Three Types of Dartmouth Courses:
Disclaimer: This judgment is only based on my first two terms on campus for a total of six classes. I have no doubt I will have different experiences in the future, but here are my thoughts on Dartmouth courses thus far:
To start, I have to say that I've been thoroughly pleased with the classes I've taken so far. They've been the perfect balance of intellectual rigor mixed with an academic curiosity shared by both the professors and students in the classroom. That being said, some classes are vastly different from others – the way the course is taught, how participatory it is, how large the class is and so on. In fact, I've been able to distinguish three distinct types of Dartmouth courses:
The first type, which is my favorite, I will label simply as the "discussion" class. These courses consist of around 20 students or so, and the dynamic of the class rests upon the ability of the students to engage and discuss topics effectively. Both my writing class in the fall of 2021 and my government seminar class in the winter of 2022 fell under this category. These two classes were both amazing from my perspective. Of course, you are expected to cover the course material on your own (the readings and podcasts and whatnot) and then you will be brought into discussion with your classmates most of the time you are in class. These classes are intellectually stimulating, and your participation in the class is greatly valued. I especially enjoy these classes when someone picks up on a statement I made and they say something like, "Well, to Gavin's point," or "Picking up on what Gavin said…" It makes me feel appreciated! I value the discussion classes so much!
The second type of class that I've identified is somewhat of the opposite, and I'll label this one as the "listen" class. This is mainly because there isn't a whole lot of discussion involved; you mainly listen to the professor speak! These classes are primarily the large lecture and prerequisite classes that have 50+ students in them. While I certainly enjoy the discussion classes more, these courses are necessary. For instance, my past few math courses (Calculus I & II) have been these "listen" classes. Of course, you are encouraged to ask questions to ensure you are following the material, but the majority of the time spent in class is listening to a lecture, taking notes, and doing some work outside of the class.
This leaves the third kind of class. It's a bit difficult for me to slap a label on it, but I think I'll call it the "thinking" class. It's almost a hybrid of the first two I mentioned. They usually consist of around 20-50 students and there is a good combination of listening to the lecture and engaging in thoughtful discussion among your peers. Specifically, I would dub my Meteorology: EARS 14 class (my favorite class so far) and Climate Dynamics: EARS 78 as "thinking" classes. While there is a good amount of time devoted to listening to the professor, about the same amount of time is given to you and your classmates to discuss the material at hand. In zoom world, this is where the "breakout rooms" would be utilized. In the real world, the professor will stop lecturing after covering a certain amount of material and you discuss it with your neighbors. I absolutely love these kinds of classes! It's a perfect mixture in my eyes.
Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list of the kinds of classes you may encounter here at Dartmouth, but this has been my experience so far. I can't wait to see what other kinds of classes appear as I continue my journey!