Tough Schedules in the Social Work Program

Ruth Gowitzke   Staff Writer

The Social Work Program is an accredited program at Eastern that puts a lot of pressure on the students who are accepted. For juniors, classes only meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for seniors they only meet on Tuesdays. In fact, students can spend up to six hours between two classes a day, one right after the other. There is little time where the students get to take a break on those days. I find that having these long classes back to back is not beneficial, students cannot give their full attention to a professor for such long periods of time. If the student has absorbed three hours’ worth of information from another class, how are they supposed to absorb another three hours of information without any breaks? I know there are reasons as to why the program is set up this way, and that is why I spoke to the coordinator of the Social Work Program, Dr. Eunice Matthews, to get insight on how this setup works and how this process benefits students in the field.

“The scheduling is consistent over the semesters because what we have in the Social Work Program is a learning community cohort model. So, the way that it goes, is that the students enter the program together and progress through the program together,” Dr. Matthews said. “It allows us to do an immersion of social work values and skills by having this learning community, so that we can schedule things both in and outside of the classroom, without disrupting the student’s other schedule.”

Dr. Matthews then discussed how the scheduling specifically benefits those students who are in their senior year. “We found that it gives them more flexibility if, for example, all their senior classes are on Tuesday. So, you have one day of classes, that gives them four days to complete their requirements for their internship, and at the same time, some students work or have children. It makes it less burdensome on the student in their senior year,” she explained.

Dr. Matthews also discussed how this model came about and the role it has had in students’ lives. The program adopted the cohort model after she began working at Eastern, it was something that she had suggested, and it has evolved since 2002. She elaborated that another aspect about the program is that students know exactly what they are going to do ahead of time, so for people who have multiple roles, they can plan, and they know when their classes are going to be. Dr. Matthews also mentioned that one of the downsides is that it doesn’t give the program a lot of flexibility, but it also allows them to admit more students. “If I had to give classes all over the place, I wouldn’t be able to offer the major to as many students as I am able to now, so it also increases the access,” she added.

A final point that Dr. Matthews made about the scheduling process of the classes is that it allows the professors to be able to get to know the students and the vice versa. This is an opportunity for the students to form a support system within the program. Dr. Matthews also noted that since conducting an exit survey, she has found that the students enjoy this model of learning.

Despite the various points that Dr. Matthews has made about this scheduling process, I still feel as though students in the Social Work Program would benefit a little more if the schedule spread out, even if that meant having one class in the morning and one class in the evening. But what do I know? I’m just an English major.

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