The Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University
Stony Brook, N.Y. : State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1998.
The National Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University was created in 1995 under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It met for the first time July 27, 1995, at the headquarters of the Carnegie Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey, with Ernest L. Boyer, President of the Foundation, presiding
Dr. Boyer set the tone for the deliberations by reminding the Commission that conditions in higher education have changed significantly in recent years: the American system of higher education has become less elite; students (and parents) have developed their own, often vigorously asserted, ideas about education and credentialing rather than accepting traditional modes without question; a much greater range of undergraduate professional degrees has become available; the freshman year has too often been reduced to remediation or repetition of high school curriculum, rather than an introduction to a new and broader arena for learning. Recognition of those and other would form a starting point for the Commission’s deliberations.
This report does not enter the continuing discussion of the content of the undergraduate curriculum—whether there should be more science, more mathematics, more foreign language, more anything—and it does not address the issue that has come to be labeled ‘The Canon,’ the body of writings deemed to be the requisite possession of the educated person. Those matters concern every institution involved in baccalaureate education. But research universities share a special set of characteristics and experience a range of common challenges in relation to their undergraduate students. If those challenges are not met, undergraduates can be denied the kind of education they have a right to expect at a research university, an education that, while providing the essential features of general education, also introduces them to inquiry-based learning.
The recommendations urged in this report will be controversial; some administrators and faculty will protest that they are unreachable or impractical, or that the goals entertained can be achieved by minor adjustments of existing practice. We realize that not everything in this report is applicable to all research universities, but we hope these recommendations will stimulate new debate about the nature of undergraduate education in research universities that will produce widespread and sweeping reform.
Table of Contents
The University as Ecosystem
An Academic Bill of Rights
Ten Ways to Change Undergraduate Education
- Make Research-Based Learning the Standard
- Construct an Inquiry-Based Freshman Year
- Build on the Freshman Foundation
- Remove Barriers to Interdisciplinary Education
- Link Communication Skills and Course Work
- Use Information Technology Creatively
- Culminate with a Capstone Experience
- Educate Graduate Students as Apprentice Teachers
- Change Faculty Reward Systems
- Cultivate a Sense of Community
This report is dedicated to the memory of Ernest L. Boyer, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching until his death in December, 1995, and formerly Chancellor of the State University of New York and U.S. Commissioner of Education. During a lifetime of enthusiastic and thoughtful commitment to American higher education, he exhorted, advised, inspired, and invigorated a generation of academic leaders. His career was an extended exploration of what it means to be an educated person and how real education is attained. This report is an effort to continue examining the themes to which he brought so much.
©1998 Shirley Strum Kenny - State University of New York at Stony Brook