College’s Learning Center expands Study Tables after Fall semester success

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Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Juggling college classes mid-pandemic offers a special set of challenges:

  • Handling a mix of classes that are both online and in-person — or navigating a schedule that’s completely online.
  • Learning new ways of interacting with classmates and professors, new ways of working on collaborative projects, new ways of incorporating feedback and critique.
  • And figuring out how to build new relationships, or maintain the ones you have, when you can’t hang out together 24/7 like you could pre-Covid.

To address some of these academic challenges, PCA&D’s Learning Commons instituted Study Tables during the Fall 2020 semester. These were opportunities that any student could attend, either in person or online, to access extra guidance, support, and instruction from faculty, staff, and student tutors.

“Students came to Study Tables for any variety of reasons,” says Mariah Postlewait, Director of the College’s Center for Teaching & Learning.  “One student wanted help figuring out how to balance everything and needed some help to plan out a roadmap for their classes/assignments/etc. to see how they really could get everything done. Some students came just to work on writing journals for Art History classes — it helped them just to set aside that time to get them done.

Students looking for the Learning Commons Discord channel, or for the full calendar of Learning Commons events, should check their Jan. 29 email from Mariah Postlewait, Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning

“Other students wanted to work on assignments for (Foundations of Verbal Communication) classes, and at least one FVC professor was there to answer any questions and offer help. Professors Jason Ward and Justin Phillips, who also is PCA&D’s Coordinator for Visual Learning & Artmaking, offered guidance for studio art courses.”

The result? The “grade slide” that traditionally takes place between midterms and finals actually reversed last semester — even taking pandemic-related challenges into account. “We believe that Study Tables contributed to that at least in part,” Postlewait says.

So this semester the Study Table program has expanded. The first major change: The opportunity for Study Table support begins as the Spring semester begins, not halfway through. But that’s just a start. Several other changes have been implemented for this semester, based on feedback from students, faculty, and staff:

  • This Spring, Study Tables will be held both Wednesday evenings (5-9 pm) and Saturday afternoons (noon to 4 pm), to allow for more flexibility around student schedules and more opportunities for interaction.
  • Every other Saturday from 1-4 pm, Prof. Jason Ward will offer a drawing workshop, both in person and virtually.
  • Virtual Studio Tutor Jasmyn Stokes ’23, Fine Art, will run an online Critique Group on both Wednesday and Saturday.
  • Writing help will be offered at every Study Table session.
  • Subject tutoring will be expanded to include Animation & Game Art, and software-specific support.
  • And skill-development workshops will be scheduled, too, led by members of the Center for Teaching & Learning.

Workshops on career development will be held throughout the spring, starting with the process of creating strong resumes and cover letters, and senior Prep Workshops also are being offered in conjunction with Director of Exhibitions Alana Coates and guest speakers.

“We are all really excited to see how the programming in the Learning Commons is starting to really grow and develop,” Phillips says. “We had the opportunity to get a lot of great student input during Spring Preview (the week before the semester kicked off), and we also surveyed the faculty at the end of last semester.

“Getting feedback from the PCA&D community of faculty and students is really helping inform the programming that we are developing, programming that reflects the community and its creative and educational aspirations.”

Photo: Mariah Postlewait, Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning