One of the key advantages of going to Lesley is the small class sizes. You have a direct connection to your professors, and many of them are full time here, so it is almost always easy to get in touch with them. Some of the larger departments, like Education, have a multitude of teachers; but some of the smaller departments have very few professors.
For instance, on the staff directory when you search “Education,” more than twenty names pop up; but when you search “Business,” only nine names are shown. I asked some Education majors at different undergraduate levels, and they said that they have had very little duplication: their courses were all taught by different professors. For example, senior Maddy Morini, an Education major, noted that her courses in Global Studies were taught by the same professor; but she seldom encountered the same professor in all of her Education-related courses. But on the other hand, the Business majors I asked told me they have had the same professors each year.
Repetition in teachers is not always a bad thing: in fact, it could be a positive if you have a good relationship with your professors and see them as mentors. This familiarity could also further your professional relationships with important people in your field of choice. However, there are some clear negatives to only having a limited number of professors. A few of the majors and minors with a smaller number of students often have repeat teachers for every new year. Sociology, science, digital film, and communications minors face this struggle often. What does this lead to?
Strict schedules and class meeting times — which could put commuter students, student athletes, and other students who work or have other commitments in tight binds for scheduling conflicts. For example, if there is one teacher who teaches a required class with the only meeting times being at night, that forces students who have internships, games or other conflicts to have to miss one or the other. Furthermore, some classes at Lesley are only offered every fall or spring, and even sometimes every other year. This could lead to students failing to complete both of their obligations, and it could get them off track with their graduation plans. Senior Biology Major Sam Turnbull completely agreed, and said, “We absolutely only have one class time offered, usually for higher level science classes; so that’s an issue for sure. And because we are a small department, classes often just get dropped, and they won’t run a class because of enrollment size. But then [they] expect students to have that class to graduate.”
This situation could also lead to a narrow lens on teaching methods/opinion. Regardless of if teachers mean it or not, it is often very clear what their opinions on politics, methodology, theory, or practice are. What happens when we are taught in a Policy class that liberalism is better than conservatism or vice versa? We lose sight of understanding and just focus on division. This is not only for politics – but every subject. Each teacher brings new insight and expertise in a particular area, and if we have constant repeating teachers we adapt to their style and views and fail to develop our own.
In departments like Communication, which is a minor in Humanities, Donna Halper teaches 90 percent of the classes. While she is an extremely qualified and passionate teacher, she has a specific style; and even she says it is sometimes hard to think of new material for each class she teaches, particularly when some of her students have her two or three times a day.
Students benefit from exposure to different viewpoints and teaching styles. Currently, with a few exceptions, this is mainly happening in the larger departments and in the majors with the most students. Those departments have larger budgets, along with a greater need for more teachers. But students in the smaller majors and minors should not be overlooked. One answer, of course, is hiring additional professors when possible. But another is to make better use of the professors we have by encouraging them to teach in other departments. I know many teachers who specialize in one subject, but are also competent in another. For example, Donna Halper teaches media, but she could also be a history teacher. I am sure there are other professors who are known for one thing, but could teach a different subject. This would bring some variety to the students. Maybe trying out even a little crossover teaching would go a long way to helping with class times, and providing new perspectives.