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About James JoynerJames Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. If you have a passion for people and think you would like the chance to make a difference to people's lives have a look at our careers page, or drop us your CV and a letter showing us what you could bring to the UPMO. Surveys taken among workers over the last few years indicate that the idea that hard work and playing by the rules will get you success in the end is even more firmly entrenched now than in years past. Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22 percent chance.
By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility: our parentsa€™ income is highly predictive of our incomes as adults. For?generations, academics have accepted that tenure is bestowed upon those who excel at research. Indeed, everyone stands to benefit from stronger science education as we become a more technologically advanced society, argues Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization representing North America’s top research schools. In recent years, a number of schools have sought to elevate teaching of first-year engineering students.
While these efforts are focused largely on the instruction of freshmen, some schools prioritize teaching at all levels. That philosophy is a big selling point for students – the retention rate from freshman to sophomore year is 91 percent – and has lured several tenured professors from other schools who are tired of the continual pursuit of research dollars. Revenue aside, one reason research is emphasized in tenure decisions is that it’s simply more quantifiable. Pressure to change the incentive structure is eased somewhat by the availability of a growing class of non-tenure-track faculty, from adjunct professors to industry veterans, who pick up the slack left by a faculty preoccupation with research.
Altering the reward system requires improving how teaching is evaluated, says Michael Loui, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and editor of the Journal of Engineering Education. Loui espouses a more comprehensive assessment involving peer review and teaching portfolios, which may include a course syllabus, an exam, a copy of students’ work with instructor’s feedback, and an essay that details the thinking behind the course design. At RHIT, faculty are evaluated primarily on student ratings, but peer observers also play a role. But placing a greater emphasis on teaching as a criterion for tenure is a tall order at most schools, particularly research universities, says Loui. The University of Maryland has also made strides in recognizing the value of teaching with its Keystone program.

Thanks in part to the program, graduation rates have nearly tripled, says Pines, and today administrators are considering expanding it to faculty who teach third-year courses. In 2011, AAU launched a five-year initiative to improve undergraduate STEM teaching by encouraging departments to adopt evidence-based teaching practices and providing faculty with the training and support necessary to do so.
Smith says the initiative has a growing body of research to draw on since the Boyer Report. Last summer, AAU selected eight project sites for the initiative, each of which will have a different focus.
Changing the culture isn’t going to be easy, says Smith, but “we have no reason not to try. We are all here for the same purpose: to support the growth and development of our students.
This has proved especially true in engineering programs, the majority of which are at research universities. Weighing teaching more heavily in tenure decisions, they claim, promotes better learning experiences for students, improving the odds they’ll stick to science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.
A group created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching – the Boyer Commission – concluded in 1998 that undergraduates at research universities were getting, “in all too many cases, less than their money’s worth.” A “culture of teaching” was needed in departments, it said, and excellent teachers should be rewarded with permanent salary increases, not one-time awards. They include Purdue, Clemson, and Utah State universities and Virginia Tech, where separate engineering education departments foster a student-centered approach to learning. From its inception, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s (RHIT) mission has been to teach undergraduates as opposed to pursuing research. Across all disciplines, only 30 percent of faculty were in the tenure system in 2009, down from 57 percent in 1975. Most schools evaluate teaching based on student ratings, which, much as faculty love to deride them, have been shown in numerous studies to be reliable and valid. For instance, when professors come up for tenure, an instructor who teaches a class following theirs in the curriculum may submit a letter indicating how well the students were prepared. All tenure candidates at the University of Kentucky, for instance, must submit teaching portfolios.
Administrators launched the initiative in 2006 as part of an effort to bolster the freshman retention rate in engineering. The move was prompted in part by the results of a survey of AAU members asking what they did to retain students (excluding undergraduate research).

For instance, the University of Pennsylvania will combine online learning with in-class student engagement to create so-called blended introductory courses in math, chemistry, physics, and engineering.
We have to admit that we’re part of the problem and no longer blame K through 12, especially when we have dropout rates of 40 percent. As it stands, more than 40 percent of college freshmen who declare a STEM-related major switch to a non-STEM major by the time they graduate.
These programs have introduced pedagogy to a field in which the majority of Ph.D’s typically teach their first class having had little or no training in instructional theory. A study of Northwestern University students found evidence that non-tenure-track faculty were better teachers than their tenured colleagues, inducing students to take more classes in a given subject and to perform better in subsequent coursework. Unfortunately, student ratings are often the only source of teaching evaluation, Loui says.
Such a letter can go a long way in explaining poor student ratings, says Cornwell, who adds that the school continues to look for better ways to evaluate teachers. And at Duke University, professors are prohibited from buying out of their teaching responsibilities — a common practice in which a professor can forgo classroom duties altogether to focus on research grants. The distinction recognizes 18 to 22 instructors – about 10 percent of the faculty – who excel in teaching fundamental first- and second-year courses.
And Michigan State University is planning a new cross-disciplinary “gateway” STEM curriculum for freshmen and sophomores.
A prominent ASEE member is blunt: “The only thing that really counts is the number of papers that you publish and the number of dollars you bring in for research,” says the veteran faculty member, who asked for anonymity because the topic is so sensitive. Katsouleas sees these grads as the vanguard of a movement to grant teaching greater importance. To qualify, teachers must receive high student ratings and be nominated by their department chair.
Keystone professors receive a 2.5 percent increase in base salary, up to $5,000 to improve their course curriculum, and access to teaching assistants and fellows for three years (renewable for another three-year period).

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