New schedule in effect 16X

by Erin Lee | 2/3/16 7:14pm

A new class schedule will be implemented starting in the summer of 2016 as part of a series of recommendations made by the Curricular Review Committee in April 2015. The measure was voted on and approved at the June 1 faculty meeting.

The changes include modified class start times to allow for 15 minute passing periods, compared to the current 10 minute intervals, and new evening class time slots, 6As and 6Bs. The 6A timeslot will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, while 6Bs will be three-hour blocks running from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The College will not formally announce the new schedule until after spring course election ends on Feb. 18 to avoid confusion, registrar Meredith Braz wrote in an email. The Summer 2016 course timetable will be available on April 22, though the new schedule diagram is posted on the registrar’s website.

“We had been waiting until after spring term course election had occurred before we sent out any communication about the new calendar’s implementation, since in our experience it can lead to confusion when the start date is a future term,” Braz wrote.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email that the registrar’s office has been sharing information about the change internally with departments and programs to allow for summer and fall term course planning. Braz wrote that her office is working with computing services to carry out system modifications and aims to be ready by the time departments submit course information for Summer 2016.

An online survey conducted by The Dartmouth received responses from 76 faculty members about the new schedule. When asked whether they were satisfied with the way the schedule change was communicated, 38 percent responded negatively, 30 percent responded neutrally and 32 percent responded positively.

The Curricular Review Committee includes 13 faculty members from various departments, Braz and dean of the faculty and committee chair Michael Mastanduno. The majority of the committee’s work took place during the 2012-13 academic year, before College President Phil Hanlon took office, according to the committee’s April 20 final report. The committee’s recommendations were reviewed in detail by faculty committees in 2013-2014, the report stated.

Tom Hier, co-founder of higher education consulting firm Biddison Hier, Ltd., said he consulted with the committee on crafting a new schedule from 2012 to 2013. He has been intermittently working with the College for over a decade on classroom and planning issues, he said. The process was “inclusive,” involving both student and faculty focus groups, he said.

Among the faculty surveyed, 51 percent said they thought the new schedule is a positive change. 30 percent were undecided and 19 percent thought the change is not positive.

Lawrence said that the committee favored increasing time between classes because campus buildings are now more spread out.

“It’s hard to get from the Life Sciences building to say, Thayer, in just 10 minutes, for example,” she said.

Seventy percent of faculty surveyed said a student has told them they were late to class because there was not enough time between classes in the current schedule.

To accommodate these longer passing periods, class times are extended later into the day. Classes that currently end at 2:50 p.m. (2s) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will end at 3:15 p.m., and classes that end at 3:50 p.m. (2As) on Tuesdays and Thursdays will end at 4:15 p.m.

“We had to look at different ways to fit everything in and still have a reasonable end in the day,” Hier said.

Another focus for the new schedule was preserving the x-hour but facilitating more efficient use of that time, Hier said. The x-hour was originally meant to be used as an extra slot for review sessions or make-up classes, but some professors regularly use the x-hour as an extra class meeting, he said.

“There was a varying need for class time depending on the discipline,” he said.

The committee initially proposed moving all x-hours to late afternoon to vacate “prime time,” but some faculty raised concerns, according to the report. The solution was to keep x-hours throughout the day but create a range of classes that have different durations to provide schedule flexibility, Hier said.

New, longer evening slots — 6As and 6Bs — can provide larger blocks of time for teaching and could be useful for laboratory sessions, the report states.

Sixty-nine percent of faculty survey respondents said they would probably not or definitely not use the new 6A or 6B class periods. Eighteen percent responded neutrally and 14 percent responded positively.

Government professor Sonu Bedi, who was on the Curricular Review Committee, is planning to teach his “Contemporary Readings on Justice” seminar course in the 6B slot next fall. He wrote in an email that he wants to use the three-hour class period to encourage sustained, student-led discussions on larger amounts of reading, particularly because the course is part of the major’s culminating experience.

“Part of the intellectual exercise in my seminar is for students to arrive at a core set of insights organically through reflection with their peers,” he said. “A longer class time better facilitates that process.”

In the past, he has used x-hours to build in longer class periods, he said.

“I think it’s important to have the option for a three-hour slot, because this signals to students that this class is different from one of my lecture courses,” he said.

Bedi said he does not believe the later class time will affect student attendance. He noted that spreading out class meeting times decreases scheduling conflicts between courses.

“I realize that this will be an adjustment for students but I think for the better,” he said. “By having optional times in the evening, the College sends an important message that classroom and academic instruction is an ongoing intellectual endeavor that does not simply end at 5 or 6 p.m.”

Unlike the current schedule, class start times generally will not fall on the hour. Hier said that making sure classes had consistent start times for each period was more important, particularly to prevent classroom and course overlap.

Hier said he has recently consulted with several schools on schedule changes to maximize the efficiency of classroom usage and accommodate changing pedagogical approaches. Teaching now often incorporates more collaboration and a variety of activities, some of which occur outside of class, he said.

“Dartmouth is in the vanguard of institutions that are looking at these kinds of issues,” he said. “They’re using schedules that have been around for decades.”