Academic bond

By Natalie Sit

Student officials chatted with U of C Vice-President Academic Dr. Ron Bond about inquiry-based learning at their Tue., Sept. 22 meeting.

The Students’ Academic Assembly invited Dr. Bond to answer their questions about the University of Calgary’s new academic thrust. One concern voiced by SAA members was if the university wants more smaller, inquiry-based classes, other courses might become larger. As well, SAA wondered where the extra resources would be found to fund the smaller classes.

Dr. Bond was taken aback by their worry.

"Their worry is justified, we have the same concerns," said Dr. Bond after the meeting. "We would decide to go ahead knowing if teachers were properly supported. We don’t have enough resources. The point is to evolve to do one per year."

However, Dr. Bond suggested large classes could also use inquiry-based learning.

"You cause people to learn how to handle inquiry mode in larger classes," explained Dr. Bond. "There are some things we can do to support them and support students."

Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides found the session useful because many questions were answered.

"It opens lines of communications between the SU and administration," said Nicolaides. "It creates a better working environment. And it will state in our policy, we consulted with administration."

At the meeting faculty representatives, academic commissioners and the SU VP Academic questioned Dr. Bond about their concerns on inquiry-based learning. One concern was its accessibility for some students.

"The faculty where there’s lab-based research, it’s easy for undergraduates to get involved in research," said SAA Medicine Faculty Representative Mitesh Thakrar. "But a student needs two years of experience before they keep up in lab. Inquiry-based learning has to wait much later than say Humanities or Social Science, where it’s discussion-based inquiry-based learning."

Nicolaides asked what is in place for students at higher levels, past their first year of studies. Dr. Bond responded by saying there are honours programs in degrees and the new Bachelor of Health Sciences has a capstone course.

"There are some faculties now that offer courses to senior undergraduate students and graduate students," said Dr. Bond. "It offers the same general topics and opportunity to work at graduate level while undergraduate students."

Another question posed by SAA Education Faculty Representative Jamie-Dee Peterson was a potential backlash from first-year students who would have "to think for themselves."

"We have to bring student awareness up, that their courses they have to think for themselves," explained Dr. Bond. "It’s part of Michelangelo project, more work on our end. This isn’t for everybody."

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