Take it easy

General education courses tougher than expected

By Claire Fodell | 1/8/14 6:57pm

The first day of classes has begun, and students are crossing their fingers hoping their professors won’t prove too difficult. Those taking 100-level courses may not be so lucky, though.

A 2012 study done by MLive found that the majority of Grand Valley State University students struggle more with entry-level courses than they do with the more intensive 400-level courses.

The study revealed that the average cumulative GPA for GVSU students in 100-level courses over the last decade was 2.9, while the average cumulative GPA in 400-level courses was 3.3.

Based on the lowest average GPA, the study found that the toughest course offered at GVSU over the last decade was PLS 282: Government and Politics of Russia and Eastern Europe. The course hasn’t been offered at GVSU since 2007, but instead it was split into two separate courses, PLS 382: Politics of Post-Communist Europe and PLS 385: Russian and Post-Soviet Politics.

Heather Tafel, one of the professors who taught the PLS 282 course, said one of the reasons students struggled with it was because they used it as a General Education requirement. The students who struggled with the course were ones who didn’t have any prior knowledge or interest in political science, international relations or Russian studies and didn’t want to put the effort into a General Education course.

“This is a common problem in General Education courses, as students erroneously believe that such courses are not as important as their major courses,” Tafel said. “The purpose of General Education is to expose students to a wide variety of perspectives, information and access to different fields in such a way to help prepare them for the world as a worker, citizen and well-educated university graduate. A world that is ever-changing requires people to be flexible and knowledgeable about how to find, locate and synthesize information.”

One of the students who took Tafel’s PLS 282 and the PLS 385 successor course agreed that General Education students struggled the most.

“I took the class as a political science major, but many students took it as a General Education class, expecting a blow-off,” student Jason Klinger said. “As a PLS student, I found the material fascinating, but I’m sure that some students were out of their depth. A number of students thought that they could do next to nothing, read next to nothing, show up when they felt like it and still succeed. They were annoyed when that turned out to be wrong. I think that says more about some of the students who took (PLS 282) than it does about the difficulty of the course or its professor.”

MLive found the following 12 undergraduate courses at GVSU to have the lowest GPA between 2002 and 2012:

Political Science 282 *: Government and politics of Russia and Eastern Europe: 2.0 GPA
Engineering 250: Materials Science and Engineering: 2.1 GPA
Psychology 349: Psychology Applied to Media: 2.2 GPA
Sociology 251: Criminology: 2.2 GPA
Math 408: Advanced Calculus I: 2.3 GPA
Physics 230: Principles of Physics I: 2.3 GPA
Biology 112 *: General Biology II: 2.3 GPA
Psychology 405: History and Systems: 2.3 GPA
Engineering 440: Production Models: 2.3 GPA
Biomedical Sciences 306: Advanced Human Nutrition: 2.3 GPA
Psychology 363 *: Learning: 2.3 GPA
Engineering 257: Electronic Materials & Devices: 2.3 GPA

  • = Course no longer offered

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