Teaching Methods Meet Report's Goals

Faculty are responding positively to a committee formed to encourage teaching improvements and discussion in the College's more than 40 concentrations.

The Educational a Policy Committee, formed three years ago by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles, has sparked many changes in the way departments treat their students, according to a memo released this month by Knowles.

"We have been heartened by the care with which colleagues have approached the review of their concentrations and by their positive reactions to the themes of the EPC paper," the memo says.

In October 1993, the EPC distributed to faculty members a paper titled "On Enhancing the Undergraduate Concentrations." That paper outlined five goals for undergraduate concentrations, including faculty involvement in participatory small group instruction, careful academic advising and a culminating experience, such as a thesis, for all concentrators.

Although the group has not yet achieved those goals in all of the College's concentrations, it has met with officials in about two-thirds of the departments and hopes to meet with them all by the end of spring semester, according to Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Wolcowitz.


The committee is doing "nothing earth-shaking," Wolcowitz said yesterday, "but hopefully five years from now we will be able to look at the concentrations and say they have improved."

Knowles' memo gives a long list of

improvements the EPC has helped effect. These include the Music department's introduction of a sophomore tutorial with strong faculty participation, History and Science's creation of a year-end research conference for students and faculty and Physics' appointment of a faculty committee to be responsible for all advising.

The list also includes procedures some departments already follow, such as East Asian Studies' requirement that concentrators write a one-page essay each term reviewing their accomplishments and goals and Social Studies' requirement that seniors compile an intellectual bibliography.

Instead of mandating certain standards all departments must uphold, the EPC functions more as a sounding board which allows one department to look at innovations in another, according to Knowles.

"Already, there has been a number of examples of cross-pollination, the adoption by one concentration of a practice of another," Knowles said. "I don't at the moment foresee sweeping legislation."

When the EPC works with a concentration, four of its members, Dean for Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell, Wolcowitz and two non-department faculty members meet with the department chair, head tutor and one or two faculty members, according to Wolcowitz.

Robert Rosenthal, chair of the psychology department and a member of the EPC, has seen the process from both ends.

The EPC "is one of the committees at Harvard that I've been on that I just feel has done wonderful work," Rosenthal said yesterday. "As chairman of the psychology department, I've seen what effect it has had."

Another department chair and committee member said he finds the EPC's focus on communication valuable.

"The communication between departments is not always terrific," said Howard Georgi, chair of the physics department. When the physical science chairs and head tutors met with Buell and a few members of the EPC "it was very useful just because it was an excuse to get all of us together," Georgi said.

Rosenthal said that the leaders of the committee have been unusually dedicated to student concerns.

"I would say 90 percent of everything we've talked about has been student-oriented," Rosenthal said. "It's how to do Harvard better educationally."

He added that the leadership of the committee has been excellent.

"Jeremy Knowles is just a terrific bean, and Jeff Wolcowitz has just been one of the guiding figures behind it...and Larry Buell in particular, and the deans of the graduate schools have done really well," Rosenthal said. "And I have tenure--I don't need to say that.