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Summary Details

Query:   Summary: undergrad/grad classes in syntax
Author:  Stanley Dubinsky
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Summary:   We received responses from faculty at the following institutions: The Ohio State University,
Stony Brook University (SUNY), Syracuse University, University of Alberta, University of Arizona, and University of Florida.

With regard to mixing grad and undergrad populations in introductory phonology and syntax courses, the institutions surveyed gave mixed responses. Some used to have combined grad/undergrad classes, and no longer do so. Others do have combined grad/undergrad audiences. Where grad and undergrad populations are mixed together successfully, it usually involves BA and MA students. It is also noted that ?advanced? or ?smart? undergrads do best in such classes.

With regard to work and grading standards for the different groups, most report at least nominal differences in requirements or standards (sometimes required by the university). In practice though, it would appear that bright undergraduates sometimes outshine the average MA student, making it more difficult to apply higher standards and workloads to one group over the other.

The questions and individual replies are appended here below. Thanks to all who responded,
Stan Dubinsky

1. For first semester syntax and phonology, my institution offers {one course/separate courses} for graduate and undergraduate students.

In our Intro to English grammar, we used to combine the undergrad and grad enrollees, but the undergrads constantly felt threatened in that they were being evaluated in competition with the graduate students, and the graduate students felt the course was being watered down for the
benefit of the undergraduates. Partly as a result of the student evaluations, we separated the two
classes, and shifted the orientation of both to more specific goals.

[We] used to do it, but we found that first year graduate students usually had some background in syntax and phonology, while undergraduate majors didn't, so we separated the courses. Now undergraduates who do well in the undergrad courses can take the intro graduate courses and benefit from them.

[We offer] joint courses in both phonology and syntax for entering graduate students and senior (fourth year and honours) undergraduate students.

We offer separate first semester syntax and phonology and phonetics courses for undergrads and grads. As for other courses, we often permit advanced, smart undergrads to take a grad course, with a lot of success. Occasionally too we combine undergrad classes with grad courses aimed
at students in the MA in TESOL program, [such as] the structure of English, Lg acquisition, 2nd lg acq, sociolinguistics, and these are usually unsuccessful because our undergrads have much more prior ling courses and are usually more academically competent than our MA TESOL students. The undergrads get frustrated and disappointed.

We offer combined courses: Lin4xx/6xx (Intro to) Phonology and Lin4xx/6xx (Intro to) Syntax.

My institution combines MA/BA Linguistics students into a single first semester syntax course, and a single first semester phonology course. These are often the most advanced courses that our students take enroute to the B.A. or M.A. However, ALL students are required to take an intro. to Linguistics (again, undergrad. & grad. combined) that investigates the basic concepts of syntax and phonology. Finally, the M.A. is the most advanced degree awarded here at .

2. If one course is offered, are requirements/grading standards different for each group?

[Our] university requires, if undergraduate and graduate classes are ''co-convened'', that the description of the graduate class clearly indicate a differentiated set of requirements, demonstrating that there is additional work to be done by graduate students over and above that required for undergraduates.

Each of the courses is a bit different ... the syntax class [uses] a different evaluation scheme and sets of evaluation tools for each group (though over the years the two have come to resemble each other more and more), but students have the same readings and the same expectations regarding class participation, group work, etc. ... the phonology class uses the same evaluation tools for both groups, though marks are assigned to each group of students separately (that is, members of each group are ranked internally against one another).

For phonology, the requirements are slightly different for each group. The grad students have to do more problems on each homework assignment and take-home test, and when time allows, they do more presentations in class than the undergrads. not sure about syntax, but I suspect it's similar.

Officially, yes... Grad. students are expected to do a more in-depth final paper or project. In actuality, however, whether or not a student is a grad. or undergrad. is often blurred as the latter sometimes outshine the former with respect to abilities.

3. Department name, university name.

Department of Linguistics. The Ohio State University
Linguistics Department, Stony Brook University (SUNY)
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, Syracuse University
Linguistics Department, University of Alberta
Linguistics Department, University of Arizona
Program in Linguistics, University of Florida

LL Issue: 8.675
Date Posted: 07-May-1997
Original Query: Read original query


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