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John Sanford, News Service (650) 736-2151; e-mail:

Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning turns 25

More than 150 professors, staff members and students gathered last week in the Bechtel Conference Center at Encina Hall to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning.

"There is no higher calling than education; there is no higher calling than teaching," said President John Hennessy, addressing the crowd. "Teaching is at the heart of the university."

It was an afternoon full of high praise for the center and its director, Michele Marincovich.

"When Michele Marincovich represents teaching at Stanford among gatherings of folks from research universities trying to think through the improvement and enhancement of teaching at those universities, she always does our university proud," said Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and a professor emeritus in the School of Education. Shulman noted that on many campuses similar centers are "a thinly veiled emergency room for faculty members in tenure trouble." He called the Stanford center "a true sanctuary -- a true celebratory center -- for excellence in all forms of teaching at this university."

The Center for Teaching and Learning was established on campus in 1975 through a grant from the Danforth Foundation. Its mission then was to improve college and university teaching in the Bay Area. But the foundation, which financed Stanford's center and four others nationwide, stopped funding them in 1978.

Stanford chose to continue operating the center with other funds, but focused on helping its teaching assistants become better instructors. After course evaluations became mandatory at the university in 1979, the center began serving faculty, too. Since then, roughly 1,000 faculty members have used the center, Marincovich said. It also has served roughly 10,000 teaching assistants and lecturers since it opened, she added.

The center offers, among other things, evaluations of faculty members by a small group of students; videotaping of classes; classroom observation; a library of books and videotapes; departmental or small-group workshops, lectures and reading groups; and information on teaching and technology.

Last week's celebration also featured the two winners of a student speech contest sponsored by the center: Bianca Kannatey-Asibu, a Stanford senior majoring in urban studies, and David Carmel, a student at the Graduate School of Business. Entrants addressed the role a teacher -- or their own teaching -- has played in their lives. Carmel and Kannatey-Asibu, who were each awarded $1,000, read their winning entries. The contest was held to recognize the center's Oral Communication Program, which serves about 700 students, faculty and staff each year, said program director Doree Allen. The program aims to help them improve their oral communication skills. Courses and workshops include training in public speaking and oral presentations.

The event also featured a group of professors emeriti, doctoral graduates and an undergraduate reading quotes by people connected to Stanford over the years. One quote, from former President Donald Kennedy, was taken from his 1990 welcome speech to freshmen:

"We need to talk about teaching more, respect and reward those who do it well, and make it first among our labors. It should be our labor of love, and the personal responsibility of each one of us. . . . In my judgment, the teaching at Stanford is distinctively better than it has been at any point since I joined the faculty 30 years ago. So what's the point of my challenge? It's simply that we can be better still."

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers various services for Stanford faculty members, lecturers and teaching assistants. Oral communication courses are available to students, faculty and staff.

For more information about the center, call 723-1326.


By John Sanford

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