Thoughts on J-Term
February 15, 2013
Students and faculty reflect on Guilford’s first January Term.
“I enjoyed every minute of the class,” said Justin Jordan ’13, who took part in a project on woodworking. “The most challenging part has been building something from my own designs and not something that was out of a book or pre-designed.
“The best part of this class is being able to look at the finished product knowing that I designed and built it. In a way this class allowed me to push myself by trying something new.”
Kate Gibson ’14 took a silversmithing course at the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. She enjoyed her experience enough that she’s applied for a job at the Ghost Ranch for the summer.
“It was the greatest. I had a really rough semester last semester, and I really needed something to re-center myself and calm down.
“We mostly focused on our own techniques — inlay, overlay, soldering. Soldering is fun. Soldering is a lot of fun. When you solder stuff, it has the ring that goes around and glows. I had seen that in Lord of the Rings and stuff, but never in real life.”
Justin enjoyed his project so much, that he thinks he may use the skill in the future for his own enjoyment.
“I can definitely see myself pursuing woodworking as a hobby in the future,” said Justin. “It is a great way to pass time and it allows me to set a goal and see it through to the end. … It gives me a sense of pride to be able to do things for myself.”
Associate Professor of Geology Dave Dobson originally planned to teach a course on game design. However, due to low enrollment, it turned into an independent study with the most interested student. Even though it wasn’t the project he had intended, Dave said that it was successful, and that he’s ready to do it again next year.
“I’d really like to try the project how I’d originally imagined it, as a group game design project,” he said. “I hope as people get more used to the J-Term idea there will be more interest in that kind of thing. I know the off-campus trips were popular this time, but it would be fun to do a focused experience on campus.”
Refection on January Term also focused on the strengths and weaknesses of how learning works during the January Term. Justin noted that not everything would work under the format. However, the format does allow students learn things in a way that would be difficult during a regular semester.
“I think for classes that are hands-on, the J-term format is great because it allows you to go every day to continue what you did the day before,” Justin said. “For classes where you need to know specific information, the regular semester format is better because it gives students time to do research and study.”
Dave reflected on how the subject matter of his project was difficult to teach in a limited amount of time, but doing it in the format of an independent study was highly beneficial.
“The time frame was pretty short for this kind of thing — it was pretty intensive,” he said. “But as an independent study, we were able to go at whatever pace was appropriate. I think we covered a lot of ground.”
Professor of Chemistry Rob Whitnell and Visiting Instructor of Business Management Richard Schilhavy co-taught a project on app development for the iPhone and iPad. According to Rob, it as a learning experience from his perspective, as well.
“It’s something I wanted to learn more about. It’s not an area where, walking into the class, I considered myself an expert in,” Rob said. “Some days I felt like maybe I was two days ahead of the students. Other days I felt a little bit better about it.”
Both Rob and Richard reflected on how the more intense and focused nature of the January Term format may have been overwhelming for students at first. However, they both felt that the students met the challenge and learned a lot.
“They did a semester’s worth of work, I felt,” said Richard.
Even though it might have been challenging to take on a project over the Winter, Kate reflected on how it was a benefit in the long run.
“I talked to a lot of people who just stayed home during break, and they really weren’t ready for the semester to begin because they were just watching television for six weeks,” she said. “This was at least something to keep me engaged during break, it kept my mind working. But it never felt like working, it was fun.”
With all of the challenges and successes of this year’s January Term, there is certainly room to do a lot in the future.
“I hope we see even more students participating next year,” Rob said.
Story by David Pferdekamper ’12