Etownian News Article

Co-taught classes offer unique learning opportunities

There are some students who like science and math, while others prefer more creative disciplines such as art, theater and literature. Whether they like it or not, all students are required to take some form of each subject as part of the Core Program while enrolled at Elizabethtown College.

Currently, there are co-taught classes which combine two different disciplines, allowing students to relate material from each subject to a common theme. These classes are taught by two collaborating professors. Some professors are from the same academic department, while others are from different disciplines. This semester, such offerings include Chemical Instrumentation Lab, Gender and the Law, and Ecology in Short Fiction.

Ecology in Short Fiction is co-taught as a single class but incorporates two different academic perspectives. The professors co-teaching this course are from the English and Biology departments, which allows students to analyze material from both disciplines and see how they relate to one another. Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. David Bowne and Assistant Professor of English Dr. Matt Skillen co-teach this course.

One of the goals of offering these types of courses is to “encourage some people in our community to rethink these ideas of co-teaching and to discover how we can establish those partnerships across departments to bring better educational opportunities to our students,” Skillen said.

During the in-class discussion, Bowne talks about ecological principles, while Skillen speaks to the students about creative writing. “It’s an interesting blend of two areas that are not usually paired together, but this results in lively discussion about literature and biological concepts,” senior biology major Luis Devia said. However, according to Devia, because both professors are required to review assignments, it often takes longer for students to receive a grade than in a normal class.

Ecology in Short Fiction is cross-listed, meaning that the credits can count as either a Natural and

Physical Science (NPS) core course, or a Creative Expression (CE) course, depending on what the particular student needs.

According to first-year English education major Morgan King, this class effectively combines the English side of short fiction with the biological concepts of ecology. “I enjoy learning how two very different subjects can be combined and related to one another,” she said. “I am learning about how a subject I love relates to a subject that is not in my comfort zone.”

Not only are these courses interesting for students, but they are also enjoyable for the professors. “Every day we’re learning something new from a colleague, which is pretty exciting,” Bowne said.

This course will be offered once more in the spring semester of 2015. Currently, it is experimental. Similar courses have been offered in the past, but they have not been taught frequently. In the fall 2014 semester, the College will be offering the co-taught classes SAS Analytics, Wellness and the College Student and Time Travel, and the Nature of Space and Time.