This summer, I had the privilege of being asked by Professor Conrad to participate in the Students as Partners program to improve the First Year Seminar course I took last year in the Women’s and Gender Studies program, Intro to LGBTQ Studies. I was incredibly excited at the prospect of this opportunity, as this was my favourite class that I took last year. Together, Professor Conrad and I have enhanced the course significantly, creating a better experience for this year’s students.
The first thing that we did was compose a welcome flyer for the incoming cohort of students. Many students last year did not read the full course description or just saw the course listed as a special topics course in Women’s and Gender Studies. Professor Conrad and I wanted to ensure that there was ample opportunity for students to be sure of what the course really was about so they could be more intentional about their enrollment. We also revised the syllabus so that the course would run more smoothly, as well as taking out or substituting some readings to make the content more manageable. Lastly, Professor Conrad invited me to speak about my experience taking the class to this year’s cohort and give them a chance to ask questions of a student who had taken the course already.
Working with Professor Conrad was an incredibly beneficial experience for me, and I learned a lot. It was a huge exercise in critical thinking, both about my own learning and about the things said by my former classmates about the course. I gained great insight into what goes into creating a course at the collegiate level. Furthermore, I was able to appreciate the extra care that has to go into a course that teaches about lived experiences and histories, especially in a context where many people taking the class may have a strong personal connection to the material.
I am of the firm belief that the work we have done together is of great benefit to the course, and by extension the department. Being a pilot course last year, Professor Conrad and I were able to make significant improvements to the class, and make those improvements based on the experiences of students, rather than just a professor guessing at what worked and what didn’t. I really think that these improvements will result in a greater enjoyment from this year’s cohort, which will benefit both students and the department in turn.