Inside Iowa State
November 19, 1999
Richmond: Keep the focus on students
by Anne Krapfl
Provost Rollin Richmond hopes that Iowa State will "become, more fully, a student-centered land-grant university."
"We ought to focus on students in almost everything we do," he told a crowd of about 80 at the monthly Faculty Forum and Dinner Nov. 15. The new provost was invited to lead a discussion on teaching.
Richmond encouraged faculty to involve students regularly in their research efforts, to include internships in student learning and to get more involved in their students' lives -- even to change those lives.
Richmond also asked faculty to respond to a list of education issues that concern him, including:
- Diversity components and experiences in courses across the university.
- The role of technology in teaching.
- The recent practice of universities partnering with for-profit groups to produce courses for the Internet.
- The challenge of measuring what students learn (including the valuable learning that accompanies failure).
Among the learning assess-ment strategies discussed by participants were a midway exam for college juniors-to-be, exit interviews with graduating students, periodic follow-ups with alumni to gauge which Iowa State courses or experiences have proven most valuable over time, and a system of flashcards used by all students in large lectures to assess whether they understand the material as the lecture proceeds.
Computer simulation vs.the real deal
David Meltzer, physics, said technology can be a helpful tool if it "eliminates drudgery." But if it's a big leap between a computer representation and what it represents, the learning process is hurt, not helped, he said.
Some said it isn't worth the time it takes to develop really good courses using helpful technologies because that kind of effort still isn't rewarded at Iowa State.
"The new promotion and tenure document puts the emphasis on scholarship, including scholarship of teaching," Richmond said. "You, the faculty, asked for this change. We hope the culture will begin to change."
Richmond added, though, that it's not enough to spend several years modifying a course to improve student learning.
"You need to make the results of your work available to others. You have to demonstrate scholarship occurred, so think about ways to quantitate what you have done," he said.
Good teaching is valued, he said, but the other part of the equation is "convincing your peers your work passes the muster."
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