Cases from the Crazy World of Sectioning

It’s that time of the semester: Head TFs all over campus are scrambling to section their courses between the study card deadline and the the
first section meetings next week. (72 hours and counting!)

Logistical questions about sectioning always come up, and the trusty HeadTF listserve (email John Girash at the Bok Center to be added) provides lots of useful tips and solutions. But what about those situations in which there is no easy technological or administrative answer? Today we present two such cases facing real Head TFs whose names and departments have been changed to protect their identities. Exciting, no?

Case #1

Jane is sectioning a GenEd course of around 120 students. The course – on French culture and history, say – is geared toward students with no French language skills. Invariably, though, students who took French in high school – or who are native speakers – end up enrolling in the course. As a result, the course head has traditionally instructed Head TFs to section the course according to prior experience. Through the sectioning tool (or on paper), students are asked about the extent of their French language skills and are then divided into “experienced”  and “inexperienced” sections. Now, because the course is geared toward those with no experience, the “experienced” sections still aren’t conducted in French, and both kinds of sections write the same papers and take the same exams.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sectioning by ability? Do you know of other courses or departments that routinely divide students according to prior experience? If you were Jane in this situation, and the course head asked your opinion on sectioning by ability, what would you say?

Case #2

Bob is sectioning a large departmental intro course on the English novel. In addition to Bob, there are 7 other TFs, all graduate students in the English department. In lecture, the course head introduced each TF by describing his or her research interests and previous experiences as writers. When it came time for sectioning, the course head asked Bob to allow students to indicate their preferences not only for times – as usual – but also for the specific TF they’d like to have teach them.

What are the implications of giving students the right to choose a TF as well as a section time? Do you know of any other courses/departments that section in this way? What teaching philosophy underlies the course head’s request? What are the best- and worst-case outcomes?

One thought on “Cases from the Crazy World of Sectioning

  1. For the case #1, I think both the advantages and disadvantages are pretty obvious in this case is for the one who will be teaching the class. Students with experience or ability to speaks or write, will be easier to teach and vice versa.

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