Members of the student-faculty Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) agreed yesterday that all new section leaders should attend training sessions before they teach courses.
At the meeting, Dean of Undergraduate Education David R. Pilbeam, who chairs the committee, assured members that he would make training for section leaders a top priority.
The issue reached the committee's agenda following an Undergraduate Council study that asked student residents of several houses to comment on their sections.
The council brought the results to the CUE's attention in a December letter to Pilbeam. The study discovered complaints about unequal grading standards in different sections of the same courses, and section leaders who seemed unable to discuss course material adequately.
Grading and teaching disparities between sections "make students wonder to what degree sections are supposed to be the same and to what degree they're supposed to be different." said Todd C. Flynn '88, who chairs the council's Academics Committee and also serves on the CUE.
He predicted that comprehensive training for all new section leaders would do much to reduce disparities between sections.
Flynn also said in the meeting that professors should attend section meetings more often to improve both student attendance and the quality of the teaching.
"We would love to see professors actually have sections or visit sections on a regular basis so students think sections are a real part of the course," Flynn said.
Although committee members generally favored Flynn's suggestions. they did not reach firm conclusions on his requests.
The committee also discussed restricted enrollments in Core courses. Several spring courses, including Foreign Cultures 48, "The Cultural Revolution," held lotteries to limit their size. Flynn said the council study turned up several complaints about such lotteries.
"I think we'd rather see no lottery and [larger sections] or more section leaders--as long as we are very careful about who the section leaders are," Flynn said.
Pilbeam agreed that lotteries are not necessarily the best solution but added that "the inability to recruit competent teaching fellows is a legitimate constraint." Course leaders should not sacrifice quality to increase the number of sections, he said.
In a rare sign of concord between student and faculty members of the CUE, Pilbeam endorsed the council's proposals at the end of yesterday's meeting.
"For once we're in total agreement, and we're working on all these issues," he said.
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