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Teaching and Learning

An Athlete's Community of Support

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


If you’re a student-athlete (emphasis on “student”), you will almost certainly love it at Grinnell. Sure, depending on your sport, you can find higher levels of athletic competition at other schools, but to find a place where you can be encouraged to excel in the classroom just as much as you excel on the field (or in the pool or on the court) is a much rarer phenomenon. The key to Grinnell’s success in both the academic and athletic spheres is the support the athletes receive not just from teammates and coaches, but also from professors and the student body at large. All these people care about my development as a human being and push me on multiple levels to achieve beyond my expectations.

I know that at some schools, being a “jock” would be all that defined me, but at Grinnell, people recognize that’s not all I am. Even if I spend much of my time at the athletic center, no one’s stopping me from exploring additional facets of campus life. I get to be a student, a tour guide, a writer, a varsity athlete, and anything else I feel like pursuing, all at once. It’s kind of liberating, knowing that people will let you be you.

And it’s personal here. You can see it in the class sizes (the student to teacher ratio is about 10:1) and within our athletic programs, too. My senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges, I filled out maybe a dozen athletic inquiries online. In response, I received mostly generic, automated messages thanking me for my interest. But within 24 hours of sending my information to Grinnell, the head volleyball coach e-mailed me personally with some additional questions, like: What was I looking for from a college athletic experience? What was my philosophy of the game? He recommended I come to Iowa and experience the Grinnell community for myself.

I remember that word specifically: “community.” It has been the most relevant word in the last three years of my life while at college. Before I was even officially enrolled at Grinnell, the volleyball and softball teams made me feel welcome with personal e-mails and phone calls. Once I was here, I became part of a culture in which literally everything is an all-campus community event, where everyone, even the soonto- be-graduating seniors, cares about supporting his or her fellow students.

It really hit me during the last home volleyball game of the 2009 season. Looking up into the stands, I realized the gym was packed, vibrating with the crowd’s energy. But it wasn’t only other athletes who came out to support us, and it wasn’t just the student section that was crowded — professors, dining services and facilities management employees, the president of the College, and people from town who had no discernible connection to anyone on the team all turned out for our match, some with painted signs, some with painted bodies. Buoyed by this incredible support system, we won every one of our home conference games that season.

At Grinnell, you don’t have to choose between great athletics and high-quality academics. You can have both, plus a couple thousand people cheering you on the whole way.

Erin Labasan '11 is a Psychology Major from Neotsu, OR.

Interpreting Test Scores

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Interpreting Test Scores

To interpret an individual student's standardized achievement test scores, please refer to the following concordance table which compares scores of the two national achievement tests.

1440 and up 33 and up
1400 - 1430 32
1360 - 1390 31
1330 - 1350 30
1290 - 1320 29
1250 - 1280 28
1210 - 1240 27
1170 - 1200 26
1160 and below 25 and below

Grinnell College first-year students have an average (mean) composite score of 1325 for the SAT and 30.0 for the ACT. Nationally, the average SAT score is approximately 1011 and the ACT is 21.1.

Although the writing scores for both ACT and SAT are recorded in a student's official college record, the Admission Office currently does not use the writing portion of either test to determine admissibility.

International students also have scores for the TOEFL (the Test of English as a Foreign Language). It measures a person's proficiency in English; it is not meant to be an indicator of academic ability. In order to measure language competency, sub-tests are broken down into three areas: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and grammar.

The test is offered in paper-based and most recently, internet-based formats. The scoring systems differ for each:

640-677 273-300 111-120
590-637 243-270 96-110
550-587 213-240 79-95
513-547 183-210 65-78
477-510 153-180 53-64
437-473 123-150 41-52
397-433 93-120 30-40
347-393 63-90 19-29
310-343 33-60 9-18
310 0-30 0-8

We do not have a minimum TOEFL requirement for admission to Grinnell College.  However, because of the high demands placed on our students in terms of reading and writing, we look to admit applicants who can demonstrate a very strong command of the English language.  For the class entering in August 2011, the mid-50% TOEFL (internet-based) score was 99-105.

Off-Campus Study

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Off-Campus Study

Grinnell is affiliated with nearly 100 off-campus study programsworldwide, and we offer two of our own:  Grinnell-in-London and Grinnell-in- Washington. By the time they graduate, 55-60% of all Grinnell students have studied in a semester-or year-long program, either domestic or overseas.

As an adviser, it's important to raise the topic of off-campus study (OCS) early with your advisees.  Although they will not be eligible to study off-campus until their fifth semester at Grinnell, planning should start sooner. Students typically learn about programs and apply during their second year, but this process can start sooner if you direct it. Although studying in a new environment is a valuable learning experience in and of itself, the College believes the opportunity will be even more enriching if closely integrated with a student's coursework on campus. During the application process, great emphasis is placed on selecting a program that is compatible with academic goals, thus close planning among the student, his/her/hir adviser, and the OCS Office is advised. Further information is available on the OCS webpage.

Learning through Teaching

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

I didn’t come to Grinnell intending to become a teacher. I came to Grinnell to major in English, discuss James Joyce and Anna Nicole Smith (R.I.P.) with roommates until 3 a.m., and learn the ins and outs of a variety of liberalisms. I actually didn’t go to Grinnell to become anything; I went to live, learn, and love in the present.

However, Grinnell has this annoying habit of making you care a lot more about the future than the present: there are so many students, staff, and faculty who do things to make the world a better place that you can’t help but start planning how you’re going take part in social change.

So I took some classes in the education department and discussed educational philosophy; I journaled about what it means to educate the oppressed and how the school as an institution can be an oppressor; I learned about how, why, and when to teach a variety of reading skills; I even did a summer research project on the construct of “teacher” and multicultural literature. By the time last fall rolled around, I had taken as many education courses as English courses, and I felt ready to actually be in the classroom. I was ready to become a teacher.

I was placed at Marshalltown High School in Marshalltown, Iowa, a fairly large school situated about 45 minutes northwest of Grinnell (some of you may even go there — some of you may have even had me as a teacher … like whoa!). Marshalltown’s economy is built on the local meat packing plant. As a result, students come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and nearly 30 percent are native Spanish-speaking children of immigrants. As I began my student teaching, I was excited about my placement because of this diversity — it seemed like an excellent chance for me to use education to empower those who tend to have little voice in their communities. (Cue “Gangsta’s Paradise” as I change into Michelle Pfeiffer’s leather coat.)

Of course, it didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Even though I worked hard to craft interesting lesson plans around research-based methods, there were days when my students would have learned more from watching The Daily Show than they did in my class. (It’s actually possible that my students would have learned more from Jon Stewart than in any of my classes — hilarious, good-looking, and intelligent? Nobody can compete with that.) Even though I vowed to make my teaching meaningful to all of my students, many still saw learning as a waste of time. Fortunately, among the low points came small victories: my freshmen organized a canned food drive for victims of domestic assault; one of my sophomores wrote an incredibly reflective letter to her sibling; and my seniors wrote college entrance essays about duck hunting, sporks, and family that made me laugh and think about life in new ways.

For the first half of the semester, the roller coaster days killed me — I loved the brilliant moments, but each time a student flunked a quiz or disrupted others, I felt I had somehow failed as a teacher. Luckily, though, I had a whole community of peers and professors to whom I could vent. Every Thursday, the student teachers gathered with two education professors to reflect on our teaching and discuss educational research. Additionally, four of us carpooled to M-town, so between NPR clips about Mark Foley and Ace of Base remixes, we talked about frustrations and began to flesh out what the act of teaching meant to each of us. My non-teaching Grinnell friends sent me supportive e-mails, and Grinnell faculty members shared teaching stories with me over cups of tea and sugar cookies.

In the end, I can honestly say the Grinnell community was an essential part of my teaching experience because it helped me reflect on my teaching. Yes, I still have a passion for using education to create social change; however, I’m beginning to understand social change usually happens quietly and slowly. As a result, I’m learning how to enjoy both the little changes and small victories — to do an awkward little fist-pump dance when all of my students bring their books to class — and hope and plan to make a greater change in their lives.

Maybe all of this sounds obvious to you, but learning to learn from failure and enjoy small triumphs is the only reason I’ll be teaching again next fall—well, that and the fact that I know I have a whole network of friends and profs who will support me, help me enjoy the teacher that I am, and guide me toward the kind of teacher I want to become.

Cori McKenzie '06 is an English major with an Education Certification from Elmhurst, Illinois.