|Vol. 17, No. 29||April 30, 1998|
The University of Delaware was one of 18 research universities cited in the recent Carnegie Foundation report for making improvements in undergraduate education.
The April 20 report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching proposed 10 ways to improve education for undergraduates at large research institutions, most proposing an end to the longstanding division between research and teaching-whether in laboratories or humanities projects.
Titled "Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities," the report noted "signs of change" in 20 case studies from 18 institutions. Delaware was cited for adopting problem-based learning in all basic science classes "to promote active learning and connect concepts to applications."
"Students are not given all the information they need to solve the open-ended 'real-world' problems, but are responsible for finding and using appropriate sources," the independent commission members noted. "They work in teams with access to an instructor; trained graduate or undergraduate students help lead some groups."
Among the other institutions cited for model programs were: Duke-interdisciplinary programs for freshmen that includes two related seminars and a related writing course; Stanford-sophomore dialogues and seminars; Princeton-junior independent work and senior thesis; University of Maryland-team-taught world courses; University of Chicago- writing courses; and universities of Wisconsin and Missouri, Columbia- capstone learning experience.
Speaking at the semiannual General Faculty Meeting just one week earlier, President David Roselle noted that interest in undergraduate research had gained momentum campuswide since 1990, with more than 90 percent of all engineering, biological and physical science professors now actively participating in providing hands-on opportunities. Roselle noted that increased support for undergraduate research is a new and additional goal for his administration.
The Carnegie Foundation report candidly pointed out that most undergraduates at the 125 U.S. research institutions are taught by untrained graduate assistants and fail to receive a "coherent body of knowledge" by the time of graduation. The 11 commission members suggested these 10 ways to change undergraduate education: (1) make research-based learning the standard; (2) construct an inquiry-based freshman year; (3) build on the freshman foundation; (4) remove barriers to interdisciplinary education; (5) link communication skills and course work; (6) use information technology creatively; (7) culminate with a capstone experience in which all the skills of research should be "marshalled in a project that demands the framing of a significant question or set of questions"; (8) educate graduate students as apprentice teachers; (9) change faculty reward systems; and (10) cultivate a sense of community.
The General Education Committee of the UD's Faculty Senate already is working on a new curriculum plan that would incorporate many of these goals. The freshman experience will play a critical part in the plan, according to chairperson Carol Hoffecker, Richards Professor of History, who says she hopes to have a proposal before the Senate by the fall.
"Interdisciplinary course content, emphasis on writing, speaking and critical thinking, the use of mathematics to solve problems, combinations of collaborative and independent student work and the consideration of ethical, global and diversity issues all will receive greater attention through the curriculum," the UD committee's interim report says.