Committee on Academic Quality
Minutes for November 16, 2005

Present: Greg Auleta, Mary Beth Bell, Joan Carroll, Jean Chambers (Chair, Recorder), Diane Chepko-Sade, William Goffe, John Huonker, Robert Irwin, Michael LeBlanc, Mary Loe, Mark Morey

Regrets: Nicole Bomasuto, Susan Coultrap-McQuin, Paul Tomascak

1. Introductions – Name and what brings you to the Committee:

  • Mark Morey: As a representative of the Committee on Learning and Teaching, which advises CELT, Mark is interested in gaining an overview of university’s mission with respect to defining learning and teaching from the standpoint of learners as they go through the system.
  • Robert Irwin: As a representative of the Computer Science Department, Robert is eager to promote basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills, and is interested in approaches that use systematic before and after assessments of learning outcomes in these areas.
  • Michael LeBlanc: As a representative of the School of Education’s Counseling and Psychological Services program, Michael has a broad interest in improving teaching and learning.
  • William Goffe: As a representative of the Economics Department, William brings the question about how teachers convey expectations, given that he recently informally surveyed his students and found that approximately 40% of their teachers routinely provide review sheets for exams.
  • Mary Beth Bell: As a representative of Penfield Library and former member of the Task Force on Academic Quality, which previously worked on academic quality issues, Mary remains concerned about issues surrounding student writing, particularly strengthening the Writing Across the Curriculum program. She is also concerned about information literacy, reading, and critical thinking. Penfield Library has recently developed new guidelines for assessment of information literacy at each stage of advancement through the college, and there is a plan to work with departments individually to help coordinate faculty efforts in this area.
  • Mary Loe: As a representative of Penfield Library, Mary shares Robert’s concerns about basic skills, including note-taking, and is worried about a disconnect between the observed skill levels of students and survey reports that students don’t find their courses challenging enough. She is also concerned about grade inflation and is interested in the idea of a basic skills exit examination. Finally, she would like to see Writing Across the Curriculum strengthened and closer monitoring of student progress through feedback based on clear expectations.
  • John Huonker: As a representative of Marketing and Management, John is most concerned about issues surrounding independent learning, which is especially crucial for future business managers. Also, some group learning activities in the classroom seem to allow individual students to free ride on the efforts of others, and this pattern of free riding can work against their learning the kind of teamwork business managers need to be able to do and lead others in doing.
  • Jean Chambers: As a representative of the Philosophy Department and former chair of the Task Force on Academic Quality, Jean shares the concerns voiced earlier regarding basic skills, as well as the free riding and challenge issues mentioned by others.
  • Joan Carroll: As a representative of Accounting, Finance, and Law, Joan does not want us to lose sight of the fact that students are responding, by and large rationally, to the system of incentives we are giving them, and the same principle holds true for the faculty. We need to figure out what we can do differently to expect and support excellence while also supporting retention.
  • Diane Chepko-Sade: As a faculty member in the Biology Department, Diane has found that regular writing assignments, such as summaries of assigned readings, augmented with supervised step-by-step activities which culminate in a paper and presentation, are very effective in producing student mastery. “They can learn, but you have to make them and reward them,” was her summary of her approach. She also expressed serious concern with the faculty incentive system, especially with respect to tenure and promotion, which tends to reward research more than effective teaching, even highly effective teaching.
  • Greg Auleta: As a representative of the Office of Learning Services, Greg is concerned about the faculty engagement, noting a large number of faculty absent from campus on any given day. He is also concerned that we not indulge unrealistic memories of our own academic virtues as undergraduates, while keeping in mind that the quality of the incoming first-year students continues to improve in terms of objective criteria such as SAT scores and high school grades. We need more information on whether and how departments ask students to write, for example. Our focus should be on how we might do better with the students we have.

2. Presentation by Mark Morey of the Committee on Learning and Teaching

  • COLT is an advisory group for CELT, which works on faculty development.
  • COLT recently conducted detailed interviews of a wide variety of different student and faculty groups in order to arrive at a definition of academic quality for the Oswego campus. The responses were collated using qualitative software, and then the patterns were categorized as indicated on the handout. See the handout for details. (If you were not at the meeting, please contact Mark Morey at morey@oswego.edu for a copy.)
  • We discussed COLT’s model of Learning Centered education at Oswego briefly, as we were running out of time. There was general agreement that the ideals mentioned are good ones, and we began a discussion of some possible implications relevant to implementation of the model, such as faculty workload issues.
  • COLT’s next steps include developing sample syllabi which would convey high expectations, working with individual departments on various initiatives related to learning-centered approaches, improving the integration of criteria of teaching excellence into the faculty incentive structure, and working with new faculty, including during new faculty orientation, to promote teaching strategies which work.
  • Mark requested that feedback to the COLT draft handout be sent to him at morey@oswego.edu.

3.  The next meeting of the Academic Quality Committee will be at 8 a.m. on December 7th, at a place to be announced via email. Jean indicated that at that meeting, we will begin working on setting some concrete goals for our work.

4. The meeting adjourned.

 Last Updated: 7/9/07