Dean Ford predicted yesterday that the new graduate fellowship program could lead to a "quiet revolution in undergraduate teaching," involving the creation of small sections for virtually all middle group courses and abandonment of the $5 a head exam grading system.
The change is expected to start in the History Department, which next year will offer up to 25 five-year fellowships to incoming graduate students. Each student will spend two of the five years as a teaching fellow.
"In time," Ford said in an interview, "every good-sized course in most Departments could have the best graduate students available taking a tutor's responsibility for educating undergraduates."
He stressed that this plan would be considerably better than the present "impersonal and ineffective" use of one or two course assistants to grade exams and papers for an entire course at a rate of $5 per student.
Big Lecture Courses
"Harvard has been unyielding about the value of big lecture courses." Ford said, "even though many students constantly tell us that there is no one to talk to or get help from in those courses."
He stressed that the College needs younger men with three or four years of graduate study to grade exams and papers, consult with students, and "tell them what went wrong."
"A poor section will not improve a course," Ford said, but he indicated that most of the students awarded the new fellowships are expected to be good teachers. "A teaching fellow has at least a tutor's artillery," and thus a considerable advantage over the younger, less experienced course assistants in dealing with undergraduates.
Section Men for History 150b
Ford said that he will replace the traditional exam graders in his own spring course, History 150b, with six section men teaching bi-weekly sections. About 30 students will be assigned to each section, and all exams and papers will be graded by the section man.
Ford will teach a different section himself every time, "in an attempt to get to know more of the students in the course than I do now."
Harvard expects to be able to meet the cost of the entire program, but hopes to get foundation help to defray some of the expense, Ford said. He pointed out that if the History, Government, Economics, and English Departments are all awarding the new fellowships for up to five years of study, the total cost of financial aid to graduate students will be up by 50 per cent.
Ford stressed, however, that money from the Harvard College Fund will be used only for the third and fourth years of the program, when grad students are serving as teaching fellows. "We are not asking College alumni to support the graduate program," he said.
It is expected that the new fellowship plan will greatly accelerate the PhD program. Ford pointed out that "the average PhD has been taking seven years or more," and noted that most students in the new program will now be able to finish the work in five.
"This acceleration will really increase Harvard's contribution to teaching in this area," Ford said, "I foresee a time when the University will be turning out many more PhD's, and when practically every PhD recommended as a teacher will already have had excellent experience teaching," he stated