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No institution of established reputation willingly lowers its standards by refusing to give certain work that is required in a curriculum or major grouping in order that the teaching staff may be reduced. Nor is it an easy matter for a department head, dean, or president of an institution to say to someone who has been on the teaching staff for many years and who has rendered splendid service that his services are no longer needed. For many institutions it has been fortunate that during the period of decreasing enrollment of agricultural students, funds for research and experimental work have been increasing so that as student numbers have decreased it has been possible to devote more time to research and to retain the staff practically intact. Institutions have done their utmost to keep a competent staff so that work of as high a grade as possible might be given in the classroom and conducted in the research field. In the meanwhile a change in the tide of enrollments has been looked for which again would increase the size of classes and reduce the cost per student. While this has been delayed beyond the anticipation of many, enrollments in agriculture again are on the increase and an increase in the number of students in the various classes is to be expected. Institutions need to be on their guard, however, against overspecialization in undergraduate instruction if the economies to be expected from increased enrollment are to be realized.
Where small classes are inevitable because of limited enrollment and considerable specialization is demanded because of the specialized agricultural industries of the State, certain methods may be used which will help appreciably in avoiding excessive costs of instruction. One of these is to offer certain work in alternative years, making the curriculum sufficiently elastic to permit students who desire such courses to take them, or to excuse certain students from certain courses heretofore required for graduation. This can often be done without lowering the standard of work or measurably reducing the opportunity for any considerable number of students.
Small classes also may be handled frequently through the conference or project study method or a combination of both. Instead of meeting such classes three times a week it is sometimes possible to assign specific work or subject matter to be covered in library study and in the laboratory and to meet such students for help and aclvice once a week. The same or even better results may thus be obtained without reduction of credit allowed and with less strain upon instructors. Then again it is sometimes possible for one teacher to conduct two small laboratory classes simultaneously. This requires a certain degree of ingenuity and willingness on the part of the teacher to adapt himself to this method of teaching in order both to serve the students and reduce the costs per hour of student instruction. Further studies of overemphasis upon laboratory periods and experimental trials of more economical means of instruction promise fruitful results.
The matter of large classes also deserves further study. Carefully controlled experiments in teaching certain specific subjects tend to show that large classes are not, in some instances, undesirable. These experiments do not demonstrate that all subjects can be taught equally as well in large as in small groups; they do indicate the probability that for certain subjects on specific levels, the large class is no handicap. Only experimental trial and measurement will provide adequate guidance in determining when small classes are wasteful of money and time. The importance of this matter is so great, however, that the land-grant institutions are urged to carry on careful investigation of the subject in cooperation with each other.
C'ertain requirements for the bachelor's degree.—Only a comparatively small per cent of agricultural students, except those who may have come to the institution with advanced standing, receive their degrees in less than four years. In only 16 of 38 institutions are such graduates found, the number varying from a fraction of 1 per cent in several to 5 per cent at the University of Wisconsin and the North Dakota Agricultural College, to 6.7 per cent at the Georgia State College of Agriculture, 6.8 per cent at Cornell University, and 10 per cent at the University of Arkansas.
Chapter VII.-Judging Contests
The use of judging contests of various kinds to stimulate interest and keen rivalry within and between institutions has been of long standing in undergraduate agricultural instruction. They have had a particularly prominent place in the animal husbandry and dairy husbandry classes, and contests in judging poultry, grain, apples, and other farm products are not uncommon.
Contests usually are staged after considerable class work in judging has been given. In order that students in classes from which contestants are picked may have the opportunity to see the best stock, poultry, fruit, grain, or vegetables that can be provided, not only is much emphasis placed on having the best possible equipment of this kind at the institution, but trips are made by students and teachers to the better farms in the surrounding communities to see and study the best that they afford. These may be followed by visits to county, State, regional, and national fairs and shows, where the best the country can provide is on view. Here this material is studied, and the climax is reached in intercollegiate judging contests.
All of this is stimulating to students, and there are many in practical agriculture to-day who maintain that they got more from these trips and contests than from their class work or any other student activity. On the other hand, they probably overlook that the trips and contests were the culmination of study and practice and would have meant far less to them had they not had the background of college training and experience.
A number of problems arise in connection with these trips which, to a considerable extent, are still unsolved. First is the matter of class absence and absences from all campus activities during these periods. How often, for instance, can a student stay away from lectures and laboratory in organic chemistry and be able to make up this work to the satisfaction of himself and his teachers? How many class discussions in agricultural economics, in marketing, or in education can a student miss and still get out of the course the same value that it affords those who are present every day? How shall the expenses of these trips, which often are considerable, be handled ? Shall the student pay for them, since he is the principal beneficiary; or, because the institution has supervision over and promotes these trips, shall the institution carry the expense? These and similar problems the institutions are trying to solve.
One of the first steps usually taken in that direction is a requirement that all absence from the campus whether on judging trips or contests be approved by certain college authorities, from the head of the department in which the student may take his major work to the dean of the college of agriculture, the dean of men, or even the president of the institution. In one or two institutions the same penalty is imposed for absence from the campus for trips of this character as for absence for personal reasons. In most institutions, however, when permission has been received for such trips, no penalty is incurred, but a student is supposed to make up the work immediately after his return to the campus. The next provision usually is a limitation of the number of days' absence from the institution permitted for the purpose of visits to farms and judging contests. This is practiced in 15 institutions, while in 27 there is no such limitation. In the 15 the absences may vary from 3 days in one institution to 15 days in another and from a loss of 12 per cent of time that should be devoted to class work in 1 institution to 33143 per cent of the time in 2 and even 50 per cent in 1. While penalties, such as loss of credits because of absence for this type of work, would seem to be entirely too severe in one direction, permitting absence amounting to 50 per cent of the student's class time is entirely too liberal in the other. On the other hand, when the absences incurred because of judging trips to farms, livestock shows, and other exhibitions are compared with absences of members of athletic teams, the balance is likely to be entirely in favor of the former, both in the amount of time used and in the educational values. This should be taken into consideration when institutional regulations with reference to judging work and contests are considered.
The matter of judging contests has seemed so important that the Association of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities has had a committee at work on this problem for two years. In its second report made at the meeting of the association in November, 1929, the following recommendations were included:
“(a) That no member of a contesting team shall be permitted to accumulate more than 18 credit hours class absence due to training for a contest.
"(0) That during the contest no member of the team shall incur more than six days' absence from college plus time required for uninterrupted travel 10 and from each intercollegiate contest. (Teams that can not between contests may apply unused credit hours for training specified under the preceding paragraph.)
"(c) Additional study in respect to methods and standards of judging and instruction of different commodities is important.
"(d) No student having an average scholastic grade below that of the average for the college or who is on probation or under discipline that will be eligible to compete in any intercollegiate judging contests.
“(e) Students participating in intercollegiate judging contests shall be enrolled for at least a minimum full schedule as required by the institution."
While students in classes in which judging work is given may go with the class on the trips to surrounding farms and to fairs, participation in the contests is limited to students enrolled in special work leading to them in 32
institutions but is not so limited in 12. In only 10 of the 32 is the amount of preparation for these contests limited to that demanded for regular credit in the course. In the others more time is spent in training for these contests than the credits in the course would require.
The expenses of the trips in connection with these contests are paid in full by the students themselves in 21 institutions and by the students and institutions combined in 17. The expenses of the coaches of the teams are paid universally by the institutions. At Colorado Agricultural College, $400 is appropriated by the State board of agriculture for the senior stock judging team. At Purdue University the board of trustees at times sets aside a small item to handle the expenses of judging teams. At the University of Kentucky a definite sum is budgeted each year for this purpose, any additional amount necessary being furnished by the students. At Cornell University the transportation is cared for occasionally by the institution. At the University of California, Iowa State College, the University of Missouri, and some other institutions, departmental or voluntary student organizations help to defray the expenses of judging teams. Student activity fees are used to handle part of the expenses of judging teams at the University of Florida, Kansas State Agricultural College, and Massachusetts Agricultural College. At the Ohio State University the winnings of college livestock exhibited at the State fair are used toward these expenses. At the University of Minnesota an institutional prize fund is called upon in part and business men in other organizations contribute toward the expenses. Regional shows such as the Pacific International contribute a part of the expenses of students taking part in judging contests. From the assistance given by insti. tutions and numerous other methods used to help defray the expenses of judging teams, it is clear that members of these teams are recognized as representatives in activities that are worth while from the institutional standpoint whether this be one of prestige or educational concern.
Trips for Practice Teaching Trips other than those by students in judging classes and contests also create a problem in a number of institutions. Included in these are absences from classes due to practice teaching by students enrolled in classes for agricultural teaching. Specialists in education have long realized that such practice is an aid to good teaching. Supervised practice for those who are planning to teach agriculture in Smith-Hughes schools, therefore, has become a requirement. Such practice often may be obtained through arrangement with the local high school and with secondary schools in the neighborhood. Often, however, the necessary practice can be obtained only by taking trips to communities at some distance. These trips, in 22 institutions, create a problem of absence from other classes just as in the case of students who are studying, judging, and taking part in judging contests, while in 22 institutions there does not seem to be a problem of this character. In only 10 institutions has a special organization of the curriculum been arranged to take care of the difficulties incident to class absences. In most of the institutions the arrangements made are informal between the different members of the teaching staff.