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Educational Initiatives Award And Presidential Chair

Innovative Courses Earn Recognition

By Steve Tollefson, Educational Development - Student Life
Posted April 21, 1999

How can students get the most out of a large introductory science course? Can a large science class involve students in active learning, or is it by necessity a passive experience?

These were just a few of the questions posed to the Department of Physics when it began to review and revamp its Physics 7 series, "Physics for Scientists and Engineers." The results of its assessment have been recognized by the Committee on Teaching of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate with the 1999 Educational Initiatives Award.

The award has been presented annually since 1993 to a department or unit on the Berkeley campus in recognition of distinctive contributions to undergraduate education.

In 1996 and 1997, a new format was instituted for Physics 7A and 7B, required courses for all physical science and engineering majors. The traditional structure of the course did not provide optimal time or activities for most students to learn and make sense of the copious material covered.

In the new format, students meet in groups with a single graduate student instructor. Group work and active learning are emphasized throughout. Students work on problems, discuss concepts, or make measurements and link the results to the rest of the course material.

Faculty indicate that students are doing better on exams, and students seem more involved in the course material. In a letter of support for the new program, a group of physics students wrote: "We didn't just learn physics, but some more fundamental skills -- how to break a problem into its essentials, how to see in a complex situation a more general principal, how to learn by teaching, how to formulate probing questions, and most of all, how to work together."

English Professor Susan Schweik and Frederick Collignon, chair of City and Regional Planning, have jointly been awarded the 1999 Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education.

The Presidential Chair is a three-year appointment designed to encourage the development of new courses or enhance the quality of existing ones.

Working collaboratively with disabled scholars who are specialists in disablity issues, Collignon and Schweik have created a series of ground-breaking courses. Schweik will develop a course in "Cultures of Disability," which will include the history and rhetoric of the disability rights movement, the arenas (art, literature and organizations) in which "disability cultures" are created and discussed, and analysis of how disability is represented in literature and in film.

Collignon's course will cover building accessibility, transportation, housing, education, employment and independent living and social services.

Collignon, who has written widely on disability issues, received his BA from Columbia University and his PhD from Harvard University. He joined the faculty of City and Regional Planning in 1970.

Susan Schweik, a specialist in feminist theory, American women writers, and modern poetry, received the campus' Distinguished Teaching Award in 1989. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her PhD from Yale University. She joined the English Department in 1984. The Educational Initiatives Award and Presidential Chair winners will be recognized at the campus' 40th annual Teaching Awards Ceremony in Zellerbach Playhouse on Thursday, April 22, beginning at 5 p.m. A reception will follow in the Toll Room of the Alumni House. The public is invited.

For information, contact Steve Tollefson at 642-6392 or email



April 21 - 27, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 31)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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