North Central College today is fertile ground for collaborations across disciplines and experiments with curriculum, facilities design and technology. It adds up to better opportunities for student learning and liberal arts education relevant to the 21st century.
In the sciences, aging facilities are limiting opportunities to optimize student learning. The design of a new science center would carefully consider the newest methods for teaching scientific principles, including multipurpose classrooms that combine lectures and labs. Today, nearly all North Central science labs are scheduled separately from classroom lectures. “We know that the way to engage the mind is to engage the hand and a new building would incorporate flexible space,” says Stephen Johnston, Roger and Nadeane Hruby Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of biology. “My Introduction to Biology lecture is now in Goldspohn to accommodate the enrollment. But I still plan interactive activities and group discussions.”
Some physical alterations to one Kroehler Science Center classroom have allowed students in classes like Botany and Plant Physiology to participate in a combined lecture/lab setting. Christine Weilhoefer, assistant professor of biology, lobbied for the installation of Whiteboards and audiovisual equipment that allow her to lecture in a room primarily used for lab work. During her Botany course in fall term, students frequently were using microscopes in tandem with lectures about leaf and stem structures.
“The biggest advantage is that while the professor was talking, you can actually see it and work with it rather than wait for a lab session,” says Haley Kirk ’13, who has a minor in environmental studies. “We could apply what she was teaching us immediately.”
Weilhoefer has taught all her courses in the Kroehler lab this year and says her students are more engaged in the subject matter in that setting. “The conversations are better and it’s more flexible for group projects. There are many activities that are really hard to do in a traditional classroom.”
North Central NOW Spring 2012