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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Inquiring minds learn life lessons from SE professor

Students in Terri Schrantz’s Contemporary Social Problems class watch a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Classic Ballet studio. For many of the students, this visit provided their first exposure to ballet.  Photo courtesy Donna French
Students in Terri Schrantz’s Contemporary Social Problems class watch a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Classic Ballet studio. For many of the students, this visit provided their first exposure to ballet. Photo courtesy Donna French

By André Green/managing editor

Students in Terri Schrantz’s Contemporary Social Problems class watch a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Classic Ballet studio. For many of the students, this visit provided their first exposure to ballet.  Photo courtesy Donna French
Students in Terri Schrantz’s Contemporary Social Problems class watch a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Classic Ballet studio. For many of the students, this visit provided their first exposure to ballet. Photo courtesy Donna Frenche

In a typical classroom, students occupy desks or tables and face one direction while listening intently to their instructor.

But Terri Schrantz’s, Contemporary Social Problems class is more like a version of The View.
Schrantz, associate professor of sociology, teaches this social problems class as a hybrid mix of philosophy and sociology.

Schrantz, SE Campus 2004 recipient of the Chancellor’s Exemplary Teaching Award, created the course to enlighten and enrich students’ world view as well as enhance their community involvement.

Schrantz said a better way to teach is through hands-on involvement. She also said students must learn to think in terms of questions.

“ That’s a skill not many have,” she said.

“ People learn best by direct experience. Teachers, as well as students, learn more when they have an input on the structure of their education.”

However, from an outsider’s perspective, Schrantz’s classroom is anything but structured.
Schrantz finds herself in the circle to moderate the discussions and ensure everyone contributes to each topic presented.

One factor in the individual student’s success, Schrantz said, is his or her input, which she obtains using the method of Socratic Dialogue: there are no right or wrong answers.

With topics ranging from the imaginative (why does society need superheroes?) to the controversial (abortion and the death penalty), both the students and the instructor find the class deeply interesting.

“ A vested interest in the curriculum makes for superior teaching and learning,” she said. “I even consider myself a student.

“ We’re not coming to class having ready made answers. We’re coming to the classroom as explorers who have been on different paths of a journey coming together in an attempt to discover a greater truth.”

Schrantz said students can learn only so much in the typical classroom setting and decided to have herstudents step outside the academic box and take teaching and learning to a new level.

“I created this course using a pedagogy called Community of Inquiry,” she said. “Students not only have to read and absorb what is in the textbook, but they also have to become involved in the community.”

The course, Schrantz said, is experientially based relying on field trips in the community, special events on campus and guest speakers.

Schrantz’s guests ranged from Elzie Odom, Arlington’s first black mayor, to a historical and philosophical discussion on the art of Tai Chi presented by Michael and Laura Anderson, Tibetan/Sei Chem Reiki master teachers.

After the Tai Chi class, the students participated in an hour-long group session on the east lawn.

“ It was very relaxing,” one former student said.

As expected, the course is demanding and a lot of hard work, but students are taking life lessons from the course.

“ The teaching and learning is more work for all of us but far more rewarding than the traditional methods,” she said. “The students tell me they have never worked so hard, but they also say they have never had more fun.”

Schrantz noted the primary qualities needed to succeed in the course are motivation and discipline. The class is not intended for students who will miss a lot.

“ The students must be responsible enough to put in the time,” she said. “The take home tests alone are difficult, but not impossible.”

Schrantz’s method incorporates classroom discussions and field trips throughout the metroplex with the students being so much a part of the instruction, they choose the trips the class takes.

This past semester’s excursions included visits to the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Museum of Science and History and the Metropolitan Classic Ballet studio.

With fine arts being the central focus of the field trips, Schrantz found it fascinating so many students were unaware of events “right in our own backyard.”

“ Many of them had never been to the Bass Hall; they’ve never been to a ballet, and they’ve never been to a play,” she said. “[This experience] gets them exposed and gets them excited about new ways of learning.”

In addition to the group field trips, students selected a community event to attend individually and wrote an essay on their experience.

Former students Amy van Pool and John McCoy said the class is an experience unlike any they have ever had.

“ Life feels deeper and more meaningful after participating in here,” van Pool said. “The group discussions make you feel more comfortable about sharing your ideas.”

McCoy regarded his time in the class as both enlightening and eye opening.

“I wish classes were structured like this in high school,” he said. “People would learn a lot more and there would possibly be fewer problems because everyone gets a chance to voice his opinions.”

Schrantz would like to see this particular teaching model expanded to other campuses in the district, but she is aware that this particular style is not beneficial to every subject.

“ I’ve done Academics Day presentations and talked extensively about it, but so far we’re doing it only on SE,” she said. “I know it is not conducive to every discipline, but there are plenty it would apply to.”

Some of Schrantz’s students have shown their appreciation by continuing to apply lessons learned outside of the classroom.

“ I’ve become more mindful of art and dance because of our trips,” van Pool said.

McCoy has delved into more artistic endeavors because of the class and has become more respectful of other’s ideas.

“ I look at people differently,” he said. “Now I’m constantly thinking and get less stressed out.”

The students’ progress also reflects the learning process.

“ The grades in the first eight weeks were so outstanding, I thought someone might question it,” Schrantz said.

“ Sixty-four percent of the people have the same basic intelligence,” she said.

Schrantz said she would like to see more teachers, on every, adjust their approach in the classroom to gain the students’ focus, attention and interest.

“ The primary factor in success in academics as well as in life is motivation,” she said.

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