Undergraduate student becomes the teacher with R’Courses

This past year Stephanie Zeng ’22 designed and taught a one-unit course, "Healthy Living as a College Student," to her peers

Whether your goal is to someday be a teacher, or you are just passionate about sharing and leading discussions, UCR's R’Course program is  a unique opportunity that allows undergraduate students to design and teach courses to peers.

“I first heard about this opportunity through Professor Marsha Ing during my sophomore year. I was immediately drawn to the idea of creating a space where my peers and I can discuss a non-academic topic together, and enrich each other’s’ lives through discussion,” said undergraduate education student Stephanie Zeng ’22.

Launched in 2014 by the UCR Office of Undergraduate Education, the program helps students develop leadership skills, innovates the undergraduate curriculum, and promotes democratic, experiential education on campus.

“When preparing for this opportunity, I had to first think about a topic that I wanted to teach. Professor Ing prompted me with the question, “What’s something you can talk on and on about?,’” said Zeng.

Stephanie Zeng
Stephanie Zeng '22

Zeng has always been interested in learning about physical and mental health, and as a college student she knew firsthand how challenging it is to balance healthy living with a busy schedule. She decided to bring her passion for health and wellness into the classroom. Zeng worked with Ing, and the Office of Undergraduate Education, to develop and teach the course “Healthy Living as a College Student.”

“It is a two-quarter long process of preparing to teach, but it was definitely worthwhile!” she said.

While students design and teach the one-unit courses, a faculty member, in this case Ing, provides mentorship and support behind the scenes. The Office of Student Engagement works with the R’Course Governing Board to review R’Course proposals, coordinate course activities with academic departments, and provides student facilitator training. Student instructors are also required to take an education course to learn about classroom facilitation.

“R'Courses are a great opportunity for UCR undergraduates to create courses on topics they are passionate about and to engage with other undergraduates around these topics,” said Ing. “Even if undergraduates aren't interested in pursuing careers in education, these opportunities to plan and implement their own courses provide valuable learning experiences.”

Zeng recommends the experience to other students. “The biggest thing I learned by doing this is probably being cognizant of the role I have as an R’course facilitator. One thing that Professor Ing said to me when I was preparing to teach is to be aware of the power and influence I hold over a group of individuals. This really stuck with me, and has stuck with me for all the leadership roles I have taken at UCR. When she told me that, I really took it to heart and have always tried to be inclusive, welcoming, and attentive to all the students in my class,” said Zeng.

“At the end of my last class for the first quarter I taught this, there was a student who stuck back and thanked me for my inclusive language because of how welcomed they felt with my words. This was another moment when I realized the depth of influence I have to make someone feel welcomed in a learning environment even if it’s just practicing inclusive language.”

Learn more about R'Courses here

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