Randomly selected students will receive e-mails later this week offering them $50 and refreshments in exchange for discussing their academic experiences at Yale.
The Committee on Yale College Education, which is analyzing the changes made to academic requirements in 2005, is bringing a professional consultant to sit down with “focus groups” of students to learn how Elis navigate the Yale curriculum. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said one of the CYCE’s goals is to discover what paths students take to complete course requirements; namely, which courses they take and when they take them. She said she hopes the five to seven focus groups, of about 10 students each, will shed light on why students map their Yale careers the way they do.
Judith Hackman, associate dean of Yale College, said students will answer questions drawn from the CYCE sub-committees’ preliminary reports, which were due last month. The twelve sub-committees include one for language study, one for freshman affairs and one on majors. She added that an independent company, which she declined to name, will run the sessions.
“They will talk mainly about the three skills and subject areas, and how their academic experiences have been with those requirements,” said.
Six of eight students interviewed said they would participate if asked. Andrea Klestadt ’11 said $50 is “quite an incentive,” but Xingmeng Zhao ’11 said she would not have time to spare for the one-and-a-half hour session.
One of the focus groups will be composed of freshmen, another of sophomores, and the rest of juniors and seniors.
The sessions are intended to complement data the committee is collecting from student surveys, such as the survey seniors take when they graduate or the one students fill out after a summer abroad, Hackman said. She acknowledged that the focus groups’ findings will not be statistically significant, but said she thinks it will be valuable to get a range of opinions and personal experiences.
Provost Peter Salovey, who has overseen many focus groups in his research as a psychologist, said such settings can produce ideas that could not arise otherwise.
“Focus groups are a way of eliciting in-depth data from respondents that go beyond what can be gathered in a survey,” he said. “The idea is to use the more open-ended responses of focus group participants to gain a deeper understanding of survey results.”
Before the recommendations of the 2003 CYCE report were implemented, courses were grouped into four categories: language and literature, humanities, social sciences and sciences. Now, there are a total of three skills — language, quantitative reasoning and writing — and three subjects areas — humanities, social sciences and sciences.
Seven students said they appreciate the requirements, which were implemented in 2005, because they encourage students to branch out in their courses. Three said the new categories have affected which courses they have taken.
Jason Allmaras ’14, a mechanical engineering major, said he enjoyed a writing seminar last semester that he wouldn’t have otherwise taken.
But some students feel the rules are overbearing. Samson Berhane ’14 said he would rather that Yale return to the system used before 2005.
“I don’t like thinking I have to get certain things done,” he said. “It takes away your flexibility.”
The committee will present the final report at a Yale College Faculty Meeting on May 5.