The Experience, Research


Time traveling in the Archives

March 10, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

At the beginning of our French class, Professeur Austin excitedly rushed into the room and told us to follow him to the library.

This semester, in my “Historicizing France” class, we are learning about l’age des lumières, the Enlightenment. We have read the works of great philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and we’ve studied the encyclopedia that first published the ideas of Rousseau and others. Even though 18th century France was as equally knowledgeable as England, they did not develop to the same economic level. French thinkers were too wrapped up in the encyclopedia to actually apply those ideas for economic gain.

Looking at online versions of Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, I could only imagine the effect the text had in France. I did not have to imagine for long.

As our professor guided us to Shain Library, we climbed the stairs and entered the Archives and Special Collections. We came face to face with original the original French encyclopedias.

Every student in the class was handed a volume of the encyclopedia and we flipped through its pages. Geography, mathematical proofs, Greek mythology, drawings of surgical practices and carpentry jumped out at us. After looking at the encyclopedia myself, I now can’t blame France for being content to merely gaze upon the text. The encyclopedia itself is that enlightening. Even 250 years later.

A photo from the CC archives

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Advocating for a different way of learning

January 13, 2014 | Guest Blogger

Occasionally, The ConnCollegeLive Experience will invite guests to blog about their experiences as a Camel. The following is the first in this guest blogger series.

I’ve been a tutor at Conn for the past three years. I work with students in the Science Leaders program in one-on-one and group sessions in chemistry, organic chemistry and biology. The tutoring program was started as a way to ensure our Science Leaders excel, but after last summer, I saw it also as an opportunity to experiment with new teaching techniques.

Traditionally, our group tutoring sessions work this way: Students arrive with their problem sets complete and ask the tutor any questions they have. Faculty and students approve of this type of setup because students can try the problems on their own, and anyone who needs extra help attends the tutoring sessions.

Unfortunately, the system never seemed to work out this way. Many times, students come to sessions without the problem set complete, either because they couldn’t find the time, or worse, they became irreversibly stuck at some point in the assignment.

This summer, while I was applying to medical schools, I found that most incorporate problem-based learning (PBL) into their curriculum. I sat in on a PBL class for biochemistry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and it was incredible. Students worked together on complex problems in teams of five, always making sure everyone was on pace and fully understood the question at hand. The strangest thing was, they seemed to actually enjoy it.

So I gathered up our Science Leaders in organic chemistry, and I tried it. This year, rather than stringing together a number of chapter-related problems each week, we started designing problems that pull from multiple chapters and allow the students to make connections between what they are currently working on and older material.

These new sessions foster collaboration between students and teach them that even in organic chemistry, each one of them can benefit from working together.

Yumi Kovic ’14 is a biochemistry major, a Science Leader and the winner of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in science, mathematics or engineering.

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