Student-taught classes may come to Occidental


Author: Sarah Corsa|Emily Shugerman

Student-taught classes could appear in the Occidental course catalog as early as Fall 2013 as part of the proposed Experimental College of Occidental (ExCO). Vice President of Academic Affairs and economics and politics major Nick McHugh (sophomore) is spearheading the effort, which seeks to provide an alternative to the traditional notion of course-taker and course-giver, according to the proposal to the Academic Planning Committee (APC).

The goal of the program is to introduce material that may not be covered in traditional classes, while simultaneously creating a more intimate setting for discussions. Student instructors would completely determine the content of the one-credit courses. Proposed course topics range from analyzing the political implications of South Park to the lyrical study of hip-hop in contemporary culture.

Current ASOC president Margeau Valteau (senior) began to assess the feasibility of starting ExCO at Occidental last year by gathering professors’ input
and looking into similar programs at other schools.
According to McHugh, Occidental would be the first of its peer institutions to have a program like this, as bigger schools such University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University more typically implement this type of curriculum.

“Our peer colleges don’t really have something like this,” Valteau said. “We would … be the first, and hopefully, if it’s successful, it could be a model that they could use at their schools.”

A group of students already teach two Urban and Environmental
Policy (UEP) classes,
mentored by the Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute and UEP professor Robert Gottlieb. The ExCO teachers will use UEP 246: “Sustainable Oxy: Campus Greening” and UEP 247: “Sustainable Oxy: Food Growing and Preparation” as a model for their instruction. According to Professor Gottlieb, the experience of students teaching their peers in the UEP classes has been positive for both the facilitators and the participants.

“There’s been a lot of good experience developed for the students, learning the different dimensions of what it means to play that role of faculty or a leadership role,” Gottlieb said of the peer-taught classes.

facilitators would be required to have a faculty member sign off on
their syllabus, but these advisers would be involved only as needed to help
brainstorm ideas and advise on issues among other students.

The first year of ExCO would serve as a trial run. The program would most likely offer three classes the first semester, each running 90 to 120 minutes a week. Student professors would be responsible for producing a syllabus complete with a summary of the course, due dates and required readings. The college would seek to seamlessly integrate ExCO courses into Occidental’s schedule: participants could enroll through course counts, and the courses would follow the standard academic calendar. Faculty and staff would also be eligible to enroll in these classes.

Participants would recieve one credit for taking an ExCO class, and student facilitators would be compensated with either one credit or a single payment of $300. The Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) would provide the facilitators’ compensation and potentially fund any lab fees, which would be determined on a class-by-class basis.

An ExCO committee made up of five students and one faculty member within the ASOC is responsible for managing and facilitating ExCO, including choosing courses and student professors for any given semester.

ExCO goes into effect, it must be approved by the APC and the entire faculty. APC is currently reviewing the proposal. If it is cleared, the proposal will move
on to the monthly faculty meeting where staff will review and vote on it. McHugh is
hopeful that the proposal will receive positive reviews from the
faculty because professor input was gathered throughout the writing of the proposal. The next step is to garner student support.

think this is something that can really work here, and it’s up to us to
make it work,” McHugh said.

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