History of the Center
“An indispensable function of education, at every level, is to provide sound training in the fundamental ways of thinking represented by history, science, mathematics, literature, language, art, and the other disciplines that evolved in the course of mankind’s long quest for usable knowledge, cultural understanding, and intellectual power. To advance moral conduct, responsible citizenship, and social adjustment is, of course, a vital function of education. But, like the other agencies which contribute to these ends, the school must work within the context provided by its own characteristic activity. In other words, the particular contribution which the school can make is determined by, and related to, the primary fact that it is an agency of intellectual training.”
Arthur Bestor, The Restoration of Learning. 1955
Connecting Universities and Schools:
A Case Study
Harold H. Kolb Jr.
HOW WE BEGAN
The Center for the Liberal Arts began as an experiment. Given what appeared to be the decreasing effectiveness of American schooling and given the expertise of universities in precisely those fields of knowledge in which the schools seemed deficient, a group of concerned faculty at the University of Virginia came together in 1984 to discuss the following questions:
- Does the University have a responsibility to other levels of education—a responsibility to help define what Americans need to know and to assist in improving the teaching of the academic disciplines throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia?
- Could outstanding faculty members be recruited for the effort?
- Should preservice and in-service teachers be seen as part of the constituency the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and not just of the School of Education?
- Could professors and K-12 teachers work together?
Our tentative answer to these questions was yes, and we set about to test it by going to the schools to talk—and more importantly to listen—to teachers and administrators. From these conversations, we concluded that no one, and everyone, is to blame for problems in the schools. Schools of education have dealt themselves out of academic subjects by focusing too exclusively on the effective side of learning. Arts and sciences professors—charged with creating and disseminating society’s knowledge—have not recognized their role in disseminating this knowledge, through teachers, to the 46 million students who make up the country’s largest, and ultimately most important, group of knowledge consumers. Superintendents and principals are too likely to have been trained as administrative managers rather than as intellectual leaders. Parents, often juggling two jobs, have sometimes worried more about child care than child education. A system has grown up in which the academic training of teachers, the learning of those people we have put in charge of teaching learning, has been neglected. It is certainly true that there are knowledgeable people who are not good teachers. But that truism has an even more important counterpart: there are no good teachers who are not knowledgeable. We must do a better job of empowering teachers, and empowerment must include intellectual empowerment as well as increased salaries, telephones, computer networks, and a greater share in school governance. A social studies teacher with whom we talked stated that
You seem to be suggesting that to do my job well I need to be something of a historian, not just a history teacher. That’s a novel idea, and it was never brought up in any of my training. But I like the idea, and I think you are right. Can you help me?
WHAT WE DID
Armed with these insights, we returned to the university to see what could be done. Many of the difficulties of school education were clearly beyond our reach, but helping to improve the teaching and the learning of the arts and sciences disciplines in the schools seemed not only a possibility, but a responsibility. Our first task was to approach the president, the board of visitors, the provost, and the deans, for our vision had implications for the entire university. This approach was welcomed, and it came at precisely the right moment in our history. With confidence born of its recent emergence as a major international research institution, the University of Virginia was prepared to enlarge its mission statement to include the schools. A survey of arts and sciences faculty members revealed that 214 professors were ready to help. Some of these faculty had served on a committee that persuaded the administration to largely eliminate the degree of Bachelor of Science in Education and to require that most teacher candidates enroll in regular arts and science majors. This change led to a 5-year double-degree program (BA, MT) for teacher candidates, and the average SAT scores of students going into teaching climbed from 1000 to 1200.
The next step was to create a permanent structure, the Center for the Liberal Arts—to be funded by the University, the state, and public and private foundations—in order to create and administer programs for school teachers and to establish an ongoing relationship between the University and the schools. When an English high school chair unveiled her cynicism about what she called “the two-year phenomenon—you are really interested in us until the grant runs out and then you disappear”—we appointed her to a three-year term on our Advisory Council.
We soon discovered that each discipline taught in the schools needed separate study. Thus we designed a procedure for investigating the issues and problems related to a given subject, determining what improvements should and could be made, and setting about to achieve them. This procedure has three stages:
Research – At the beginning we interview teachers and administrators, send out questionnaires, study school curricula, sample texts, and make a preliminary assessment of the issues.
Analysis – After completing the research phase, we bring together a group of teachers, administrators, school board members, state and community officials, experts in the field, and citizens for a five-day workshop in Charlottesville. This group considers the issues generated in the first stage, sponsors additional research as needed, makes recommendations, and outlines a specific plan for implementing the recommendations.
Action – After the workshop, the Center refines and implements the workshop plan, which typically includes new graduate courses for teachers, in-service workshops, fellowships, opportunities for study abroad, and other programs appropriate to each discipline.
This model—research, analysis, action—has three aspects that distinguish it from conventional committee meetings and reports. The first is that it provides for an extensive investigation of issues, using a format that is based on university research procedures. Additionally, it builds in the participation of diverse groups—participation that gives us better decisions as well as greater authority when we take those decisions into the public arena. And finally, it establishes a specific and feasible plan of action.
The first plan we devised was for American literature. With assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we created two kinds of programs to help teachers increase their knowledge of texts, authors, and issues in American and modern literature, and in American Studies. During the school year, when teachers find that their heavy workloads make authentic graduate course work difficult—”I can’t teach five courses and read Moby Dick for Monday evenings”—we offered lectures, discussions, and colloquia that were correlated to texts being used in Virginia classrooms. These meetings between faculty members and teachers were received enthusiastically by the teachers. One put it this way:
You have hit on an area that really counts—refreshing the classroom teacher with content-based lectures. Rather than educational technique lectures, we need more ideas and information about literature.
During the summer, we offered, in Charlottesville and at school sites, intensive graduate courses that allowed teachers to transcend school curricula and units; to experience the challenge and pleasure of reading, research, and thinking that ranges beyond textbooks; to become scholars. The teachers’ responses to these rigorous programs were even more enthusiastic than those for the lecture series, moving from the metaphor of refreshment to that of nourishment. One participant sent us the following note after attending a three-week poetry institute:
In the seven years that I have been teaching English on the high school level I have taken required courses in how to teach reading, how to teach handicapped students, community health, how to teach elementary math(!), how to avoid being prejudiced against minorities, and how teacher interaction can lead to student achievement. It should be apparent why a course in poetry with not a “how-to” in sight would be food for the soul for someone who decided to teach literature because of a love for it.
These semester and summer programs proved that our initial assessment was accurate. Teachers were indeed eager to learn, and their gratefulness for the opportunity helped recruit faculty members, who for their part enjoyed discussing literature and sharing their knowledge with committed adults.
Following this start, and using the research-analysis-action procedure that we had established, we gradually brought the other disciplines on line; by 1990 we had organized programs in all of the subject areas for teachers throughout the state. At that point, with administrative support from the Virginia General Assembly, with program support from NEH, the National Science Foundation, the Exxon and Mellon foundations, and with a number of partnerships established with other institutions, we set about to increase the number of faculty involved, to expand our range of topics, and to touch the lives and minds of more teachers. These goals have been achieved: as of spring 1998 we have created, for 9,078 Virginia teachers, graduate courses, lecture series, in-service programs, fellowships, and overseas study programs involving 389 arts and sciences faculty members—238 from the University of Virginia and 151 from 56 other colleges and universities. Our experiment has proved more successful than we had hoped, and the Center for the Liberal Arts is now established as a distinctive and permanent part of the University of Virginia, one that, according to the Virginia Council of Higher Education, “has been enormously valuable for the Commonwealth [and] has achieved national eminence.”
WHY IT WORKED
The success of the Center is based on what William McDonough, the “Green Dean” of UVa’s School of Architecture, would call sustainable design, in terms both of organizational structure and program configuration. The simple fact that the Center is a permanent organization has had far-reaching implications, which were illustrated by a recent discussion I had with the director of a private foundation. He had sent questionnaires to the principal investigators of all the educational projects that his organization had funded in the last two decades, asking for comments on the continuing value of these projects. Only 5% replied, a disappointment that has since led the foundation to turn its emphasis away from colleges and universities. “We think these were good projects,” said the foundation director, “but they seem to have bloomed and died. There hasn’t been enough continuity, enough accretion, enough momentum to sustain and spread the ideas they embodied.”
In the last decade and a half, the Center for the Liberal Arts has become a gradually deepening repository of information and expertise concerning school/university collaboration and faculty/teacher relationships. Our faculty project directors (we have one in each academic discipline) and instructors have come to regard teachers not as students, but as professional colleagues in a community of learners; they have determined how to help teachers both to satisfy their immediate classroom needs and to soar beyond them. Our permanent status has given us the opportunity to recruit the best faculty members, and to build our activities into the university’s reward system. School/university collaboration at the University of Virginia is no longer regarded as “a valuable form of service”—often the kiss of death in promotion and tenure meetings—but as a significant and challenging form of teaching and research. With the schools, our ongoing operation has allayed cynicism about short-lived interest and has given us the time to negotiate the triangulation required for successful programs—triangulation between the demands of the discipline, the expressed needs of teachers and school systems, and the expertise and interests of faculty. The many teachers who have taken our programs provide a reservoir of advice for creating new activities; and increasingly, alumni of CLA programs are participating as workshop leaders and institute co-instructors.
The Center’s permanence gives university/school collaboration a local habitation and a name and puts us in a position to contribute to discussions on a wide range of educational issues. It is a place where the state Board of Education can come for assistance in defining graduation requirements, and our investigation helped persuade them to mandate, for the first time, an arts requirement for all Virginia students. The Center is where our Phi Beta Kappa chapter turned when it wished to demonstrate extramural citizenship, and that organization now endows an annual summer fellowship for teachers. The Center’s permanence keeps the flag of collaboration high, and it has led us to the point where teachers in the state—regardless of where they took their degrees—are now regarded as an important constituency of the University of Virginia. Permanence has also lowered costs for individual programs, for there is a large expense in starting up a single activity from scratch, and a lot of waste in shutting one down. And finally, it has allowed us to form ongoing ties to other units and organizations.
We began with partnerships—working with academic departments, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the state Council of Higher Education, the Division of Continuing Education—because that seemed like a good way to get started; we soon found that it was a good way to continue. Partnerships bring additional expertise and experience to a project, expand the resource pool of funds and faculty, provide uniquely appropriate locations for activities, and extend our reach. As we initiated projects in the various disciplines, we made common cause with a number of partners: the Folger Shakespeare Library, Valentine Museum, Monticello, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, UVa’s Valencia program, University of Bonn’s Transatlantic Summer Academy, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, American Academy in Rome, Centre International d’Études Françaises d’Angers, Virginia Commission for the Arts, English-Speaking Union, Piedmont Virginia Community College, History Teaching Alliance, and the Virginia components of the American Association of Teachers of German and the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.
In some cases we joined or created coalitions of partners. In order to assist teachers of dramatic arts, we designed a Virginia Institute for Theater Arts that linked UVa, Virginia Tech, and Virginia Commonwealth University drama departments with the Heritage Repertory Theater, and brought together faculty members, professional actors, graduate students, undergraduates, teachers, and high school students (who served as an acting company under the direction of the teachers, who were themselves under the direction of faculty) from around the state. Partnerships, we have discovered, not only increase the activities we can make available to teachers; they also, like permanence, decrease costs.
Providing high-quality programs at a low cost to outside fundershas been an ongoing goal of the Center, and one that is particularly useful in the current climate of restricted funding. This aspect of our work is not a matter of doing programs on the cheap, for we believe in recruiting our strongest faculty and remunerating them appropriately, and we believe in providing teachers with the kinds of treatment and opportunities associated with a distinguished university. Many a teacher has had his or her commitment to learning and teaching subtly strengthened by a luncheon in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, or a conversation with Isabel Allende or Mempo Giardinelli or Helmut Kohl, or an opportunity to work with original manuscripts in the Barrett Collection. The trick has been to create ongoing support, funding alliances, and resource-sharing partnerships—with University departments, the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Council of Higher Education, school divisions, and other institutions, such as museums. We have now reached the point where our administrative expenses are subsidized internally, instructional costs are largely built into the University’s regular operation, and other expenses are shared by partners and funded by foundations. This efficiency gives us a large dollar-for-dollar impact and allows us to offer more programs and reach a greater number of teachers, far beyond the small group of outstanding teachers (often those least in need of further training) who normally win fellowships and institute residencies.
Program design for the Center has been a matter of constant revision, as we have gradually sharpened our understanding of school/university collaboration. We believe we now know the ingredients of good programs for teachers, which require, in the first place, our best faculty members—those who realize that teachers are colleagues who are proficient in teaching children. Experts in their fields, these distinguished scholars enjoy the challenge and have the ability to bring their expertise out into the world. Our faculty also need to be flexible, for teachers vary widely in their knowledge, and school systems differ in their methods of bringing teachers together, furnishing us with audiences of experts in one location, generalists in another. Providing assistance to teachers is, as our most successful faculty members understand, a challenging intellectual enterprise that often requires reshaping and even rethinking aspects of their disciplines—rethinking that has implications for colleges and universities as well as for the schools. Our classicists have increasingly come to believe that Latin teachers, and undergraduate Classics majors, need to be educated not just in language and literature, but in the history, art, architecture, and religion of Greek and Roman civilization as well. The more our modern foreign language professors work with teachers, the more both groups eschew the notion that language study is a matter of grammar in school and literature in college. Whether in the third grade or the thirteenth, learning a foreign language requires a blend of linguistic, literary, and cultural study. And the extraordinary demographic changes that have transformed American schools—a small elementary school two miles from the University of Virginia now enrolls students who are native speakers of 23 different languages—have provided a specific context that has helped our history and literature scholars realize how historical interpretations and literary canons are shaped in social and political as well as intellectual arenas. Our schools are the outer banks of social change, and they experience first the waves that wash up later on the shores of the university.
Successful programs for teachers also require careful planning, which needs to start almost a year in advance in order to allow for consultation with prospective participants. Many rounds of revision are needed to precisely tune teacher needs and faculty expertise, to achieve the delicate balance necessary for our “teacher/scholar” audience. Teachers are, understandably enough, pragmatists. With an eye on the next day’s classes, they scoop up handouts and seek ideas that can be plowed quickly back into the classroom. Our best programs simultaneously meet this demand for relevance and resist it, helping teachers with their immediate concerns but also deepening their knowledge for the future, often in ways whose applications cannot be foreseen.
We have also found we need to plan well in advance so that teachers can fit summer seminars into the complex rhythms of state re-certification, school curriculum changes, and personal plans and vacations. Adequate planning allows for building in the participation of distinguished guest lecturers, of museums and other appropriate institutions. And it provides time to put in place a funding package, often in cooperation with school administrators, that achieves the Center’s goal of paying all expenses for all teachers in all of our programs.
Finally, we have learned that the small details of logistics can make a large difference, such as texts supplied well in advance of a course, comfortable quarters arranged for study and discussion, and flexibility in allowing teachers to determine their own course projects and credit/noncredit options. These details are received with gratitude by teachers, who take them as signs, as one fellowship winner put it, “that we, and what we do, are respected and valued by the society whose children we teach.”
WHERE WE ARE HEADED
We passed our fourteenth anniversary in 1998 with a feeling of accomplishment and confidence, yet much of what we have learned has persuaded us how much more there is to be done. The reform movement in American education is still groping. The ambitious goals pronounced by the President’s Education Summit in 1989, in Charlottesville, remain embarrassingly unrealized, except in rhetoric. There is a kind of curious anti-intellectualism that manifests itself in contemporary American schools. This trait can never entirely be reformed or restructured or wished away, for it has deep roots in American history and values. But anti-intellectualism can be resisted, and schools should be the first line of defense.
The Center for the Liberal Arts and analogous efforts need to have a more profound impact. Having learned to work with individual teachers, we now need to work with entire school faculties and with school divisions. Having developed a cadre of faculty members skilled in teaching teachers, we must now recruit whole university departments. Having worked successfully with individual texts and topics and courses, we now need to become involved with entire school curricula. And having assisted more than 9,000 Virginia teachers, we need to reach out to their 63,000 colleagues who have not been involved in Center programs. While we value our alliances with highly competent senior teachers from strong school divisions who quickly sign up for our programs, we need to work more extensively with less confident teachers, with more middle and elementary schools, with smaller and more remote school divisions. These, of course, are general goals. Here are some ways that we plan specifically to achieve them in the coming years:
1. EXTEND THE IMPACT OF SUMMER SEMINARS AND INSTITUTES
Most teachers leave summer courses with high levels of intellectual stimulation and future resolve. In order to reinforce that stimulation and to assist teachers in putting their resolve into practice, both in terms of individual learning and school improvement, we need to offer more follow-up workshops. Typically held on a Saturday during the fall or spring semester, the one-day workshop brings teachers together once again with their seminar instructor. The day begins with a morning session during which the teachers discuss the ways their summer learning has been applied, share ideas with one another, and retroactively critique the summer program. Then, after a communal luncheon, the instructor (occasionally a team of instructors) presents new materials and ideas that build on the work done in the previous summer. We also find it advantageous to invite the participants to bring administrators and teacher colleagues to the workshop sessions, which assists both in the translation of idea into curricula and in the recruitment of new teachers for later programs.
2. INVITE TEACHERS TO ATTEND WORKSHOPS AND COURSES IN TEAMS
Most of our activities thus far have been aimed at, and achieved their success with, individual teachers. Although there is a good deal of rhetoric in the education community about the multiplication factor—teachers are supposed to return from courses and workshops to conduct in-service programs and share their new knowledge with their colleagues—such dissemination seems to happen haphazardly and infrequently. But the multiplication factor can be energized, we have found, when two or three teachers from one school or school division attend a program together. They return to their home institutions with greater momentum, with the opportunity of continuing discussion with one another, and with the confidence of a group. Thus they are more likely to be able to effect changes in both formal settings—curriculum and textbook committees and in-service programs—and in informal exchanges with their colleagues.
Teachers grouped by the discipline they teach tend to create a community of the intellect, to think of themselves not just as teachers but as historians, literary critics, mathematicians, foreign language experts, scientists. And that enables them to keep from being swallowed by organizational categories based on buildings, grade levels, and student abilities. A critical mass of teachers also has more influence with administrators—those persons who, in all but the most radically reformed schools, control the process by which texts are chosen, the curriculum is developed, and in-service programs are designed and supported. Arts and sciences faculty have too long ignored school administrators, and we plan to invite curriculum coordinators, principals, and other administrators to a number of our activities for teachers.
3. DEVELOP INTENSIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH ENTIRE SCHOOL DIVISIONS
In order to create systemic change, we need to work within the system, recruiting the encouragement and endorsement of superintendents and principals, designing programs in conjunction with both teachers and administrators, reaching large numbers of teachers at all levels. Such a strategy would link the power of universities—storehouses of the world’s knowledge, centers for advanced research, agencies of dissemination—with the power of the schools to reach every American child in establishing the intellectual foundations for citizenship, vocations, and life.
What we need are ongoing networks of collegial relationships between schools and universities as institutions, and between teachers and professors as coworkers. We need to make it possible for teachers not simply to take a course, but to have frequent and easy access to the life of the university. We envisage, for example, ongoing colloquia at the University led by department chairs and senior scholars that update teachers on issues and trends in the disciplines and keep them informed about developments in undergraduate and graduate studies. Reciprocally, we need to send faculty out to the schools to discuss texts and ideas in specific disciplines and to participate as well in on-site conversations about adopting texts, instituting new curricula, creating interdisciplinary courses, and coordinating programs between colleges, high schools, and middle and elementary schools.
In our continuing quest to work more closely with school administrators and to make it easier for them to understand the various university resources available, the Center is currently working with other UVa organizations to design a Consortium for the Education of Teachers. This partnership, “whose purpose is to assist schools and teachers in keeping current in areas of knowledge and strategies of instruction,” will include, among others, such units as Arts and Sciences, Curry School of Education, Center for Instructional Technologies, Jefferson Area Mathematics Teachers’ Project, and Summer Foreign Language Institute. The Consortium’s charter, in its present draft version, reads as follows:
The consortium arranges courses, programs, and fellowships for teachers in such fields as English language and literature, history and social studies, mathematics, science, foreign language, fine arts, special education, educational psychology, reading, linguistics, technology, and multicultural awareness. We are especially interested in designing, in cooperation with school administrators and teachers, comprehensive and ongoing in-service programs tailored to the specific needs of individual school divisions and groups of contiguous school divisions.
4. ASSIST TEACHERS WITH THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Technology in the schools is a much discussed but not always understood subject, and political sloganeering has not helped: “a computer in every classroom” is about as useful as a horse in every cavalry company. Just what is the state of computing in Virginia schools? What equipment is in place, and what are the levels of expertise among teachers and students? In order to determine these facts before attempting to offer technological instruction to teachers, we conducted a state-wide survey in the winter of 1996-97. What we found, not surprisingly, was a huge variation in equipment and skills from school to school, a feeling among many teachers that they have missed the electronic boat, and an absence of programs that connect information technology to the academic disciplines, especially the humanities disciplines. Most schools are undersupplied with hardware, software, and Internet connections; most teachers are undersupported in their efforts to use the new information technologies.
We did find in our survey that school administrators are very interested in technology. That interest is appropriate, since finding, using, creating, and storing information is what education is all about and precisely what the computer and the Internet assist with so brilliantly. The current focus on technology in K-12 is timely, since schools seem to be lagging behind society and teachers are lagging behind other professionals, sometimes even their students. State education officials are also focused on technology, but the problem with the state approach to computer literacy for teachers is that it ignores the application of technology to the subjects actually taught.
The “Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel,” adopted by the State Board of Education in June 1996, treats computer literacy as a separate subject. These standards fail to mention a single field of study to which computers might be applied, and their general recommendations—”operate a computer system,” “utilize software,” “apply knowledge of terms”—are unanchored to any reference to specific hardware or software, search engine or browser. More ominous is the provision in these standards that computer literacy might itself be substituted for “content” knowledge: “Course work in technology will satisfy the content requirement for licensure renewal for license holders who do not have a master’s degree” (Standards 2, item 1.4).
Teachers know better, and they are asking for ways to use technology to deepen their learning and improve their instruction in the disciplines they teach: “What is out there in my field?” “How do I find it?” “How good is it?” “How can I use it in my classroom?” These sensible questions deserve content-specific answers, and here the Center is well-positioned to provide a response. Advanced information technology is not a destination but a vehicle, not a “content area” but a tool for more efficient learning and teaching of language, literature, history, math, science, and art. Our faculty members are quickly becoming expert in the use of this ever-evolving tool, and the University of Virginia has emerged as a world leader in the application of information technology to humanities teaching and learning. Our Electronic Text Center is now receiving 85,000 hits a day on its various electronic products.
5. EXTEND OUR OUTREACH
Dissemination of information to other institutions has always been an implicit part of the Center’s mission. Since the beginning, the Center founders and participating faculty have been interested not simply in a production line of programs, but also in the philosophy of collaboration, in getting it right, in establishing (as our Dean of Faculty put it) a benchmark for school/university cooperation.
In 1987, this aspect of our mission became intensified, for, in rapid succession, the Center was featured in an article in Change magazine and received awards from the State Council of Higher Education, the Virginia Board of Education (for leadership in “the rejuvenation of elementary and secondary education”), and the National University Continuing Education Association (for “innovative and creative programming”). This new level of visibility led to requests for information from outside the state and we began a series of consultations, sharing what we had learned, making our example available to others at meetings and conferences, making visits elsewhere and hosting visits to Charlottesville. We will continue such activities, and we propose now to make them an explicit and formal part of our mission, building them into our schedule and our budget. In addition, we will intensify our outreach effort by expanding our new Website and serving as a mentor to other institutions.
The Centers Website (www.virginia.edu/cla) was designed to provide Virginia teachers with current information about CLA programs and fellowships, and to allow them to register for programs electronically. It includes a calendar of events along with detailed descriptions of our offerings. Additionally, the site is organized to expand teachers’ knowledge and to help them use technology effectively in their specific content areas. The Classics section, for example, contains annotated lists of on-line Classics resources and is divided into separate sections for different types of Classics instructors: grade school mythology teachers, high school mythology teachers, social studies teachers, and Latin teachers. Teachers using the Classics site are able to request information using the “Ask a Professor” feature, and their electronic questions are forwarded to appropriate professors. This feature, included with each discipline section, is a response to earlier requests from teachers for “a telephone hot-line to the faculty.” The discipline pages also provide a “Make a Suggestion” box, which connects the user to the Center by e-mail. The Internet allows us to fine tune our offerings as comments are received from teachers, and it allows teachers, no matter how geographically remote their school districts, to enter the communities of scholars that bind academic disciplines together. We anticipate that, as teachers become more fluent electronically, their use of our web site will increase exponentially.
In addition to offering content-specific guidance to teachers throughout the year, the Center’s Web site offers opportunities, during our institutes and other programs, for teachers to evaluate the site and to contribute to it the fruits of their scholarship and the teaching materials they develop. Finally, the Web site provides a model of collaboration for analogous endeavors elsewhere, allowing us to share program and organizational information with individuals and institutions attempting similar projects in other states.
Mentoring was new to the Center in 1993, when we were asked to be a “mentor institution” by the Association of American Colleges in their project for Strengthening Humanities Foundations for Teachers. We soon discovered that mentoring was a powerful strategy for modeling and change. The long discussions and on-site visits with other institutions facilitated by this project created relationships that were both intensive and expansive, allowing, for example, the right people to be recruited by both partners and necessary changes to be made to ideas transplanted to new climates. The difference between a presentation and a mentorship, we discovered, was the difference between a lecture and a tutorial, or between an after-school discussion with teachers and a summer institute.
SCHOOL/UNIVERSITY COLLABORATION IN THE 21st CENTURY
We stand now on the threshold of a new phase. We have answered the questions with which we began: the University of Virginia does have a responsibility to assist in improving the learning and the teaching of the academic disciplines in the schools, our best faculty members have agreed to assist, the University now offers graduate courses in arts and sciences for in-service teachers, and professors and teachers have joined together in fruitful partnerships. We have established a permanent structure for school/university cooperation, and we have learned how to deliver powerful and appropriate courses and programs for teachers. Now we need to take the next step and, building on our experience, extend the impact of our activities from individuals to school divisions throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and, by example, to other states.
Support for the work of the Center has remained steady, even in difficult times. Many academic centers in Virginia higher education have been terminated, and others have sustained substantial cuts in state allocations. The Center for the Liberal Arts continues to be funded, and at the same time support from school divisions for our programs has increased. Sixty-three percent of the superintendents now contribute to programs in which their teachers are enrolled for academic credit. With an administrative structure in place and supported, with faculty experienced in working with teachers already recruited, and with extensive contacts with teachers and school systems well established, the Center is in an excellent position to move forward. With outside funding for program support—none is needed for start-up costs, space, computers, personnel, or the basic platform of administration provided by the state—we are prepared to make the transition from isolated improvements to systemic change on both sides of the educational equation. On one hand, we hope to convince the schools that knowledge and scholarship are essential components of every teacher’s continuing education, that mastery of the discipline is the sine qua non of good teaching. On the other hand, we wish to further our campaign to persuade colleges and universities that teachers, and ultimately their students, are an essential part of the constituency of higher education.