Response to DUE Visiting Committee Recommendations

Based on June 2008 DUE Visiting Committee Report and August 2008 Response Letter to the DUE Visiting Committee

This is meant to provide a summary of both the Visiting Committee Report and the DUE response. If you are interested in the full text, please contact Anna Babbi Klein at

Visiting Committee Report Summary:
In contrast to our session two years ago, committee members were more encouraged to see some progress on several fundamental issues. In what follows, we describe this progress, identify areas of continuing concern and offer a set of recommendations.

Areas of recent progress and associated recommendations:

Educational Excellence

  1. Implement Institute-wide policies that ensure that classroom teaching assignments go only to teaching assistants with adequate English language competency.
  2. Establish and enforce Institute-wide criteria for TA training.

Teaching Data

  1. All teaching units at MIT should provide systematic data on credit hour generation by level of instruction and type of instructor over time.

DUE Impact

  1. The Dean should identify concrete metrics of progress on all ODUE priorities.

Building Student Self-Confidence

  1. If the goal of the campaign for students is increased, place great emphasis on raising funds for student travel, space for on-campus activities related to off-campus programs and additional staff for such faculty-intensive activities.

Additional concerns and recommendations:

Systems Infrastructure

  1. Plans are urgently needed for establishing an integrated and institute-wide data base system – through purchase and/or internal development -- to allow measurement, monitoring and improvement of teaching excellence and student learning, to support student advising and to permit online registration. This system should also permit tracking of instructional assignments. Departments should accept responsibility to provide common data across the Institute.

Student-Faculty Ratio

  1. Members of our committee would like to see an analysis of what expansion of the undergraduate student body will mean for the quality of education and student life, before the increase takes place. We would like to see such a plan consider undergraduate increases in light of increases in the populations of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

The Communication Intensive Requirement (CIR)

  1. Design, launch and complete a study of the effectiveness of the CIR, by school.

The Undergraduate Commons

After several years of intense faculty effort to produce a report on the “educational commons,” implementation of recommendations is slow and uncertain....Because faculty interest in the GIR is keen and perspectives vary, it is still hard to predict whether substantive changes in MIT’s core curriculum will be made or whether the results of this taskforce report will be unremarkable. We can anticipate a series of faculty votes during fall term 2008.

Student Advising

Members of our committee heard considerable criticism by students of their advising experiences, especially in years 2-4. On the one hand, we know that advising is criticized on nearly every campus across this country; on the other hand, we understand that a report on student advising is in preparation. We look forward to receiving this report and spending some concentrated time at our next meeting on the issue.

DUE Response Summary:

Educational Excellence

…We aim to enhance the excellence of our education and to keep pace with other universities in this important dimension. As you know, within the last two years, we proposed and the Dean’s Group passed a policy designed to address the TA training issues that you identified. While there is no singular central effort, the Deans as well as the Provost and Chancellor are on board with a commitment to improve the quality of the instructional services we deliver… In passing the policy, it is true that the Dean’s Group preferred to allow Departments and Schools to choose locally how they would implement it. This is consistent with the prevalent philosophy that, as much as possible, pushes decisions down to the local level and relies on peer pressure to encourage all to participate.

Within DUE, the Teaching and Learning Lab (TLL) continues to work hard and resourcefully to advance our goals for TA training...In order to fulfill the spirit of your recommendations in this area, DUE will remind all Deans and Departments of the policy and establish an annual report. DUE will initiate an annual discussion in the Deans Group. This annual discussion will serve to highlight the areas of the Institute that need continued attention.

Teaching Data

…In our locally driven culture and given the limitations of our current student system, all the details regarding this information have not always been requested or shared with the central administration…As you know, we have built a new version of the Who’s Teaching What database and are using it in conjunction with online subject evaluation (OSE). We tested this improved reporting system in a pilot phase this last semester…

As with the TA policy, the Deans Group preferred to make participation in the WTW database voluntary in order to ensure that participation is really valued added for the Departments. However, we already know that the Departments that are running their own online systems of subject evaluation are eager to join the central system with the exception of EECS…We have been heartened by the result – both the system work noted above and the collegial engagement across the Institute...We anticipate that with the broader longitudinal data analysis that will result from participation, all of the Departments will see the value added and voluntarily join the enhanced WTW/OSE system.

Impact of the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education

We have developed metrics for all of our strategic themes and will report on these important priorities at the next meeting. In addition, we will develop metrics for our other priorities and will present them as well at the next meeting.

Building Student Self-Confidence

...We believe that our graduates’ self-confidence is increasing for a number of reasons. One reason is their increased participation in global experiences…They often report that they gain a richer appreciation of MIT and themselves through these experiences that lead to reflection on their MIT time. We have made progress and we have this as a priority in the Campaign for Students…Other activities which we believe are helping to boost self-confidence are increased participation in internships and other hands-on learning opportunities as well as the effort we have put into student leadership initiatives through the work of DSL and DUE. First-year project-based subjects…have been found to have a positive effect on some cohorts’ sense of self-efficacy; funding for such curricular development is also a priority for the Campaign for Students.

Systems Infrastructure

The report of the Student System Vision project is now complete and senior management has been briefed on its findings and recommendations...With the approval of senior management, DUE along with DGE, DSL and IS&T will move as fast as possible to replace the existing system.

Student-Faculty Ratio

The quality of the undergraduate student experience is very important to us for many reasons including our competitive advantage. While it is true that the number of students has increased (graduate students) and will increase (undergraduate students), the Chancellor and Provost feel that these increases are manageable without an increase in the faculty size…Since we are committed to housing all freshmen on campus, the planned increase must await availability of the appropriate housing. DUE in concert with DSL and DGE will initiate a report on the implications for the quality of the education and discuss with the senior leadership…

The Communication Requirement (CR)

…In your report, you suggested that the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR) should design, launch and complete a study of the effectiveness of the CR, by School. This of course would address the absolute question of how effective is the actual CR as opposed to how effectively MIT has implemented the CR. This was considered by SOCR in its deliberations and rejected due to cost and complexity; it was determined that the most pressing need was to collect and share “best practices” across the Institute, in concert with the Schools and instructors. In order to implement your recommendation, DUE will discuss these matters with SOCR and the CUP to see if there is faculty support for further assessment studies.