News from
Communications and Publications, Stanhope Hall
Princeton, New Jersey 08544
Tel 609/258-3601; Fax 609/258-1301

Date: February 24, 1996
Contact: Justin Harmon (609) 258-5732

Presidential Initiatives to Increase ``Innovation, Effectiveness and Excellence'' in Teaching

PRINCETON, N.J. -- ``Princeton's 250th anniversary provides an ideal opportunity to mobilize new energies and new resources on behalf of the characteristics of Princeton we value most and the areas in which we are most determined to provide leadership in the future.''

``One of our highest priorities in both respects is Princeton's central and enduring commitment to outstanding undergraduate teaching, and I am very pleased to announce three major initiatives that I believe will substantially increase our capacity for innovation, effectiveness and excellence.''

With these words on Alumni Day, February 24, Princeton President Harold T. Shapiro officially inaugurated a program of Presidential Teaching Initiatives that he has developed over recent months with Provost Jeremiah Ostriker, Dean of the Faculty Amy Gutmann and Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel.

Shapiro told the audience of alumni gathered for the annual luncheon meeting of the Alumni Association in Jadwin Gymnasium that one of his personal priorities is raising $50 million in this anniversary year to endow the initiatives, and he announced a $4.5 million gift from Lloyd E. Cotsen '50, a trustee and one of Princeton's leading benefactors, that will provide term funding so some of the initiatives can begin immediately. He also announced an anonymous gift of $5 million as the first contribution toward the endowment.

Expand and accelerate

``Our strategic planning process emphasized Princeton's determination to be second to none both in the quality of its scholarship and research and in the quality of its teaching programs,'' Shapiro said. ``That process identified a need to do a better job of teaching in several areas, and Princeton has taken a number of important steps recently to improve undergraduate teaching, especially in the first two years.

``Among other things, we have significantly expanded our Freshman Seminars program, developed new ways to teach science and math to non-majors, revised our general education requirements, and begun to introduce exciting new technologies into the classroom. But now we are determined to expand and accelerate our efforts.

``Our goal is to assure that Princeton continues to play a leadership role in undergraduate teaching in the 21st century, just as it did in the 19th century through President McCosh's insistence on what we now know as distribution requirements, and in the early 20th century through President Wilson's introduction of the precept and the later introduction of junior independent work and the senior thesis.''

These Presidential Teaching Initiatives consist of three parts:

- A 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, endowed at $25 million;

- Four 250th Anniversary Visiting Professorships for Distinguished Teaching, endowed at a total of $12 million; and

- $13 million to support positions, programs, equipment, supplies and space at the Center for Teaching and Learning that will be associated with the new Campus Center.

Fund for innovation

The 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education will provide what Shapiro described as ``venture capital for new ideas in teaching.'' It is designed to stimulate and support the creative energies of faculty who are committed to the highest quality teaching by providing resources to assist them in creating innovative new courses or making significant revisions in existing courses to take advantage of new technologies and teaching methods.

Specifically, the fund will support the development or significant revision of courses in four categories:

1) courses that demonstrate the potential of innovative teaching methods or make innovative uses of new technologies;

2) introductory courses to fulfill the new distribution requirements that the faculty adopted last year;

3) courses in comparative American cultures and international studies; and

4) new approaches to the major, including imaginative restructuring of junior independent work.

Where appropriate, courses in any of these categories might be tried as Freshman Seminars before they are integrated into the regular curriculum.

Faculty members whose proposals are selected will receive special summer stipends for course development. Funds also will be available for research assistance, the acquisition of materials and equipment, the development of software, and special training and support for graduate student assistants in instruction. Approximately half of the funds will be used to establish new courses and half to support ongoing courses.

Proposals will be evaluated twice a year by the dean and associate dean of the college and the dean of the faculty, who will make a final set of recommendations to the president. The principal criteria will be innovation and excellence, the positive impact of the course on the undergraduate curriculum, and its effectiveness in demonstrating the faculty's continuing commitment to undergraduate teaching. The Cotsen gift will permit the fund to begin immediately; the first proposals are due by March 31 and the first awards will be made in April. The University also recently received $150,000 from the Hewlett Foundation to develop new courses to meet distribution requirements in two new fields: Ethical Thought and Moral Values, and Epistemology and Cognition.

Visiting professorships

While universities commonly invite distinguished scholars to serve as visiting professors, ``we know of no other university that has this kind of program to bring distinguished teachers to its campus as visitors,'' Gutmann said. ``We believe it will invigorate Princeton's already excellent teaching program and reinforce our reputation as a major research university that is dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education.''

The program will support four visiting faculty members each year--one each in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering--who will be selected in a nationwide competition from colleges and universities across the country for their demonstrated creativity and commitment to teaching and their capacity to bring innovative ideas in undergraduate teaching to the campus.

Each of the visiting professors will teach an undergraduate course, often in collaboration with Princeton faculty, and will share their expertise and exchange ideas about teaching with Princeton faculty and graduate students.

All departments will be invited to submit nominations for the visiting professorships early each fall for the following academic year. (The first nominations will be due in the fall of 1996 for academic year 1997-98.) Selections will be made by the president, in consultation with the provost, the dean of the faculty, the dean of the college and, for proposals in engineering, the dean of the engineering school.

Each proposal will present a plan for integrating the visiting professor into the teaching program of the department and the University and will identify one or more Princeton faculty partners who will work closely and collaboratively with the visiting professor. The program will make a special effort to identify professors whose teaching interests and expertise span several departments and programs, or even divisions, of the University.

Teaching and learning

The third component of the teaching initiatives, which is closely related to the other two, is funding for the Center for Teaching and Learning. This center will support faculty, graduate students and undergraduates in a variety of initiatives and projects to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning at Princeton.

According to Malkiel, it will be a place ``where faculty come together to talk about, devise and test teaching innovations; where graduate students develop their teaching skills; and where undergraduates hone their skills and draw on new technologies and new strategies for effective learning to supplement the work they do in their classes.

``The center will provide a testing ground for exploring the potential of new technologies to enhance teaching and learning and for developing collaborative approaches to education at Princeton--collaboration between faculty working on new curricular projects, collaboration between faculty and graduate students in executing the highest quality undergraduate teaching, and collaborative learning among undergraduates.''

The emphasis of the center will be on people--on helping faculty and graduate students to teach better and undergraduates to learn better--through such resources as an electronic classroom configured for hands-on learning, rooms equipped for videotaping and other media, an expanded language laboratory, a multimedia computer cluster, a media library, a video study facility, and a writing center with computer work stations.

The center will be staffed by a director and associate director with appropriate academic credentials and demonstrated interest and experience in innovative teaching and learning.

The director will be responsible for working closely with faculty in designing and assessing new teaching strategies and techniques and with the academic computing division of Computing and Information Technology, and for keeping abreast of pedagogical and technological innovations at other institutions, organizing faculty seminars on teaching, sponsoring lecture series and conferences on teaching and learning, and developing and disseminating useful publications.

The associate director will have principal responsibility for videotaping and critiquing teaching sessions and for related activities involving faculty and assistants in instruction, as well as for the coordination of academic support services for undergraduates.

``The purpose of these initiatives is not to substitute for or duplicate the many ways in which Princeton faculty already demonstrate an exceptional commitment to undergraduate teaching,'' Ostriker said, ``but to provide faculty with human, technological, financial and other resources that will enable them to do an even better job, to try new things and to secure Princeton's position of leadership in undergraduate teaching as it moves into the 21st century.''

Fundraising for the teaching initiatives will be part of the 250th Anniversary Campaign that officially began this past fall.