Minutes of the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence
Friday, March 5, 1999
3 PM, 817 CL

In attendance: Albrecht, Bartholomae, Beckman, Bell-Loncella, Davis, Greenberg, Harris-Schenz, Lesgold, Maher, Manfredi, Marsh, Schor, VanLehn, Whitney, Wilkins

Absent: Bean, Beratan, Flechtner, Lillie, Scaglion

Handouts:  CIDDE annual report for 1997-98, mission statement and membership list, Susan Whitney's 1/25/99 letter to Provost Maher for Senate Educational Policies Committee, Examples of Best Practice in Faculty Development

1. Opening Remarks

 Provost Maher welcomed Dr. Diane Davis, Director of the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE), as a staff resource to the Council.  He distributed copies of CIDDE's annual report for 1997-98, a letter from Susan Whitney on behalf of the Senate Educational Policies Committee (EPC) as to how CIDDE should be directing its efforts in support of technology, curriculum development, and instructional development, and a mission statement with corrected membership list to be posted on the University's website.  He noted that following discussion of the meeting's scheduled presentation, Council members should be prepared to advance its activities.  He proposed a general discussion at the April meeting leading to the formation of sub-committees to: 1) establish a systematic summer program for faculty development in instructional technology, 2) plan a small grants curriculum development program for the fall, and 3) advise Diane Davis on appropriate staffing in CIDDE.

2. Examples of Best Practices in Faculty Development

 Dr. Beverly Harris-Schenz explained that she had adapted her list of best practices from discussions with Dr. Mary Deane Sorcinelli, Associate Provost and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  She had collected information on faculty development activities from ten universities' websites.  In her presentation, Dr Harris-Schenz reviewed the best practices in faculty development and described how they were reflected in the activities offered at various universities.

 In response to a question from Dr. Lesgold, there was general agreement that the Council would focus on recommendations for future faculty development activities at the University.  Dr. Schor expressed concern that while academic administrators may favor release time for faculty development, it was a more complex issue within professional schools, where faculty had clinical responsibilities.  Provost Maher agreed, saying that deans and department chairs were concerned with the research climate of their schools and that annual evaluations meaningfully reflected each faculty member's strengths and areas in need of improvement.  He said that some types of faculty development activities would be better run in the schools because they were profession or discipline specific.  But other faculty development services could be offered centrally, provided there was  acknowledgment that deans were in charge.  He suggested that Dr. Levine, Dean of the School of Medicine, might be able to help with release time for faculty with clinical responsibilities.

 Dr. Manfreddi said a well defined process would be needed to facilitate cross-disciplinary courses or those taught by two or more faculty members.  Dr. Wilkins added that FAS Dean Cooper had recognized the problem and was attempting to address it.  Dr. Manfreddi suggested a publication on teaching similar to research's recently initiated Brown Bag News would be helpful.

 Dr. Marsh said that faculty at UPG were excited about a multidisciplinary course for seniors in science.  She offered to share the proposal.  Dr. Lesgold suggested that the Provost could establish a competition for temporary budgetary support to encourage innovative, interdisciplinary offerings.  Dr. Harris-Schenz said that she had discretionary funds in CAS that she intended to use in a similar manner to overcome traditional boundaries.  Dr. Whitney suggested a change in culture would be required to promote the value of good teaching.  She applauded the fact that the Provost was chairing the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence and hoped others saw it as a sign that Pitt valued teaching.  Dr. Harris-Schenz said that rewards for good teaching tended to be modest at most institutions.

 Some Council members felt the University should do more to publicize positive aspects about the institution.  Provost Maher said a great deal was being done and alumni were aware that many improvements had been accomplished; however, reaching the faculty and convincing the University Times to publish favorable items continued to be a problem for the administration.

 Provost Maher urged Council members to review the CIDDE annual report and the EPC recommendations and to consider how three vacancies within the Center might best be filled.  He said that up to $250,000 could be used for instructional development small grants and technology training programs.    Ms. Helfand agreed to email members as to proposed times for the April meeting and to request members' preferences on the proposed sub-committees.

3. Adjournment

 The meeting was adjourned at 4:20 PM.