Collaboration provides comprehensive approach to education
Parkland College is an educational institution that prides itself on putting the student first. A sense of community is a significant component of the academic experience on campus and there is evidence of collaboration happening on many different levels, and the students who attend classes at Parkland benefit from this sense of community. Adopting a comprehensive approach to education is something that is important to the faculty and staff members of Parkland.
Dr. Brian Nudelman is the service learning coordinator as well as an instructor at Parkland. He explained that students tend to think of their education in terms of what courses they’re taking. He also said that students often think of the classes that they enroll in as separate entities. For example, a math class is a math class and a biology class is a biology class. Students may not think of the two separate fields of study as being interrelated.
“I think that is not a good way to think about education,” Nudelman said. “I think everything is intertwined and the more often we can show that connection, by getting outside the classrooms and interacting with the various other programs or resources the college has, the better we represent reality.”
Department Chair of Fine and Applied Arts, Julie Weishar agrees that this approach to teaching is beneficial to students.
“It benefits students in so many ways,” Weishar said. “Because they get to have this experience of connecting things, not just in one class, but across classes.”
Not only does this interaction help students understand the totality of their education, it also reinforces the things they learn in the classroom.
“Giving students an opportunity to collaborate with other courses allows them to put into practice what they learn in the classroom,” voice and diction instructor Sara Thiel said.
Weishar explained that this sort of collaboration doesn’t just take place between programs in specific departments, it also occurs between different departments throughout the campus.
“The interpersonal communication class partners with the ESL class to do kind of a coffee and conversation, and that’s one great example of how we do that,” Weishar said. “Our presentation center works with other faculty in other departments to help students with oral presentations they have to give.”
Weishar explained that instructors aren’t required to engage in this sort of partnering but it is often encouraged. Faculty members frequently share collaboration ideas and ask specific questions about how to enrich the learning experience for students during their usual meetings.
“How can we bring more people in? How can we get more people involved? How can we partner with others so students have a bigger benefit?” Weishar said.
Weishar explained that this collaborative approach to education may not be unique to Parkland, but it isn’t always part of the academic experience of larger institutions, especially those that are research based. She has had firsthand experience of teaching at a university level.
“It’s not that teaching isn’t valued. It is, but it’s only one of the things in your portfolio. You also need to be doing research and, you know, publishing and those kinds of things as well. And that is not the focus of Parkland,” Weishar said. “At Parkland we look for ways that we can broaden a student’s horizon to give them more. Not just the theory but also a practical application of that theory as well.”
Parkland College’s radio station, WPCD, is one of the many places in which students experience the practical aspect of their education. Radio Director Deane Geiken explained how the station provides that opportunity for students.
“When I first came here, it was always my intention to make the radio station available to other departments,” Geiken said. “We have resources to allow different departments to do stuff; making promos for their events and stuff like that. We also promote the planetarium, we promote the theater, some of the student clubs are now using us to promote their events and special goings on, things like that. Really, I just wanted to kind of have the door open and let the radio station be a voice for Parkland.”
Geiken explained that a lot of students might not be aware of the resources available to them on campus.
“There is kind of disconnect between the resources that Parkland has for students and what they know about,” Geiken said. “Sometimes a student gets so focused on their educational path in college that they forget that there’s other things available to them.”