future teachers (see McNeal and D’Avanzo, 1997).
There is growing consensus on the characteristics of effective undergraduate programs in STEM but too little effort has been expended to date on determining how measures of quality might be made more consonant and consistent with national efforts to improve undergraduate STEM education (e.g., Boyer Commission, 1998; National Research Council [NRC], 1995a, 1996a, 1999a; NSF, 1996, 1998; Rothman and Narum, 1999) or to align such programs more closely with national standards and benchmarks in these disciplines for grades K–12 (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993; International Technology Education Association [ITEA], 2000; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1989, 2000; NRC, 1996b).
Members of academic departments, in conjunction with the principal academic and executive officers on their campuses, need to examine critically the criteria they currently use to evaluate the efficacy of their approaches to undergraduate education. The first step in accomplishing this task is for each department to adopt a mission statement on improving teaching and student learning. Other issues on which departmental members might focus include classroom teaching, academic advising for students, and the roles of teaching laboratories and independent research opportunities in enhancing student learning. Faculty and administrators also need to reach consensus on the underlying assumptions, guidelines, and metrics they will use to improve undergraduate programs.
Many of the issues surrounding the evaluation of teaching for individual faculty also apply to the collective performance of academic departments. The principles set forth in this report for evaluating the teaching effectiveness of individuals can easily be reshaped to apply to academic departments. This chapter lays a foundation for such discussions.
Unlike the rest of the report, this chapter offers no findings or recommendations. Instead, it articulates a series of questions that members of departments might ask themselves and each other as they examine their unit’s role in fostering the improvement of undergraduate education. These questions are organized in accordance with the major responsibilities of departments in the STEM disciplines.