After three weeks of lectures here at Trinity College in Dublin, I am beginning to get a good idea of the way things really work around here.
Lecture classes at Trinity are exactly what the name makes them out to be: lectures. They are not discussion-based because there are simply too many students in the class.
There are about 11,000 undergraduate students at Trinity, so the class sizes here are nothing like what I have become accustomed to back at St. Mary’s.
My social psychology course here is held in a lecture hall that is probably three times as big as the lecture halls in Goodpaster.
Being a psychology major at St. Mary’s, I had never been exposed to big lecture classes like, for example, “Principles of Biology.”
I am aware that there are many universities in the United States that have this sort of a setup, but to me, it is all a brand new and foreign experience.
Another major difference between classes here and back at home is how the professors feel about tardiness. Lectures here are all fifty minutes long, and yet, it is a common occurrence for students to walk in to class late.
On a Monday morning in my “Non-Realist Literature” lecture, a student arrived at lecture with only fifteen minutes left in class.
The professor paused his teaching to welcome the student to the class and pull out an extra chair for her, as there were no desks left in the room.
I looked on completely stunned. I could not believe how relaxed the professor was.
It is also common for lectures to end late and run into when the next lecture in that classroom is supposed to start.
For my “Popular Literature” class, we commonly have to wait outside in the hallway for the lecture before us to end, and it usually cuts into about five minutes of our class time.
My “Popular Literature” professor is unfazed by this and simply makes her lecture run later to make up for it.
It seems that, generally, the Irish are far more relaxed about time and schedules than what I am used to, especially having grown up just outside Washington, D.C. (a city that runs like clockwork).
As I mentioned in my previous article, most classes here are independent study- based. There are no assessments of knowledge of the class material during the term.
This means that there are no tests in most of the classes. Some will have midterm presentations, but this is rare.
My grade for all but one of my classes is based entirely on the final exam. The final is a two-hour block of time in which I will have to write two essays based on the course material covered.
After having looked up past exam essay questions, I have found that they are normally analytical and open-ended.
The idea is that the exam tests one’s knowledge of the entire course, rather than one’s ability to memorize. There is no such thing as multiple-choice here at Trinity.
The best thing that I can compare Trinity’s assessment system to is the high school International Baccalaureate (IB) program. IB classes are offered as an equally rigorous alternative to AP classes at some high schools.
The format of the English and history IB exams is exactly the kind of thing I will be dealing with come mid-May. I am definitely not excited about having my whole grade based on one exam… but I guess it is all just part of the Irish Trinity experience. Wish me luck!