By Elizabeth Angell
My experience at The Evergreen State College has been a unique one in contrast to my first two years of undergraduate study at my local community college. It has allowed for flexibility in studies, creative expression and deeper understanding. To me, the main differences being the program structures and the “grading” concept. I was able to experience a sort of small melting pot of options that Evergreen has to offer in terms of classes. I have taken day classes, night and weekend classes and I even became brave enough to try my hand at an 8 credit Independent Learning Contract (ILC). Through these different experiences it has helped to shape my goals and helped better prepare me for my future beyond Evergreen.
The structure of the programs varied in my experience from ones with more of a lesson plan concept that had specific learning objectives for the whole class to accomplish, to ones that have been more individualized to the students’ interests, but all centered around a neutral commonality that connected the class. What was similar about all of the classes I took here at Evergreen was the experience of seminars. Seminars are class discussions on material that the entire group has read/studied/watched etc., and seems to have countless ways of being done, some more effective than others. I have found that as time progressed seminars have helped me develop skills in group discussion, debating and analyzing, and listening. I feel it has been an effective way to address topics, concepts and/or issues in the work in question and “popcorn” off each other to better dissect and understand what was trying to be expressed and to analyze it at all angles. I feel this is such a crucial experience to mention because of how effective it can be.
The unique concept that Evergreen carries in terms of receiving credit and the process of evaluations is actually what caught my eye about attending school here. I have always struggled in school with tests, quiz’s and the overall conventional textbook teaching. I tend to freeze up on tests and get easily bored of the mundane textbooks. Sure I have still taken tests at Evergreen, but thankfully they didn’t determine my passing or failing of the material being taught. Instead I felt they were there to help understand what areas I needed to focus more attention on. I feel that one should be graded on the effort that is put forth in learning the material as well as the effort taken to correct and expand on the material at hand. I feel that the evaluation process allows for students to feel confident in receiving credit in a form that allows for others to understand what was learned and how, as well as the level of involvement and the quality and traits that were exhibited throughout the learning process. Each student has the choice in submitting their own evaluation of themselves on their transcript as well as the professors, giving a more well rounded understanding of the students accomplishments and attributes. I feel that receiving evaluations at the end of each quarter allows for a student’s effort and growth to be expressed as well as their accomplishments. This paints a better picture of the work ethic and an idea of the concepts and information learned by each student, I think, than the conventional letter grades.
I started attending Evergreen my junior year of college, with a one year old and newly found-out second baby on the way. I started Evergreen with the preconceived thought that I would probably need to take a quarter off after I had my second baby, like I did with my first child while attending community college. Surprisingly, that was not the case. I started by taking day classes, which required being on campus 4-5 days a week. Pretty typical. Then I switched over to night and weekend classes so that I would have more time during the week to be a mom as well as work. This is were my professor told me, in my last months of pregnancy, that if I wanted to continue on with her class the next quarter after having the baby, that I was more than welcome to bring my newborn to class in order continue my studies. I was thrilled, and it worked out great!!! The flexibility of the classes has allowed me to study the areas that I am interested and reasonably accommodates for life.
I also had the opportunity to create and experience what is known as an Independent Learning Contract. Basically I created, with the help of my supporting faculty, a lesson plan for the quarter and followed it. It proved to be a lesson in determination, as well as a memorable learning experience. It consisted of me creating learning objectives and an action plan for the amount of credits I was applying for. For each objective I was to create a learning activity, along with how I expected it to be evaluated and how I would receive feedback. It was basically a self-led research project with checkpoints and deadlines. This taught me to be self-dependent on deadlines, I became very aware of time management and it gave me a great appreciation for group activities and discussion. This opportunity has also allowed me to work at my own pace with no requirement of being present “in class”. This allowed me to care for my kids during the day and focus on school work whenever I had some down time. I was my own boss.
My name is Elizabeth Angell, I am a senior at The Evergreen State College and I am in my last quarter before I graduate in June 2017. I am attending Evergreen to study the environment issues and sustainability practices but mainly to learn restoration efforts of disturbed environments and endangered species.