• Provide resources to ensure that faculty, particularly new faculty, have the opportunity to both learn how to and have the time to design effective instruction, use technology appropriately, foster inquiry-based and collaborative learning, and assess learning achieved.

  • Make sure that the faculty reward system, in practice as well as in theory, supports faculty who effectively help students learning in hospitable environments that recognize individual students’ differences and that provide reasonable opportunities to address those differences.

Academic departments serve many roles, including general education of nonmajors, professional preparation of majors, contributions to interdisciplinary or honors programs, and professional preparation of teachers and health professionals. Departments can encourage and support their members to work collectively to integrate courses and curricula and improve teaching and learning. They also can redirect their physical and financial resources to encourage continual improvement in teaching and learning. In summary, academic departments can become both the primary units for catalyzing change in undergraduate education and true learning communities (American Association for Higher Education [AAHE], 1993; Wergin, 1994; Wergin and Swingen, 2000; Wyckoff, 2001).

Because the organization and roles of academic departments vary so widely within and among institutions, and especially among disciplines (Diamond and Adams, 1995, 2000), the task of performing any kind of systematic evaluation of these entities would appear to be nearly insurmountable. However, a number of reports have suggested how members of academic departments might assume collective responsibility for developing a coherent set of courses, programs, and other educational experiences that can enable all participating students to maximize their opportunities to learn (e.g., Shulman, 1993; Wergin, 1994; Wergin and Swingen, 2000). In addition, some disciplines have developed guidelines for evaluating undergraduate programs (e.g., for chemistry, American Chemical Society, 1992; for earth sciences, Ireton et al., 1996; for engineering, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, 1998; for mathematics, Mathematical Association of America, 2000). However, many of these guidelines focus primarily on defining what is expected of students who will major in those subjects. Little attention has been paid to defining a quality education for other students who enroll in courses primarily to fulfill graduation requirements for

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement