New Brunswick Faculty Council

Conference on Undergraduate Teaching 

October 3, 2003

NBFC: Post Teaching Conference Report, Martin Gliserman


The conference brought us together to focus on the first two years of undergraduate education, or more accurately, the non-major curriculum. President McCormick opened the conference by reminding us of several constraining factors:

·       the nature of our students (multi-focused, working, part time or full time commuters, etc.); studies are not necessarily the focus

·       our faculty (research oriented & rewarded–creating and disseminating new knowledge)

·       our structures (e.g., colleges and fellows; and departments–where graduate education is first, undergraduate majors second and general education last).

·        Do we need to mention “the economy”?

Nonetheless, he urged us to think boldly.  And reminded us that however much teaching may or may not count for tenure, there is an insistence in the documentation for tenure that teaching be considered, and that is a step in beginning to shift the culture. In the course of the conference another kind of structural problem emerged–we have not socialized faculty younger than 40 to be a part of the university as a community beyond a discipline/interest.

In the course of the conference several fruitful ideas emerged regarding 1) the structural problem of an unconnected faculty; 2) the general goals we can help foster in our students, through our curriculum; and 3) the more particular goals we can help them reach, through our pedagogy. These and other responses should help shape the charge to a university committee to investigate the non-major curriculum:

·       consider a new structure that would focus on the non-major curriculum (see Paul Leath for full details): Faculty of Liberal Arts Colleges who “would be responsible for academic programs for the colleges...all general academic requirements and policies that apply to all of the liberal arts colleges” (naturally leaving the issue of special interests and missions to the fellows or their heirs);

·       investigate what courses students take outside the major;

·       interview students about their non-major curriculum;

·       gather faculty who teach or who are responsible for these courses to open the question: if these courses form the de facto curriculum, what might enhance the experience?

·       using Expository Writing as a model of a curriculum and a pedagogy (both in class and in supervising teachers), develop courses with a different disciplinary/thematic content;

·       using Bloom’s taxonomy or some variant on it (see Richard DeLisi, et. al.), open up the issue of objectives for this curriculum: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis & evaluation. Can we articulate what we want our students to know, to know how to, and to value as they leave the institution?–e.g., integrity (vs. plagiarism), life long learning, cooperative developing.  Note: when President McCormick came into office, he very quickly offered us a statement of his administrative values. Can we do something like that for our students?

The discussions brought up many other important matters–advising, part time faculty, desire for small/er courses, demanding more writing from the students, transfer students.

And the technology displays from RUCS, CAT, the Library and the Learning Resource Centers remind us of new opportunities and directions for connecting students with knowledge bases, communities and communication networks.

For a very good summary of the day, I refer you to an upcoming issue of FOCUS which covered the conference. Last, although the conference is over, the issues and questions it raised remain open for discussion; as the chair of the teaching committee and of the conference, I would be delighted to hear from any faculty member about any issue related to these concerns.

The NBFC has asked President McCormick and Vice President Furmanski to set up a university committee to explore the issues that emerge from the non-major curriculum and to offers some realistic ways to bring a more coherent and challenging educational experience to our students.  The conference began a useful conversation that we hope the committee will enter into, elaborate on, and bring back to the university community for consideration. 

In closing his remarks to the conference President McCormick said to us directly: “You can count on me and my administration to work with you” to achieve the goals you develop. So, it looks like we are off and running.