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MIT, departments need more improvement in teaching programs

(Editor's Note: The Tech received a copy of the following letter addressed to Professor Paul L. Penfield Jr.)

Recently, you were the moderator at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science's discussion on the Colloquium on Teaching Within a Research University. The crowd offered several good suggestions, especially one concerning help for new teachers. The continuing discussion enhanced the original suggestion significantly, but I fear the official minutes may not reflect these refinements. I am writing to summarize the suggestion and refinements in a concise fashion.

Currently, the Institute sponsors a half-day workshop for new teachers, providing helpful hints toward classroom instruction, teacher-student interaction, and a panel discussion with experienced teachers. The Institute also provides The Torch or the Firehose, a guide to section teaching for teaching assistants. Although the workshop is excellent, it happens only once a year (before the fall term). The book is a superb resource, but it is no substitute for personalized advice, through a "teaching mentor" program.

A teaching mentor program would be based on friendly advice from an experienced teaching peer; experienced TAs and faculty would help newcomers to their respective positions. The "mentor" would attend lectures or tutorials with the new teacher, then meet with the teacher for discussion. The teacher should understand that the mentor is not evaluating skills for any reason other than helping (e. g., no reports sent back to headquarters). Mentors could be funded as teachers, but excused from regular teaching duty. The mentor assignment should be viewed as prestigious -- not a way to avoid teaching, but a way to help others teach.

I hope this summary helps your work toward improved teaching in EECS.

Stephen F. Scherock G->