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The Campanile

Elective shopping period

Most people, at one time or another, have been stuck in a class they hate. Elective courses from the secondary level and beyond might not deliver for enrollees, who then find themselves shackled to an unpleasant curriculum, teacher or peer group. For those hoping to avoid this situation, there is a solution: a shopping period.

Class shopping allows students to sit in on courses for several periods at the start of the semester so that they can get a feel for the class’ atmosphere and academic expectations. Several universities across the nation, such as Ivy Leagues Yale University, Brown University and Harvard University, among others, have adopted this practice to encourage positive student learning.

Paly has long emphasized the importance of students finding their passions and engaging in exciting, interesting academia. With only descriptions in the course catalog and word-of-mouth advice to guide students in their course selections, it is difficult for a student to gauge whether their chosen classes are the right fit for them. Instead, a shopping period of approximately a week would provide students with authentic experiences to assist them in discovering their interests.

If given the opportunity to shop classes, Paly students would certainly try out a variety of diverse elective courses. Paly graduate Sarah Wang (‘16) who attends Brown University found her experience with the shopping method to be a refreshing change of pace.

“You also get a lot more important info necessary to choosing a class than you do from just reading the course description,” Wang said. “For example, shopping classes allows you to see if you like a teacher’s teaching style, if the course is the right level for you, if you like the students in the class, if you actually like the content of the class, if you can handle the workload, and a course description can’t tell you all those things.”

Of course, implementing a shopping period at Paly would take tremendous effort from the guidance department and administration — it would require a flexibility in student scheduling Paly currently can barely afford to provide given limited resources.

Given that scheduling students is already a daunting task, it would be wise to start small and allow class shopping only for electives in one department at first. Furthermore, while colleges often allow students to shop up to eight or so courses each semester, Paly could begin by capping the maximum at one course per student instead.

Colleges that have the luxury of a shopping period have an abundance of advising resources that can only be acquired with time. However, if Paly ever desires to reach such an idea, administrators must begin the course towards class shopping immediately. While seemingly unrealistic, Paly is known for its forward-thinking education, and would greatly benefit from a long-term plan to incorporate class shopping into academic advising.

Education is a system driven by student passion for a subject, an element lacking in the absence of class-shopping. Being “stuck” connotes a state of immobility —  students in a class against their will tend to begrudge it and not grow as learners. Though current Paly policy does offer the opportunity to drop a class within the first quarter, such a need can be nullified (or at least preemptively counteracted) through shopping.

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