story Vasudha Kataruka, Contributing Reporter

No Science in Semester 2? (Serena Quay, David Zhang)


Integrated Science 1 (IS1) was cancelled on Aug. 22 after a faculty vote. The course has faced negative feedback as it struggled to deliver on its promises to integrate the various sciences, affecting students and professors alike. Its demanding curriculum led to long class hours and a fast-paced course, creating pressure on faculty and students.

Instead of having to choose IS1 in the second semester of their first year, all students can now choose an elective. This will postpone their choice of a science or non-science major to their second year at the College. The IS track will also align with the Foundations of Science track for the class of 2019, Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn said in an email announcement.

Four faculty members, each from a different scientific field, taught IS1 to a group of about 35 students. The course’s first iteration spent the semester focused around a theme, water, which linked it to different areas of science. Even the faculty struggled with shifting around a biology-centric theme, said Associate Professor of Science (Life Sciences) Neil Clarke. Assistant Professor of Science (Physics) Adam Shaffique said teaching IS1 was difficult as the students had a diverse range of prior scientific expertise, and not all of the students enrolled were planning on majoring in the sciences. Consequently, professors could not assume prior knowledge.

A few students found it difficult to value all the different scientific fields they were being exposed to, partially due to different backgrounds in the sciences. “Students will always want to do what they are interested in,” Mr. Adam said. “But part of our goal is to push them into areas that they are not comfortable with, whether they like it or not.”

Still, the class gave students a unique look at the sciences, said Matthew Bolden ’17. It allowed students of different backgrounds to collaborate and taught him how to use different scientific frames to look at problems. Bolden admits that the course’s ambitions goals may have led to part of the issue with IS1. “How do you gauge how well you’ve instilled a mindset?” Bolden asked.

The classes ran from 2 pm to 6 pm which many felt was exhausting for both faculty and the students. Most students also spent more time on IS1 than their other courses, according to a survey done by faculty. Some students dropped the course due to the effort and rigor demanded, said Shaun Lim ’18.

IS1 was removed without prior consultation with the Common Curriculum External Review Committee. Mr. Bailyn said that it made sense to make this change now to allow the teaching team to spend the semester devising science courses and electives for students who want to learn about the sciences in the second semester of their first year.

Mr. Bailyn said that no concrete decision for the rest of the Science Common Curriculum courses has been made yet, but a variety of options are under consideration. As of now, no decision about future plans regarding IS2 and IS3 has been confirmed.

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