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A photo of professor Devin Singh in a classroom with students

One way that Dartmouth provides such a rewarding and engaging academic and intellectual experience is through its small class sizes. The average class size is about twenty students, and I've personally only been in a class with more than 35 students once in the nine terms I've been a student here! Many of these small classes are seminar-style and are the cornerstone of the intellectual exploration and intentionality that define the learning experience at Dartmouth.

Coming from a secondary school with relatively larger class sizes where classes are more lecture-based with little room for discussion, like many other Dartmouth students do, I initially found it quite difficult to conceptualize what a "seminar-style" class looked like and entailed. Like many other Dartmouth students, the required first-year seminar was my first seminar-style class experience. First-year seminars offer every first-year student an opportunity to participate in a course structured around intensive writing, independent research, and small group discussion and engage them in the research process, offering an early experience of the scholarship that fuels Dartmouth's upper-level seminars. 

In seminar-style classes, students are typically assigned readings from textbooks, articles, academic journals, novels etc that they go through before scheduled class times. Classes then provide a space for students to synthesize the material from these readings, asking questions and formulating arguments through discussions with classmates that are guided by the professor. I took a first-year seminar in the art history department on Impressionist painting in Paris in the mid to late 19th century. Drawing from both paintings and readings, we discussed the political situations and social conditions that inspired and were reflected by Impressionist paintings of the time. 

Aside from the first-year writing and seminar requirement, practically every department at Dartmouth offers seminar-style classes, some more frequently than others. Most of the seminars I have taken at Dartmouth have been in the African and African-American Studies (AAAS) department. One of my favorite things about seminars within the AAAS department is how much they can build upon each other; many of the things I learn in one seminar are still very useful in subsequent seminars. It is incredibly fulfilling to see how my knowledge of key topics in the discipline expands and serves as a tangible indicator of my academic progress and growth.

The style of assessment in seminar-style classes is also unique; grades are typically based on discussion posts, reading responses, class participation and essays rather than closed-notes written exams with a time crunch. Professors typically regularly assign short reading responses and discussion posts to ensure that students are constantly engaging with the reading material. Midterm essays and final essays also form the bulk of your grade and give you an opportunity to formalize the arguments and syntheses presented during class discussions and present the knowledge acquired in the class in a way that prepares you for subsequent academic writing within the discipline. 

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