Priorities and Cultures and Classrooms: The Promise and Challenge of Improving Teaching at Yale

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Elizabeth Carroll
Essay Abstract: 
How to better support teaching is a question that much of higher education is asking itself, as institutions struggle to use active pedagogies and increase learning. I did a close study of how teaching works at Yale, using interviews, archives, literature reviews, and evaluation data. I aim to address implementation challenges by analyzing teaching policies and cultures historically and departmentally. Interviews reveal that though written university policies disregard teaching, professors and administrators still value it highly. Data showed significant satisfaction problems within the Natural Sciences. A look at Yale’s history reminds us that these teaching challenges have been around for decades. Progress has been made in course evaluations, while challenges remain around incentives and strengthening teaching culture. STEM reform today is wrestling with these questions. Then I analyze twelve Yale departments, which are shown to have similar policies but different cultures. It’s culture and tradition that largely drives teaching. Departmental culture could be improved through strategic hiring and organizing groups to collaborate on teaching. In conclusion, I suggest taking a series of smaller steps that aim to build on each other, by focusing on culture more than incentives, and by creating low-time commitment faculty groups for teaching collaboration.