The primary motivation for excellence is the sheer joy of teaching and the sense of having done one's job well. Nonetheless, teaching is an endeavor that can be sidetracked easily by other demands on the time of faculty members. Faculty and administrators must be diligent in nurturing and protecting excellent teaching from such incursions.
STAGE 2: ESTABLISH MECHANISM(S) TO GATHER INFORMATION ON THE NEEDS OF EACH ACADEMIC UNIT AND RECOMMEND SPECIFIC COURSES OF ACTION
In the course of soliciting input from the university community, the subcommittee was impressed first and foremost by the enthusiasm with which faculty members expressed a commitment to excellence in teaching. Many faculty, however, were skeptical about whether their recommendations (or those of the Commission on Teaching) would have an impact on the quality of teaching. Opinions expressed at the faculty luncheon on March 6, 1996, support this view.
Faculty attending that event were uniformly impressed with the provost's initiatives to develop teaching within the university, but many veteran faculty members doubted the outcome of the discussions. Some of them cited previous work that involved considerable investment by faculty and was later ignored. Some faculty lamented that "exceptional teaching [is] paid only lip-service by the university" (February 22, 1996). Moreover, there was concern that the quality of teaching-which is already quite high in many programs-might be merely a vestige of "Old Emory." Such a view seemed to prevail at the faculty luncheon on February 29, 1996.
Several participants noted that Emory already gives more emphasis to teaching than most other research universities-a fact attributed to the presence of "Old Emory" faculty. These holdovers from a time when research and national visibility received less emphasis have fostered values and orientations that prevent excessive deterioration of teaching standards, both in the college and in the medical sciences. "Old Emory," however, is being replaced steadily by a "New Emory" that does not share these internal values and is instead focused on external professional networks.
This concern was expressed most frequently by faculty in schools where a substantial portion of the faculty salaries are derived from research grants or clinical service; however, faculty across the university shared this sense that "significant shifts in institutional emphasis and culture" have occurred at Emory as "research and publication came to be perceived as having greater value than teaching" (Choices & Responsibility, p. 35). The perception of this "shift" is shared by faculty and administrators.
In light of these concerns, the subcommittee concluded that the Commission on Teaching would have the greatest impact if its recommendations dealt with specific problems faced by the faculty, from questions as basic as "How can I prevent Facilities Management from mowing the grass outside my window while I'm trying to teach a class?" to more complex questions about the role of teaching in the evaluation of faculty for tenure, promotion, and salary increases.
The subcommittee therefore analyzed the comments of faculty, identifying shared principles and concerns about teaching at Emory. In response to these comments, we identify concerns and offer recommendations for how the university can deal with the issues that have been raised. The recommendations concern support for excellence in teaching, recognition of excellence in teaching, and additional aspects of teaching at Emory. These recommendations are only the beginning of what must be a sustained, iterative process, as outlined in Stage 3. The recommendations of Stages 2 and 3 reflect the view of the subcommittee that faculty need support in ways that vary from school to school, program to program, course to course (or, more generically, with the type of teaching as well as the course content), person to person, year to year.
Regarding support for excellence in teaching:
Regarding recognition of excellence in teaching:
- Good students encourage good teaching. It is easier to be an excellent teacher when the students have high intellectual expectations and the willingness to concentrate on learning as a goal to be achieved in and of itself.
- Some of the Emory recruitment literature does not focus clearly and sufficiently on attracting intellectually engaged students.
- Emory does not admit enough students who have high intellectual expectations and motivations.
- The above problem arises partly from a lack of faculty involvement in student recruiting, setting admission standards, and evaluating the admission process.
- Faculty must be more involved in all aspects of student recruitment and admission. They should interact regularly with those in charge of recruitment and admission and be a principal source of guidance concerning admission criteria.
- Each school or program should assess critically its recruitment materials and procedures for admission to ensure that it is attracting and matriculating the kinds of students who will live up to faculty expectations.
- The evaluation standards for admitting students should be compared to the performance of the students in each program at (and after) graduation to ensure that standards are helping achieve the desired outcomes.
- The administration should examine the quality of the students admitted to different programs to determine if there are disparities across the different units. If so, the university should determine what is needed to improve the quality of students admitted in programs below the norm.
- Excellent teaching is easier when faculty have an adequate teaching environment and the necessary materials to teach.
- Emory must improve the quality of some of its classrooms: many are in such poor condition that the quality of teaching is impaired.
- It should be easier for faculty to locate classrooms when they want to schedule classes, seminars, or meetings with students outside regularly scheduled classes.
- When classrooms have physical problems (heating, air-conditioning, lighting, etc.), there should be a way to have the problem corrected quickly by Facilities Management.
- In many cases, it is difficult to conduct classes because of noise and other distractions outside the classroom; these include construction, lawn mowing, student activities, children playing at the Glenn Church.
- It should be easier to obtain the supplies required for teaching-from chalk to computers with Internet links and projection screens.
- The university should conduct a survey of available classroom space and the condition of each space. Based on this information, it should upgrade and construct classrooms as needed. All classrooms should have functional teaching supplies: blackboards, overhead projectors, and connections for computers. The university should establish a hotline that faculty members can use to report problems with classrooms.
- The university should develop a master diagram that shows all available teaching space and lists the person to contact about scheduling the use of a particular classroom. A faculty member should be able to access this information via the Emory website to see when classes are scheduled, to reserve classroom space on short notice, and to report problems with facilities.
- Faculty should have input into the design, maintenance, and upgrading of teaching space.
- Facilities Management should schedule noisy work when it will not interrupt classes. If construction or other activities will interfere with a class, the university should notify the faculty in advance and help arrange for the use of an alternate classroom.
- The environment outside the classroom should enhance the ability of teachers to teach effectively.
- The university community has little sense of itself as an "intellectual community" rather than a "workplace." This sense probably arises in part because many faculty members and students live in distant sections of the metro Atlanta area; hence it is more difficult for them to attend campus activities in the evening and on weekends. As a result, there is very limited interaction between faculty and students outside the classroom.
- Student participation in extracurricular social activities, outside employment, and even commendable service projects can detract from their attention to coursework.
- Activities that would develop a sense of intellectual community should be fostered by all components of the university.
- Campus publications should do more to inform students and faculty of extracurricular activities that they could share. Other mechanisms for distributing this information should also be explored.
- The university must charge Campus Life and other offices that provide or enable student extracurricular activities with the responsibility of ensuring that such activities sustain and animate academic life. A committee of faculty should review Campus Life programs to ensure that they enhance-rather than compete excessively with-students' intellec-tual pursuits.
- Campus catalogs and recruiting literature must actively inform potential students of the intellectual aspects of campus life, with the goal of populating the student body with those who would take advantage of such opportunities.
- During the next decade, the university may become more involved in the concept of learning throughout life, through programs such as Evening at Emory and the Mini-Medical School.
- It is not clear how these programs are related to other academic units of the university, in either content or quality.
- Emory faculty already are committed heavily to existing programs, including involvement in alumni programs as well as continuing and lay education. It may be difficult to expand into additional areas with the current number of faculty.
- Such programs should be monitored by the provost to ensure that they reflect the same standards of teaching quality as do other academic programs of the university.
- The university should evaluate the opportunities and challenges that increased involvement in such programs will pose for the faculty. This evaluation should include an estimate of the costs and benefits involved in the expansion of existing programs and the development of new ones.
- Each school and department must state clearly in appropriate job descriptions that the university requires excellent teaching and that the evaluation of teaching affects decisions about tenure, promotion, and salary increases.
- It is unclear what proportion of faculty time and effort should go into teaching, research, and service. Most faculty do not understand how these activities (and the quality and quantity of results) affect decisions concerning tenure, promotion, and salary increases. Faculty-especially those in professional schools-often perceive that their efforts in teaching receive little (or no) recognition in tenure, promotion, and salary decisions.
- Faculty in some components of the university derive substantial portions of their salaries from grants or other "soft" funds, which places considerable pressure on them to relegate teaching to a lower priority.
- Faculty often teach with little or no formal recognition or rewards. For example, many faculty spend considerable time and effort as thesis advisers or committee members for graduate students, as mentors of clinical fellows, and so forth. Yet, while graduate education falls under the purview of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, appointments and salaries of the graduate faculty derive from individual departments and schools. Faculty in interdisciplinary programs may have competing responsibilities and commitments both to their program and their department. Additionally, even within departments, most one-on-one mentoring receives little or no formal recognition.
- The president and provost must obtain a full and equal commitment to the achievement of excellence in teaching from the deans and heads of all the academic programs of the university.
- Each college, school, and department must clearly state how the quality, quantity, and variety of teaching affects decisions about tenure, promotion, and remuneration. Faculty should be able to see a direct link between excellence in teaching as a university mandate and their evaluations for tenure, promotion, salary increases, and other teaching rewards.
- Deans, directors, or department chairs must inform faculty explicitly each year what their teaching responsibilities will be. In addition, these administrators must state clearly how they will evaluate faculty members and what portion of each faculty member's salary will be based on teaching performance.
- Deans, directors, and department chairs must define, with great clarity, their methods of evaluating teaching.
- Deans, directors, and department chairs must acknowledge diversity among faculty in the ways that they teach students and must give particular attention to recognizing and evaluating teaching outside classroom situations.
- The university (especially the provost and deans) must reexamine the role of teaching as an overall university effort and not the dominion of individual administrative units.
- Awards for excellent teaching should recognize each program and each facet of teaching.
- Emory has few teaching awards, especially in the graduate and professional schools, and few faculty and students are familiar with the procedures for nominating excellent teachers.
- Winners of teaching awards receive little recognition in campus publications or in other ways. For example, the Emory Williams Award formerly was given at Commencement, where previous awardees were asked to stand to be acknowledged. Now the award is listed in the Commencement program and given during the college diploma ceremony, but not announced during Commencement.
- Information about awards for excellence in teaching should be readily available (including the basis for the award, how nominations are made and winners are selected, etc.). The university should acknowledge more prominently those whom they honor (for instance, by using the Emory website).
- Each school should establish teaching awards that cover each major category of teaching in that unit.
- Teaching awards should vary. Faculty expressed interest in the establishment of teaching chairs, a "Dean's List" of excellent teaching faculty, a yearly banquet for excellent teachers, and other perquisites (including priority access to library carrels and parking), as well as grants for establishing new courses and developing better teaching materials.
- With additional incentives for better teaching, the university could encourage faculty to do a better job-even inspiring those who are already excellent teachers.
- Faculty need help in evaluating and improving their own teaching skills.
- The university provides few resources for the development of new courses and even fewer for novel teaching initiatives. The funds that the provost recently made available for interdisciplinary teaching are a good beginning, but only a small percentage of the submitted proposals received funding. Thus, while Emory faculty remain interested in creating more innovative courses, resources to do so are limited.
- The current procedures for creation of new courses appear to be cumbersome (since new courses must be approved considerably in advance of the academic term).
- The university should provide the opportunity for faculty to have their lectures videotaped. Sources must also be regularly available for faculty to seek advice and recommendations on how to improve their teaching skills.
- Faculty, especially those with little experience in teaching, should be able to participate in a TATTO-like course.
- It should be possible for faculty to obtain more expeditious approval of a new course, at least on a trial basis.
- The nature of teaching will continue to change as times change. The university should continue the dialogue on how to improve teaching, so that excellence in teaching remains a high priority for Emory.
- There should be continual and expanded use of new technologies in teaching, with funding and technical assistance from the university to help faculty remain up to date as technology changes. The latter is particularly important, since a considerable amount of time can be lost when faculty encounter difficulty using new systems or software (and when the university system is upgraded).
- The university should support efforts to develop more interactive types of instruction (seminars, small groups, etc.).
- The university should explore mechanisms that would reassure faculty who commit an extra effort to being excellent teachers that they are not in jeopardy of suffering penalties if other aspects of their jobs receive less time (e.g., if there is a temporary interruption in research). One idea is to allow faculty who teach beyond the usual expectations to be able to "bank" funds that could be used for salary recovery or other expenses.
- The university should examine critically the value of experienced faculty as teachers when they have become less competitive as researchers. As it now stands, these faculty are often treated as second-class citizens. Would they be more effective as teachers if they were given a separate designation or access to resources for developing further their skills as teachers? This suggestion does not imply that "weaker" faculty should be assigned to teaching to relieve research-active faculty from this responsibility. Rather, it acknowledges that the qualities needed to maintain full research productivity throughout one's academic career are not necessarily those that produce an excellent teacher. It should be possible for many faculty who already have qualified as excellent academicians (in having achieved tenure) to remain up to date in their knowledge of their field (through reading the research literature, attending departmental seminars and national meetings, etc.) and to continue to function as teachers. Senior faculty also can bring experience and a sense of perspective to teaching that can be very beneficial to students.
- The university should consider releasing outstanding researchers from some types of teaching responsibilities (e.g., classroom lecturing) if they have little interest or skill in that realm but could benefit students by teaching in other ways (such as one-to-one mentoring).
STAGE 3: RECOMMEND HOW THE PROVOST, DEANS, CHAIRS, AND FACULTY COULD IMPLEMENT THESE NEW POLICIES AND PROCEDURES WITHIN THE VARIOUS SCHOOLS AND ACADEMIC UNITS.
One of the most frequently stated concerns of the faculty is that teaching is not rewarded as tangibly nor valued as highly as research. The following excerpts of the March 6 luncheon discussions from 1995 and 1996 articulate this perception:
A Strategy for Action
- Most faculty expected little change from the present system of allocating resources largely based on research accomplishments. Teaching will increase in status in the eyes of faculty only when the perceived payoff for excellence equals or exceeds that for research; the present value system (in all divisions) places minimal value on outstanding teaching. Winning a teaching award should elicit positive comments from (a department chair), but this does not necessarily happen. Teaching awards are not even announced in Emory Report. In some units, raises are determined strictly by grant support and research productivity.
- The administration must lead if it is serious about wanting teaching to assume a higher place in faculty work schedules. The university may have to step outside national norms to accomplish change. Deans and chairs should be accountable for the support of quality teaching.
- Teaching needs fiscal support and tangible reward(s). Suggested methods include increments to faculty members' salary base, special funds, specialized endowment funds, external support, teaching chairs, and full professor rank (based on teaching). One-time awards might include cash gifts, choice of classroom, parking priority, library carrels, funds to support teaching needs (audiovisual needs). Existing awards should be more numerous and more evenly applied.
- Teaching should weigh more heavily in tenure and promotion; it should be viewed more as equal to research effort.
- The university should provide development activities that support teaching, both for individual faculty with specific issues to address and more general Luce seminar-type experiences, and should raise discussion of teaching to the level of intellectual exchange.
It is clear that the university must convince faculty that excellence in teaching is a high priority at Emory. Administrators should share a commitment to teaching as one of their highest priorities. The following actions are required:
- The university must expand and improve the facilities that are available for teaching. First and foremost, faculty must have access to adequate classrooms and supporting materials (audiovisual equipment, computer links, TATTO-like teaching help for faculty, etc.). Faculty should have immediate assistance when problems arise with physical plant, equipment, updating computers for instruction, etc.
- The president and provost must inform every component of the university that excellence in teaching is one of Emory's highest priorities and establish mechanisms to make deans, department chairs, and program directors (as well as faculty) accountable for teaching excellence. Faculty are watching to see if this teaching initiative has the full support of the administrators who control their tenure, promotion, and salaries.
- Many faculty expressed concern that the report of the Commission on Teaching might elicit a brief flurry of action followed by a return to the status quo. Achievement of teaching excellence in all components of the university will require a sustained effort by the faculty and the administration, with someone within each school (an associate dean, a committee of faculty, or a structure similar to the Center for Teaching and Curriculum in Emory College, for example) being responsible for keeping the initiative on track. New teaching support structures, however, should not create a new bureaucracy that competes for the time that faculty have available for teaching, but rather should enhance the ability of faculty to dedicate time to their students.
- The role of teaching in decisions regarding tenure, promotion, salary, and awards must be articulated clearly, with high value being given to excellence in teaching. Faculty were divided regarding the issue of awarding tenure based only on excellence in teaching; many favored the current system of requiring excellence in research, but felt that the university should establish better means to facilitate and ensure that faculty (tenured and nontenured) also can be excellent teachers. Furthermore, more attention should be given to using tenured faculty after the peak of their research careers, which in some cases would require a source of funds to keep them up to date in the areas that they teach (for instance, by attendance at national scientific conferences and other types of retraining).
- An ultimate goal of Emory University should be to establish a greater sense of intellectual community, so that faculty and students increasingly benefit from more frequent interactions.
STAGE 4: CONTINUE TO DISCUSS TEACHING AT EMORY THROUGH TRADITIONAL STRUCTURES AS WELL AS THROUGH NEW STRUCTURES SUCH AS THE EMORY WEBSITE.
These recommendations represent only the first steps in achieving excellence in teaching. The next steps will be to monitor the success (or failure) of these changes, identify additional improvements within each school and program, and make further adjustments as required. As noted above, these next steps will require that each school have a designated individual or committee that is responsible for keeping this initiative on track.
The subcommittee also feels that one of the best ways to allow all Emory faculty (and other members of the university community) to participate in this process is to use the Commission on Teaching webpages as sources of information and as an open forum for discussing teaching. The webpages that have been created by this subcommittee (http://www.emory.edu/TEACHING/SupportCom/) illustrate how faculty could use the Internet to comment on the adequacy of classrooms and other teaching materials; to report problems with classrooms to Facilities Management (as well as record whether or not the problems have been solved within a reasonable time); to gather information on each school's teaching policies with regard to decisions on tenure, promotion, and salary, and to comment on whether the stated policies have been put into practice; to find information about teaching awards at Emory; to nominate faculty for recognition; to learn the names of previous awardees and to recommend the creation of additional awards; to discuss how teaching can be improved in each program of the university, in both general and very specific terms; to locate information about previous studies of teaching at Emory. The report of this subcommittee as well as the "Report on the Quality of Teaching in Emory College" (prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Quality of Teaching in the College, 1993) have been placed on the Emory website, thus eliminating the impression that such studies disappear into dusty filing cabinets never to be seen (or thought of) again.
The subcommittee recommends that the website for each school be maintained by the same individual or committee charged with facilitating and ensuring excellence in teaching in their unit. Suggestions for the content of the current websites are intended only as a starting point; it is anticipated that the sites will evolve to meet the needs of each school and program.
The members of the subcommittee thank Faith Kirkham Hawkins and Steve Taylor for invaluable help in the preparation of this report and establishment of the related webpages. We also thank the many Emory faculty who provided comments and suggestions for this report, as well as gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Provost's Office and Ms. Winnie Scherer.
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