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Summer Quarter: Is it Right for You?

July 24, 2013

cover photoSummer in Seattle has brought inferno-worthy heat and a humidity that turns straight hair to a frizzy poof in a hot second  (learned that the hard way).  But the weather isn’t the only thing to do an 180˚ this season.  Summer classes at UW are also a whole new beast.  With only a couple weeks into my 15 summer quarter credits, I’m already feeling the heat!

Summer classes are staunchly different in  pace, class size and quiz sections compared to the regular academic year. To get some different perspectives on the subject, I interviewed Yoav Duman, a PhD candidate who teaches “Arab Israeli Conflicts” (POL S 325) and Sophie Hubbell, a second-year senior who is taking a Summer Intensive Language program (SIL) in Persian/Farsi. I hope the Q&A below can help you decide if summer quarter is right for you!

Compared to the academic year, is the pace of summer classes different?

Yoav DumanYoav: Absolutely. Though classes are longer, instruction only lasts eight weeks. As a teacher, I try to accommodate this change and reduce the readings for my students by about 10 percent. I will usually cut some [non-essential lectures] because time is valuable. Only the prominent curriculum will be taught, however, most summer students aren’t missing out on any information pertinent to their learning of the subject.

summer photo 2Sophie: The pace of this class is definitely difficult and very unfamiliar. I have had three hour classes in the past, but never every day. Regardless, I have an excellent professor (Shahrzad Shams) and the three hours are used efficiently and to the fullest. By the end of the course, I will learn more this summer than a 100 level [language] student will learn in an entire year. That alone is very satisfying and rewarding.

Summer photo 3Elizabeth: Yes! The summer has a much faster pace. I feel like readings and lectures go by in the blink of an eye. It’s fast, but manageable. If you keep up with readings and pay attention to lectures, you’ll be fine. Time management is really important, though! I’ll admit that balancing school work while enjoying the rare Seattle sun can be difficult at times.

How does class size change in the summer?

Yoav: During the regular year, I usually lecture 100 students for 50 minutes sessions three times a week, with TAs facilitating the quiz sections. In the summer, I am teaching around 20 students two hours a day, twice a week.

Sophie: Everyone in my class right now is at a different level of proficiency. Some, like myself, have no experience with the language and are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to a majority of the other students, who have a [prior] connection to the language. However, we’ve been able to help each other through the confusion.

Elizabeth: Summer classes are definitely smaller than my regular lectures. The class is much more intimate and, in my opinion, more comfortable. Some people may find the small class size intimidating since the professors interact with students so closely, but I think most will greatly benefit from it.

“I enjoy the small class size and find it easier to network with my fellow classmates. It’s easier to learn each other’s names and form study groups.”

~ Sophie Hubbell

How are quiz sections different?

Yoav: Because I do not have TAs to facilitate discussions, I have to incorporate it during my instruction period. I try my best to keep people engaged. I play more movies and documentaries during class to keep learning very visual. I find that these smaller class sizes and closer interaction are a benefit for students– I grade their journals personally and integrate my comments on the exam. I know exactly how knowledgeable students are and if they’re doing the readings.

Sophie: So far I am very impressed with the level of accessibility my professor and her TA have offered this quarter. Our small class provides a greater opportunity for my professor to connect with us and grasp our individual learning styles.

Elizabeth: During the regular year, I have to be much more proactive to get to know my professor, but because of the small class sizes in the summer, I’m able to develop a relationship just by attending classes. It’s hard to demonstrate  participation and engagement for professors in large lecture halls and even harder to get a recommendation afterward. Since a teacher recommendation can really enhance an application or resume,  having a teacher who sees my behavior in class every day is much more valuable than only chatting during office hours.

“During the regular year, TAs grade assignments and it is much more difficult for students to develop a teacher/student relationship unless they regularly go to my office hours. Summer is great because many of my students just call me ‘Yoav’.”

~ Yoav Duman

So do you recommend taking summer classes?

Yoav: As a teacher it is harder on us as we don’t have TAs, but I do see many benefits in taking summer courses.

Sophie: Summer Intensive Language programs in general are an excellent way to learn a language if study abroad is not an option for a student. UW’s programs have proven to be very effective and even offer 2nd and 3rd year  SILs for some languages. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this program, but it’s been a huge success and has strengthened my desire to learn languages even more!

Elizabeth: Maybe being a full time student during the summer isn’t for everyone, but I definitely think that students should at least take one course over the summer! As a Seattle transplant, I really appreciate how beautiful the city is during this season–that in it of itself hooked me on staying at UW over the summer.

Are you ready to dive into the summer quarter challenge? Registration for Term B is still open, but you got to hurry—classes start on July 25th.  And if there are questions I left unanswered, the comments are always open!

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