General Merit FAQs:
How does the Merit Program differ from traditional approaches?
What are the benefits of the Merit Program?
What are the challenges of the Merit Program?
Do I get additional credit for participating in the Merit Program?
Can I participate in more than one Merit Workshop in a semesster?
How can I get involved?
In most cases, Merit students attend the same lectures, do the same assignments, and take the same examinations as other students in the course. However, Merit students attend 2 hour workshops that may or may not replace their regular discussion sections. These workshops provide ample opportunities for student-student interactions because the students spend most of the workshop time collaborating in groups and grappling with difficult ideas and problems. In place of the traditional classroom, large tables form natural areas for discussion by students. The Merit teaching assistant provides a challenging worksheet or activity for students and circulates around the classroom providing feedback to students as they work. Students are encouraged to talk with each other, thinking aloud and interacting with other students. Different groups of students are encouraged to compare answers since the teaching assistant provides few direct answers. This collaboration among students stimulates additional interactions and more thinking about the course material. Workshop problems are designed to stretch each student’s abilities to the fullest extent. Active learning produces a thorough understanding of the concepts, an unusual level of creativity, and allows students to gain confidence in expressing themselves and their abilities.
Learning to tackle difficult ideas and problems in an atmosphere of trust and respect is the foundation for success in both graduate school and the corporate world. Merit students learn to exchange ideas and work together with colleagues to understand concepts and solve problems as part of a team. This provides a community of scholars to support and encourage success in later courses. Merit students often form lasting study groups that extend to other courses. Merit students usually perform better in their courses than their counterparts in traditional settings.
Merit students must study to prepare for each workshop session. Being an active participant is difficult without working before class on homework and seriously reviewing the text material. Merit students commit to themselves, the other Merit students, and the Merit teaching assistant to arrive on time and be prepared to both teach and learn during every workshop session. Another challenge for Merit students is that our teaching assistants do not provide direct ‘answers’ immediately. Rather, students are encouraged to compare answers with their peers and help one another; then the teaching assistant provides guidance until each student attains a true self-confidence in their own understanding.
For each Merit Workshop in which you participate, you earn additional 199 credit. This counts towards elective hours and your GPA. The grade is based on attendance, participation, and preparation. In most cases, the 199 credit is for one credit hour (with the exception of Math 199 for Math 220 which is for two credit hours). You can repeat this 199 credit for a maximum of 12 hours. Check with your college office for additional requirements.
As long as your schedule allows, you can enroll in as many Merit Workshops as you want for different courses. For example, it is not uncommon for a biology major to enroll in both Chemistry Merit and Integrative Biology Merit at the same time. Similarly, many engineering majors enroll in both Chemistry Merit and Math Merit simultaneously.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Merit program please refer to the Contacts page and let us know.