Minutes of the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence
Tuesday, November 10, 1998
2 PM, 826 CL

In attendance: Albrecht, Bartholomae, Bean, Beckman, Bell-Loncella, Beratan, Flechtner, Harris-Schenz, Lesgold, Maher, Manfredi, Marsh, Scaglion, Van Lehn, Whitney, Wilkins

Absent: Greenberg, Lillie, Schor

Handouts: Availability schedules (to be returned)

 Provost Maher said that the University succeeded on a programmatic basis in some areas of faculty development.  As examples, he said that mentoring occurred among members of a research group, and there was general agreement that scholarly life was important.  However, while program directors might say they wanted good teaching, there was a lack of coherent encouragement to improve teaching and shared understanding of what good teaching was.  He had become aware of  the need for greater acceptance on the part of faculty for services available in the Office of Faculty Development and for the use of instructional technology appropriate to specific courses.  He had established the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE), which combined External Studies, the University Center for Instructional Resources, and the Office of Faculty Development, in an attempt to get the most out of the University's existing resources and expertise.  Provost Maher emphasized that teaching should drive the use of instructional technology.  He applauded the progress CIDDE had made and spoke of its great potential, which required a means of communicating with faculty to be realized.

 He described the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence as the instructional analog of the University's Research Council.  He invited the members to help establish the Council and advise him on (1) a process for awarding small grants, some but not all of which would be technology-based, to faculty pursuing instructional development; (2) appropriate faculty training to improve instruction; and (3) the role of CIDDE in effecting improvements in instruction at the University.

 A small grants program could encourage faculty to explore alternative instructional techniques, develop innovative course materials, and extend their professional development.  Provost Maher said that some instructors of large sections of freshman and sophomore courses at Pitt had received training last summer in putting course materials on the Web.  By contrast, at a mid-western state university, faculty were receiving technical training every five years and left the training seminars with the latest in computing equipment and software.  While the University lacked sufficient resources to provide all that, it needed a systematic training program so that faculty would be aware of the possibilities of instructional technology and avenues to improve instruction and learning in their courses. He added that CIDDE had expertise in curriculum and instructional development and the use of technology, but there was a need to connect them to the instructional programs of the University.

 The Provost explained that the Instructional Technology Steering Committee (ITSC) had been working on a technology plan for the University, which would be presented when determination had been made as to how much funding could be reallocated toward its recommendations.  Recognizing that technology changes very fast, the ITSC had chosen to focus on policy issues.

 Provost Maher said that he would chair the Council during its first year, after which he would turn over the chair to the new Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs who would be identified.  Members agreed to work as a committee of the whole until consensus on directions had been reached and to then divide into subcommittees.  Some form of small grants program would be implemented during the current fiscal year, with awards announced in the spring.

 For the next meeting, David Beratan offered to share his experiences with instructional technology projects that failed after having received funding through a subcommittee of the Executive Committee on Academic Computing.  Provost Maher agreed to share what other state institutions were doing to train faculty in the use of technology in the classroom.