Undergraduate Instruction

by Harry on May 22, 2018

For once, this isn’t directly about undergraduate instruction, but about an event the Center for Ethics and Education is hosting in Madison about undergraduate instruction next Thursday (for locals: Fluno Center on May 31st at 11.30: please come). We were approached by the American Academy for the Arts and Sciences to do an event focusing specifically on undergraduate instruction, in association with an event the Academy is holding here (in Madison) later in the day around the report of the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education. I’ve never organised an event on instruction that goes beyond my own department before, but have been to plenty, and too many involve long talks that illustrate the low quality instruction they are attempting to combat. And—almost none actually deploy the voices of undergraduates. So my idea was to invite 4 faculty members (actually 3, plus a high school instructional coach) and 5 undergraduates each to give a very short talk about an instructional strategy that should be more widely shared. The undergraduate piece is work for me, as I want to avoid overlap, and ensure that they do it well (I have complete confidence in the people I invited, but some of them have less confidence in themselves than I have in them). Anyway, I’m sharing this partly because enough locals read CT that sharing it here might boost numbers (free lunch!), but more because I am curious whether others have arranged or attended similar events, and to invite suggestions for subsequent events. Here’s more on the event (with the details about the faculty panel—we have another poster with details of the student panel, but that needs to be updated).



Alan White 05.22.18 at 9:08 pm

Sounds great Harry–you know I fully support your efforts in this endeavor. I’ll be sure to send this to my department and campus–I have lots of colleagues who share your enthusiasm for better undergrad instruction.


Meredith 05.23.18 at 9:37 pm

Today I have been enjoying your posts and readers’ comments (catching up) and thought I might comment here on two things. First, immediate student feedback is vital, but it is also limited in its value since students often appreciate only much later the value of courses they took, teachers they studied with, fellow students. Second, on the value of “the liberal arts.” I’ll let this portion of an interview with Carla Gutierrez, editor of RGB, stand as illustration of both points. (I gather Carla majored in Art or, at least, spent a lot of her college time in an art studio. She also lived in a dorm.) “I love the collaboration that happens in the editing room. It’s a very intense creative collaboration, but it’s beautiful. It’s funny because I have an early background in math, I was studying math in college, and I find that the stuff I learned back then, it’s problem solving [and] the day to day mechanics [of editing] are just something I really, really love.” http://msmagazine.com/blog/2018/05/14/ms-qa-carla-gutierrez-editing-rbg-learning-ruth-bader-ginsburgs-notorious-history/


Eli Rabett 05.24.18 at 2:36 am

The first suggestion is to involve John Moore from Chemistry at UW Madison. The second is that at least in the STEM fields this has been figured out, the problem is that what works can’t be done in large classes and for the most part there are not enough instructional faculty to handle large enrollment intro classes.

Basically group learning instructional strategies work. POGIL is one example but there are other variations including flipped classrooms and other active learning strategies.


Rob Chametzky 05.24.18 at 9:28 pm

I assume that folks know about “Make it stick: the science of successful learning”,
but just in case, not here’s a link to it at Harvard UP.


(Full but probably irrelevant disclosure: the former HUP editor who did the book is a
friend from graduate school.)

–Rob Chametzky

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