There are many types of classes you may encounter in your years at CWRU. Here are a few examples, as well as tips for how to approach them.
Seminar classes are often made up of approximately 20 students and rely heavily on in-class discussions. Your Academic Inquiry Seminar is one example, but there are many other seminars at CWRU. These classes often have assigned readings. An important tip for doing well in seminars is to complete the readings ahead of time AND jot down a few notes you can contribute to the class discussion (e.g. a quick summary of the reading, a sentence that stood out to you, a contrasting viewpoint, etc.). Another important tip for these classes is to participate! Professors will often include participation as part of your overall grade, but even if it is not part of your grade, participating will help you engage with and understand the material. There is typically no right answer in seminar discussions, so don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas.
Compared to seminars, larger lecture classes can be made up of 100+ students and rely on professors’ lectures to guide learning. These classes will still have readings and some participation, so you should still be prepared to ask and answer questions. One tip for succeeding in these classes is to actively listen during lectures. Rather than quickly copying information from the presentation slides down into your notes, apply strategies to actively listen. Write down key questions that spark your interest and curiosity. Bold and underline key concepts in your notes that are repeated in the lecture. Use abbreviations and symbols to help you keep up while note taking. And, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions during the lecture. If you don’t get an opportunity to have your question answered, you can always follow up with your instructor after class or during office hours.
Labs typically consist of approximately 20-40 students and the focus is on experimentation and hands-on learning. In labs, it is important to stay on top of assignments, tasks and deadlines. To help with this, read the entirety of your lab’s procedures and protocols before your lab session. If your lab has a partner(s), make sure to consistently and regularly communicate with them. If your lab does not have partners, make sure to keep yourself on track throughout the lab, and don’t be afraid to ask a teaching assistant (TA) for help.
After a lab, it is up to you to generate and turn in a report. Lab reports are your chance to synthesize what you learned and applied during the experiment. If you run into any questions or challenges, your TA is a great resource to help you.
Flipped classrooms can be seminars or larger lectures, as this model is up to the professor. In a flipped classroom model, students watch recorded lectures or complete readings before coming to class. Class time is reserved for discussions, questions and other activities . Similarly to larger lectures, one tip for these classes is to actively listen to the recorded lectures. With a flipped classroom model, professors will expect students to have watched and understood the lectures before class or to at least come prepared with questions. Similarly to how you may jot down notes and thoughts from readings in a seminar class, record questions that come up during recorded lectures to ask during class time. Also, check your understanding from recorded lectures by mentally summarizing what they covered. This will help you identify any areas you may need to review again.
Tips to succeed in any class type
Overall, there are a wide variety of classes and class types you may encounter in your time at CWRU. In general, a few tips to remember are:
- Read the entirety of the class syllabus during the first week of class. In addition to setting up expectations of the class and outlining assignments, the syllabus will tell you what style of class you are in.
- Actively listen and ask questions when you don’t understand something. With a variety of classes to attend, you might be tempted to tune out, copy down the slides and study later. This may work for some, but it adds an extra amount of work to your schedule and makes it more difficult to truly understand the material. It is easier said than done, but next time you are in class, try asking yourself if you are truly listening to and thinking about what the professor is saying, or if you are just copying down slides. Also, whether in class or at office hours, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there’s something you aren’t understanding.
- Do the readings. Completing assigned readings will be immensely helpful in classes, particularly those that value participation. If you are unable to do an entire assigned reading in one sitting, try breaking it up and doing smaller portions. Remember to write down your thoughts so you remember key concepts that you can bring with you into class participation.