Inside Iowa State
Apr. 03, 1998
Excellence is a collective effort
by Anne Dolan
An "Education I" university recognizes the complexity of teaching and taps into the strengths of individuals for a broader "scope of commitment," according to William Bondeson, the keynote speaker at the 1998 Faculty Conference, held March 27-28 at Grinnell College.
While it remains a common source of anxiety among faculty members, no individual should have to "do it all," he said.
Bondeson is a member of the philosophy, family and community medicine, and nursing faculties at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He also is a co-founder of the Wakonse program, which he described as "a sort of subversive" effort to elevate the status of teaching in higher education.
Discussion at the conference focused on whether Iowa State is an "Education I" university, a play on the "Research I" status awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Faculty excel at different tasks related to teaching, including setting up meaningful lab assignments, preparing great study guides, taking time and care in student advising or presenting dynamic lectures, Bondeson said. The expectation shouldn't be that all faculty do all tasks equally well or even that all faculty focus on teaching. However, collectively, a school's faculty can -- and should-- be committed to strong teaching, he said.
Individuals who are exceptional teachers share several traits, he said, including:
- Comprehensive knowledge of their field (as opposed to a more narrowly focused approach to research).
- Familiarity with the literature on how to teach in their field.
- Recognition of the value of observing colleagues in their classrooms, having colleagues observe them and learning together what works and what doesn't.
- Willingness to use classroom technologies, but also the wisdom to recognize their limitations. Students increasingly react to their teachers the same way they do a movie or television, Bondeson said. And even if some "performing" is necessary, neither spectacular acting nor classroom toys can replace solid teaching, he said.
Bondeson also emphasized that faculty and residence hall staff need to cooperate to help students learn where they learn best: in their homes (or residence halls) and from each other.
"There shouldn't be that dichotomy. We should bring the two together," he said.
Officially, there are no benchmarks for "Teaching I" status, but Bondeson said one indication that a university is on track is a genuine sentiment "that good research does not forgive mediocre teaching."
Jischke: "University I"
In his remarks to faculty at the conference, President Martin Jischke said the goal of becoming an "Education I" university is worthwhile, but narrow, and preferably a subsidiary of the broader goal for Iowa State: to become a "University I" or "Land-Grant I" university.
He said that a focus on just teaching or research or outreach "fosters zero-sum-game" thinking.
"We don't want to fall victim to pitting one aspect of our mission against another," he said.
As Iowa State works to become an "Education I" university, it should do so in the context of its broader mission to become the best land-grant in the country, he said.
Jischke reviewed a list of university initiatives that support its "Education I" aspiration, including:
- Creation and expansion of the Center for Teaching Excellence from an experiment. to a significant faculty development effort
- Miller Faculty Fellowships.
- Facilities such as more ICN classrooms, computer labs and classrooms in the residence halls, Project Vincent and classroom renovations.
- A one-stop student service center in Beardshear, more learning communities, initial feasibility work on a multicultural center and other recommendations from the task force on undergraduate education that are under way (see story at right).
- Changes in the reward structure of faculty and staff to recognize teaching excellence.
- Efforts at the administrative level to promote and hire individuals who will support Iowa State's mission.
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