Teaching takes place in countless ways, and all are central to the University's mission / Paige P. Parvin 96G
In the primary care wing of Grady Memorial Hospital, Professor of Medicine Michael Lubin leans back in a worn, mauve vinyl chair, awaiting his next student. It’s a hectic Friday morning and Lubin is conducting a general internal medicine clinic in which seven medical residents see patients before presenting their cases to him for review and discussion. The cramped room is abuzz with residents presenting cases to faculty, entering information into computers, and completing the stacks of paperwork that must accompany each patient.
Jane Ko, a third-year resident in internal medicine, begins to tell Lubin about a fifty-eight-year-old woman who has arrived with high blood pressure and back pain. “What’s her renal function?” interrupts Lubin. “And why do I want to know?”
While Lubin occasionally lectures in the School of Medicine, most of his teaching is done more informally here at Grady, where he supervises residents in several clinics each week.
“The thing about this kind of teaching is that you don’t have any idea what the content is,” he says. “I will go to see resident students, they will present a case, and I have no idea what the topic will be until that moment. But there are always certain things
I’m going to impart—how to take a good history, how to do a good physical exam, what they got that was good, what they missed.”
Lubin’s longtime commitment to teaching medicine is well known. “My entire thirty-one years has been dedicated to supervision and teaching,” he says. “My personal interest is seeing how all the schools in the University decide how to evaluate, promote, and tenure teaching faculty as well as research faculty.”
For the past three years, that interest has led Lubin to chair the University Advisory Council on Teaching (UACT), a group that formed in the late 1990s to advance the scholarship of teaching at the University. In keeping with the University Strategic Plan’s commitment to strengthening faculty distinction, as well as the Year of the Faculty initiative established by University Provost Earl Lewis, UACT recently completed a report and proposal for a Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Teaching and Learning at Emory (CASTLE). The center will reside within the broader Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, envisioned to encompass a range of resources.
“There is a lot of interest in a teaching and learning center,” Lubin says. “We hope to expand the scholarship on teaching and learning, look at what works and what doesn’t, and create new knowledge to disseminate to the faculty.”
Under the banner of the Year of the Faculty, University Provost Earl Lewis has spent considerable time in recent months in deep conversation with the deans and faculty of each of Emory’s nine schools, discussing, among other things, the purpose and possibilities for the center.
“The new center is not just about what we do as teachers and faculty members, but also about what our students are learning,” Lewis says. “The goal is to pull together some of the resources we already have on campus and begin to really aggregate them in such a way that we assist faculty across the institution in proven pedagogy, technique, assessments, approach, and style. Emory College has a committee on teaching and curriculum. The medical school devotes a section to pedagogical style. Oxford has a program for young faculty and teaching enhancements. So here’s a way to pull all of those pieces together and really think about not only the teaching, but the learning.”
These efforts also will build on the work of the Center for Teaching and Curriculum (CTC), which for a decade has served as a resource on teaching for Emory faculty. Professor of History Patrick Allitt, who helped start the center with English Professor Walter Reed, has served as director for the past three years and also is a member of UACT. Allitt, a dedicated teacher known for his lively classroom style, also is the author of I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student: A Semester in the University Classroom.
The CTC offers practical, hands-on programs for fledgling faculty, such as workshops on preparing a syllabus, establishing authority in the classroom, and managing challenging students. “The idea is that the programs are voluntary,” Allitt says.
Part of the CTC’s mission, he adds, is to help the practice of teaching share the spotlight with research and discovery.
“The way education has developed, there is a temptation to devote most of one’s time to research,” Allitt says. “But it’s so important that we keep undergraduate education right at the center of our work here. That’s what college is for.”
For the love of teaching
Teaching undergraduates is paramount for a number of Emory faculty. Arri Eisen, a senior lecturer in biology who has taught at Emory for seventeen years, is among the more than one hundred “lecture track” faculty who are devoted primarily to teaching, without the research and publishing pressures associated with tenure.
In the mid-1990s, Eisen helped lead an effort that resulted in a formal policy supporting such lecture-track faculty. Many had been teaching for two or three decades on year-to-year contracts, Eisen says; now such faculty can be granted consecutive five-year appointments. This group is immersed in the scholarship and practice of teaching and the study of how students learn.
More recently, a committee of the University Faculty Council reevaluated the lecture track in keeping with the University Strategic Plan and recommended that Emory establish itself as a leader in this area, which is gaining recognition at universities nationwide.
Eisen says his own love of teaching is partly due to his parents, both of whom were teachers. “You know, in our society, nobody encourages you to be a teacher,” he says.
Eisen, who earned a PhD in biochemistry, recalls a moment in graduate school when he stopped a mentor outside his lab to tell him he was considering teaching rather than research. His colleague’s response was: “Oh, you’ll come back.”
“There was this attitude that teaching is just something you do because you have to in order to do your research,” he says. “That attitude has really changed.”
Now he uses teaching to continue learning. In a course on cell biology, Eisen might assign a range of the most recent literature on the topic and have his students present the readings to the class. “The beauty of true teaching is that you don’t just stand up and lecture,” he says. “You use it to keep abreast of what’s going on in the field.”
Eisen says his favorite part of teaching is connecting with students and helping them develop—or in some cases, discover—a love of biology. His office is filled with gifts and mementos from students; his physician is a former student.
“Watching the kids grow up,” he says, “watching them take off and having a little part in that is really nice.”
Eisen’s engagement in the classroom was recently rewarded with a 2007 Crystal Apple Award, the Laura Jones Hardman Award for Excellence in Service to the Emory Community. The Crystal Apple teaching award is highly valued because winners are selected by students.
Other significant teaching awards include the University Scholar/Teacher Award; the Emory Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is given to a handful of professors each year at Commencement; and the George P. Cuttino Award for Excellence in Mentoring. The University Strategic Plan also calls for the creation of a $35 million Faculty Distinction Fund dedicated to the retention and recruitment of outstanding scholars.
A career or a calling
Like Eisen’s graduate seminar on teaching biology, some courses—many targeted to more mature students—examine a particular discipline with a telescope rather than a microscope, taking a step back to place the subject in the broader context of career. PhD candidates in all disciplines are required to participate in the Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity (TATTO) program, created by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to prepare doctoral students for the practical aspects of college-level teaching.
Frances Smith Foster, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Women’s Studies, recently taught a course on the profession of English—a chance to share her philosophy on teaching with a group of graduate students.
“There is a difference between a career and a calling, between training and education, between giving a person a fish and teaching them to fish,” she tells them. “My own idea of why I am a teacher is more of a calling. I wanted to change the world a little bit faster than one person at a time.
Foster, the 2006 recipient of Emory’s Scholar/Teacher Award in recognition of her contributions to scholarly life at the University, believes teaching is a sacred contract between teacher and student. As a child who devoured books like candy, and later as a high school student, she thought she would go back to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to teach high school. “Now I’m teaching graduate students about teaching,” she laughs.
“To teach the best you can, you have to have a repertoire of skills that recognize that there are many different people in your class. As much as possible, respect the feelings and rights of all the people in the classroom,” she told her class. “As a teacher, I think you are obligated to take seriously pedagogy and skills, and what you understand your students to need.”
At the heart of teaching, Foster says: “Contributing. Helping people get what they need to do what they need to do—but on my terms.”
Bringing real-world experience to the classroom
Teaching business, according to Steve Walton, associate professor of business and a member of the University Advisory Committee on Teaching, is really about three or four different jobs rolled into one—educator, researcher, consultant, and business leader. His restless drive for innovation also leads him to constantly search for ways to bring the current business world into the classroom.
Case in point: Walton’s course “Sports, Management, and the Atlanta Falcons,” has the buy-in and leadership of Arthur Blank, cofounder of the Home Depot and owner and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Force football teams. A conversation between Blank and Goizueta Dean Larry Benveniste led to the collaboration.
The result is a yearlong course in which just about every meeting has brought a major sports executive to the class. Rich McKay, president and general manager of the Falcons; NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash; president of Turner Entertainment Mark Lazarus; and Reebok founder Paul Fireman are among the high-profile guest lecturers, as well as Blank himself.
“Every major Falcons senior executive has taught a day of the class,” Walton says. “I don’t think there is anything like this in the country.”
But the course requires the students to do much more than sit and listen. Working in teams of six—three MBA and three BBA candidates—they also must focus on a yearlong project based on a real challenge and ultimately make a polished business pitch to Falcons senior executives. They are then graded by the execs as well as Walton.
A real-world example: The Falcons have a state-of-the-art practice facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, but it is only used about half the year. How could they maximize the value of the space during the other half?
One idea the students developed was that Goizueta would partner with Outward Bound to offer executive leadership development exercises.
“The Falcons want to see meaningful results from these projects,” Walton says. “Careers are made on high-impact projects, not on the easy stuff.”