Conversations on Teaching

Commission on Teaching World Wide Web Page

In an effort to both solicit and disseminate information on the ways in which teaching is supported and developed across campus, one of the Commission on Teaching's subcommittees, chaired by Woodruff Professor James Gustafson and Professor of Biochemistry Al Merrill, has designed an interactive World Wide Web page accessible at http://www.emory. edu/ TEACHING/SupportCom. According to Merrill, "the web site should be able to perform two functions: to be a source of information for faculty (and students) about policies on teaching and support for teaching, as well as to serve as a forum for discussion about how teaching at Emory can be improved."

The Subcommittee on the Support and Development of Excellent Teaching is charged with identifying the types of support, rewards and incentives that help Emory faculty become and continue to be excellent teachers. Merrill observed that members of the subcommittee recognized from the start that these things "vary significantly from school to school, such that general recommendations are likely to be of limited use in solving specific challenges faced at particular schools of the University." In order to collect and disseminate information specific to each school, therefore, Merrill worked over the summer with Steve Taylor of the Information Technology Division to set up an interactive web page with links to sites for each school. These sites, said Merrill, will allow faculty "to gain information about and comment upon policies on promotion and tenure, facilities and broader aspects of teaching."

Faculty of the law school, for instance, can access the law school link and find information there about the ways in which the law school incorporates teaching into tenure and promotion reviews, awards for excellent teaching given by the law school, and programs that may help them improve their teaching.

In addition to gaining information, faculty also can help the subcommittee obtain information about programs and rewards for excellence in teaching by sharing their perceptions in response to questions on the site. Questions included on the site range from the broadly philosophical ("How are definitions of teaching shaped within this school by its primary mission or subject matter?") to the pragmatic ("In what ways do the bureaucratic and departmental structures within this school enhance or impede excellence in teaching?"). After a response to a particular question is submitted, it will be attached to that site so that future visitors to the site can read and respond to the comments of others. This "bulletin board" format will encourage continued discussion across the University about teaching, while enabling members of the subcommittee to hear and incorporate the views of their colleagues when they prepare their report for the full commission. In order to encourage discussion about teaching well after the Commission on Teaching prepares its report to the provost in early 1997, Merrill noted that "the subcommittee is recommending that the web site be maintained into the future."

The subcommittee, which includes Professor of Economics Peter Aranson and Margaret Parsons of the School of Nursing, as well as Merrill and Gustafson, will incorporate information gathered through the web site, interviews with faculty, students and staff, and the faculty luncheons of 1995-96 in its report to the Commission. In addition to summarizing current policies on rewards for and development of excellent teaching at Emory, the subcommittee also will make recommendations regarding ways in which the University as a whole as well as specific schools can better reward and encourage excellence in teaching.

In addition to the site sponsored by the Subcommittee on the Support and Development of Excellent Teaching, the Commission on Teaching also maintains a web site open to members of the Emory community ( TEACHING). This site includes documents related to teaching at Emory such as Choices and Responsibility and the

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Teaching at Emory College, links to other web sites such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), and the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE). Merrill noted that "there is a lot of very helpful information about teaching on the Internet," and encourages all members of the Emory community to explore these sites.

Faith Kirkham Hawkins, a doctoral student in the Graduate Division of Religion, is one of the assistants to the Commission on Teaching.

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