September 8, 1997
Volume 50, No. 3
The following recommendations for action represent the consensus of the membership of the Commission on Teaching. We designate certain of the recommendations for immediate action; others require longer terms to be accomplished.
For immediate action
1 The president and provost should affirm teaching excellence as among the highest priorities of the university and should require accountability of administration, faculty, and staff.
It is imperative that the president and provost express this affirmation in new policies and support it with new resources across the schools and divisions of the university. The president and provost must ensure that each administrative leader understands the centrality of teaching at Emory, is ready to commit sufficient resources for the structural support of teaching, and is willing to cultivate the intellectual community in which teaching flourishes. Administrators at the university level must enter into partnership with the administrators of individual units to ensure the support and requirement of excellence in teaching.
2 A lively intellectual community is essential to teaching excellence. Therefore, every member should work to culti-vate the intellectual life of the community and assume responsibility for helping it flourish. Every school, division, and service unit should examine regularly the effectiveness of its contributions. Likewise, the central administration should make developing the intellectual life of the university an explicit priority.
a. Faculty in each school and division should be involved in student recruitment and admission. This is especially true in Emory College, where faculty involvement is notably less extensive than at Emory's peer institutions. Recruitment efforts need to inform potential students of the intellectual life of this campus. Offices of admission need to select students who signal interest in intellectual life.
b. The university should examine the qualifications of students admitted to different programs across campus to help identify disparities in admission standards and practices. In certain cases, the university should determine what measures are needed to improve the qualifications of students who are admitted.
c. Intellectual community exists in and through programs such as Evening at Emory, the Mini-Medical School, and Alumni University. As elements in the intellectual life of the university, these programs require the support of administration, faculty, students, and staff. Likewise, they must meet Emory standards of excellence.
3 In partnership with each school, the university must improve and expand the facilities in which teaching and the support of teaching take place. At all levels, the university must provide adequate and safe classrooms, ease in registration and scheduling, digital as well as media support, and more complete information about courses and programs.
a. The university must attend to the basic material conditions of teaching on Emory's campus. Far too many classrooms are inadequate or in such poor condition that the quality of teaching is impaired. As one member of the Department of History noted, "We are being asked to be good teachers, but we are not being provided with something essential to achieve that end-adequate classrooms." Classrooms need to be equipped with appropriate digital technology, and staff support for digital technology must be available, especially during class hours.
b. The Facilities Management Division (FMD) must become teaching-friendly in its operations, both in the coordination of maintenance and in response to physical problems in the classroom. Leaf blowers and lawnmowers must not be allowed to operate near classroom buildings during class hours. Alternate classrooms must be provided during major construction projects on or near classroom buildings.
c. A master diagram of available teaching space should be developed, designating the contact person for each classroom. Faculty should be able to access this information via Emory's website to see when classes are already scheduled, to reserve classroom space at short notice, and to report problems to FMD.
d. Faculty must have input into the design, maintenance, and upgrading of teaching space. Consultation between faculty and FMD must become common practice.
e. Emory should synchronize the calendars of its different schools and provide a campus-wide course atlas. Interdisciplinary teaching is impossible without the ability to move easily across individual units for course registration. Lack of a comprehensive course atlas-on paper or on the Emory website-leaves course information to be discovered by accident, by word of mouth, or after the fact.
f. As regards interdisciplinary courses, there is immediate need for faculty or staff contacts in the areas of registration, financial aid, and academic counseling. The university should designate a registration officer and a financial aid officer-available in person or by website-to counsel students, faculty, and staff about interdisciplinary courses and programs of study. Each school should assign registration, financial aid, and academic counseling for interdisciplinary courses to a particular staff person.
4 The university should support teaching by developing a University Teaching Center and, within each school, an office or designated individual responsible for overseeing the support of teaching in that school.
a. The University Teaching Center should be guided by an advisory committee composed of faculty drawn from across the university and staffed by a director. The advisory committee members should be faculty who have expertise and interest in teaching and willingness both to advise the University Teaching Center and to serve as liaisons to the office of teaching in their schools. The advisory committee and director also should monitor the excellence of teaching throughout the university and should guide the changes made to teaching in the schools, divisions, and programs of Emory. Implementation of this report and the continuous evaluation of the recommended programs for teaching shall be a primary responsibility of the advisory committee, the director, and teaching offices in the schools.
b. The University Teaching Center should provide resources for general teacher training. The center should offer workshops covering general teaching methods, pedagogical theory, and instructional design (like those developed for graduate teaching assistants in the TATTO program). Special topics such as teaching and multiculturalism and writing across the curriculum also should be addressed. As an essential tool for the future, teaching with digital technology should receive special emphasis.
c. The University Teaching Center should offer regular seminars on teaching. Examples and precedents include the Lilly Seminar on Teaching offered in Emory College from 1985 to 1987 and the four-week seminars offered by the Ethics Center and the College Center for Teaching and Curriculum. Such seminars on teaching would create ambassadors for the teaching mission at Emory, establish personal relationships among faculty across the university, and help Emory address emerging issues in teaching.
d. Each school should establish an office of teaching. The University Teaching Center should work in partnership with the local teaching offices. Such partnership will ensure effective use of resources, avoid duplication, and ensure adequate coverage in high-cost areas such as digital technology.
e. Each school's teaching office will help faculty find resources to improve teaching skills. The teaching office also will be responsible for making discipline-specific resources available, including but not limited to instructional design. As one of the resources in faculty development, the teaching office should facilitate faculty discussions-including, for example, the changing roles of faculty members in the course of their careers.
5 Aided by the University Teaching Center and local teaching offices, each faculty member should document his or her development as a teacher, for both formative and assessment purposes.
In the judgment of the commission, the distinctions between documentation of one's teaching for developmental purposes (in the teaching dossier) and documentation for purposes of advancement (in the teaching portfolio) is critical, though we recognize that the distinction will need to be worked out in detail by each school for its own faculty. While there are some components of the dossier and portfolio that should be common across schools and units of the university, others will be specific to the local unit. We call upon the University Teaching Center, in partnership with the teaching offices in each school, to help faculty develop both types of evaluative tools.
a. To develop their teaching, all faculty members should be involved in shaping, monitoring, and reflecting on their own work as teachers as well as researchers. We recommend that each faculty member develop a teaching dossier to serve as a resource for reflection upon growth experienced as a teacher. The teaching dossier might include a statement of the individual's teaching philosophy and goals, student evaluations and responses to them, letters from current or past students, results of student exit interviews, and colleagues' observations on the individual's teaching ability and performance. The University Teaching Center and local teaching office should assist faculty in assembling and reflecting upon this dossier. At the discretion of the faculty member, some of this material may be used subsequently in the teaching portfolio described below.
b. A teaching portfolio should be solicited from each faculty member for purposes of review, especially for the major decisions concerning tenure, promotion, and special awards. Each department or school must clarify the portfolio's precise contents, both those items that the faculty member provides and those that the school may solicit from others.
6 Schools must state clearly in their recruitment and hiring guidelines that the university requires excellence in teaching and that the evaluation of teaching affects decisions about hiring, tenure, promotion, and remuneration. Within these statements and in the practice of such decisions, teaching must be understood to reach beyond the traditional classroom.
a. Each school should establish guidelines for how teaching figures in decisions about hiring, tenure, promotion, and raises; moreover, this information should be published across the university. These guidelines should be flexible and should demonstrate a variety of scenarios for the evaluation of teaching. (See the Rollins School of Public Health Report on Teaching for an example of flexible and varied guidelines.) Clarity of guidelines and the effective enforcement of them will contribute to the appropriate valuing of teaching. Faculty should be able to see a direct connection between their success in teaching and their salary increases, promotion and tenure, and receipt of teaching awards.
b. Schools and departments should state clearly in written guidelines the means of evaluation to be used in these decisions and the criteria of evaluation. In the judgment of the commission, the most effective means of gathering a variety of evaluative tools is through the development of a teaching portfolio. This portfolio might reasonably include self-evaluation, peer review, student evaluations, exit interviews with students, and surveys of alumni/ae.
7 The university and each school should establish more awards for teaching, including teaching professorships, in order to honor teaching more publicly and to signal its importance to Emory.
a. While this commission insists that the primary motivation for teaching is the joy of teaching itself and the satisfaction of a job well done, the establishment of awards, rewards, and chaired professorships improves the general morale of faculty and students alike. Such awards symbolize the core values of the university as they are modeled by particular individuals. As one faculty member stated, "Until you can concretely identify those people who have been rewarded for good teaching, then [the rhetoric of valuing teaching] gets to be just a set of hollow words." Awards need to be developed at both the university and school levels that will call attention to the many different forms of excellent teaching.
b. Teaching chairs throughout the university would allow excellent teachers to be recognized publicly and would enable the university to model excellence in teaching. Such chairs also might carry with them budgets to organize groups of faculty for various teaching endeavors and to support research in teaching as well as informal gatherings of faculty to discuss teaching. The two Distinguished Teaching Chairs in the Humanities in Emory College are models for how such chairs might serve as awards for excellence in teaching.
c. Each school can honor teaching through awards that cover each major category of teaching in that unit. The commission recommends that such awards be appropriate to the needs of each school. These awards should include school-based teaching chairs, grants to establish new courses, a dean's list of excellent faculty, monetary awards, and other perquisites
d. Information about awards for excellence in teaching (the basis for the awards, how nominations are made, how winners are selected, etc.) should be available readily, and the university should acknowledge prominently those whom they honor (for example, by featuring them in Emory Report as well as news releases and by listing them on the Emory website).
For the longer term
8 In the judgment of this commission, concerns specific to interdisciplinary teaching cannot be systematically addressed until a clear plan is developed for support of interdisciplinary programs inclusive of research, teaching, and service. A Council on Interdisciplinary Concerns, which will act as adviser to the provost, should be established immediately.
We urge that the Report of the Subcommittee on Interdisciplinary Teaching (Appendix C of Teaching at Emory) become the originating document for the Council on Interdisciplinary Concerns. Among the issues the council should consider are the regulation of and support for interdisciplinary teaching and research and the need for fair and equitable processes for the selection of interdisciplinary programs.
9 Recently the university established the Digital Information Resources Council (DIRC). We recommend that the Report of the Subcommittee on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age (Appendix D of Teaching at Emory) be forwarded to DIRC. We request that the mandate of DIRC clearly include teaching and intellectual community concerns and that communication and personnel links be established or strengthened among DIRC and other groups charged to increase the quality of teaching at Emory.
The impact of digital technology on teaching is reflected in every recommendation listed above. However, the required resources, the undetermined effect of technology on pedagogy and community life, and the constantly changing nature of capacities and tools in the digital environment also mean that separate attention must be given to digital technology. We aim to connect the work of DIRC to that of such groups as the University Teaching Center, the Center for Teaching and Curriculum's Culpeper Seminar on Teaching and Technology, and the Computer-Assisted Instruction program. Links also should be established among these programs, the Council on Interdisciplinary Concerns, and DIRC.
10 The commission has expressed serious concern over the special needs of faculty who are expected to secure substantial portions of the support they need from outside funding known as "soft money." The role of teaching in units that require the support of outside funding must be addressed by the university.
The commission recognizes that across the university, faculty work under incentive systems that vary widely. In some cases, these systems are attenuated by the expectation that faculty work in two environments: the university and the world of external funding. Incentives that normally support excellent teaching can be compromised in these cases. Thus we recommend the establishment of a special task force to identify issues and propose solutions to the problem of valuing teaching and research equally when faculty are reliant upon soft money. We recommend that the provost, executive vice president for Health Sciences, and deans of the Robert W. Woodruff School of Medicine, the Rollins School of Public Health, and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing establish this task force immediately.
The Commission on Teaching invites faculty, administration, staff, and students to read and respond to this report and, in ensuing discussions, to make excellence in teaching-in forms and ways adequate to a changing future-a fundamental priority in our attention, our resources, our building, our planning, and our visions. We present our work to the university community with the hope that all members of our community will join in the effort to enable Emory to excel in teaching as in research and service, and so fulfill its potential in the coming years.
Return to September 8, 1997 Contents Page