On-Campus Learning Opportunities
Directed and independent study courses are available in most disciplines. They offer properly qualified students the opportunity during any term to carry out individual work that is unique and intensive on a topic not offered as a regular course. The student works on campus under the general supervision of a faculty member in the appropriate program in a one-to-one relationship. A student may register for only one such course in individualized study (either one directed study course or one independent study course) in any one term.
For either type of course, a detailed description of the project must be submitted on the proper form by the beginning of the term during which the work will be done. The student prepares this statement after consulting with an appropriate faculty member who is willing to supervise the student’s work. Approval by the appropriate department chair or program director and the divisional dean is required. Directed and independent study courses may be taken using the standard letter grade system or using the S/D/U system. The proposal form for approval must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office no later than the end of the first week of a fall or spring term or prior to the start of a January or summer term.
Directed Study courses are offered at the intermediate (numbered 260) and advanced (numbered 360 or 460) level for variable credit ranging from 0.25 to 1.00. To be eligible for a directed study course, a student must have demonstrated a capacity to do individual work and have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.00.
Directed study at the intermediate level is open to sophomore students or higher during the long term, but freshmen also are eligible during the January term.
Advanced directed study is ordinarily limited to a topic falling within the student’s major or minor, and taken only after successfully completing the basic courses in that field. However, by special permission of the department chair, a directed study course also may be taken in another discipline provided the student has completed the basic course work in that discipline plus all necessary prerequisites for the directed study topic.
The topic chosen by the student and approved by the faculty member must be sufficiently delimited to permit significant oral and written reports. A directed study entails considerable student-faculty interaction during the pursuit of the work. The faculty member may assist the student in the preparation of the bibliography or the formulation of the project, and the student is expected to consult the faculty member periodically and report on progress being made. Such conferences usually occur about once every two weeks.
Independent Study courses (numbered 490) provide opportunity for a student to use initiative, imagination, and persistence to produce a higher quality body of work such as a research paper, formal report, or art project. Independent study is open only to juniors and seniors who have performed exceptionally well academically with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00 and who are judged by the faculty supervisor and department chair to be capable of substantial independent inquiry into a special phase of the subject within their major.
After initial planning in consultation with the faculty supervisor, the student basically works independently. The student is free to consult with the faculty member from time to time but is generally under no obligation to do so. The course may involve library research or special problems. Each study should enhance the understanding of the subject as well as develop the methodology of inquiry. Ordinarily, just one course credit for such study may be earned in any one term.
Certain departments and programs offer highly qualified students opportunities to learn by sharing in the instructional responsibilities for particular courses.
The student is given a sphere of responsibility so that learning and teaching can be experienced as two aspects of the process. The student’s role differs from that of teaching assistants utilized by many colleges and universities. Here the faculty member is as much involved as ever in all aspects of the course. Involvement of a student in teaching/learning participation (numbered 464) in a particular course happens only if the faculty member feels that definite benefit to both the student and the course will result.
Each instructional program unit determines which of its courses, if any, are appropriate for such individual studies in teaching/learning. (The role of laboratory assistant is not appropriate for this type of individual study.) The type of responsibilities and extent of involvement of the student will vary depending on the course and faculty member. This course may be taken only at the undergraduate level. It may not be counted as a substitute for any of the undergraduate teacher education requirements.
The Posey Leadership Institute at Austin College offers aspiring students extraordinary opportunities to prepare for lives of leadership through experiential learning within and beyond the classroom. The Austin College approach incorporates skill-based opportunities for students to learn, apply, and test their effectiveness as leaders through coursework, campus governance, student organizations, mentoring, assessment, and leadership across community and global service organizations.
Environmental Research Areas and Field Laboratories
Austin College is fortunate to own five pieces of property in Grayson County that serve as research areas, field laboratories, and nature preserves. The Barry Buckner Biological Preserve and Research Area is a biologically diverse 115-acre site containing native deciduous forest, pine forest, sandstone outcrops, and successional communities. The Lee Harrison Bratz Field Laboratory, located on the sandy soil of the East Cross Timbers vegetational area, is a 76-acre site that consists primarily of deciduous forest, including both upland and bottomland vegetation. The Clinton and Edith Sneed Environmental Research Area, a 100-acre site in the Blackland Prairie vegetational area, is adjacent to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge; this property includes a small native prairie plot and three ponds. The Sneed ERA is the site of an extensive effort to restore native prairie vegetation. The Garnett Prairie is a 60-acre tract, also in the Blackland Prairie zone; it includes a 10-acre tract of intact native prairie. The McCarley Woods Nature Preserve is a 12-acre site that is primarily upland hardwood forest.
These field sites serve as outdoor laboratories for students and faculty in biology and environmental studies to examine organisms in a natural setting. The proximity of these sites to the campus and to one another facilitates comparative studies and long-term research projects. A number of courses including Animal Behavior, Conservation and Restoration Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Ecosystem Ecology, Mammalogy, Plant Biology, Vertebrate Biology, and environmental studies courses use the areas for field trips, class projects, and individual research.
Robert L. Snider Memorial Social Science Lab
The purpose of the Social Science Lab (SSLab) is to improve and make more relevant the education of social science students by stimulating and encouraging the use of research as a teaching and learning device. It is located in Hopkins Center Room B2. It was dedicated during the sesquicentennial homecoming in honor of one of the early student coordinators, Robert L. Snider ’72, who helped establish internships and resource connections with a metroplex company. The SSLab typically employs three or four students during the academic year with some summer internships.
Field and laboratory research is incorporated as a regular part of the social science courses in an interdisciplinary environment for students and faculty interested in empirical research. Through the SSLab, students can observe political and social behavior, formulate hypotheses about human behavior, test these hypotheses by survey research techniques, and acquire a more immediate and realistic sense of the structure and needs of the community.
Research Practicum in Social Science Lab
In certain social science disciplines the department’s sophomore, junior, and senior students may take a one-fourth course credit research practicum at the SSLab or under an appropriate professor utilizing the SSLab resources. Such work extends over a whole fall term, January term, spring term, or summer term and may be repeated for credit up to a total of one course credit unit. The research practicum is designed so that students may experience social science techniques by working on research projects while gaining an in-depth understanding of a particular area.
Interested students should consult the Social Science Lab coordinator and a faculty member who will be responsible for signing registration forms, serving as a consultant for the student’s research, and assessing the final grade. Approval by the director of the Social Science Lab is required. The Social Science Lab has resources such as modules on interviewing, survey research and data analysis techniques, and computer statistical packages that the student may use.