Faculty should think of teaching in the same way they think of their research, affording it the same enthusiasm and interest, Provost Nancy Cantor told those attending the Provosts Seminar on Teaching on Nov. 15. The seminar theme was Improving Teaching and Learning: The Experience of Other Research Universities.
To underscore the importance of viewing teaching in this manner, and to encourage initiatives to really make teaching and learning front and center at the U-M, Cantor called on her audience of more than 80 deans, associate deans and department chairs to put five concrete proposals on my desk by this spring. She especially highlighted some of the major foundations of a modern education: diversity, technology and collaboration.
The teaching seminar followed a Nov. 14 conference hosted by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) and sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. That program focused on the special challenges inherent in fostering greater attention to teaching at major research universities, setting the theme for the teaching seminar. Participants in the Carnegie program included administrators and faculty from Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Ohio State, Princeton and Stanford Universities; the Universities of Washington, Wisconsin, Georgia and Nebraska, as well as representatives of The Carnegie Foundation and the American Association for Higher Education, some of whom stayed to participate in the teaching seminar.
There is a national effort under way to define the scholarship of teaching, and the U-M is among several institutions leading the way, Cantor explained at the Nov. 15 seminar, citing several areas that play to the strength of research universities.
Research universities provide a rich environment that stretches us, forces us to cross boundaries, to challenge ourselves. We mix and match all the time, and ask constantly Who are we bringing together?
Much work at research universities is done collaboratively, which is critical to our understanding of self and the world. We need to be able to see problems from anothers perspective and develop a shared understanding, Cantor said. Unfortunately, she added, under current structures, junior faculty are not encouraged to take on collaborative activities.
Teaching and learning need to become a critical part of the evaluation process, Cantor added, without placing additional burdens on junior faculty. We raised the bar, but we havent followed with a support system.
All faculty, the provost noted, should be encouraged to share in the excitement and the potential in research universities for the integration of teaching and learning.
Attention also must be paid to the role of graduate and professional students in working with undergraduates. GSI training is not the end of the story, but we must begin with this, Cantor said, calling on the participants to build intergenerational learning communities composed of faculty, graduate students and undergraduates sharing expertise and life experiences in collaborative groups.
Graduate students play a huge role on these campuses, she said. We need to capture their youth, enthusiasm, flexibility and curiosity.
There is a great deal of talk about the centrality of learning and teaching, the provost noted, but we dont mark the importance of the dignity of the enterprise. We need to bring forth the dignity, we need to equate [teaching] to the awe with which we hold our disciplines.
CRLT Director Constance E. Cook characterized Cantors remarks and her commitment to funding projects aimed at raising the dignity of teaching as an important milestone in educational improvement at the U-M. She also cited several programs in this area already supported by CRLT. They include:
Lester P. Monts, associate provost for academic affairs, who was instrumental in bringing the Carnegie conference to campus, echoed Cantor and Cook in calling for a focus on the scholarship of teaching.
We need to pay more attention to the pedagogy of teaching and look for ways to apply that pedagogy to the challenges presented by interdisciplinary and multicultural curricula, as well as to the use of new technologies to support and enhance teaching.
We need to explore how we do these things, how we get outstanding scholars and researchers to bring their experience to bear on undergraduates, Monts added.
Participants in the Nov. 15 Provosts Seminar on Teaching, Improving Teaching and Learning: The Experience of Other Research Universities were asked to identify ideas generated in a series of roundtable discussions that could hold promise for the Universitys efforts to improve teaching and learning.
The Universitys commitment to good teaching
Improving the evaluation of teaching through peer review
We must consider how teaching and learning are evaluated and assessed if the future faculty are to take this seriously. It bears careful thought about teaching portfolios and casebooks that are an essential and integral part of promotion and tenure.
Technology in teaching
Developing teaching academies, using outside speakers
Support for junior faculty
Preparation for graduate and post-doctoral students