MacVicar Day 2007 Celebrates Undergraduate Learning

Leann Dobranski, Assistant Director, Teaching and Learning Laboratory

The 2007 MacVicar Faculty Fellows were announced at The Corporation luncheon on March 2nd. This prestigious award recognizes the creative and innovative efforts of
MIT’s outstanding teachers. MacVicar Day and the Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellowship was established in 1992 to honor the life and contributions of Margaret
MacVicar, a physicist, dedicated educator, and the first Dean of Undergraduate Education at MIT.

The five new MacVicar Faculty Fellows are Associate Professor Yoel Fink, Material Sciences and Engineering, Economics Professor Jonathan Gruber, Professor Charles Leiserson, EECS, Professor James Orlin, Management Science, and Associate Professor David Wallace, Mechanical Engineering. Fellows will serve 10-year terms and receive an annual scholar’s allowance to assist in developing ways to enrich the undergraduate learning experience.

As part of the MacVicar Day celebration of undergraduate education, the Teaching and Learning Laboratory coordinated the afternoon program – a roundtable discussion entitled, “I Learn Best When…” Undergraduate students, faculty, staff and alumni shared their ideas about the learning tools and approaches that enable them to master valuable knowledge and skills.

It was clear from the eight-member panel that there are a wide variety of learning strategies. One student found it helpful in his engineering courses to first understand the physical concept before applying any math to a problem. Another student learns best when he has to explain what he’s learned to someone else. Two professors commented that trying things, experimenting and practicing are tools they use in learning.  Agreement was reached by the whole panel that asking questions (sometimes anonymously) and talking with others about problems and concepts is a key component in their learning.