UB Today Alumni Magazine Online - Winter 2002
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From the Provost

Teaching quality at UB

We are here to deliver an exceptional quality undergraduate education that prepares our students to compete against the best graduates anywhere, whether in graduate studies or in the workforce. Indeed, at UB professors are deeply committed to providing a quality undergraduate education, an effort that our students very much appreciate.

The university facilitates the faculty's desires to excel in teaching in a number of ways. For instance, a peer-reviewed teaching portfolio is a required component of the promotion dossier. This requirement reflects the university's expectation of excellence in teaching and denotes the value it places on teaching as a significant career activity.

Each individual teaching portfolio includes the candidate's statement and covers the professor's teaching philosophy and the range of graduate, undergraduate and professional courses taught by him or her. It also describes the relationship to and impact of these courses on the academic programs or units of the candidate's affiliation, while detailing innovations in teaching and referencing scholarly productivity that relates to teaching. Also part of this portfolio is an appendix that includes the candidates' best and most important teaching accomplishments, samples of syllabi, assignments and tests, along with evidence of student learning. Another component, the summary of student evaluations, appears in the dossier as well.

Indeed, the university requires that students evaluate virtually every section taught. The only exceptions are individual instruction or small (two- to five-people) courses where it would be impossible to offer anonymity to our student evaluators.

In these evaluations the students' responses to our teaching attest to UB's excellent teaching quality. Using a five-point scale (5 is "strongly agree" or best, 3 is neutral and 1 is "strongly disagree" or poorest), ratings by students of their instructors sampled 1,134 course sections, including more than 26,000 individual student responses, in Spring 2001. The average of the overall rating of course quality for all these evaluations was 4.0.

When asked if they would recommend the professor to another student, the average rating was 4.2, and if they would recommend the course, the average rating was 4.0. The statement, "The instructor seemed to enjoy teaching the subject and working with students," generated an average rating of 4.5. To view recent teacher evaluations, please go to http://www.sa.buffalo.edu and then click on "teachereval."

For those evaluations that suggest there may be a teaching problem, faculty are counseled and provided with options: They may work directly with a senior mentor in the department, work with a mentor from another department or choose to participate in the programs of the recently launched Center for Teaching and Learning Resources. This center (http://wings.buffalo.edu/vpaa/ctlr) provides literature, workshops and direct assistance to faculty who would like to improve their teaching within the traditional lecture format. In addition, the center can videotape lectures and provide a review.

The Office of the Provost and the Faculty Senate's committee on teaching and learning have jointly sponsored numerous teaching workshops. More than 100 faculty attended the most recent workshop on how to improve teaching within the lecture. The notable fact is not that we have these resources, but that our faculty do take advantage of them. Clearly, our faculty are not complacent about their teaching; rather, they wish to continue to improve their already high level of instruction.

One of UB's missions is to produce the next generation of professors. There is a large graduate population, many of whom will go on to teach in universities. The Center for Teaching and Learning Resources also supports our teaching assistants. Furthermore, UB's world-renowned English Language Institute enables all English-as-a-second-language teaching assistants to possess facility in English. Also, the "Target your Teaching" workshop for all graduate assistants is offered each summer by UB's Graduate School. The Graduate School and the Graduate Student Association recognize graduate students who have achieved exceptional competence in teaching with the annual Excellence in Teaching Awards for Graduate Assistants.

In addition to these ongoing measures, there is another important component in the evaluation of teaching, and that comes from UB graduates. As an alumnus you can help us continue to assess our teaching quality by letting us know where you are now and what you are doing. Our current students would be particularly interested in what you majored in, if you changed majors and how you chose your current field of endeavor. If you want to help, please send your story to me at capaldi@buffalo.edu. We would love to hear from you.

Elizabeth D. Capaldi
Provost, University at Buffalo

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