Teaching Commission's work moves forward; subcommittee draft reports expected soon

After a spring and summer of intensive information gathering and slight restructuring, the University Commission on Teaching is moving forward with its work this fall, anticipating the completion of draft subcommittee reports during October and November.

Commission members met Sept. 25 to hear updates on the work of the subcommittees and to discuss how the Commission's work should proceed once the draft subcommittee reports are completed.

Commission Chair Rebecca Chopp said she spent much of her time this summer looking over various materials related to teaching and thinking about them in the context of national and international conversations on teaching in the university environment. As a result of that process, Chopp formulated three goals for the Commission to pursue:

* To assess teaching at Emory and consider ways of making excellent teaching a higher priority within the structure of the University;

* To facilitate faculty discussion of teaching and bring together those already engaged in conversations about teaching; and

* To find a way to address the future of teaching and research at Emory, particularly questions about how research will be affected by efforts to emphasize teaching and how the digital environment will affect how teaching is conducted.

Also over the summer, Chopp and the remainder of the Commission's Executive Committee made some changes in the group's subcommittee structure. A subcommittee on the physical, cultural and philosophical dimensions of the teaching environment was discontinued, Chopp said, partly because of the difficulty the subcommittee had in getting a clear focus of what its work should be. Chopp added that other subcommittees absorbed parts of the agenda of the discontinued subcommittee into their work.

A new subcommittee on teaching practices was added. The group is being chaired by Walter Reed, co-chair of the Commission. Reed said the creation of the subcommittee is an attempt to locate and document in narrative form specific examples of excellent teaching across the University. The narratives will contribute to the information base that the Commission will use to draft its report.

Al Merrill, chair of the subcommittee on support for the development of good teaching and rewards and incentives, said his group is looking at policies across the schools and colleges on tenure and promotion, the role of teaching in receiving tenure, what teaching awards are available to faculty, and how to address problems with physical classroom space. Merrill said the subcommittee has held meetings with Facilities Management Division (FMD) representatives to address problems with the physical environment for teaching.

The subcommittee and FMD are working to provide immediate relief for problems such as climate control in classrooms, noise from leaf-blowers disrupting classes and generally disheveled classroom conditions.

Merrill said FMD staff have been particularly receptive to their concerns and that some of the issues are already being addressed.

The address for the subcommittee's World Wide Web site is: <www.emory.edu/ TEACHING/>.

The six subcommittees preparing reports are: 1) Teaching evaluation and the definitions and objectives of good teaching; 2) Support for the development of good teaching, and the rewards and incentives for teaching; 3) Teaching practices; 4) Interdisciplinary teaching and learning; 5) Teaching and learning in the digital environment; and 6) The future of teaching.

The subcommittee on teaching evaluation has already completed its draft report, according to Chair David Kleinbaum, and the entire Commission is expected to read the draft and offer comments this week. Commission members decided at the Sept. 25 meeting that the entire Commission should read all six subcommittee draft reports and offer comments, rather than the drafts being reviewed only by the Executive Committee. Chopp said the individual subcommittees also are encouraged to seek input on their draft reports from others, such as groups of faculty and students with a particular interest in the topic the subcommittee is addressing.

Chopp said that from roughly October through December, the Commission hopes to get as much feedback as possible from as many faculty members as possible on the subcommittee's draft reports. She said the draft reports will be placed on the World Wide Web to facilitate that feedback. During late December and January, Chopp, Reed and others plan to draft a full Commission report based on the subcommittee drafts and community input. That draft will be forwarded to Commission members in early February, and a Commission retreat will be held later in the month to discuss the draft. In March, a revised draft will be placed on the World Wide Web for further feedback. The final report will be presented to Provost Billy Frye in April.

--Dan Treadaway

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