Thursday, January 25, 2007

Good Teaching

Thursday, January 25, 2007
Chronicle of Higher Education

Harvard Panel Calls for a Renewed Emphasis on Good Teaching, With Rewards to Promote It

Harvard University should make changes to improve its quality of teaching, enhance student learning, and reward successful teachers, according to a report released on Wednesday by a committee of tenured professors in the institution's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The report advises departments to pay more attention to teaching qualifications in candidates for faculty appointments, and proposes rewards for good teaching for all ranks, from graduate teaching fellows to tenured professors. To evaluate the quality of teaching, faculty members should develop tools to assess learning that go beyond online course evaluations, and students' gains in essential skills like writing and mathematics should be periodically measured, the report says.

The report makes five major proposals, saying Harvard should:

Foster a more collegial teaching culture, where faculty share course materials and discuss teaching goals and practices.

Gain more support for academic innovation, including grants, administrative assistance, and a review of course-scheduling practices.

Improve systems of accounting, so faculty achievements in teaching and advising can be recorded and used by others.

Link good teaching to salary adjustments, faculty appointments, and career advancement.

Increase visibility for excellent teaching methods and achievements, as an educational tool and as an incentive to teach well.
"For decades, universities have been criticized for paying too little attention to the quality of teaching," Harvard's interim president, Derek Bok, said in a written statement. He and Jeremy R. Knowles, interim dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, called for the creation of the committee, which was formed in September 2006. The report "represents an important opportunity for Harvard to address and assess the way we conduct our core academic business -- teaching our students," Mr. Bok said.

Mr. Knowles said in the statement that the report "focused attention on how we teach rather than on what we teach," and he expects the report to lead a shift in culture that has the potential of improving the educational experience of every student at Harvard.

The report is scheduled to be discussed this spring by faculty members, administrators, and students. Some changes will be put in place this academic year, while others will be delayed until a new president and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences take over.

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