Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Evaluation

Lynn's picture

 

Self-Evaluation

            Initially, I signed up for The Story of Evolution because I saw that it was cross-listed for both English and Biology, and would give me a natural science credit; the course seemed a great way to fulfill a graduation requirement while managing to avoid dissecting anything. I didn’t know of anyone who had taken the course (although, as I’ve talked about it throughout the semester, I’ve discovered that several of my friends have taken it before), and I had no idea what to expect.

            The first few days of class, I was intrigued, but resistant. I still didn’t understand the purpose of the course – my notes from those lectures are covered in question marks and poorly organized, as I couldn’t figure out which topics should be grouped together and which were more tangential. I was willing to accept that evolution was merely another word for change, and I was even comfortable with the idea of everything, even those “facts” of life that I took for granted, was but a pleasant story, a single way of interpreting the world rather than the only way. I liked these ideas, and was quick to incorporate them into my way of viewing life, but I was much more hesitant to freely explore topics of purposelessness and randomness in discussion. I’ve fancied myself something of an Existentialist since the tenth grade, when I did a paper on Existentialism for my English class (I embraced the philosophy with all the pretension my sixteen-year-old self could muster), so I was actually quite familiar and comfortable with a universe devoid of ultimate meaning. That was fine. What disquieted me, though, was that we were discussing Existentialism and a sort of Nihilism so freely. I’ve been trying to understand why this was the largest obstacle for me in the course, but I still don’t know what it was that bothered me so greatly. Perhaps I was unprepared to tackle philosophy in what I had thought was a Biology class. Perhaps I still associated Existentialism with private research and library books whose spines had never been cracked. For about two weeks, though, I was uneasy, and once again confused about the purpose of the course.

            At some point, I overcame that uneasiness, although I don’t remember when or how. I won’t claim that I understand the material now – I’m still thinking about it, and trying to understand problems that have only just now occurred to me, after the class has ended – but I am much more receptive to it. I began this class with a definite idea of what I would and would not accept; now, I want as many ideas presented to me as possible, so that I can sort through them at my leisure and decide, after much consideration, what to incorporate into my beliefs and what to reject. I think that this course has made me more open-minded, and, if for no other reason, that makes me grateful that I had the opportunity to take it.

            I have also become a little – not a lot, I admit, but still a significant amount – more open with my thoughts. A problem that I have been facing all year is that Bryn Mawr expects open, easy discourse, and I struggle to vocalize my beliefs and opinions. Even Serendip, with its honesty-encouraging written format, presented a challenge for me. Sometimes I didn’t have the words for what I was thinking, and often I was simply too nervous to speak them, but the end result was that I didn’t frequently raise my hand in class. I really regret that I didn’t talk more. I allowed shyness, or something very like it, to prevent me from contributing to and developing in this class as much as I could have. I’ve improved since last semester, when I was so quiet a professor actually remarked upon it and coached me before a presentation, in that I have participated in discussion, but I was never one of the students who would hold an impromptu debate with the rest of the class, and I wish that I had been. I think that I would have gotten much more out of the discussions if I had been more active in them.

            I think that my written work was stronger than my class participation, though. My first essay can kindly be called a disaster; I was unsure what I was supposed to write, or what the professors were looking for, or even how far I could carry the idea of evolution. I ended up adapting one of the suggested prompts instead of thinking more creatively and selecting a topic I truly loved – I didn’t understand, then, that this class encouraged original thinking and specialization, and I thought that I was supposed to directly address a question that had been asked in class. My second paper was better; I wrote about the place that the soul has (or doesn’t have) in our model of evolution, and I incorporated a reading I had done before the class began, as well as the Dennet book the class read together. (By this time, I had learned to synthesize ideas from one class with another, the idea on which I based my presentation.) I had fun writing that second web paper, but I think it was still a little forced. The third web paper I wrote about how a favorite play had evolved in an entirely different direction from its source material. I loved writing that paper; it practically wrote itself. I discovered, in writing it, that I am more interested in evolution as it relates to the arts than I am in biological evolution, even though biological evolution is essentially the model on which the course is based. For my final project, I synthesized yet another discipline – math – with The Story of Evolution and, although the actual presentation made me nervous, I enjoyed it immensely. Taking this course has encouraged me to find the elements in any class that interest me most, and pursue them relentlessly; I love math, literature and philosophy, so why not find the commonality between them and biology and use that? I would not have done that before taking this course. I’ve been putting forth the same effort in each piece/project I have done, but as the course has developed, it has seemed less like effort and more like exploration; I’ve learned to have fun with my academics.

           

            

Comments

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
1 + 8 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.