Winter 2009 Stories
Through Different LensesTeam-Taught Interdisciplinary Programs
By Russell Kaehler
Half-time interdisciplinary programs are an increasingly popular way for Evening and Weekend Studies students to receive a real Evergreen education. “Half-time programs are an exciting and enlightening way to understand any subject,” says EWS student Lindy Cameron, who has taken Religion and Society, and Silk Roads: China, the Middle East and the New World. “They also open doors to students who have forgotten what it’s like to be in college.”
A variety of team-taught programs that approach a specific theme from more than one discipline are regularly offered through EWS. This winter, they include: Building Communities and Managing Organizations; Ecology of Language and Place; Holism and Our Healthcare System; Immigration: History, Law and Controversy; Order and Chaos: Making and Breaking Rules in the Arts and Science; and Work and the Human Condition.
“Programs are the dominant mode of study at Evergreen and provide a unique experience of both breadth and depth which is not possible in courses,” says Allen Olson, EWS dean. “If you have not taken a multi-quarter program, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
Students’ workloads tend to be more manageable when taking one eight- or 12-credit program rather than several four-credit courses, many EWS faculty say. “One class, one or two trips a week to campus,” notes psychology faculty member Jamyang Tsultrim.
“Half-time interdisciplinary programs differ from four-credit courses because the workload is coordinated. Students who take several 4-credit courses may find all the work due at the same time,” adds philosophy faculty member Stephen Beck.
Like their 16-credit counterparts, 8- and 12-credit team-taught programs bring faculty with different disciplines together in the classroom, giving students a richer perspective than a single-discipline course taught by one faculty member. “The value in viewing topics from different disciplines is that students can understand a theme from various perspectives,” says Beck, who is teaching Work and the Human Condition with literature faculty member Susan Preciso. “No one issue can fully be understood from one disciplinary point of view.”
Both Beck and Preciso have extensive knowledge of history. “Work and the Human Condition is being viewed from all three disciplines,” Beck notes. “In half-time programs, faculty learn from one another, resulting in a better understanding of the material. This helps students more fully understand the issues.”
EWS faculty also bring current experience in their respective fields to the classroom. “Students don’t want dry material,” says Tsultrim, a licensed mental health professional who works at the Evergreen Counseling Center. “Balancing teaching and clinical experience makes me a better teacher.”
Similarly, labor studies faculty Sarah Ryan for many years divided her time between Evergreen and the U.S. Postal Service, where she was a shop steward for the postal workers union. Like Beck, she is also an Evergreen graduate. “There were very few evening and weekend classes when I came here in 1990. It’s great that there are now a lot more choices,” she notes.
Russell Kaehler is a sophomore at Evergreen. Last spring he took the half-time program Religion and Society, along with two four-credit mathematics courses. It has crossed his mind that 4-credit courses seem like more work than 8-credit programs, and he is probably writing this article because of it.