The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 58.0°F | Light Rain

Chemistry students, faculty focus on dual expectations

Chemistry students, faculty

focus on dual expectations

By Judy Kim

The chemistry discussion group, led by Professor William H. Orme-Johnson, was comprised of numerous faculty members as well as post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students.

One major focus of the discussion was the difficulty professors face in fulfilling the expectations of being both a teacher and a researcher. As teaching assistants, some graduate students felt that those expectations could not realistically be met since "you'll never get a PhD by being a good teacher." In addition to the constant pressure to do efficient laboratory research, the lack of any sort of recognition for teaching assistants discourages some graduate students from focusing on teaching.

Provost Mark S. Wrighton, a former head of the chemistry department, said that the primary emphasis for graduate students at MIT was not the development of their teaching potential, but the creation of researchers with "world class reputations."

Professor Daniel S. Kemp remarked that one major problem of MIT teaching was the inability to instill a sense of genuine pride in students. He said that often, teaching talent and course are mismatched, and as a result, students were not taught well. He further commented that many students lack self-esteem due to the competitive nature of the classes and feels that teaching may contribute to this.

Undergraduate students were concerned with the need to integrate classroom and laboratory classes, while faculty members recognized the need for more laboratory classes in general. The limitations brought about by finances, space, and number of students and faculty were discussed as possible causes of such problems.

Course XVII discusses how

to measure teaching accurately

By Karen Kaplan

Members of the Department of Political Science gathered in the Millikan Room after the colloquium to continue the debate fostered at the larger session. Major themes of discussion included how to measure teaching quality, how to give it more weight, whether research and science could complement each other and whether research funding biased the types of courses offered here.

Both faculty members and students expressed concern that the quality of teaching was difficult to quantify. Some suggested that student input be incorporated into the tenure selection process, but others cautioned that professors who taught "easy" classes would get the best reviews, while tougher ones with more substance would go unappreciated.

Also, once reports about teaching ability were compiled, some were afraid that they would receive no more than a courtesy glance before attention was refocused on the candidate's research. One suggestion was to create tenured faculty positions for professors who would concentrate on teaching.

The political science faculty members in attendance agreed that research was an integral part of the teaching process. They said that research was necessary to understand the topics they taught, but that such research could create biases in their courses. In addition to research, "real-life" experiences, such as time spent working at a newspaper, were thought to contribute to teaching quality.