Program focuses on course feedback

By Kelly Canright

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students will be teaching faculty a thing or two beginning in the spring semester of 1995.

The Student Mentors to Faculty Program is a new program designed to enhance the quality of instruction in specific undergraduate courses. Students and teachers will be working together to improve the instructional quality and student performance in the College of Engineering and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Political Science Professor John Garcia and assistant coordinator to UA composition board Professor Elena Berman pioneered this program which aims at an innovative approach to student-faculty interaction.

After sending their proposal to several foundations for funding purposes, General Electric expressed an interest in the program, Garcia said. The UA received official notification that funding had been received July 26, he said.

Additional support has been provided by the Dean's Office of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Department of Political Science, the Center for Transfer Students, and the College of Engineering, he said.

The College of Engineering and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences will be selecting between 25-30 students and between 25-30 faculty to participate in this pilot project.

Student mentors will be upper division students with strong academic records. The application process consists of a short written report that will be read with only the student's identification number. If selected, each student will receive three units of credit per semester, with a limit of two semester

The essays will describe two courses the student has taken during the semester. Without mentioning the instructor or the course, the student is to describe the good aspects of the strong course and the negative aspects of the course that was disliked. A wide variety of students who are good observers and good communicators will be selected, Garcia said.

"We are trying to attract bright motivated students," he said. "You become an informed consumer. Students will get learning skills, teaching skills and other skills they may not get in formal coursework."

The Student Mentors to the Faculty program will construct a necessary dialogue between students and faculty, Berman said.

"Student input on course organization and delivery hasn't been actively sought after other than in these formal end-of-the-year course evaluations," she said. "It is really difficult for students to provide input on a course when they are enrolled for a grade because there is a conflict of interest."

Both student and faculty participants will attend interactive classes addressing teaching and learning theory, classroom management and diversity issues. Student participants will be additionally trained in observation, classroom research and mentoring skills, said Garcia.

Students who participate will receive their class credit and will receive a certificate acknowledging their assistance in improving instructional quality at UA.

Berman said the courses to be targeted will be gateway courses in the department being observed.

"This is a win-win situation," she said. "It gives students an opportunity to reflect on their education. Most faculty get no training in actual instruction. They get training in their specific field or department, but they get no training in half of what they do teaching."

An open forum will be held Thursday Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. and Monday Sept. 26 at 2:30 p.m. in Student Union Room 282. Applications can be picked up in Slonaker House 107, Social Sciences 315 and Harshbarger 134.

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