opportunity to select from among nine WittSems upon their arrival last fall. The courses included Local and Global Awareness through Data Analysis, taught by Doug Andrews, associate professor of mathematics/statistics; Livin’ la vida loca: A Look at Latin/America, taught by Lori Askeland, assistant professor of English, and Chris McIntyre, associate professor of languages; Literature and the Body, taught by Davis, East Meets West in Art Music, taught by Christopher Durrenberger, assistant professor of music; The Lewis and Clark Expedition, taught by Tim Lewis, professor of biology; The Moral of the Story, taught by Miquel Martinez-Saenz, assistant professor of philosophy; The Theatre of Reality with Steve Reynolds, professor of theatre and dance; and Perception and Extrasensory Perception with Jo Wilson, the Paul Luther Keil Professor of Philosophy. In addition, each class sought to integrate instruction on targeted high school-to-college transition issues.

“The pilot WittSems faculty chose to target three issues: helping students develop college learning skills, including the ability to summarize information, analyze texts and problems, and synthesize sources; introducing students to the theory and practice of liberal arts and liberal learning; and teaching students the importance of academic integrity,” Davis said. Next year’s faculty, however, may chose to target different issues.

All WittSems are writing- or math-intensive courses, and they also meet the university’s integrated learning goal for general education. Additionally, the program provides senior peer mentors, who work closely with the WittSems faculty and who help incoming students negotiate personal and developmental issues as new members of the Wittenberg community.

Although WittSem faculty members are still working to develop a pre- and post-assessment tool for the program, initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s been a really successful pilot program,” Davis said, “and we’re excited about its future at Wittenberg.” — Karen Gerboth ’ 93 headline



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