Teaching may be given “major and equal weight” with research in
professors’ annual salary calculations if the Faculty of Arts and
Sciences (FAS) follows the recommendations of a new report
on teaching released to professors today.
a report that gives voice to frustration among professors that Harvard
marginalizes or ignores good teaching, the Task Force on Teaching and
Career Development proposed a swathe of concrete measures to change
Harvard’s teaching culture.
The recommendations include more
documentation of teaching ability during hiring and promotions, more
funding from the FAS administration for pedagogical experimentation,
increased scheduling flexibility to allow for different class formats,
and a push for professors to visit each other’s courses and share
Implementation of some of the proposals
could start as early as this academic year if they are received
favorably by the Faculty and administration, said Dean of the Graduate
School of Arts and Sciences Theda Skocpol, the task force’s chair.
Harvard’s teaching quality has often drawn fire from Harvard students,
the task force’s work marks an unprecedented level of internal
criticism from a group of senior professors.
The report paints a
sobering picture of Harvard’s current teaching culture, in which
effective classroom guidance is considered a matter of “individual
talent, choice, or valor,” not something FAS sufficiently acknowledges
“There are a lot of people who care intensely about
teaching, but a lot of those same people think the institution doesn’t
care,” Skocpol said in an interview yesterday.
Proven skill in teaching is ignored or even stigmatized during FAS performance reviews, according to the report.
teaching award earns a warning of how I should not wander off
research,” the report quotes an anonymous Ph.D. candidate as saying.
professors quoted in the report voiced the same concerns, worrying that
a focus on teaching may prove detrimental to their younger colleagues’
“There are still pockets of the University where
winning the Levenson award for teaching as a junior faculty member is
considered the kiss of death with respect to promotion,” the report
quotes one anonymous senior professor as saying.
The result, according to the report, is that Harvard’s academic offerings can alienate students instead of engaging them.
in turn that many faculty are not really interested in them, too many
of our undergraduates take a passive stance toward the classroom and
turn their passions toward extracurricular pursuits,” the report reads.
In proposing solutions to these problems, the report steers
clear of mandating specific class structures or pedagogical approaches.
“It would be a fantasy to suggest that all Harvard students are going to take all small classes,” Skocpol said.
report also rejects the idea that Harvard teaching could be improved by
creating a “dual tenure-track system” in which some faculty are
appointed for research achievements and others for classroom ability.
the report suggests that Harvard needs to start evaluating all
professors’ teaching skills with the same level of scrutiny that is
given to scholarly work.
“Research is evaluated in
standardized ways across universities...If we’re going to take teaching
seriously, we have to have more visible and consistent ways of
presenting some evidence about what counts for good teaching,” Skocpol
The task force was “unequivocal” in recommending that
all professors who teach classes over a certain size be required to
submit themselves for CUE evaluation, she said.
would be one of the few proposals requiring an official vote of the
Faculty, according to Skocpol, although she said discussion of the
report’s broader findings would most likely be on the docket for one of
the Faculty meetings this spring. —Staff writer Lois E. Beckett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.