Emory University

Advisory Council

on Teaching (UACT)   

 

Teaching Center Proposal for President Wagner, Jan. 30, 2004

 

UACT’s Mission:

 

The University Advisory Council on Teaching was created in the spring of 1998. UACT, as it has come to be known, consists of representatives from each of the nine schools of the university. It meets monthly to consider issues and aspects of teaching that reach across individual schools, to assist individual schools in the development of their own teaching centers or offices of instructional development, and to promote discussion and reflection on teaching generally across the university. UACT creates satellite committees to give ongoing attention to topics such as teaching and technology, the documentation of teaching excellence, and teaching students with disabilities -- committees that engage larger groups of faculty beyond its own ranks. In the long run, we hope to provide faculty and administrators with a comprehensive view of teaching at Emory, not only teaching in and of itself, but also teaching within the larger equilibrium of ideals and activities of the modern research university that we have become.

 

UACT Members:

 

Arri Eisen, UTF

William Eley, School of Medicine

Carol Hogue, School of Public Health

Laura Porter Kimble, School of Nursing

Harriet King, ex-officio, Office of the Provost

Michael Lubin, School of Medicine

Bob McCauley, Emory College, CTC

Jim Morey, Emory College

Wendy Newby, ex-officio, Office of Faculty Resources for Disabilities

Steve Nowicki, Emory College

Diana Roberston, Business School

Gretchen Schulz, Oxford College

Anne Sinkey (Program Coordinator)

Gary Smith (Chair), Law School

Donna Troka (Program Coordinator)

 

UACT’s History and Proposed Future:

 

The University Advisory Council on Teaching was created in the Spring of 1998, following the 1997 “Teaching at Emory” Report of the Commission on Teaching at Emory University.  This Report outlined an agenda for the future of the University to become an institution “that values teaching as much as it values research,” urging that “teaching and research should be dual commitments that are expressed through deeds and structures as well as through words and symbols.”[1]  UACT, along with the University Teaching Fund (UTF) and the College’s Center for Teaching and Curriculum (CTC), were established around this time to address the needs of an emerging population of excellent teachers at Emory.  The “Teaching at Emory” Report outlined ten recommendations for immediate action, including the affirmation of teaching from offices of the President and Provost, the cultivation of a lively intellectual community across schools and divisions, expanded teaching facilities and technologies, awards for teaching excellence, and the development of a University-wide Teaching Center.  These recommendations affirmed the principles and vision of teaching, in hopes of merging what some faculty expressed as the “gap between a rhetoric of commitment to teaching and the reality of a lack of structured support for teaching.”[2]

     Throughout the seven years of UACT’s development, many recommendations made in the Report of the Commission on Teaching have been met.  UACT emerged from the Office of the Provost to engage representatives from across schools and disciplines in conversations about teaching at Emory, cultivating an awareness of the importance of teaching as well as research in the University.  UACT’s meetings and events have brought together faculty and students from a variety of backgrounds, fostering an intellectual community of dialogue and exchange.  Facilities, such as classrooms and access to technology, have improved and instruction on how to utilize technology in the classroom has been offered through UACT programs.  UACT promotes ongoing teacher training through workshops that address issues such as diversity in the classroom, writing across the curriculum, and basics such as instructional design and pedagogical theory.  Nationally prominent speakers have been brought to campus to complement the expertise of local faculty.  Passages, a program that helps match teachers as mentors for other teachers, has provided an excellent infrastructure for the development of junior faculty, and instruction on building a teaching portfolio and dealing with pressures of advancement and tenure are perennial programming topics.  Teaching awards, given every year, recognize and encourage excellent teachers from all parts of the University community.

     In the Fall of 2003, UACT, along with the University Teaching Fund (UTF), compiled an evaluation survey to gauge the University community on the effectiveness of UACT and UTF programming, their prominence on campus, and what additional needs should be addressed to meet faculty concerns.  While many faculty who have attended UACT events and participated in workshops agree that UACT provides a valuable service to the University, some needs are still not being met.  Responses to UACT and UTF queries were consistent: some themes that emerged in faculty suggestions in the survey included the need for one-on-one teaching evaluations, offering teaching retreats, better instruction on teaching with technology, better advertising of UACT events (in particular, the popular Master Teacher Program), more evaluation of and training for mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, more instruction on service-learning, better connections to Oxford campus, more centralization of university teaching resources and staff in charge of providing teaching assistance, and the possibility of a staffed university-wide teaching center to house the programs, resources, staff, and events held for teaching development and assistance.

     Although the initial Report of the Commission on Teaching called for the establishment of a University Teaching Center, such a Center was never created.  While groups such as UACT, the CTC, and individual schools implement programming for teaching development, Emory still has no centralized teaching resource center.  When the possibility of a teaching center was debated in the late ‘90s, many worried that the diversity of teaching styles and needs across schools and disciplines would hamper efforts to provide common resources for the entire University.  Although teaching is certainly discipline-specific and takes many forms, as the “Teaching at Emory” report notes, “regardless of discipline, certain common values and practices characterize teaching: a concern for engaging students, the excitement and anxiety surrounding digital learning, the limitations and importance of the classroom lecture, and the thrill and exhilaration of a seminar that not only transfers knowledge but also creates it.”[3]

     A number of other Universities, including Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offer the resources of a Centralized University-Wide Teaching Center.  Such Centers at educational institutions comparable to Emory are often housed in centralized locations to allow easy accessibility to all faculty and graduate students.  Budgets hover around 1-1.5 million and employ as many as seven faculty as well as program managers, technology experts, and support staff.  Programming includes faculty workshops on topics ranging from discussion leadership to PowerPoint presentations to writing across disciplines.  Most schools offer one-on-one consultations for faculty and teaching assistants to assist in identifying specific teaching issues and strengthening specific teaching skills.  The Center at UNC offers a teaching resource lab and classroom equipment loan program; Carnegie offers a lending library of materials on faculty development; Harvard offers its own publications in print and video form on issues of pedagogy and teaching tips.  Nearly all centers offer assistance in videotaping teachers in the classroom for evaluation and workshops on professional development.

          We at UACT believe that the climate is right at Emory for the establishment of a University-wide teaching center.  Although UACT has been tremendously successful in providing valuable programming and resources to the Emory community, a centralized institution for teaching development would not only further assert the importance of teaching at Emory, but would greatly improve communication across schools and disciplines, avoid unnecessary duplication of programming, assist in co-sponsorship (financial and otherwise) of programming, speakers, and workshops, and provide a visible, centralized location for faculty to seek help with questions about teaching development.  Now is the time to establish such a center by combining the current resources allocated to UACT and the UTF, in addition with endowment monies, to better address what UACT has only begun addressing.

 

 

 



[1] “Teaching at Emory”, Report of the Commission on Teaching at Emory University, 1997:  1, 5.

[2] “Teaching at Emory”, Report of the Commission on Teaching at Emory University, 1997:  23.

[3] “Teaching at Emory”, Report of the Commission on Teaching at Emory University, 1997:  5.