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New Initiatives Provide Support for the Learning Experience

In recent months, Dartmouth has announced several initiatives that will add even more strength to the College's approach to undergraduate teaching. The initiatives span the curriculum, providing new resources that will help students develop their writing skills and assist them in making choices about their majors. They will also provide support for faculty as they develop new teaching techniques, and reward those professors who excel in the classroom.

"Dartmouth is known for the excellence of its teaching," says President James Wright. "These new programs will enable students to make the most of the unparalleled education Dartmouth provides. They will also support faculty as they work to enhance the undergraduate experience, making it more exciting, more challenging, and more rewarding."

Revamped writing program. Providing more continuity to students as they work on their writing skills is the goal of a new writing program, according to Lenore Grenoble, associate dean for the humanities. "We're recognizing the critical difference between courses where students are required to do a lot of writing, and courses that actually teach writing techniques," she says. Under the leadership of newly appointed director Tom Cormen from the computer science department, the program will unite courses currently taught in the English department with first-year seminars. "The new program will guarantee a strong foundation for all Dartmouth students," says Grenoble. "One of its primary goals will be to emphasize and strengthen writing in the disciplines across all majors."

Improved pre-major advising. In an effort to offer more advising resources to students, visiting professor of history M. Cecilia Gaposchkin was named this spring to the newly created position of assistant dean of pre-major advising. In her new role, Gaposchkin will be widely available to first- and second-year students as they seek direction in declaring a major, and will coordinate a range of campus resources designed to help them navigate their academic careers. She also will consult with faculty and assist them in developing the most effective advising programs. "I am delighted at the appointment," she says, "and excited about being able to really make a difference for students."

Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL). Initiated by the president's and provost's offices and supported by gifts from Gordon W. Russell '55 and R. Stephen Cheheyl Jr. '67, DCAL will bring together in one location information and resources that faculty members can use in their teaching. "It's about rewarding and supporting faculty for taking their teaching in new directions," says Thomas Luxon, associate professor of English and DCAL's new director. Luxon hopes the center will enable faculty members to explore new pedagogies, especially in digital technology and new media. He also plans to institute an orientation session for new professors and will work to increase faculty representation on technical working groups that develop electronic classroom tools.

"Teaching methods are constantly evolving, yet the principles of good teaching are constant," says Barry Scherr, provost. "DCAL will examine the effectiveness of technology in the classroom, learning evaluation, and interdisciplinary education."

Recognizing great teachers. In March, the president made additional funds available for faculty compensation, and some of those funds will be set aside to recognize and reward faculty members who excel as teachers and contribute in significant ways to the undergraduate experience.

"The extraordinary quality of teaching at Dartmouth is one of our defining characteristics," says Michael Gazzaniga, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences. "Good advising, a broad and coherent program in writing skills, and a mechanism through which professors can add strength to their teaching in a rapidly changing environment will allow us to enhance the learning experience to an even greater degree."

- By James Donnelly

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Last Updated: 5/30/08